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January 16, 2004 PRESIDENT BUSH'S MARS INITIATIVE: A 'GRAND BUT COSTLY VISION'

January 16, 2004

PRESIDENT BUSH'S MARS INITIATIVE: A 'GRAND BUT COSTLY VISION'

 

KEY FINDINGS

 

** Proponents describe the "spirit of endeavor" in Bush's space plan as "positively refreshing."

 

** Skeptics denounce the "exorbitant cost" of a Mars trip and term it a "childhood dream."

 

** Some European and Australian dailies see a "Kennedy moment" in Bush's initiative.

 

** Leftist critics say the "grandiose plan" is just an "electoral" bid.

 

MAJOR THEMES

 

This project 'would ennoble every member of the human race'-- Supportive dailies hailed the proposed Mars mission as "an injection of...optimism, vision and promise" that will "fire the imagination" and "augment the prestige" of the U.S. Britain's conservative Daily Telegraph opined: "Such an endeavour...when the U.S. government is already running a large budget deficit is...heroic." Germany's right-of-center Die Welt agreed that the "pure announcement alone demands courage." Other dailies argued that critics are overlooking how the program will "spur innovations" and looked forward to the day when "our progeny will boldly go where no man has gone before."

 

The Mars trip 'is lunacy'-- Critics questioned whether a Mars mission "will benefit people on this planet" and labeled it an attempt to divert "public attention from Iraq and the War on Terror." Centrist writers urged the U.S. to focus on "earthly challenges" such as poverty or pollution. Euro dailies wondered if the "unilateral" plan moves away from "internationalized space exploration"; Romania's independent Ziua mocked U.S. "extraterrestrial hegemonic tendencies." The conservative London Times said the plan would "divert critical funds from robotic probes," which gather "more useful scientific information" than costly manned missions.

 

The comparison of George W. Bush to John F. Kennedy is 'inevitable.'-- In a time when the nation is "traumatized and divided," Bush's "tactical speech"--motivated by both "prestige" and a "determination to control space"--is "Kennedyesque." Although Austria's liberal Der Standard cautioned that Bush has his "re-election at heart, not science," the speech "in the vein of Kennedy" is a "success in itself." Italy's business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore compared Bush's directive to Kennedy's promise of "a new cosmic adventure for humanity."

 

The directive is a Bush bid for 're-election'-- Liberal papers detected an "election-year gimmick" in Bush's "far-reaching goals" relating to space travel. France's Liberation labeled Bush's announcement an attempt to "shock and awe" Democrats and prove the President has a grander vision than "the strategic implications of the fight against terrorism." The Irish Times asked sarcastically, "In an election year, what else do you promise but the moon?" But Holland's influential De Volkskrant judged the space proposal not "merely an electoral maneuver" because Americans "have a special fascination with space."

 

EDITORS: Nicholas Kong, Ben Goldberg

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis was based on 54 reports from 20 countries over 10 - 16 January 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.

 

EUROPE

 

BRITAIN: "A Grand But Costly Vision"

 

An editorial in the independent weekly Economist read (1/16): "But what makes NASA's human-space flight program most unfortunate is that it consumes two-thirds of the agency's budget, and squeezes the scientifically useful things (such as the Mars rovers) that the agency does, and does well.... As for the fault in all this sorry mess, it lies as much with the blindness of the politicians that have directed NASA over the years as it does with the agency's reluctance to let anything, or anyone, else share its monopoly on space. Ideas and vision are two a penny. Finding the best way to advance knowledge of the vast complexities of out space--to boldly go where not man has gone before intellectually rather than just physically--is the real challenge."

 

"George W Bush Boldly Goes To Mars"

 

The popular conservative Daily Telegraph observed (1/10): "How tempting to dismiss it as an election-year gimmick. After all, the project would cost hundreds of billions of dollars - a price that...is not easy for the human brain to conceptualise. In strictly practical terms, manned space missions make little sense. But Americans...do not always think in strictly practical terms. The concept of exploration...is central to their identity...driven by considerations of entertainment rather than science. Mr. Bush's plan recognises that...the United States has a responsibility to carry mankind's loftiest ambitions. It would be nice if those who habitually dismiss the President as selfish and insular would for once acknowledge his largesse.... To begin such an endeavour at a time when the US government is already running a large budget deficit is, in its way, heroic. The federal billions sunk into the project will yield little financial return.... To walk on another world, or even to make the attempt, would ennoble every member of the human race."

 

"Great Election Ploy, But Where Will Bush Find The Billions?"

 

Mark Henderson commented in the influential conservative Times (1/10): "The prospect of a manned mission to Mars is one of the most enticing in space exploration.... Most experts agree that scientific experiments conducted by astronauts would be even more valuable. It is highly unlikely, however, that President Bush's speech will bring a human landing on Mars very much closer and there is every chance that it will divert funds and attention from projects that offer greater scientific returns for smaller financial outlays. The Bush initiative has all the hallmarks of an election-year gimmick...diverting public attention from Iraq and the War on Terror. However, it has little by way of funding or detail behind it.... The $800m (445 million pounds) NASA budget increase he proposes next year, and the $3.5 billion that will be saved when the three remaining space shuttles are retired, are mere pinpricks in the hundreds of billions of dollars that a Moon base is certain to consume. That is even before the estimated $400 billion cost of sending human beings to Mars is taken into account.... President Bush's quest for a "Kennedy moment" seems certain to follow his father's doomed 1989 promise to send men back to the Moon and on to Mars.... Increasing numbers of space experts now think that robotic probes...cost much less than the shuttles or the International Space Station, yet have gathered considerably more useful scientific information.... The worry is that the emphasis President Bush has placed on manned missions will divert critical funds from robotic probes."

