MOULTRIE -- On Jan. 14, President George W. Bush announced a goal for America to return men to the moon and eventually to the surface of Mars.

But many Moultrians are not jumping on the interplanetary bandwagon.

Bush proposed that America would retire the current space shuttle program by the year 2010. In place of the shuttle, he proposed developing a new spacecraft, called the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), and begin testing it by 2008.

After testing the CEV, crewed flights would start by 2014, Bush said. Once crewed flights begin, a return trip to the moon would take place by 2020. Using the moon as a "launching point," eventually America would send manned flights to Mars.

Robotic probes, Bush proposed, would be used to explore the surface of the moon by 2008, and extended human missions would begin by 2015.

Here in Moultrie, The Observer spoke with several people last week, and many expressed opposition to a new phase of space exploration, saying the money used for it could be better spent on more down-to-earth projects.

Alan Stone said there are enough problems here on Earth and in America to even think about sending men to the moon and Mars.

"The money (the government) is spending to send people to Mars can be used to help homeless people and help get this nation out of debt instead of putting it further in debt," Stone said.

April Edwards said the goals set forth by Bush are a complete waste of time.

"There is so much more than can be done with the money," Edwards said.

Phil Lunney, however, said Bush's proposals are valuable because of all the advances the space program has brought into daily life.

"I'm for any space program," Lunney said, "because of the computer benefits we've gotten out of previous (missions)."

The financial burden of the new program, Lunney said, is worth it because of the long-term improvements from it, such as how to keep electrical units powered for long periods of time.

Shavon Perry said the only good thing about Bush's plan was that the moon could provide another place to live as Earth's population continues to grow.

Whether the program to the moon and Mars does take place, Stone believes there will not be an evidence of life found on Mars or any other planet.

"I believe if God wanted them to find life he would have already told them," Stone said.

Lunney said, however, that there is too much out there in the cosmos to have life exist only on Earth.

"With a billion stars I think there's somebody else out there," Lunney said.

Kyle Perry said he also believes there is life somewhere else in the cosmos.

"I don't think we're just the only ones here," he said.

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