8 July 2004
WASHINGTON - Call it an invasion for Mars.
Aerospace groups are planning a blitz next week to visit more than 200 members of Congress to push for funding for President Bush's proposal to return man to the Moon, then go to Mars and beyond.
Among the ringleaders is former astronaut and senator Jake Garn, R-Utah, although he personally will not be part of the visits because of speaking engagements in Utah.
Garn is chairman of Global Space Travelers, one of 20 aerospace organizations that have decided to band together for what it calls the Moon-Mars Blitz from July 11-13.
"(Second-man-on-the-moon) Buzz Aldrin started the group (Global Space Travelers) and asked me to head it three or four years ago," Garn said. "We want ordinary people to be able to fly in space as passengers eventually and seek private ways to make that happen."
He added, "A lot of space organizations with slightly different goals decided to get together on this common goal and to push it."
The confederation calls itself the Space Exploration Alliance. Members range from Garn's group to the Aerospace Industries Association, the NASA Alumni League, the Moon Society and the X PRIZE Foundation, which offers rewards for private space travel.
"Speaking for myself, I think we should return to the moon and establish a permanent base there," Garn said. "With one-sixth the gravity of Earth, it makes sense to launch missions to Mars from there. Just launching into low-Earth orbit in the space shuttle requires 4.5 million pounds of fuel."
Why go to Mars?
"Why did Lewis and Clark cross the United States? Why did Columbus cross the Atlantic? You don't know what you will find. When I look at our own evolution, I am glad for the explorers and the difference they have made," Garn said.
He adds that spinoffs from the space program have improved life on Earth by advancing electronics, telecommunications, medicine, astronomy, engineering and other sciences.
Does Garn still have a dream of personally returning to space again, 19 years after he first flew in the space shuttle?
"I did until Columbia," the space shuttle disaster last year. "With the delay from it, I think my dream is probably gone. But, sure, I would go if asked. They have a lot of medical baseline information about a 53-year-old (from when he first flew). . . . They could compare it on a 72-year-old now." But he wants to see the dream of space exploration revive for others. "By presenting a united front to the Congress we have the best chance for success," Garn said.
"We have not seen such unified support for a new space program in decades," said Bruce Mahone, Aerospace Industries Association director of space policy. "The Congress needs to know that so many Americans find this new space vision extremely compelling."