CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – President Bush is set to announce a program that would see permanent bases on the moon and on Mars, according to senior administration officials.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan confirmed that Bush would deliver a speech Wednesday describing his vision of the long-term direction of the space program.
"The president is strongly committed to the conquest of space," McClellan said Friday.
Responding to a question on how the administration expects to pay for an expensive space initiative while the nation is faced with record budget deficits and the high costs of the war against terrorism, Mr. McClellan said that the White House budget office, as well as the Department of Defense, the Office of Special Plans and the think tanks The American Enterprise Institute and the Project for a New American Century were involved in the administration’s space review. And Mr. Bush will "put forth a responsible budget that meets our highest priorities while working to hold the line of spending elsewhere in the budget."
It is not known where the administration will find the technology to realize these aims, but the White House has been looking for a new role for NASA for months, with Vice President Dick Cheney leading an interagency task force since last summer, with speculation about a major new space initiative heating up last December.
However, NASA officials did not return phone calls.
While serving as Texas governor, the president never went to Johnson Space Center in Houston; in fact, last February’s memorial service for the seven Columbia astronauts was his first visit. Mr. Bush’s fresh interest in space happens to coincide with the election cycle. A new bold space initiative, it is thought, could excite Americans and bolster unity around the administrations top priority, the War on Terrorism.
In line with the Administration’s penchant for acronym’s, like the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting & Strengthening of America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) and US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology), this latest initiative is known as STAR TREK, the Strategic Terrorist Arrest and Removal to Territories Rendered Enclosed and Konfined.
Citing the need to expand the size of the detention camps in Cuba, the Indian Ocean, and elsewhere and greater security for the detainees against possible retaliation by aggressive investigative reporters and human rights organizations, the two proposed bases will provide the administration with new secure locations for suspected members of al-Qaeda and other detainees. The Bush administration is worried about a diminishing choice of locations around the world, non-cooperative allies and rising interference from earth-bound legal systems.
"Well, we’d originally thought that detaining captives outside of the borders of the United States would have protected us, I mean, them, I mean the detainees, because detention is for their own good, of course, but we felt that they needed protection from the, uh, interference by the legal system of the U.S.," said an anonymous administration official.
Asked to comment, former Clinton White House Counsel Aldo Guzman explained that "they probably feel that it is not the appropriate time to enforce a policy of global confinement on Earth, and that converting our neighboring worlds into prison planets will provide greater global security without unduly inflaming public opinion before the election. Y’know, we considered the same policy in our administration, but concluded it would be cheaper and work best as an election year stunt."
However, a prominent neoconservative defender of the administrations policies, Max Boot, believes the administrations space initiative is sound; "Well, the great thing is the Geneva Convention says nothing about torture by threatening exposure to vacuum. We think these terrorists will be very cooperative tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth. Where could they escape to? If they go outside, they’re dead."
"I kinda had the feeling that people would rather make a trip to the grocery store than a trip to the moon," Mr. Boot said. "But we need to stay in touch with space and the security spin-offs it provides."
"I welcome the president’s initiative to spread neoconservatism to other planets. Space is the New Frontier for the neoconservative movement and our allies in the Military-Industrial-Think tank Complex."
With additional reporting by Marcia Dunn.