Bush looking at 'bold agenda' space effort - aide


US President George W. Bush is considering ideas for "a bold agenda" announcement as he faces re-election, including a possible new US space mission, his chief of staff said today.

"We have lots of suggestions that are being made by members of the president's Cabinet and administrators, like Sean O'Keefe of NASA. And the president will make a decision," said White House chief of staff Mr Andrew Card.

"But I guarantee he will have a bold agenda for this country," Mr Card said when asked about a possible new moon mission on the Sunday talk shows.

The Washington Postreported on Friday that a new lunar exploration program was one idea Bush's top aides were considering as part of a fresh agenda for the final year of his term.

Such an effort could cost billions of dollars at a time when the United States is running a substantial budget deficit.

The Postsaid plans call for Mr Bush to issue an ambitious new national vision for space travel by early next year, as part of a White House effort to develop "big ideas" for the president's 2004 agenda.

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy issued a stirring call for the nation to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Apollo 17 astronauts landed there in December 1972. "The president understands that we do want to continue to explore space after the disaster with the space shuttle. The president said that we would not give up on space exploration," Mr Card said on CNN's Late Editionprogram.

President Bush ordered an interagency review of US space priorities in the wake of the February 1st disintegration of the space shuttle Columbiabut Mr Card said he would not discuss "specifics on what we might be looking for."

Mr Card indicated, however, that any major effort might be well into the future, stating the administration first must "address the challenges that are here at hand," including funding defense and homeland security needs, and economic programs in the face of burgeoning budget deficits.