I HAVE today sent to Congress a 1968 budget amendment totaling $149.8 million for three significant scientific projects:
--The development of a nuclear powered rocket engine, the "Rover."
--A meson physics laboratory for basic physical and biomedical research.
--A specialized facility for further exploration into controlled thermonuclear fusion as a potential source of electricity.
These projects will advance America's ability to harness atomic energy for the peaceful exploration of space. They will also help us chart new courses in nuclear science.
The additional appropriations I have recommended for the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will not increase my total fiscal 1968 budget.
NUCLEAR POWERED ROCKET ENGINE
In my 1968 Budget Message I said that consideration was being given to the development of a new atomic-powered engine. It is nay belief that the development of such an advanced engine should begin during the coming fiscal year.
This engine will substantially increase our Nation's space capabilities, and will give our larger rockets and spacecraft immensely increased 'power and versatility.
In the nuclear rocket program which has been moving forward during the last decade, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Atomic Energy Commission have successfully tested reactors and engines with 55,000 pounds of thrust.
Government scientists and engineers have now concluded that a much more powerful nuclear engine would have distinct advantages over rockets now in use. I am recommending that the United States Government move ahead with the development of a nuclear engine having a potential of 200,000 to 250,000 pounds of thrust.
Such an engine could be used for a new and much more powerful third stage for our Saturn V launch vehicle. Because of its very high efficiency, it could:
--permit us almost to double the weight of the present payload of the Saturn V vehicle.
--increase our ability to maneuver spacecraft.
--be used in future manned landings and explorations of far distant planets.
We know that the development of such a nuclear powered engine will take time. Plans now call for delivery of the first test engine about 1971. A number of flight and ground tests will precede full use of the engine in our space programs. That is why I have asked the Congress to appropriate funds this year to lay the groundwork for this important program.
I am, therefore, recommending appropriations of $91 million in the coming fiscal year for nuclear rocket development. Forty-one million dollars will be used by the Atomic Energy Commission. The remaining $50 million will be used by NASA--with $27.5 million for work on engine systems, and $22.5 million for design and initial construction of special testing facilities.
NUCLEAR SCIENCE FACILITIES
It is also our intention to develop two new research facilities at a total cost of $58.8 million.
One will be used in basic physical and medical research. Congress has already appropriated $4.7 million for this facility.
The other facility will serve as a center for advanced research into controlled thermonuclear fusion as a possible new power source for the future.
Both of these research facilities will be built at the Atomic Energy Commission's Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico.
These projects are not theoretical adventures. They are the practical results of basic scientific research, and their fruits will prove of the highest value to a nation seeking new and peaceful keys to unlock the powers of man and the universe.