WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Florida April 15 to discuss the impact of his administration’s new vision for human spaceflight, the White House announced March 7.
Obama will be joined by “top officials and other space leaders” to discuss the new course the administration is charting for NASA and the future of U.S. leadership in manned space exploration.
“Specifically, the conference will focus on the goals and strategies in this new vision, the next steps, and the new technologies, new jobs, and new industries it will create,” the White House news release states.
In his 2011 budget request to lawmakers Feb. 1, Obama proposed canceling NASA’s Constellation program, a five-year-old effort initiated under the administration of former President George W. Bush to replace the agency’s aging space shuttle fleet with new rockets and spacecraft optimized for the Moon. Although Obama’s proposal would add $6 billion to the agency’s spending coffers over the next five years and foster development of a commercial crew transportation service, the plan to abandon NASA’s nearly $10 billion investment in new hardware capable of returning humans to the lunar surface has sparked bipartisan protests from Capitol Hill.
Florida lawmakers, including Democrats Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, have voiced strong concerns with Obama’s plan to cancel Constellation, which was expected to stem job losses at NASA’s Kennedy Center — as well as at NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Ala. and Johnson Space Center in Houston — resulting from the space shuttle’s retirement at the end of this year.
Citing an Oct. 22 report by a blue-ribbon panel led by former Lockheed Martin chief Norm Augustine, the White House release asserts NASA’s current plan to replace the shuttle is “fundamentally un-executable” and says Obama’s funding boost over the next five years will “help us achieve our boldest aspirations in space.”
Attributing the current state of NASA’s human spaceflight program to “years of underinvestment in new technology and unrealistic budgeting,” the White House asserts “the President’s plan will unveil an ambitious roadmap for NASA that sets the agency on a reinvigorated path of space exploration.”
The foundation of Obama’s new strategy is “to invest in the development of a targeted set of inter-related technologies and capabilities that can help us travel from the Earth’s cradle to our nearby Solar System neighborhood in a more effective and affordable way, thus laying the foundation to support journeys to the Moon, asteroids, and eventually to Mars,” the release states.
Obama’s Florida visit is slated to occur the same day NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is scheduled to speak during a popular annual space conference in Colorado Springs. Until recently, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver — not Bolden — was scheduled to speak April 15 at the Colorado conference.