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From the Apollo landings on the Moon, to robotic surveys of the Sun and the planets, to the compelling images captured by advanced space telescopes, U.S. achievements in space have revolutionized humanity's view of the universe and have inspired Americans and people around the world. These achievements also have led to the development of technologies that have widespread applications to address problems on Earth. As the world enters the second century of powered flight, it is time to articulate a new vision that will define and guide U.S. space exploration activities for the next several decades.
Today, humanity has the potential to seek answers to the most fundamental questions posed about the existence of life beyond Earth. Telescopes have found planets around other stars. Robotic probes have identified potential resources on the Moon, and evidence of water -- a key ingredient for life -- has been found on Mars and the moons of Jupiter.
Direct human experience in space has fundamentally altered our perspective of humanity and our place in the universe. Humans have the ability to respond to the unexpected developments inherent in space travel and possess unique skills that enhance discoveries. Just as Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo challenged a generation of Americans, a renewed U.S. space exploration program with a significant human component can inspire us -- and our youth -- to greater achievements on Earth and in space.
The loss of Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia and their crews are a stark reminder of the inherent risks of space flight and the severity of the challenges posed by space exploration. In preparation for future human exploration, we must advance our ability to live and work safely in space and, at the same time, develop the technologies to extend humanity's reach to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The new technologies required for further space exploration also will improve the Nation's other space activities and may provide applications that could be used to address problems on Earth.
Like the explorers of the past and the pioneers of flight in the last century, we cannot today identify all that we will gain from space exploration; we are confident, nonetheless, that the eventual return will be great. Like their efforts, the success of future U.S. space exploration will unfold over generations.
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