 

FRANCE: "American Space"

 

Left-of-center Le Monde editorialized (1/16): "President Bush's new space ambitions mark a break from the former period of internationalized space exploration.... Space may well become the site of a battle that will be more technological than scientific.... President Bush's plans come just in time to sprinkle a bit of dream into the election campaign next to a dose of harsh realities, such as no new jobs and persistent difficulties in Iraq.... For Europe, the situation will be a delicate one.... The role that Europe may or may not play in the U.S. space program remains unclear. Will it have a diplomatic jump seat or a real technological partnership? The battle between Airbus and Boeing is an illustration of those that will be fought behind the scenes of the space program."

 

"Looking at President Bush's Finger"

 

Patrick Sabatier opined in left-of-center Liberation (1/15): "Contrary to the Chinese proverb, when President Bush points to the moon we had better look at his finger and the motivations of the man behind that finger. The electoral 'coup' of the announcement will escape no one. President Bush, like President Kennedy before him, has also strategic motivations. It is a question of perception, of prestige, but also a matter of determination to control space. As always it would be nave to separate commercial and peaceful scientific goals from strategic and military objectives."

 

"Dreaming?"

 

Bruno Frappat stated in Catholic La Croix (1/15): "President Bush is proposing, as he did for Iraq, to finish the job his father started. President Bush's aim is clearly to prove that in the space sector, as in the affairs of the world, America is back. Besides the political impact for the coming elections, the moment is well chosen in the world's industrial and technological competition. Europe can be proud of having won a historic trade victory over the U.S. in 2003 thanks to Airbus. The accomplishment by Airbus must have deeply affected the U.S."

 

"Candidate Bush Promises the Moon"

 

An editorial published by the left-of-center Liberation read (1/10): "George Bush decided not only to promise the Moon to the Americans, but Mars as well.... The President will be proposing a new space program aimed at establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon.... It will be another decade before man first sets foot on Mars.... George W. Bush...has understood that...to win the US elections he needed to get away from 100 percent security and provide the stuff of dreams.... The conquest of Mars is part of a kind of "shock and awe"...a series of announcements to rob the Democrats of a voice.... Bush junior now wants to "finish the job" his father began, as...he already did in Iraq. In these times of heavy deficits (an expected $500 billion this year)...the Democrats may be tempted to attack Bush in this area. But who will dare make a bid for the White House in the guise of an accountant, when the adversary has already donned the apparel of the astronaut?"

 

"An Electoral Launching Pad"

 

Leading center-right Le Figaro noted (1/10): "George W. Bush... has decided to offer the United States...the conquest of Mars, starting with man's return to the Moon. The objective is distant, and even if...reelected in November, the President will not be in the White House to see the project implemented. But the announcement he is set to make next week...Bush wants to be the man to have revolutionized U.S. conquest of space in the 21st century. The President wants to show that he is above...the strategic implications of the fight against terrorism.... To show that the Republican candidate is thinking in the long term and above...national interest.... The Democrats and the most conservative...of the Republic Party will...be concerned at the...costs of such a program, with the federal deficit standing at a record high of $500 billion this year. These distant destinations are likely to prove useful distractions at a time when Baghdad is no longer the stuff of dreams.... The President's entourage believes that a long-term space project can have some very useful psychological benefits in an electoral period.... This decision to launch the United States on the conquest of Mars meets a number of strategic objectives...National security, scientific research, and job creation are all arguments that the White House can invoke to support its decision. But the ultimate aim is to make George W. Bush come across as an inspired, audacious, and visionary man."

 

GERMANY: "To The Moon...And Mars"

 

Heinrich Graben opined in regional public radio station Suedwestrundfunk of Stuttgart (1/15): "President Bush wants to go to the moon and, some time in the far future, to Mars, but there are doubts whether he convinced the people with his speech. He droned through it without any perceivable excitement, almost as it was a duty. There was no hint of a clear vision or the usual emotions. Reality has caught up with the president.... Given the record deficit and planned tax cuts, nobody knows where the money should come from for such a giant program. The criticism was too fierce over the last days. Even party friends of the President believed his high-flying plans could not be financed.... Alarm bells must have gone off in the White House when first opinion polls showed that a majority of people rather wanted to spend the money on education or health. The potential voter does not seem to bite. If so much is going wrong on earth even space looses its fascination.... Political PR does not always work like in textbooks. Full speed back. The motto is space flight light with lower cost to minimize the damage.... If the government is clever it ignores the issue and sells different ideas.... The plan to avert attention from problems as high unemployment, national deficit, post-war Iraq as well as the misery of the health and education system turned into a damp squib."

