Could mean large job losses at local employer ATK
Leader Assistant Editor
U.S. President Barack Obama talked at length about his plans for the future of NASA and the nation’s space program yesterday. Unfortunately for Utahns, however, those plans didn’t include the continuation of NASA’s Constellation program and Ares rocket.
Obama said he plans to increase NASA’s budget by $6 billion dollars over the next few years, and said he wants to see the space program take a new direction, moving away from old programs like Constellation that he said weren’t serving their purpose.
“Pursuing this new strategy will require that we revise the old strategy,” Obama said. “In part, this is because the old strategy – including the Constellation program – was not fulfilling its promise in many ways.”
That new strategy includes goals to take man past the moon rather than shooting for the prior administration’s goal of returning man to the moon. Obama’s reason for that? “We’ve been there before.” He said he hopes to see astronauts land on asteroids and even Mars by the mid-2030s, and said the nation must invest in new technologies and propulsion systems that would be critical for manned deep space exploration.
“The bottom line is nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space than I am,” Obama said. “But we’ve got to do it in a smart way, and we can’t just keep on doing the same old things that we’ve been doing and thinking that somehow is going to get us to where we want to go.”
Members of Utah’s delegation in Washington, D.C. disagreed with the President’s view, however.
“This is getting silly. The President’s plan wastes billions of dollars and years of valuable time,” Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said. “I would say the administration’s plan is laughable, but I can’t find much humor in it when the consequences of space exploration and American workers during tough economic times are so dire.”
Hatch said he doesn’t understand why Constellation and the Ares rocket would be scrapped after billions of dollars have been invested into it, only to give future funding to unproven technologies.
“It strains credulity to the breaking point to assume the major work on a rocket using technology that doesn’t even exist yet will be built sooner and at a comparable cost than what we already have,” he said.
Utah Rep. Rob Bishop agreed, saying Obama has taken the door to space exploration and “slammed it shut and thrown away the key.” He lamented the fact that the plan would cost what he estimates at 30,000 American jobs, including what some estimate to be over 2,000 at ATK in Promontory where the Ares rocket has been manufactured and tested.
“The President’s proposal was clearly not thought through and will have obvious unintended consequences that could be avoidable,” he said. “There is no need to waste billions on Obama’s new speculative idea when Ares can already do the job.”
Utah Sen. Bob Bennett was also upset with Obama’s plan, saying the results of following through with it would be disastrous, and pledged to do everything to fight the plan’s passage in Congress.
“Eliminating the Constellation program, and especially the Ares I rocket, will decimate an industrial base that is not only key to maintaining our supremacy in space exploration, but also crucial to maintaining and strengthening our national security efforts,” he said. “What the Obama administration doesn’t understand is that our strategic missile defense systems use the same technologies, the same materials and are built by the same workers who build the Ares I rockets. If we lose these workers, we put our country at risk. I won’t stand by and let that happen.”