Obama set to defend NASA's new mission

The president will speak at the Kennedy Space Center in an effort to build support

President Obama will be at the Kennedy Space Center tomorrow to defend his plans to change NASA's mission.

A NASA spokesperson confirmed today that Obama will speak at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He is expected to discuss the administration's fiscal 2011 budget proposal and how it could change the space agency's efforts and goals. He's also expected to expound on his vision for America's future in space.

The president is heading to the space center in an effort to curb resistance in Congress to his new plans for the space agency. He's also looking to quell fears that the changes will mean large numbers of job losses in states like Texas, home of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Florida.

The federal budget proposal would end NASA's plan to return humans to the moon by 2020. It would also call for NASA to contract with commercial companies to build space taxis rather than building its own next-generation spacecraft.

Instead of having NASA develop its own spacecraft to take astronauts to the International Space Station and then further into space, the new budget plan looks to turn the agency's attention to developing new engines, in-space fuel depots and robots that can aid in manned and unmanned space missions.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden has said he fully supports the Obama administration plan to cancel the Constellation moon landing project that was initiated by former President George W. Bush.

The Constellation program was behind schedule and was projected to ultimately be over budget, according to Bolden. Officials feared that the program would sap funding and attention from developing new technologies and force NASA to withdraw its financial support for the space station as soon as 2015.

The new mission, along with a five-year budget plan, calls for the space station to continue operating and conduct new scientific experiments at least through 2020.

The president has met some resistance in Congress to his plan.

Last month, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced a bill that would undo NASA's long-held plan to retire its aging space shuttle fleet later this year.

Hutchison's bill also would require that NASA continue with its Constellation program and build spacecraft for a push to the moon.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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