NASA's future induces Obama visit
WASHINGTON — Facing opposition from Florida politicians, President Barack Obama will travel to the state in April to make the case for landmark changes to the space program.
Obama will hold an April 15 conference, the time and place to be determined. The meeting follows a controversial decision to phase out trips to the moon and turn more of the enterprise over to private industry.
The shift has been expected, but Florida politicians, Democrats and Republicans, have pushed back out of concern for the loss of thousands of jobs and a fear that the United States will lose ground in important research.
The president, though, cited a report calling the missions "un-executable."
"The president, along with top officials and other space leaders, will discuss the new course the administration is charting for NASA and the future of U.S. leadership in human space flight," the White House said in a statement. "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."
Obama's proposed budget boosts NASA's budget to about $20 billion a year over the next five years. The plans include extending support of the International Space Station to 2020. But it would end the Constellation program that focused on returning to the moon and rely on private companies for human transport into lower orbit.
Private enterprise is expected to generate only 1,700 jobs in Florida, far short of the 7,000 jobs evaporating with the end of the space shuttle program.
Gov. Charlie Crist sounded pessimistic about the conference. In a statement, he said, "While continuing dialogue about the space program is welcome, I'm afraid we already know the outcome. Unless we continue the Constellation program that allows America to be a leader in space innovation and provides jobs for many Floridians on the Space Coast, this discussion will leave many of the same problems unresolved."