Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, wants Congress and the president to put excitement back into the space program by pushing for a space station, a manned mission to Mars by 2005 and a permanent colony on the moon.
"None of which is too ambitious," said Garn, who flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985. Garn issued his call for renewed vigor in space leadership as NASA resumed space shuttle flights.He said for NASA to achieve the goals he envisions, it requires active leadership from the president and support by Congress.
"The Apollo program never would have been successful without the full commitment of President Kennedy. He infused our space program with excitement, enthusiasm and pride. We have lost that excitement about our space program and we need to recapture it," Garn said.
He said the core of the problem is unwillingness by Congress to adequately fund the space program.
"Unfortunately, many of my colleagues are too shortsighted when they cast votes. They look to the next election instead of further down the road into the future. But, by doing this they are selling out our future.
"For every dollar we spend in space, we get about $8 or $9 back on our investment. How many other federal programs can claim that kind of return on their dollar?" He said the return comes mainly through increased technology and industries it spawns.
Garn is critical of the Reagan administration for not taking an active leadership role in space. He said the president should attend space launches, deliver speeches on space initiatives and personally lobby members of Congress to obtain adequate funding for the program.
He said because of the huge national budget deficit, he does not expect the space program to receive much additional funding soon. "However, I hope Congress will at least continue to provide enough funding to move ahead with the space station and an adequate space shuttle program."
But he still wants the nation to also make long-term plans for a Mars mission and a permanent colony on the moon, and follow up on those goals with "persistence and full-hearted commitment."