 

"Bon Voyage"

 

Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine said (1/16): "Have the moon and Mars anything to do with Baghdad or with the WMD that cannot be found or do not exist? Have Bush's space ambitions anything to do with election dates and the luring of voters in key states? Maybe with the future rival China? Are they dangerous for the budget? As obvious the suspicion is that discovering space is connected to elections, as old is the phenomena. Nixon and Reagan had the astronomical idea exactly in election years. And looking at the price tag it is surprising how irritatingly cheap it comes. All we know since Kennedy blew the whistle for going to the moon is that costs explode, schedules are not met, and setbacks cannot be prevented. Political expectations are not so much the reason to be against Bush's 'vision', but the vagueness and doubts of the will to direct financial, scientific, bureaucratic and political resources for many years to this one aim. What would be if that happens? We would see a new example of America's vitality and excitement at the beginning of the 21st century."

 

"Courage For Mars"

 

Matthias Kamann held in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (1/16): "The American President expresses a rare spirit with his plans for stationing men on the moon and flying to Mars: Courage. It demands courage to set such aims. This is not because of the great risks and astronomical cost. But the pure announcement alone demands courage. In times when fear of technology and tales of a post industrial epoch have become so common, it is provocatively refreshing to see somebody who believes in the technical opportunity of discovering far off luminary bodies."

 

"Pie In The Sky"

 

Right-of-center Saarbruecker Zeitung of Saarbruecken held (1/15): "What does not work on earth might work outside of time and space. The aim is to unite the divided American nation in one unsuspicious project. First opinion polls indicate that the plan does not work out. As in most cardinal issues, half of the U.S. citizens is in favor and the other half is opposed to Bush's space plans. The result of the President's ideas will be what the Americans call a 'pie in the sky'."

 

"Election Year"

 

Right-of-center Badische Neueste Nachrichten of Karlsruhe commented (1/15): "Ever since John F. Kennedy produced the Apollo program out of thin air in the ideological competition with the Soviet Union to send the first men to the moon, almost every U.S. president tried to leave a track in space. Oddly enough, always in an election year."

 

"Greater Lines"

 

Right-of-center Ostthueringer Zeitung of Gera said (1/15) : "Bush does not see himself as a pragmatic persons in the daily political business like the Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder but as a global captain with epochal creative power. Reaching for the stars is just logical. Positively seen this is boldness, but in negative terms it is megalomania. Bush's political message in the election year is clear: Shall the Democratic presidency candidates deal with running things down and the small bits of daily politics, the President is thinking along greater lines. It won't be decisive for the election result but it is of the taste of many Americans impressed by such audacity."

 

"Setback For Bush"

 

Tobias Moerschen wrote in leading financial and economic Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (1/12): "In midweek, Bush will give a "visionary" speech on manned space flight. No matter what one thinks of the prohibitively expensive Mars and Moon projects: one cannot see the initiative as anything but a tactical move in the election campaign. The President knows that, despite his enormous lead in opinion polls, he has a vulnerable flank: the Iraq conflict.... US President can only hope that the December figures prove to be a "stray bullet" in a list of otherwise strong economic data -- and that new criticism regarding Iraq fizzles out before reaching the average US voter.

 

"New Beginning"

 

Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine noted (1/10) : "If the Americans are hit by a mishap like the tragic crash of Columbia last year, they face challenges in general with special vigor. This is why we can expect President Bush to deliver a vision next Wednesday which will affect not only the future of manned space flights to the international space station. It is unclear whether he will present a binding timetable for this. This would certainly correspond to his inner attitudes, since only then will his proposals get the weight he wants them to get. But the expenses to realize them would be enormous."

 

"We Do Not Need These Heroes"

 

Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin argued (1/10) : "Rockets for a manned space flights to the moon no longer exist, and if one really wants to explore Mars, a totally new type of driving elements needs to be developed. The journey needs to be prepared with several large-scale flights to Mars in order to transport life-saving systems to the planet. All this would cost 100 billions of dollars or even more, but would probably not have any scientific use, and for the astronauts there would probably be no way back. Currently manned space flights cannot be financed nor can they be carried out in a halfway safe way. Instead of a one-way ticket to Mars, Bush should rather book a flight to the next world climate conference."

 

"Old Europe"

 

Right-of-center Muenchener Merkur said (1/10) : "NASA has once estimated the costs for returning to the moon and occupying Mars at 400 billion dollar. What a crazy amount of money. From the taxpayers' point of view this is not profitable. But for Bush fighting for his re-election it certainly is. Half a year before the presidency election he can already cool the champagne. 60 percent of Americans appreciate his policy after Saddam's arrest and after Qaddafi went down on his knees. That U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq every day only plays a marginal role. And hardly anybody noticed that Bush just withdrew 400 inspectors who searched for WMD in vain. It looks like old Europe, which cannot even get an unharmed ship to Mars, has to submit to Bush's rules for a while. In space and on earth, too."

 

"Lift-Off"

 

Influential, right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine commented (1/10): "The US President has been in high spirits at least since the capture of Saddam Husayn, if not earlier. With his vision for Iraq looking apparently on course to be achieved, he now aims to avail himself of the opportunity, with an eye to the forthcoming elections, to announce that his far-reaching goals extend into space too. Such a course had long been expected of him; but whenever the Americans are beset by a tragedy such as the crash of the Columbia space shuttle last year, they apply particular strength to challenges in general. For this reason, the vision Bush announces next Wednesday [14 January] can be expected to extend beyond the future of manned flights to the international space station. It will also take the specific form of developing a base on the Moon, and manned flights to Mars. It remains to be seen whether he is also going to present a firm timetable for this. Doing so would probably accord with his own internal conception; for only then would his proposals be imbued with the weight and significance he desires for them. Nevertheless, the cost of implementing them would be massive."

