New Plan Aims to Replace Jobs Lost at Kennedy Space Center
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - President Barack Obama will outline a plan Thursday that would bring 2,500 more jobs to Florida's Space Coast than the NASA moon program he aims to kill, White House officials said Tuesday.
The 4,500 to 5,500 new jobs would come in the near-term - by 2012 - offsetting by nearly 60 percent the 8,000 jobs expected to be lost at Kennedy Space Center as a result of the shutdown of NASA's shuttle program and the administration's proposed cancellation of Project Constellation.
At a space summit to be held at the space center Thursday, Obama also will announce plans to develop a smaller version of NASA's Orion spacecraft - the crew capsule that had been part of the return-to-the-moon program.
The scaled-back capsule would be used for emergency crew escape at the International Space Station.
Obama also will commit to making a decision in 2015 on the type of heavy-lift launch vehicle the nation will build for missions beyond Earth orbit, accelerating development of a supersized rocket by three years.
The new initiatives, along with a multibillion-dollar investment in the development of "game-changing" technologies, would put NASA and the nation on course for human expeditions throughout the inner solar system sooner than previously planned, the officials said.
"The new strategy means more money for NASA, more jobs for the country, more astronaut time in space, and more investments in innovation," a senior White House adviser told Florida Today, speaking on condition of anonymity
The White House released the details ahead of Obama's visit as criticism mounted against the president's plan. On Tuesday, Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and other astronauts from the Apollo era came out against the president's decision to cancel Constellation, warning it "destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature."
"America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space," wrote Armstrong, Jim Lovell, commander of the Apollo 13 flight, and Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the lunar surface.
The White House adviser said Obama's plan enables a set of steppingstone achievements in space that "will take us further and faster into space, allowing us to reach a range of destinations, including lunar orbit, Lagrange points, near-Earth asteroids, the moons of Mars, and eventually, Mars itself."
Still, thousands of jobs stand to be lost at the Kennedy Space Center. So an extra $3 billion would be pumped into the space center's budget over the next five years.
NASA since 2004 has been on a trajectory aimed at completing the International Space Station and retiring the shuttle fleet this year.
Local officials expected the shuttle shutdown to result in about 7,000 job losses at the space center. The administration's plan to cancel Project Constellation eliminated hopes for the creation of 2,000 to 3,000 post-shuttle program jobs.
Only three more shuttle missions remain to be launched, and the White House gave no indication that Obama intends to extend fleet operations.
There also was no hint that Obama might roll out a plan for heavy-lift test flights at Kennedy Space Center, and the administration's proposed 2011 budget includes no money for Ares I or Ares V rocket development.
The Obama space plan instead directs NASA to establish a project office at KSC that will oversee a program aimed at developing commercial space taxi services for astronauts flying to and from the International Space Station.
Once the shuttle fleet is retired, the United States will rely on Russia to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station until a commercial alternative - or the smaller Orion capsule - can be developed.
The Commercial Crew Development Program Office will manage $5.8 billion over five years to foster private-sector space taxi services.