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Bush Set to Announce Plans to Send Astronauts to Mars - 2004-01-14

President Bush will is to propose a new U.S. space program that is expected to include human missions to Mars.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the president's announcement will lay a new course for American space exploration with a renewed spirit of discovery.

Building on the past successes of the U.S. space agency, Mr. McClellan says the new missions will give NASA a new focus that reflects the president's commitment to continuing that journey, after last year's loss of seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

The president's announcement is expected to include a return to landing astronauts on the moon as well as research into building a permanent base there, and eventually traveling to Mars. Mr. Bush is expected to phase out the aging fleet of U.S. space shuttles and replace it with a new generation of launch vehicles.

Unlike the space race of the Cold War, Mr. McClellan says President Bush will discuss how space is now more of a journey that the United States intends to pursue with other nations in a spirit of cooperation and friendship.

That should help offset some of the considerable cost of the program, which during the next five years, will be funded primarily by re-allocating $11 billion of NASA's $86 billion budget.