WASHINGTON – Sen. Sam Brownback,R-Kan.,praised President Bush's Moon to Mars Commission Thursday and promised to introduce legislation in support of its recommendations.
The commission members testified at a hearing before the Senate Science,Technology and Space subcommittee,of which Brownback is chair.
Bush formed the commission – also known as the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy – in January and charged it with outlining a plan to achieve his goals for the U.S. space program.
Those goals include sending manned missions to the moon by 2020 and to Mars sometime after that.
Edward C. Aldridge Jr.,commission chair and an aeronautical engineer,presented the final report,which was officially released Wednesday to the White House.
The commission's recommendations include a reorganization of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration field offices to include private sector involvement,a commercialized space industry that will take over non-human flight and a space council to the president.
Brownback called the final report,“a thoughtful and compelling roadmap for our future exploration activities” and promised to introduce legislation to reauthorize NASA for five more years,with a focus on achieving the commission's recommendations.
Brownback said increased involvement from the private sector is the key to a successful and affordable space program. “I believe the private sector can get us back to the moon affordably,within three years,” he said.
But Brownback agreed with the commission's recommendation that the government should continue to handle manned space flight.
Both Brownback and Sen. Bill Nelson,D-Fla.,expressed concerns about funding the report's recommendations.
But Aldridge said the commission recommends only a slight increase in NASA's budget – which is less than 1 percent of the federal budget – over the next two to three years.
Nelson,who supported the report overall,questioned whether that was enough money. “You can't do space flight on the cheap,” said the senator,who flew a space shuttle mission in 1986 when he was a House member.
Nelson praised the commission for its recommendation that a space council advise the White House. “The nation's space program can only be led from the White House,” he said.
Probed about the timeline for completing the president's goals,Aldridge told the subcommittee he believed the goals could be accomplished if all the commission's recommendations are adopted.