Florida 'Space Coast' sees economic hardship in Obama plan
Local residents and former astronauts say Obama's decision to end NASA’s moon program will harm the Space Coast economy and put the US behind Russia and China.
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“It appears that we will have wasted our current $10-plus billion investment in Constellation and, equally importantly, we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded,” they said in a statement, which was also signed by Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell. “The availability of a commercial transport to orbit as envisioned in the President’s proposal cannot be predicted with any certainty, but is likely to take substantially longer and be more expensive than we would hope.”Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures NASA's Space Shuttle
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The White House believes that by 2012 up to 2,500 new jobs will be created in Florida’s commercial space industry than would have been available under NASA had Constellation continued, off-setting the job losses by about 60 percent.
White House pledges to reduce economic impact
To “ease the transition for workers dislocated while the new space strategy is implemented,” the administration will dedicate $40 million to supporting the regional economy, White House documents state. “The men and women who work in the Space Coast’s aerospace industry are some of the most talented and highly trained in the nation. It’s critical that their skills are tapped as we transform and grow the country’s space exploration efforts.”
But locally, there is skepticism, doubt, and fear. Unemployment in Brevard County, where the Kennedy Space Center is located, is already running at over 12 percent and no one knows whether Mr. Obama’s expectations for the commercial rocket industry might be too ambitious.
At a "Save Space" rally held in Cocoa last weekend, speakers urged Obama to rethink his plans to ax Constellation, keep the Space Coast at the forefront of human spaceflight, and keep America from losing its space exploration crown to Russia or China.
“We need to move forward with a commercial spaceflight capability, but not at the expense of NASA,” retired space shuttle astronaut Winston Scott told the crowd.
Recalling how a college student named David had written asking if he could meet to discuss pursuing a career as an astronaut, Captain Scott admitted: “I don’t want to have to look at him and say ‘David, if you want to be an American astronaut, you need to learn Russian or Chinese.’ ”