 

ITALY: "Mars, Spirit's First Steps"

 

Stefano Trincia noted in Rome-based center-left Il Messaggero (1/16): "The reactions of public opinion [to the Mars initiative], although excited by the fascinating images transmitted to earth by Spirit...were rather skeptical. And this was mainly due to two reasons, as was underscored by U.S. dailies: the exorbitant cost of the operation that is incompatible with the current budget difficulties; and the political, military and electoral significance, as an authentic planetary superpower, that Bush has decided to give the project. The president's speech furnished indications that according to some analysts reflect some of his most controversial decisions in foreign policy: his refusal of traditional multilateralism, represented by the UN and preventive, unilateral action, where U.S. strategic interests are at stake. The progressive abandonment of the Shuttle program and of the International Space Station is an unequivocal sign."

 

"Bush Promises The Moon To American Families As Well"

 

Mariuccia Chiantaretto wrote in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (1/15): "President Bush made the announcement of the Moon/Mars project during his visit to NASA headquarters in Washington. ... Bush has recruited NASA to augment the prestige of his government. The Moon/Mars project will be financed with the money that was saved from abandoning the Shuttle program and by giving up maintenance of the international space station that costs an estimated one billion dollars a year. NASA is satisfied with Bush's plan and sees it as a breath of fresh air."

 

"Bush: Appointment On The Moon In 2015"

 

Mario Platero opined in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (1/15): "George W. Bush is like Jack Kennedy: America will build a base on the Moon and will then proceed to Mars; NASA will be renewed and there will be new allocations to finance space exploration. The comparison between this President, who yesterday promised from NASA headquarters 'a new cosmic adventure for humanity,' and the President of forty years ago is inevitable. Bush offered a precise deadline and a vision of science fiction to an America that is afflicted by the obscurantism of religious wars. ... It would be reductive to dismiss the White House initiative as a pure political maneuver in an electoral year. After the explosion of the Shuttle Columbia on February 1 of last year and the death of the seven astronauts on board, the country, the experts, Congress and NASA itself asked for a revision of the priorities of the space programs. This is an injection of a new and abundant dose of optimism, vision and promise. ... Yesterday Bush attempted to restore vigor, security and vision to the space programs. Even if it's less romantic than the promise made by Kennedy, Bush's approach seems more stable. But during the era of the Cold War, the Cuban crisis and nuclear escalation, America could not 'travel' - it had to run breathless toward an exact destination. And it made it on time."

 

"Bush Presents His Plans To Take Man To Mars"

 

Maurizio Molinari wrote in centrist, influential La Stampa (1/15): "Washington's announcement is the fruit of a long preparation coordinated by Vice President Dick Cheney and by the political adviser Karl Rove with NASA officials in order to present Bush to the Americans under a new light. [They are] not presenting him as the commander-in-chief of the war against terrorism, but as a leader capable of guiding the United States towards 'new frontiers' of the universe, and of redeeming the Columbia disaster. This evokes the announcement made by John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1962 during the moon landing."

 

"Bush Promises The U.S. The Moon And Mars"

 

Anna Guaita commented in Rome-based center-left Il Messaggero (1/10): "And finally some good news, a reason for optimism that united the country, Democrats and Republicans alike, right and left, young and old, North and South: NASA successfully landed on Mars.... And the President that sensed this immense psychological optimistic wave made an historical decision that will be announced in a few days: the return to the Moon to construct a base and to prepare a human expedition to Mars. Certainly, everyone realizes that this decision has much to do with the electoral campaign. It's a very costly project: 400, maybe 500 billion dollars. However, Bush knows that space exploration is an undertaking that Americans love, support and desire the most. ... Now that Spirit has landed without problems and is transmitting such clear images, Bush knows that American pride has reawakened. No one made the gaffe of underlining it, but the fact that Spirit made such a good landing, whereas the European Beagle didn't make it, confirms that sense of victory and supremacy that the people are feeling."

 

RUSSIA: "Part Of Re-Election Bid"

 

Konstantin Lantratov commented in business-oriented Kommersant (1/16): "The Bush speech sounded more like an election declaration: all his plans refer to a very distant future, when he will no longer be in the White House or be responsible for their implementation. Even if the President stays on for a second term, there will be no substantial increase in funding for projects involving missions to the Moon and Mars."

 

"How Much Is The Journey?"

 

Aleksandr Krasulin declared in official parliamentary Parlamentskaya Gazeta (1/16): "Bush said nothing about the whopping cost of the space mission, which may reach $1 trillion. This is perhaps why he called upon other countries to join in. The President's opponents say that he is using global ideas to rally the nation around his banner less than ten months before the elections."

 

"What Is The Good Of It?"

