Bush's Plan for Space Exploration

The first president Bush, somewhat mockingly, spoke of "the vision thing"...That Americans expect big ideas from their leaders. Next week this president Bush's gaze will be towards the skies, with a proposal aides call central to the character of America..space exploration.

Officials say the president's new decades long space plan will return Americans to the moon for the first time in 30 years, and establish a permanent presence on the moon, which would, work towards the first ever manned mission to Mars.

"Its something that's gonna push technology, push our capabilities, its gonna push us more than we can do today," said Rep. Dana Rohrababacher, (R) California.

Government sources say Mr. Bush wants to resume space shuttle flights in the short term, but ultimately retire the fleet, in favor of new crew exploration vehicles, designed to take astronauts to the moon, and ultimately to mars.

"I think most of all for this administration its a way to strike a kind of high minded note in a political contest that we've already been struggling over in 2004," said presidential historian, Robert Dallek.

Bush officials down play suggestions their hope is for a "JFK moment," in an election year, saying after the Columbia disaster, it was clear NASA needed to be refocused. But with a half trillion dollar budget deficit, the big question is how much will this cost? NASA's current budget is about 15 billion per year. Administration officials say the president will call on the agency to shift existing money to fit the new priorities. And he's expected to give NASA a 5 percent funding increase, more than most other government programs.

Some experts say the long term cost could be extraordinary. Democrats say the president should focus his energies on earth.

"I think we have issues here at home that are more important than building a colony on the moon," said Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi.

NASA's goal for getting back to the moon is 2018, but officials say the president will make clear the ultimate goal, getting man to Mars, will be several decades in the making.