Obama Visits Kennedy Space Center to Push NASA Vision – The Cape Insider

Air Force One touched down at 1:24 p.m. (EDT) today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) carrying President Barack Obama and dignitaries for a short visit to explain and push his vision of NASA’s transformation. At the same time he came to reassure KSC workers that there would be some jobs and retraining money available. After a brief visit around KSC including a guided tour by SpaceX founder Elon Musk of his private company’s facilities and launch pad where the Falcon 9 awaits its maiden voyage next month, the President then traveled to the Operations and Checkout building to speak to the highly vetted audience.

The President wanted everyone to understand that in these challenging economic times that NASA was one of the few agencies that received an increase in funding, $6 billion over 5 years in his recent budget, while will most other government agencies had their budgets frozen.
One of the key complaints against the 2011 NASA budget was the cancellation of the Orion Crew Capsule. Obama’s plan will revive Orion in a scaled back configuration that would be used as an emergency rescue vehicle for the International Space Station. The rationale for this is to lessen U.S. dependence on foreign spacecraft such as the Russian Soyuz. The Orion Capsule will part of the technological foundation to be used in future deep space missions.
“What I hope is that everyone will take a look at what we are planning,” Obama said. “No one is more committed to the exploration of space than I am.”
His remarks added further detail to his proposed plan and corrected rumors that were would be additional shuttle flights after the three which are currently scheduled. A date for manned missions beyond the moon was announced as taking place by 2025 with an initial mission to an asteroid. The President also addressed the question of whether or not the moon will be a destination in this new plan, it will not be, the President stated that NASA had already traveled there and that we needed to push on, this remark drew weak applause from the crowd.
“People have focused on what the budget proposal doesn’t do and have missed an incredible story on the extension and utilization of the International Space Station, new investment in R&D, a greater commitment to studying Earth, and developing the technology needed for a 21st Century space program.” NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications, Robert Jacobs said regarding the President’s new direction for the space program.
The new plan has a stated objective for NASA’s manned space program – the planet Mars – and that by the mid 2030’s a human mission to orbit Mars can be attempted. However, no timetable was given as to when the space agency should land astronauts on the red planet.
The plan detailed by the President will not resurrect either the man-rated Ares-1 or the Ares-V heavy lift rocket. Instead, the President has decided to defer the decision on which heavy lift rocket NASA will use until 2015 at which point the chosen design will be built. However the delay in selecting a heavy lift vehicle troubles some experts within the industry.
“I do not understand why it will take five years just to decide what type of heavy lift vehicle we want to pursue, look at past studies, this has been studied to death, ” said Robert Springer an astronaut that has flown twice on the space shuttle who summed up his view by using part of Obama’s election mantra. “This isn’t change for the good, it is simply spin.”
Several Apollo astronauts including some moon walkers have openly expressed their concern and dismay at Obama’s plan. Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11, Jim Lovell Commander of Apollo 13 and Eugene Cernan the commander of Apollo 17 and currently the last man to have walked on the moon have stated openly that they are against the Obama plan and feel that it will relegate America’s manned space program to a level of ‘mediocrity.’ However, not all Apollo astronauts agree, Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, fresh off his stint on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ has expressed his support for the Obama plan.
Obama closed his speech by talking directly to the KSC workers and their job prospects. He stated that the cancellation of the Shuttle Program was decided six years ago and that his plan would create 2500 new jobs in Florida. He also stated that it was true some Floridians would lose their jobs as the Shuttle program winds down today he announced a $40 million initiative to develop a plan for regional economic growth and job creation. The plan would help retrain some of the KSC workforce to work in new space jobs either at KSC or in the private sector.

Edited by Marc Boucher

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.


  1. I don’t get this comment: “His remarks added further detail to plan and corrected rumors that were flying about in that there will be no more shuttle flights after the three currently planned.”
    What was the correction? I sure as heck didn’t hear one.

  2. I don’t know how that assumption came about either. My only conjecture is that Jason meant to say “His remarks added further detail to plan and corrected rumors that were flying about in that there will be more shuttle flights after the three currently planned.” There have been numerous rumors that have come and gone with the latest before the speech being that there would be one extra mission using what will probably be the unused LON hardware. There were also rumors as recently as this morning about a one or two year extension of shuttle although anything beyond the LON mission conversion would probably be at least 2 years down stream due to needing a tank, amongst other things, and simply planning the mission and what would fly on it. You don’t throw together a shuttle mission in probably much more than at least a year if not longer.

  3. Jason has updated the paragraph in question.

  4. The Flying Dutchman

    Why send human to an asteroid? Sure, there is scientific benefits in studying asteroid but this type of mission can be fulfilled by robotic mission. Especially that all of the interesting asteroids for a sample return mission have orbits up to 2AU. Hence the mission duration is very long. Second, the astronaut will not be able to walk freely on the surface making the exploration very difficult. Therefore, is this type of mission inspired by previous Hollywood films. There was an article in the past talking about this type of subject. Fact or Fiction? But why an asteroid? I prefer the moon over an asteroid. Interesting times…

  5. I think a NEO mission sounds awesome.
    Here is a paper talking about NEO missions. It was written a while ago I think, but still relates.

  6. Jason,
    welcome to this universe of space bloggers! Did you get a chance to cover any of the break out sessions?
    and will you be reporting on any of them?
    I recently found on the net a paper by Ed crawly dated this month that seems to suggest that the first stage hydrocarbon development project in the proposed 2011 budget is intended to be ‘shared” by a future heavy lifter and the commercial/DOD launcher community
    so Jason i would like to hear what folks at the cape might know of these ideas?

  7. There were rumors of extending Shuttle and Obama corrected those rumors by saying there would be no extra flights. I believe the gap will be closed significantly with commercial crew capability compared to Constellation. I really don’t know how Ares I would have been operational before 2020 at the rate it was going.
    As for NEO missions, the reason to do this is to develop the BEO capability and use it ASAP. This means a flyby with no landing because landing on any surface, especially the Moon, means a decade and tens of billions to develop a lander/return vehicle AFTER you have the HLV developed. This way we spend money on the HLV and the crewed spacecraft and get out of LEO and into testing new deep space propulsion like VASIMR. This will take us first to asteroids and then we can work our way up to Mars flybys. These are new incremental accomplishments and true progress. While we conduct various flyby missions to several different destinations (asteroids, Venus, Phobos, Mars, etc.), we could develop the lander/return vehicle which could be used to land on any of the surfaces for which we had previously done flybys. This strategy may not sound as exciting to some as repeating Apollo, but as a NASA employee I find it VERY exciting. For the first time in 3 decades we have a strategy to develop a capability to go beyond LEO and get to Mars in my lifetime in an incremental and sustainable manner. All the other strategies of the past for an Apollo-style lunge into space were unrealistically ambitious and unsustainable. We just do not have, and cannot expect to have, the funding levels that Apollo had in today’s money. We simply must invest in R&D and cannot do so unless we take an incremental approach to getting BEO instead of a massive all-out effort to return to the Moon, which as Obama said, we’ve done before. Notice I used the term “strategy” and not “plan” since so many critics seem to miss that the 2011 budget is a strategy and it is up to NASA to develop a detailed plan before the budget is passed.

  8. Hi Infocat 13,
    No, I didn’t have that opportunity. The folks at the Cape seem apprehensive about this new direction. It does not specifically name a new craft, rocket or program. This lack of definition has many of the people I know very nervous.
    Hi Possum,
    Actually Obama stated on the campaign trail in 2008 that he was open to an additional shuttle flight. Here is the link:
    Sincerely, Jason Rhian

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