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NASA reorganizes to address Bush's space plan

President calls for manned trips to moon, Mars

On Wednesday, Bush proposed to develop a new spacecraft to carry Americans back to the moon.
On Wednesday, Bush proposed to develop a new spacecraft to carry Americans back to the moon.

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Bush outlines his plan to reinvigorate the U.S. manned space program.
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•Spend $12 billion on new space exploration plan over next five years. $1bn will be new money, the rest reallocated from existing NASA programs.
•Retire shuttle program by 2010
•Develop new manned exploration vehicle
•Launch manned mission to moon between 2015 and 2020
•Build permanent lunar base as "stepping stone" for more ambitious missions
•Complete commitments to  International Space Station by 2010
Source: White House 
George W. Bush
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- NASA has reorganized some of its top management to focus on President George W. Bush's newly-announced plan to send humans to the moon and Mars, the U.S. space agency said on Thursday.

The reorganization began more than a year ago, but was made public one day after Bush unveiled his plan to establish a base on the moon by 2020 and eventually send people to Mars.

NASA's new associate administrator for the office of exploration systems, retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Craig Steidle, said it will take months to even get an idea of what kinds of vehicles and other technology will be required for these ambitious missions.

At a telephone news conference announcing the realignment, Steidle said he would be guided by Bush's "vision" for human space exploration as well as the White House budget, set for release February 2, in determining the needs for the project.

"I am going to take about four to six months to review all the requirements," Steidle said.

Steidle previously headed the Pentagon's F/A-18E/F fighter program and the multi-billion-dollar Joint Strike Fighter program, and said he would use some of the same procedures to develop vehicles for extraterrestrial use.

Since retiring from the Navy in 2000, Steidle has been an independent aerospace consultant.

The office Steidle now heads at NASA is meant to direct the development of space vehicles and other "exploration systems" as part of Bush's initiative, NASA said in a statement.

NASA's new associate administrator for the office of aeronautics, Victor LeBacqz, is charged with working on aviation research and aeronautics technology for U.S. civil and defense interests.

At the news conference, LeBacqz said his office had already been working with the Department of Homeland Security on aeronautic technologies, and had done work on information management systems for the Federal Aviation Administration.

In addition to supporting the administration's plans for space exploration, the reorganization at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is meant to respond to criticisms of NASA's culture and management made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

Investigators who probed the fatal February 1 disintegration of space shuttle Columbia said NASA's culture was an underlying cause, with slipping safety standards and a flawed chain of communication that kept problems from being effectively addressed.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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