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Bush Administration Could Consider New Moon Launch - 2003-12-07

The Bush White House appears to be looking for new bold policy initiatives, as the United States enters an election year. One area under serious consideration is the U.S. space program.

A review of the space program is currently underway. And there are reports President Bush could be interested in sending American astronauts back to the moon.

White House officials are refusing to confirm the reports. But one of the president's top advisors acknowledges that Mr. Bush is looking for some sort of dramatic announcement to energize the public, and the space program is definitely an option.

Appearing on several television interview programs, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said the president is seeking and getting all sorts of ideas from people in his administration, including the head of the U.S. space agency. "We have lots of suggestions that are being made by members of the president's Cabinet and administrators, like Sean O'Keefe of NASA. And the president will make a decision. But I guarantee you, he will have a bold agenda for this country," he said.

Mr. Card refused to say if a new lunar mission is a possibility. However, on CNN's Late Edition program he underscored the president's commitment to manned space flight. "The president understands that we do want to continue to explore space. After the disaster with the space shuttle, the president said we would not give up on space exploration," he said.

The space shuttle Columbia broke up in space on February 1, 2003. President Bush ordered an inter-agency review, which conceivably could provide the impetus for a new space mission.

On CBS's Face the Nation, as on CNN, Mr. Card would not go into specifics of the review or any likely recommendations. But he made clear that any ambitious exploration plan with its billion-dollar price tag would be long term in nature, given current spending priorities. "I can tell you that this president is committed to, first of all, having a secure and safe environment at home, creating an economic opportunity for all Americans where they can find a job when they want to find a job. And we want to make sure that America has dreams, and this president will be providing lots of opportunities for dreams," he said.

In 1962, former President John F. Kennedy captured the imagination of the nation when he said America would seek to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In July 1969, his dream came true when astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface. The last moon landing was 31 years ago, on December 7, 1972.