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NASA KEEPS ITS EYE ON VISION GOALS.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE - Two years after President George W. Bush announced an initiative to return astronauts to the moon to pave the way for missions to Mars and beyond, NASA says it is making major strides toward that goal.

On Jan. 14, 2004, the president unveiled what is called the Vision for Space Exploration - a plan that called for returning the space shuttle to flight, fielding a new manned spacecraft by 2014, and returning astronauts to the moon no later than 2020.

At the time of the president's announcement, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was recovering from the Feb. 1, 2003, loss of space shuttle Columbia and her crew.

``Two years later, we're well on our way to turning the vision into reality,'' NASA said in a statement marking the anniversary of the president's announcement.

``We've unveiled plans for our next generation spacecraft, the crew exploration vehicle, which builds on the best of Apollo and shuttle technology. We've returned the shuttle fleet to flight and celebrate the fifth anniversary of crew operations on the space station.''

NASA issued an updated request for proposals to two contractor teams, one led by Northrop Grumman and the other by Lockheed Martin, for the development of the crew exploration vehicle, referred to as the CEV. The CEV will transport up to six crew members to and from the International Space Station and up to four astronauts for moon missions, which the agency expects to start in 2018.

The proposals are due by March 20. NASA will select one contractor team sometime this year to develop the spacecraft.

``NASA desires to streamline CEV development, production and operations to meet a first crewed test flight as close to 2010 as possible, but no later than 2012, without compromising safety,'' NASA said in a letter to the contractor teams. ``For this reason NASA is seeking industry input of accelerating the schedule, in particular in the area of test activities.''

NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base will be involved in both the development of the CEV and in its operations.

Anticipated work for the program at Dryden includes flight testing of a launch abort system, drop tests of a subscale model to evaluate approach and landing technologies and procedures, and range safety analyses.

Dryden also is expected to be the site for landings when the spacecraft is ready to fly.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have production facilities at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale. Northrop Grumman's partner, Boeing, also has operations at Plant 42.

It's not known what, if any, role those facilities would have in the CEV development and production.

NASA estimates it will cost $104 billion to return astronauts to the moon by 2018. The Apollo program spent the equivalent of $165 billion in today's dollars from 1961 to the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

NASA referred to the new moon plan as ``Apollo on steroids.'' The plan calls for placing four astronauts on the moon's surface instead of two, as during the Apollo days. Astronauts will be able to stay on the moon's surface for four days to a week, compared with the three-day mission of Apollo 17.

Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743

james.skeen(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 17, 2006
Words:545
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