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NASA must refocus, SpaceShipOne inventor says

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Sat May 21, 2005 1:43 am
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Associated Press WASHINGTON – The nation’s space program needs the type of vision from a U.S. president that John F. Kennedy supplied in the race to the moon, the inventor of the first private spaceship said Thursday.

Burt Rutan said NASA has failed to capture the public’s imagination and must refocus its efforts on manned spaceflight.

Mr. Rutan designed SpaceShipOne, which rocketed into space twice in five days, a feat considered a steppingstone to private spaceflight.

In an appearance at the National Press Club, Mr. Rutan praised new NASA Administrator Michael Griffin as the right person to transform the agency, while questioning whether Mr. Griffin will be allowed to do so.

NASA has 435 people on its board with their own agendas, Mr. Rutan said of Congress.

During his re-election campaign last year, President Bush called for NASA to return a manned spacecraft to the moon and eventually to send a manned spacecraft to Mars.

Mr. Rutan said the space program has paid a price for pulling back from moon exploration, and he pointed to the cost in lives in the shuttle program as a sign that drastic change is needed, with the first 22 years of space flight having been a lot safer than the last 22.

“We have regressed,” Mr. Rutan declared. “Do you know of any technology that gets over the decades more dangerous?”

The manned space program is still trying to recover from the Columbia accident of Feb. 1, 2003, which killed seven astronauts.

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