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The Vision for Space Exploration is the United States space policy announced on January 14, 2004 by then-U.S. President George W. Bush. It is seen as a response to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the state of human spaceflight at NASAmarker, and a way to regain public enthusiasm for space exploration.


The Vision calls for the space program to:

Outlining some of the advantages, U.S. President George W. Bush addressed the following:

One of the stated goals for the vision is to gain significant experience in operating away from Earth's environment, as the White Housemarker contended, to embody a "sustainable course of long-term exploration." The Ares boosters are a cost-effective approach — entailing the Ares V's enormous, unprecedented cargo-carrying capacity — transporting future space exploration resources to the Moon's weaker gravity field. While simultaneously serving as a proving ground for a wide range of space operations and processes, the Moon may serve as a cost-effective construction, launching and fueling site for future space exploration missions. For example, future Ares V missions could cost-effectively deliver raw materials for future spacecraft and missions to a Moon-based space dock positioned as a counterweight to a Moon-based space elevator.

NASA has also outlined plans for manned missions to the far side of the Moon. All of the Apollo missions have landed on the near side. Unique products may be producible in the nearly limitless extreme vacuum of the lunar surface, and the Moon's remoteness is the ultimate isolation for biologically hazardous experiments. The Moon would become a proving ground also toward the development of In-Situ Resource Utilization, or "living off the land" (i.e., self-sufficiency) for permanent human outposts.

In a position paper issued by the National Space Society (NSS), a return to the Moon should be considered a high space program priority, to begin development of the knowledge and identification of the industries unique to the Moon. The NSS believes that the Moon may be a repository of the history and possible future of our planet, and that the six Apollo landings only scratched the surface of that 'treasure'. According to NSS, the Moon's far side, permanently shielded from the noisy Earth, is an ideal site for future radio astronomy (for example, signals in the 1-10 MHz range cannot be detected on Earth because of ionosphere interference.)

When the Vision was announced in January 2004, the U.S. Congress and the scientific community gave it a mix of positive and negative reviews. For example, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) said, "I think this is the best thing that has happened to the space program in decades." Though physicist and outspoken manned spaceflight opponent Robert L. Park stated that robotic spacecraft "are doing so well it's going to be hard to justify sending a human," the vision announced by the President states that "robotic missions will serve as trailblazers — the advanced guard to the unknown." Others, such as the Mars Society, have argued that it makes more sense to avoid going back to the Moon and instead focus on going to Mars first.

Initial return missions as proposed by President Bush and NASAmarker, can be done through space operations using the existing launch infrastructure and assets developed by the shuttle and International Space Station programs, plus existing expendable launch vehicles, with a minimum of new research and development programs. The lessons learned from international cooperation during ISS construction and operations, can be improved upon and extended to human missions to the Moon, Mars and elsewhere.
NASA's budget projections for the Vision for Space Exploration
Initial missions could place scientific equipment on the Moon and return samples from areas never explored, such as the polar regions. Extent of water and other volatiles important to lunar industrialization could be determined. As future reusable launch systems begin operations, reducing cost and enabling higher flight rates, Earth-Moon traffic can become routine.

Throughout much of 2004, it was unclear whether the U.S. Congress would be willing to approve and fund the Vision for Space Exploration. However, in November 2004, Congress passed a spending bill which gave NASA the $16.2 billion that President Bush had sought to kick-start the Vision. According to then-NASA chief Sean O'Keefe, that spending bill “was as strong an endorsement of the space exploration vision, as any of us could have imagined.” In 2005, Congress passed S.1281, the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, which explicitly endorses the Vision.

Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin is a big supporter of the Vision, but modified it somewhat, saying that he wants to reduce the four year gap between the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the first manned mission of the Crew Exploration Vehicle.


In December 2003, Buzz Aldrin voiced criticism for NASA's vision and objectives, stating that the goal of sending astronauts back to the moon was "more like reaching for past glory than striving for new triumphs".

In February 2009, the Aerospace Technology Working Group released an in-depth report asserting that the Vision had several fundamental problems with regard to politics, financing, and general space policy issues and that the initiative should be rectified or replaced.

A more fundamental criticism of the VSE is that it provides no practical benefits to the taxpayers that justify its extraordinary cost. The primary mission of NASA, from its beginnings as NACA in 1917 until the launch of Sputnik, was to provide science and technology of practical value to America.
 Apollo signaled a shift to geopolitical symbolism, the Shuttle and Station were a return to more pragmatic goals. Human spaceflight could be made sustainable by reducing its cost sufficiently to make flight to low earth orbit practical for customers to actually go there for research, business, and tourism. The VSE has been described as cost-effective, yet it provides no financial return to the taxpayers comparable to that normally expected for tax-supported research and development. On earth, the unique resources of NASA could instead be harnessed to make America more competitive in aeronautics, commercial spacecraft and launch vehicle technology, environmental monitoring, and biomedical sciences.

See also


  1. Please refer to Constellation program.
  2. Please refer to Ares V.
  3. Please refer to Moon.
  4. Please refer to Colonization of the Moon#Advantages.
  5. Please refer to Space elevator#Counterweight.
  6. Please refer to Space elevator#Extraterrestrial elevators.
  8. Please refer to Lunar Infrastructure For Exploration.

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