Image: Lunar rover
LunaCorp
LunaCorp has proposed a sponsor-suppoorted lunar rover like the one shown in this artist's conception.
updated 2/18/2004 8:04:55 PM ET 2004-02-19T01:04:55

Supporters of President Bush’s goal of sending manned flights to the moon and Mars told a U.S. Senate subcommittee Wednesday that private dollars should be used to help pay for such missions.

“Every dollar that comes in commercially is a dollar the taxpayer doesn’t have to come up with,” said Charles Chafer, president of private aerospace company Team Encounter. “Fortunately, there is money that is available.”

Bush last month announced his election-year initiative to send astronauts to the moon, Mars and beyond. He wants robotic missions to the moon no later than 2008 and the first manned flight of a new spacecraft by 2014. The missions are likely to cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

Robert Lorsch, a Los Angeles businessman and space enthusiast who has lobbied for decades to commercialize the space program, contends money-raising wouldn’t be hard. He suggested methods as diverse as corporate sponsorships of space missions to selling screen savers of the Mars rovers for $1 a piece.

“There is so much enthusiasm, support and good will,” Lorsch told the subcommittee’s chairman, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas. “There is just no way for people to express it.”

“We have got to get resources to this program to make it work,” Brownback told Lorsch in a public hearing near the Johnson Space Center outside Houston.

NASA associate administrator William Readdy said the agency is “committed to fulfilling the new challenge.”

He said NASA can refocus some of its money toward the new priorities. For example, plans call for shifting money from the space shuttles, which will be retired at the end of the decade.

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