The price tag for new rockets to bring astronauts to the moon is $104 billion, a cost the nation can afford over the next decade despite the major expenses.
Described as "Apollo on steroids," the new moon exploration plan unveiled by the space agency will use beefed-up shuttle and Apollo parts and aims to put people on the moon by 2018.
"There will be a lot more hurricanes and a lot more other natural disasters to befall the United States and the world in that time, I hope none worse than Katrina," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said at a news conference.
"But the space program is a long-term investment in our future. We must deal with our short-term problems while not sacrificing our long-term investments in our future. When we have a hurricane, we don't cancel the Air Force. We don't cancel the Navy. And we're not going to cancel NASA."
Griffin said he is not seeking extra money and stressed that NASA will live within its future annual budgets of $16 billion. Funding within the human spaceflight program will be redirected to achieve this goal.
The $104 billion cost, leading up to an initial four-person lunar landing and spread over 13 years, represents 55 percent of the comparative cost of the Apollo program, Griffin said. Apollo development spanned eight years, from 1961 to the first manned moon landing in 1969.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said the nation can fight the war on terror and deal with a disaster like Katrina while developing space technology for the future. "It is expensive, but at the same time it's incredibly important because the return to the people of the United States and the world is also very important," the AP quoted DeLay as saying.