Eye Opener: Obama to discuss NASA's future
Happy Monday! President Obama will head to Florida next month to host a conference on the future of American space exploration and defend his plans to revamp the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The president wants to give NASA an extra $6 billion over the next five years and abandon plans to return to the moon by 2020. The government would then help pay for the private construction of spaceships to ferry astronauts to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
Those budget proposals have earned strong bipartisan opposition from lawmakers in Alabama, Florida and Texas -- where most of the space industry is based -- and from self-described Congressional space geeks.
Florida officials, fully aware of their swing state status, estimate that more than 9,000 jobs could be lost with the Obama administration's proposed changes and the planned 2011 retirement of the Space shuttle program.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has been especially outspoken, telling Obama advisers on Friday that the administration's NASA plans are a "mistake." He also asked for an additional shuttle flight to the final four missions already planned, called for a mission to Mars and assurances that NASA will build the next big space vehicle to transport astronauts.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) panned Obama's space plans in an op-ed late last week: "NASA's strong history of innovation, as well as our dominance in space, is in danger because President Barack Obama has decided to shift the agency's mission to more Earth-bound tasks," she wrote in the Houston Chronicle.
But Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.), said it's less about the economies of a few states.
"This is about whether Chinese or English is spoken as the dominant language of astronauts a hundred years from now," he told the Oregonian.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has born the brunt of angry lawmakers upset with what they consider as vague and confusing plans for NASA's future. The Congressional reaction led to reports that the space agency was drafting a "Plan B," which the agency later denied.
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