Nebraskans Support Bush Space Plans

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President Bush told Americans Wednesday the U.S. should return to the moon as early as 2015, with a manned mission to Mars some time to follow. And that got an enthusiastic response from many Nebraska space buffs.

"I do believe that moving out into space is necessary for human kind and for all Americans, you look at all the spinoffs that came from the Apollo program, you have microwaves and Velcro for your kids shoes," says Hyde Observatory chair Erik Hubl of Lincoln.

The president wants to finish the U.S. commitment to the international space station by 2010 and he wants to retire the existing space shuttles by then. UNL Physics/astronomy professor Martin Gaskell agrees with those goals.

"The shuttles are older than many planes flying for air carriers," he points out. And Dr. Gaskell notes the shuttles have been used for more years than NASA originally planned.

President Bush's plans call for building a new manned vehicle that will be tested by 2008 and put into regular flights by 2014. That manned vehicle will help launch the space craft needed to build a permanent manned base on the moon no later than 2020. And then the U.S. plans call for a manned mission to Mars.

Space buffs point to the current success of the Mars rover "Spirit." which has caught much of the public's attention. And, they hope a concrete goal of returning to the moon, and then heading to Mars, will help spur public support.

"I think its great to do experiments and all those good things but I still think its much better to have a real goal in mind," adds University of Nebraska-Lincoln Mueller Planetarium director Jack Dunn.