 

Ivan Yegorov and Anton Ivanitskiy wrote in reformist Gazeta (1/16): "The Russians, unwilling to lag behind, have announced their own plans to 'colonize' Mars and the Moon, for a mere $15 billion. But neither U.S. scientists nor their Russian colleagues can explain coherently how their plans will benefit people on this planet."

 

"Outer Space Helps Boost Appeal"

 

Sergey Leskov wondered in reformist Izvestiya (1/16): "Given the new initiative and the fact that the Americans are playing a key role in building the international space station, will they withdraw from the ICC project like they did from the Kyoto Protocol? It was particularly flattering when the president thanked Russia for involvement in the ICC effort along with 15 other countries.... Nearly every (U.S.) president used the subject of space exploration to win votes.... Anyone familiar with gobbledygook knows that Russia can hardly manage missions to the Moon and Mars on its own. So it would do well to accept the kind invitation from Mr. Bush, of course, unless he forgets his ambitious projects if re-elected."

 

AUSTRIA: "A Spaceship Named Confusion"

 

Managing chief Eric Frey opined in liberal Der Standard (1/15): "Bush's plans for missions to the moon and to Mars have his re-election at heart, not science.. The idea also has military motives, as a rocket shield in space is a favorite project with the neoconservatives. And the grand announcement of flights too the moon and to Mars fits in well with the campaign strategy of the President. A national mission to a truly remote place, where glory instead of guerrillas awaits the U.S. representatives, is apparently supposed to make Americans forget the ongoing misery in Iraq and make the President look like a peaceful visionary. Whether Congress is going to cough up the money for such missions in the first place, whether and when another American is going to land on the moon, is beside the point. In pre-election times, a tactical speech in the vein of Kennedy is success in itself."

 

"The Comical Cosmic Offensive: The Universe Is Not California"

 

Senior editor Thomas Kramar wrote in centrist Die Presse (1/15): "Why do Bush's plans for a space offensive sound almost comical? Because they are anachronistic.. This is a typical power and control idea of the Sixties and doesn't really fit in with our time, which is sadly lacking in futuristic visions.. But most of all, the U.S. has lost the motive which powered Kennedy's space programs: the adversary. The next real 'space age' will only dawn when the U.S. again has a competitor whom it can take seriously both on a political and technological level. Then we really are going to see a race of manned missions to Mars, and they are not going to be school trips either."

 

BELGIUM: "Bush Like JFK"

 

Philippe Paquet observed in independent La Libre Belgique (1/15) : "President Bush's new space program has probably been motivated by domestic politics considerations. It was important to guarantee employment in States where the space industry is playing an important role - Florida with Cap Kennedy, Texas with Houston, and California with Edwards Air Base. These states are coincidentally also crucial States for any U.S. Presidential candidate. Yet, the era of space shuttles being almost over, it was therefore necessary to make new plans, preferably for the long term. The economic and scientific interest of a presence on the moon is also considerable, although many consider that this is almost science fiction.... But it is first and foremost the psychological impact of the project that appears determining. Just like Kennedy had rallied his fellow Americans with his space program at the time when the Cold War was throwing America into doubts and moroseness, Bush wants to mobilize a nation that is traumatized and divided at another critical period of its history."

 

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Jules Bush? Not Really, This Is Not A Fantasy"

 

Milan Vodicka commented in mainstream MF Dnes (1/16): "It is very easy to attack the vision of colonization of Mars and a manned mission to Mars as a clever election move. This would be very easy, because it is true. But it is also true that something like this ought to be said. We all feel it: years pass by and humankind treads water albeit in this case it is not water but the globe.... Because [the Americans] are idealists, they think that as the sole superpower they should move the frontier further for all humankind .And some of their ideas are very practical. For example, George Bush coming with his daring vision, which will not affect him, because his successors will bear responsibility for fulfilling it. But somebody has to say it."

 

"Vision Great And Small"

 

Jiri Hanak wrote in center-left Pravo (1/16): "Only a few of us alive today will see the fulfillment of the newest American challenge--to put a man on Mars. The wealthy and powerful society is telling us through the voice of its President: We can and we will do it. It is undoubtedly an overpowering vision, and I don't want to lampoon it. However, I cannot forget the bon-mot I heard somewhere: As soon as something gets started, it becomes evident that something else should have been done before that. There are many problems on the Earth that cannot be solved without U.S. involvement. To name but three major ones: pollution, famine and diseases. Nothing against the journey to Mars, but should we not first do something here to have a place to come back to?"

 

"Go To Mars, Young Man"

 

Ondrej Neff stated in center-right Lidove noviny (1/16): "The U.S. plays three roles in the world--the supplier of technical innovation, the defender of the democratic world, and whipping boy. All three roles are important, and the world could hardly imagine how things would look if the U.S. ceased to fulfill them. It can hardly be expected that Bush's plan for space exploration will cause a general enthusiasm at a time when the free world has slumped father into a marasmus of skepticism and moral relativism. It will be necessary to define indisputable and comprehensible reasons why it is necessary to reside on the Moon and why it is desirable to go to Mars. Academic interests alone are not persuasive, and the desire to mine mineral resources is even comical. The program will keep going only if the military convinces the U.S. administration and the American public that it is necessary to build a military base on the Moon, that the construction of a permanent base is a security imperative. The military imperative kept space programs going in the past, and construction of a base on the Moon is only a [natural] continuation in the original direction."

