Imagine for a minute that you’re standing on Mars.

You’re fresh off a trip that makes a car ride to Canada look like a jaunt to the C-store. You’ve been sitting on top of a rocket that makes a Concord jet engine look like a double-A battery. You’ve been eating stuff that makes Chartwell’s mystery meat look like Emeril’s most titillating TV special.

You are now standing on a surface entirely foreign to the most pioneering realm of human exploration. In which direction do you walk? The quest for life on another planet is one step further along with each stride you take.

You’d better step smart, though. By present estimates, up to $650 billion dollars will be spent getting you there. With a budget already trillions of dollars in deficit, this is a considerable chunk of change.

Bush’s new initiative, to establish a base on the moon to use as a starting point for travel to Mars and elsewhere, is one of the costliest renovations to the United States’ space program since President Kennedy’s commitment to landing a man on the moon in 1961.

But it is money well spent. The first man on Mars will be privileged with a sense of wonder that will rival Helen Keller’s discovery of the communicated word.

This sense of wonder can be extended into the minds of the millions of measly earthlings who will watch the event. It’s like earth science times ten. Each sample we take, each test we run and each observation we record could lead to a discovery that could literally be out of this world.

A mission to Mars should be able to strike a chord of interest in even the most apathetic UM student.

For the more politically aware, the unifying power that Kennedy’s space program had on college campuses would be welcome amidst the divisiveness over the present state of war in the middle east.

The reason why the United States should remain the front-runner in space exploration was best put forth by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., chairman of the House subcommittee on space: “America is not going to remain at peace, and we’re not going to remain the most prosperous nation, and we’re not going to remain a free nation unless we remain the technological leader of the world. And we will not remain the technological leader of the world unless we are the leaders in space.”

However, just because Bush’s concepts are ideologically correct does not mean that he is even remotely close to making his ideas reality. He needs to put his money where his mouth is.

One billion dollars committed is a long way from the billions upon billions more that are actually needed to extend space exploration as far as Bush talks about. Alas, in election year, Bush’s motives for turning America’s focus to “a new foothold on the moon, and new journeys to the worlds beyond our own” are not entirely elusive. It is unfortunate that such an important concept be thrown haphazardly into the agenda of a politically minded President, but at least it gets tossed out there.