penso sia interessante riportare qui alcuni stralci di una comunicazione a commento del bilancio NASA 2007 rivolta da Mike Griffin, amministratore NASA, alla National Space Club.
Trattandosi di un papiro alquanto prolisso, ne traggo alcuni tra i passaggi che mi sono sembrati più significativi.
NASA was seen to be suffering from a period of uncertainty and benign neglect concerning the broader purposes of our space enterprise. Admiral Hal Gehman and the members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) recognized that merely determining the proximate cause of the accident, and returning the shuttle to flight, would be an insufficient remedy.
Recent and very specific public opinion surveys do in fact show a broad consensus in support of our new goals in space. Assuming that funding levels for NASA do not exceed one percent of the budget - and we should be so fortunate - fully three-fourths of the American people support the goals of the Vision.
But even with the increase we have received, I recognize that no one is getting everything they want from this budget for NASA. We simply will not be able to do everything, right now, that many in the space community may want us to do. I do not relish the fact that we cannot afford the costs and complexity of starting new space science missions, like a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, or the next generation space astronomy missions beyond the James Webb Space Telescope. We must make difficult choices in setting resource priorities.
I do think that it is important to note that we are delaying missions, not simply abandoning them. We will still do the Space Interferometry Mission, the Terrestrial Planet Finder, and the Global Precipitation Monitoring mission. We will not do them right now. In making a decision concerning what to delay and what to keep on schedule to the extent possible, I determined that delays in starting SIM, TPF, and GPM would be less harmful to the space program overall than would further delays to the CEV program. I simply believe that further delays to CEV are strategically more damaging to this nation than are delays to other missions. I stand by this view.
Our key accomplishment last year was to formulate a specific exploration architecture to enable the renewal of manned lunar exploration, and in a way that offers the maximum benefit for future missions to Mars. This is the architecture which will drive our flight vehicle procurement activities over the next few years. It gives us our flight plan.
The first element of this flight plan is of course the Crew Exploration Vehicle, or CEV. We translated the requirements of the exploration architecture into detailed requirements for the CEV, and the final RFP for this crucial new system is in the hands of the contractors who will bid on it. For those of you who thought last year was busy for NASA, I want you to buckle your seat belts and place your trays in the upright and locked position. 2006 presents even more challenges. This year, we will re-start the assembly of the International Space Station, after fixing the PAL ramp foam debris. The next test flight, STS-121, commanded by Colonel Steve Lindsay, will help us determine whether NASA can safely return the Space Shuttle to its primary task of assembling the International Space Station. This next flight will also tell us whether the Space Shuttle can safely conduct a fifth servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope in 2008.
Regarding our external partnerships, I have asked Deputy Administrator Shana Dale to lead our Agency's dialogue with both other spacefaring nations and the commercial space industry. NASA's Science and Exploration Mission Directorates will support her by engaging the communities interested in these endeavors. To this end, NASA will sponsor a lunar exploration workshop in the spring, with the goal of formulating a comprehensive decadal strategy for lunar exploration. By the end of this year, we will have begun to define what our international partners, the various scientific communities, and commercial interests might do in exploring and utilizing our new frontier on our Moon.
Also, in the coming months, Scott Horowitz will report on plans for NASA’s robotic precursor missions to the Moon. Needless to say, I have strong opinions about what NASA could be doing with these robotic precursor missions in concert with other international missions, but we must also be realistic on the cost of these missions. I especially want to express my appreciation for NASA’s fruitful cooperation with the Indian Space Research Organization as our partner in exploring the Moon, as they plan to fly two NASA instruments on their Chandrayan spacecraft in 2007. NASA is also making plans for the Lunar Robotic Orbiter in 2008.
In conjunction with this lunar exploration strategy and following on its heels, I want to begin to lay more groundwork for our plans to explore Mars. Today, both Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey are in orbit to map chemical elements and minerals on the surface. Likewise, the two Mars Rovers keep on going, well past their design lives. Next month, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter enters orbit around the red planet in order to take high resolution hyperspectral images of the Martian surface. The FY 2007 budget funds the launch of the Phoenix Scout mission and Mars Science Laboratory in 2009 to collect Martian soil samples, analyzing them for organic compounds which are signatures for life. After that, we need to define the next series of missions to Mars in the following decade, building on the results from these missions. NASA will then make plans for carrying out manned missions to Mars, building on the heavy-lift launch vehicles, landers, and other capabilities from the lunar exploration architecture. We especially hope to have the support of our international partners for this long-term endeavor. NASA cannot afford to do everything that should be done, but working together we can achieve it.