 

"Back To the Moon, Don't Hesitate"

 

Martin Denemark noted in leading business-oriented Hospodarske noviny (1/15): "President Bush's opponents could not come up with anything better than [embarassing criticism of his space program]. This only shows that people do not know anything about the return on investments in the exploration of space. In their populism they would be willing to initiate cuts of a program, the goals of which are in the right direction... and the budget more than reasonable."

 

HUNGARY: "Overtaking From The Space"

 

Senior columnist Hanna Szalay concluded in prestigious Hungarian-language business-oriented Vilaggazdasag (1/12): "By November the U.S. President wants to rid himself of all the problems that are inconvenient and burdensome for him. The Presidential speech scheduled for this Wednesday is part of President Bush's said effort. Everybody knows already the he is going to announce new space programs, which include setting up a base on the Moon and sending a man to Mars. 'When planning, think big', is the common saying. From the common sense's point of view, a base on the Moon makes sense only if it serves rational strategic considerations on the Earth."

 

IRELAND: "Bush Might As Well Be On Mars"

 

Pat Brosnan stated in the left-of-center Irish Examiner (1/16): "Dubya's stargazing is inherited from his father who, when he was shuffling around the Oval Office in 1989, also proposed sending men to Mars.... That grandiose plan was shot down because the cost was reckoned at anything up to $500 billion. The son has no such worries about the dollars, however. While the initial financing will be somewhere in the region of $12 billion, and rising steeply, if his plan takes off it will be his successors in the White House who will be landed with the final bill."

 

"Bush To Revive Space Program"

 

Conor O'Clery averred in the center-left Irish Times (1/10): "In an election year, what else do you promise but the moon? The US President Mr George Bush is planning to send astronauts back to the moon, and establish a science base there for astronauts to travel ultimately to Mars.....Officials have not explained how the Bush administration would pay for the first stages of a hugely expensive space program while the US is struggling with record budget deficits and a costly conflict in Iraq. Sceptics point out that Mr Bush has not been known for his passion for space."

 

THE NETHERLANDS: "Route To Mars"

 

Influential liberal De Volkskrant opined (1/16): "Over a period of ten years, a research base is to be established on the moon, followed by manned flights to Mars and 'the worlds beyond'.... The presidential initiative is not only the result of NASA's successful Spirit mission, but of course it also has to do with the November elections.... Bush's idea for a new space mission is to make him the visionary leader many Americans like to see in the White House. Still it would be wrong to say that the new space plans are merely an electoral maneuver. Americans, for whom the conquest and exploration of their own continent is still recent history, have a special fascination for space. The prospect of a large-scale mission to the 'final frontier' appeals to a sentiment of power. It mobilizes talent and creativity. Undoubtedly, in the U.S. too, the scientific and political doubts about the usefulness of the space project outlined by Bush will be widespread. Those doubts are serious, for instance the question whether the estimated budget ($12 million for the first five years) is not much too low. But one objection that would quickly be felt in Europe will not play a large role here: that such an enormous undertaking in space must really wait until there is little left to complain about on earth."

 

NORWAY: "Escape To Mars From Reality"

 

Social-democratic Dagsavisen held (1/16): "A low estimate is that it will cost 3000 billion USD to make it to Mars, if it will ever be possible. It would cost a thousand times less--3 billion USD to avoid three million dead caused by malaria.... It would be a great step for mankind if we concentrated on the earthly challenges, and not the extra terrestrial ones."

 

"The Journey To Mars--Vision And Election"

 

Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten opined (1/16): "But beside the visions, there are more near-term considerations, labeled "election'. They are already well under way...and space exploration fits in nicely. It will create a positive image of Bush as an active and engaged leader. In past elections since the 60s such plans have been tried but ran dry. This was the case with Bush senior's proposal in 1989 for a Mars project. Now the son will limit himself to reordering the priorities for NASA's budget and 1--one!--Billion dollars more in phase one. The rest will be left to succeeding Presidents and politicians to grant. Or not grant. And then we're back at democracy's eternal tension between the present and the distant."

 

ROMANIA: "Hegemonic Tendencies"

 

Foreign policy analyst Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici commented in independent Ziua (1/15): "President Bush keeps the pressure on to extend the power of the U.S., both in and outside the world. After he occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, after he had sent troops and had established military bases in some sensitive locations around the world...he announced...that he will start conquering the moon, at a cost of $15 billion. These achievements and plans are not the ambition of a politician, but express the terrestrial and extraterrestrial hegemonic tendencies at the beginning of this millennium, no matter who is now ruling, or who will rule the U.S."

 

"Astronomic Plans"

 

Carmen Avram observed in financial Ziarul Financiar (1/15): "Mr. Bush has astronomic plans, and why should we limit his enthusiasm? He has great chances. First of all, because there are no Iraqis on Mars. If Mr. Rumsfeld continues to reside in the Pentagon, the first (people) on the moon will probably be the Delta Force guys, because they are the best.... Second of all, we will be able to go into cosmic space because 'daddy' (Pres. Bush) let us (do so). Yes, and so it shall be done. We'll go to the moon and from there on to Mars, because we finished our job around here. We waged war, peace will come by itself, poverty--let it be in Africa, Asia--is a punishment. About the Kyoto agreement--it's not for us, why should we care about global warming, that we'll grow gills and we'll build underwater cities?.... Correct me if I'm wrong, was not Mr. Bush the one who watched cowboy movies? Has he recently developed a passion for science fiction, or has he discovered only now the smiling little man on the moon?.... If he is reelected, Mr. Bush better come to his senses, and understand that the little man on the moon can wait, but for us, here, it's not that easy."

