Vice President Dan Quayle tightened the National Space Council’s control over space activities Friday by dividing NASA’s responsibility for the U.S. moon-Mars project among several government agencies.
Quayle released a space policy directive, approved by President Bush, that assigns “major roles” to the Defense and Energy departments while establishing NASA as the principal agency.
In 1989, Bush declared a goal to establish a base on the moon and to send human expeditions to Mars. Later, he set a goal to have the Mars landing by the year 2019.
Cost estimates for the 30-year project have ranged from $400 billion to over $500 billion. To date, $8.5 million has been spent on the Space Exploration Initiative, which has received a lukewarm reception in Congress and little push from the Administration.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration requested $51 million for the project in the current fiscal year, but the White House asked for $14 million less when it submitted its budget proposals to Congress. In fiscal year 1991, Congress did not spend any money for the initiative.
Quayle’s announcement Friday said the new directive was a reaffirmation of the U.S. commitment to space exploration. It draws on recommendations made last year by the so-called Synthesis Group, headed by former astronaut Thomas Stafford.
In response to the Stafford report, NASA set up an exploration office, now headed by Michael Griffin. The directive calls for that office to be staffed both by NASA “and representatives from other participating agencies.”
The exploration office is charged with preparing an annual status report and, the directive says, “the NASA administrator shall present this report to the National Space Council.”
The directive requires the exploration office to present the council with an outline of options for carrying out the missions. It also orders that a strategic plan be submitted by April of next year and every year thereafter.
The council, a creation of the Bush Administration, has been at odds with NASA’s astronaut-oriented management. The squabble resulted last month in the firing of former astronaut Richard H. Truly as NASA chief. He was replaced this week by Daniel S. Goldin, a TRW executive with extensive experience with unmanned spacecraft.