Bush Backs US Space Exploration
President George W. Bush last Thursday threw his weight behind US space exploration as the Discovery shuttle was cleared to return to Earth following historic space repairs.
Bush reiterated the US plan to retire the shuttle fleet by 2010 and replace it with a new vehicle capable of taking astronauts back to the Moon and eventually to Mars.
"It is important for our fellow citizens to understand that we're going to take the NASA mission beyond the current mission," Bush told reporters alongside visiting Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at his Texas ranch.
"The people I've talked to inside NASA are excited about the mission, the reinvigoration of the vision of exploration," Bush said.
"And that's important for the American people to understand, that, one, exploration is important. Two, there'll be some good coming out of exploration. And three, that we've got a new vision embraced by NASA and its pioneers," he said.
NASA on Thursday cleared Discovery to return to Earth after the space agency deemed that it was unnecessary to make a fourth spacewalk to repair parts of a thermal blanket that was torn near the cockpit window.
On Wednesday, US astronaut Steve Robinson carried out a historic mission under the shuttle to make repairs to avoid a repeat of the 2003 Columbia tragedy.
"Like a lot of Americans, I was amazed at the procedures that took place to repair the craft. It was pretty remarkable," Bush said.
The US leader, who spoke before NASA decided against another space repair, said he was confident NASA officials would make the "right decision" about whether to make another spacewalk to fix the shuttle.
"Ours is a country that values the safety of our citizens, particularly those we ask to take risks in space," Bush said.
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