NASA Science Sets its Sights on Human Mars Mission

NASA’s 2004 budget request, released Monday and overshadowed by the Columbia disaster, represents strong support for space science. It also shows hints of an elevated commitment to Mars both as a science target and a place NASA wants to eventually send humans. For the moment, space science has taken a backseat to the shuttle investigation, within NASA and among scientists, politicians and the public. Researchers acknowledge and appreciate that it could take many months for experiments aboard shuttles to get back on track. But the vast bulk of space science research will proceed pretty much as usual. The shuttle program combined with the International Space Station accounts for only a portion of the overall pure science activities conducted by NASA, a program that includes the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as the Mars Odyssey and Galileo missions.