updated 5/7/2004 8:19:16 PM ET 2004-05-08T00:19:16

Thirteen advocacy groups, industry associations and space policy organizations announced their support Friday for President Bush's vision to send astronauts to the moon and Mars.

The show of unity was unusual in a field where scientists and industry officials have often clashed over space mission priorities such as equipment types and destination points. The move reflected concern about the need to promote a revitalized U.S. space program, the groups said.

"It is critically important for this nation to delineate and execute a clearly defined federally supported space exploration agenda," said Marc Schlather, president of ProSpace, a space policy organization.

He cited the benefits of achieving greater technological advancements and inspiring a younger generation to pursue careers in the space industry at a time when NASA is seeing a "graying" of its workers.

"We all wanted to put our institutional egos in a box for awhile and understand this is an important opportunity for all of us to see some or all of our goals achieved," Schlather said.

One goal will be to lobby Congress for additional funding for Bush's space program by allaying concerns that the project is too expensive and impractical to pursue.

In January, Bush announced his plan to retire the space shuttle by 2010 and to send astronauts back to the moon by 2020 and ultimately on to Mars. Some lawmakers have questioned proposed costs and risks.

A presidential commission will advise Bush next month on how to best implement his space vision. Members have said they support NASA's "pay-as-you go" approach and noted the space agency's overall budget in the near future will be roughly $15 billion to $17 billion a year.

The organizations announcing their support include: Aerospace Industries Association, Aerospace States Association; American Astronautical Society; American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, California Space Authority, Florida Space Authority, The Mars Society, National Coalition of Spaceport States, National Space Society, The Planetary Society, ProSpace, Space Access Society and Space Frontier Foundation.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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