 

MIDDLE EAST

 

ISRAEL: "Delaying Peace Indefinitely"

 

Op-ed writer Yael Gewirtz observed in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/11): "President Bush prefers to send an ambassador to Mars at present. It appears that a renewed relay race to the Middle East is currently the last item on his agenda.... In the meantime, the rules of the game have not yet been completely broken here, but people are not playing either-as might be expected of leaders who have understood that it is not only the situation that has changed following the war in Iraq, but also all the rules of the diplomatic game. Instead of making history, they blabber about outdated historical matters. They speak high flown words about peace, and make war on the ground.... Assad, according to all the expert assessments, is in distress, and the Israeli cards are much better than those we were holding in the 1990s, but Sharon remains the same. The wings of history always beat too softly for him to board them. It is better to wait indefinitely [in Hebrew, the word "indefinitely" is a homonym of "Bush".]"

 

MOROCCO: "Bush Elopes With Politics From Earth To Space"

 

Hamadi El Ghari maintained in Istiqlal party-run Arabic-language Al Alam (1/16): "Among the sensational promises that U.S. Presidential candidate George W. Bush has made to Americans right and left, the invasion of Mars, rather than the Moon, sums it all up.... If Socrates brought philosophy down to Earth from the heavens, then Bush the son has eloped with politics from the Earth to the heavens."

 

"Ten Months To Go Before Elections; Objective: Moon For President George W. Bush"

 

Aziza Nait Sibaha wrote in semi-official French-language Le Matin (1/15): "In George W. Bush's political strategy, in view of November 2004 presidential elections, one should not only keep one's feet firmly on the ground, but also one's head in the clouds, or beyond. In fact, it is the moon that President Bush is aiming at today. The conquest of space is apparently a childhood dream of his childhood, or more exactly, the entire family's dream. ...The federal budget deficit is close to 500 billion (sic) in 2004, however the American president is asking for a five percent annual budget increase for NASA, currently on the order of 15 billion (sic). It's the price to pay to be one of the American presidents to send a man to the moon. A slice of dream to bandage the wounds of the war in Iraq inflicted on the souls of American voters.... So, nothing is left is to chance ten months ahead of elections. Didn't John F. Kennedy try his hand at a similar exploit by launching the Apollo program (May 1961) ten months ahead of presidential elections?(sic)"

 

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

 

AUSTRALIA: "Dubya Takes Us To Infinity And Beyond"

 

The national conservative Australian editorialized (1/16): "One can't help feeling that George W. Bush, having become leader of the only superpower and used American might to crush the world's bad guys, now wants to campaign in the upcoming U.S. election as master of the universe. His speech announcing a program for renewed moon exploration and a manned mission to Mars was Kennedyesque.... Mr. Bush is...on the right track, as was Kennedy. By setting the bar high, space exploration has challenged the scientific community and produced technology used in a wide variety of applications from aerospace to communications to medicine. The space shuttle is creaking, the international space station has limitations. A new set of cosmic goals is required for practical reasons, but also for the spirit of endeavor itself.... Opinion polls show Americans ambivalent on the Bush proposal. One must hope that will change because sooner or later, as Mr. Bush put it, 'human beings are headed into the cosmos.'"

 

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Final Frontier Has Regained Its Allure"

 

The independent English-language South China Morning Post declared (1/11): "But in recent months our lingering fascination with the final frontier has been rekindled. First there was the historic flight by Colonel Yang Liwei, which secured China entry into the exclusive club of space-faring nations. Then last week we were treated to stunning, high-quality color images of the Mars landscape, taken by a probe that had been bounced onto the planet's surface in a project co-ordinated by the U.S. The spice, it seems, is being put back into space exploration. Tapping into the new mood of optimism, President George W. Bush is expected to announce this week a major shift in U.S. policy. Sources at the U.S. space agency Nasa say moon landings will be back on the agenda, with the ultimate aim being a manned mission to Mars. Such a statement of intent, invoking memories of John F. Kennedy's famous pledge in 1961 to put an American on the moon, would conjure all the romanticism of the pioneering missions in the early 1970s. But it remains to be seen how serious Mr. Bush is about such an ambitious program and how likely it is to be realized.... Success may ultimately depend not on one nation alone, but on a combined international effort, with China - contemplating its own moon landing--surely having much to contribute. The thirst for space travel has returned. But the obstacles to be overcome remain as daunting as ever."

 

JAPAN: "Bush's Re-Election Gambit?"

 

Washington correspondent Murayama observed in liberal Asahi (1/15): "President Bush's announcement of ambitious plans to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars was an initiative to show his leadership and turn the tide of this year's presidential election campaign in his favor."

