Obama To Discuss Space Plan in Florida

Obama's Science Advisor Grilled by Congress on NASA Plan
U.S. President Barack Obama, accompanied by members of Congress and middle school children, waves as he talks on the phone from the Roosevelt Room of the White House to astronauts on the International Space Station, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 in Washington.
(Image: © NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON ? U.S. President Barack Obama will visit FloridaApril 15 to discuss the impact of his administration?s new vision for humanspaceflight, the White House announced March 7.

Obama will be joined by "top officials and other spaceleaders" to discussthe new course the administration is charting for NASA and the future ofU.S. leadership in manned space exploration.

"Specifically, the conference will focus on the goals andstrategies in this new vision,the next steps, and the new technologies, new jobs, and new industries it willcreate," the White House news release states.

In his 2011 budget request to lawmakers Feb. 1, Obamaproposed canceling NASA?s Constellation program, a five-year-old effortinitiated under the administration of former President George W. Bush toreplace the agency?s aging space shuttle fleet with new rockets and spacecraftoptimized for the Moon. Although Obama?s proposal would add $6 billion to theagency?s spending coffers over the next five years and foster development of acommercial crew transportation service, the plan to abandon NASA?s nearly $10billion investment in new hardware capable of returning humans to the lunarsurface has sparked bipartisan protests from Capitol Hill.

Florida lawmakers, including Democrats Sen. Bill Nelson andRep. Suzanne Kosmas, have voiced strongconcerns with Obama?s plan to cancel Constellation, which was expected tostem job losses at NASA?s Kennedy Center ? as well as at NASA?s MarshallSpaceflight 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 byformer Lockheed Martin chief Norm Augustine, the White House release assertsNASA?s current plan to replacethe shuttle is "fundamentally un-executable" and says Obama?s funding boostover the next five years will "help us achieve our boldest aspirations inspace."

Attributing the current state of NASA?s human spaceflightprogram to "years of underinvestment in new technology and unrealisticbudgeting," the White House asserts "the President?s plan will unveil anambitious roadmap for NASA that sets the agency on a reinvigorated path ofspace exploration."

The foundation of Obama?s new strategy is "to invest in thedevelopment of a targeted set of inter-related technologies and capabilitiesthat can help us travel from the Earth?s cradle to our nearby Solar Systemneighborhood in a more effective and affordable way, thus laying the foundationto support journeys to the Moon, asteroids, and eventually to Mars," therelease states.?

Obama?s Florida visit is slated to occur the same day NASAAdministrator Charles Bolden is scheduled to speak during a popular annualspace conference in Colorado Springs. Until recently, NASA Deputy AdministratorLori Garver ? not Bolden ? was scheduled to speak April 15 at the Coloradoconference.

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