The Bush Administration’s vision for a re-invigorated human spaceflight program is a welcome boost for NASA and the nation’s efforts in space exploration and development. Inspirational and far-reaching goals for the U.S. space program have remained elusive since the Apollo moon program ended over three decades ago. Today, the space program is again front page news – and the news coming from the White House and Mars is positive and exciting.

The members of the American Astronautical Society (AAS), a professional society dedicated exclusively to astronautics, have been participants in America’s space program throughout its history. The AAS, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is enthusiastic about the vast potential of the President’s proposal. We stand ready to support the planning and execution of this ambitious enterprise, and together with NASA, we will pave the way for a productive future in space exploration.

As the proposed initiatives take shape, we believe that the long-term success of the space program and the health of NASA depend on consistent application of policy in key areas articulated in the Administration proposal. Our Society strongly supports the President’s commitment to:

  • A sustainable plan for ongoing activity in the national interest. The vision must continue beyond our return to the Moon, outward to the rest of the solar system. To do so, the human spaceflight effort must become a mainstream endeavor for the nation so that it will win the continuing support of presidents and Congresses well into the future.
  • Continued exploration using robotic missions to blaze the trail for humans. Robotic probes have proven their worth many times for both science and the planning of future missions. They will be even more valuable in the coming era of space exploration.
  • Retirement of the space shuttle and development of a new spacecraft designed for the exploration mission. The shuttle fleet has served us well, but it is aging and the cost to operate it will always be high. The time has come to take what we’ve learned from the shuttle and build spacecraft that will take us farther.
  • A commitment to the completion and utilization of the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS will have much to teach us and our international partners about living and working in space, and will also be valuable in other areas not directly related to human spaceflight, such as basic science in biology and materials and the development of new industrial processes.
  • Collaboration and coordination with international partners to maximize the efficiency and return of exploration missions. Cooperation with other nations has been a boon to NASA throughout its history. International space research and development should continue to be nurtured, with NASA striving to be a strong partner even as programs grow in scope and complexity.

Great opportunities lie ahead for the space community here in the United States and among our international partners. The AAS applauds the President’s plan to appoint a commission to study, and make recommendations upon, the future of space exploration. We stand ready to support this commission in every way possible so that the experience and insights of our professional members can be applied to this important and exciting endeavor.

About the American Astronautical Society

Formed in 1954, the American Astronautical Society is the premier independent scientific and technical group in the United States exclusively dedicated to the advancement of space science and exploration.


James R. Kirkpatrick, Executive Director
American Astronautical Society
6352 Rolling Mill Place, Suite 102
Springfield, VA 22152
Phone: 703-866-0020; Fax: 703-866-3526