 

SOUTH ASIA

 

SRI LANKA: "The Final Frontier"

 

The government-owned English-language Daily News judged (1/16): "Opponents of space exploration argue that these funds should be spent on this planet to solve its problems. They do have a point, but man's urge to explore unknown terrains cannot be stifled. Besides, the Earth's limited resources may not be enough to sustain life forever--colonizing other worlds in our solar system and in other planetary systems may be the only option. We may not live to see that happen, but rest assured that our progeny will boldly go where no man has gone before."

 

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

 

CANADA: "We Should Help U.S. In Space"

 

The English-language conservative Montreal Gazette remarked (1/15): "The idea of a base on the moon, and of a manned mission to Mars, is a wonderful, wondrous extension of a basic human drive: to just go and see what's over there. So why don't we feel better about George Bush's announcement yesterday of precisely those two goals for U.S. space policy? Two reasons, mainly: Bush appears to be doing this for the wrong reasons, and it's far from clear how he'll pay for it.... Speaking of budgets, we wonder how President Bush proposes to pay for this new initiative. The U.S. government's breath-taking $475 billion budget deficit--for this year alone--has hammered the value of the greenback, and some say bigger deficits could even threaten global economic stability. That's what makes the U.S. deficit an issue for Canadians, and others around the world. The U.S. Congress seems utterly unable to control, let alone reduce, its total spending. To pay for good projects, some not-so-good ones should be scrapped.... In terms of Canada-U.S. relations, the moon base would be far more satisfying, as an arena for cooperation, than the missile defense shield."

 

"To The Moon"

 

The conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun opined (1/15): "George W. Bush's plan to colonize the moon and eventually put a man on Mars is bold, ambitious and true to America's unrivalled spirit of adventure. It's also staggeringly expensive and, according to a chorus of critics, little more than a ruse to deflect public attention from the shortcomings of a failing presidency. Nonsense, we say. Thank goodness the flame is still alive in the hearts of men of vision like Bush; that his spirit of adventure hasn't been doused by the bean counters, the hand wringers and nabobs of negativity who long ago lost their sense of wonder, who have never felt the urge to seek out new worlds or to conquer mountains never before scaled by man.... Who knows what a Mars mission might produce? While the staggering costs of a Mars adventure are sobering, like Everest they're not insurmountable. Heck, turn the whole adventure into the biggest and most ambitious reality TV show ever conceived. Throw in a few strategic product placements, and the costs are covered. Now that's being bold and creative."

 

"Beyond The Moon"

 

The centrist Winnipeg Free Press commented (1/15): "U.S. President George Bush was thinking big yesterday when he announced his plan for space exploration after the International Space Station is finished. The effort to colonize the moon and send human explorers to Mars will challenge scientists and engineers over a period of many years and spur innovations that will extend the range of human knowledge. The project is necessarily difficult, dangerous and expensive -- to such a point that U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. Congress may be reluctant to keep investing when the returns are doubtful and often intangible.... [T]he prospect of a human foot touching the surface of Mars is one that can fire the imagination and mobilize human energies in a way that machinery cannot. Robots are a necessary and efficient means of learning about conditions on Mars but they cannot inspire dreamers on cloudless summer nights. That requires the prospect of human space travel. No human has visited the moon since the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972 because there seemed little point and the expense is great. The reasoning that prevailed for the last 31 years may still prevail. But now that the goal of Mars is coming into focus, the U.S. may adopt Mr. Bush's plan. Prime Minister Paul Martin should invite Mr. Garneau [the retired astronaut who heads the Canadian Space Agency] to offer a detailed plan for a Canadian part in the venture that is taking shape beyond the moon."

 

"How High The Moon, How Deep The Debt"

 

The leading Globe and Mail editorialized (1/12): "So here's U.S. President George W. Bush, overseeing the most dramatic escalation in U.S. state and federal indebtedness in a generation, and he's promising his country the moon--and Mars, too.... The IMF study, called U.S. Fiscal Policies and Priorities for Long-Run Sustainability, was released last week. This year, according to most estimates, the United States will post a deficit of between $450-billion (U.S.) and $500-billion -- about 4.5 per cent of gross domestic product. That's not such a big deal, Mr. Bush's economic advisers have argued.... There are a couple of holes in that argument, however, The first is that U.S. state finances are in even worse shape than those at the federal level.... Looking a few years out, Mr. Bush has promised to deliver a plan in his February budget that will cut the deficit in half within five years. But even if he can deliver--five-year economic projections are notoriously unreliable--that still would leave the U.S. with an annual deficit of $340-billion in 2009.... When economists talk about the dangers of deficits, they typically talk about interest rates.... This in turn feeds a vicious circle in which an ever-greater portion of government spending goes toward interest payments on the debt, as opposed to program spending.... But in the U.S. the problem is even deeper than that. The U.S. government's so-called entitlement programs--Medicare and Social Security (pensions)--are still in surplus. But within 10 years, the IMF report suggests, those surpluses will have vanished. That's not even considering the astronomical cost of maintaining forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a permanently alert security posture at home. In July of 1989, on the 20th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's Giant Leap, president George Bush Sr. made his own plea for more lunar missions and a Mars landing. That idea was scrapped because of the projected cost -- about $500-billion. Current estimates put the price tag of a mission to Mars at a cool trillion. Earth to Mr. Bush: This is lunacy."

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