Support for space center at dueling rallies, The Daily News
"As the Space Shuttle Atlantis orbited its way for a rendezvous with the International Space Station in what likely will be that orbiter's final mission, two rallies were held in support of NASA's Johnson Space Center in League City on Friday night. The underlying message of saving local jobs was the same, but the ralliers' approaches were very much different. The Galveston County Democratic Party teamed with labor unions for its rally that officials said was focused on positive lobbying in support of the space center. Members of local tea party groups and Republican activists pledged the only way to support manned space flight was to bounce President Barack Obama and Democrats who hold the congressional majority from office."
reader note: "I just got home from the "Support NASA Jobs" rally held in League City, sponsored by the Democratic Party and several labor unions. The overall message was I received was that everyone needs to come together to preserve the jobs at NASA because these are skilled and talented people that do great things for our country. Free food and drinks were available, and there was no campaigning or fundraising."
"The proceedings began with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the person who sang it. This was followed by a prayer asking for unity. Next, dignitaries in attendance were briefly introduced.
The first speaker was former U. S. Representative Nick Lampson, who now works on behalf of the Center for Exploited Children. Nick travels around the world working with countries to pass laws to protect their children. Tonight, he reminded us of the important accomplishments of NASA, and that it has always been a battle to get proper funding. He spoke of other NASA programs that have been cancelled over the years, but that labor union leaders recently went to Washington, D. C. with a plan to save the Orion space capsule, and that resulted in a change to the Administration's space plan.
Just as Nick began to speak, a heavy rain started. Luckily, the rally was held under a large covered pavilion. A group of protesters (yes, they were protesting that Democrats wanted to save NASA jobs) were just outside of the pavilion, waving their "Stop Obama" signs and being as loud as they could. They got soaked, but to the Democratic speakers' credit, no one made comments about it being an "act of God."
The next speaker was U. S. Congressman Gene Green, who reminded us that NASA jobs are a bipartisan issue. He invited the Republican protesters to join us in seeking forward-looking solutions. The protesters did not accept his invitation. It began to rain harder. Rep. Gene Green also reminded us that the NASA talent needed to be kept, but also said (in an obvious reference to the troubled Ares I rocket) that we can learn from our mistakes, and that the research from that program can be used to advance a better program.
After Rep. Gene Green came dynamite speaker Rep. Al Green (No relation ;-) ). Al said, with great enthusiasm, that he was proud to be an American and proud of NASA. He also wanted to take time to pay tribute to our armed forces, who deserve great credit, no matter what you think about policy. He said we need to make sure that returning veterans get the best in medical care and affordable housing. He pointed out the protesters, reminding us that protesting is as American as apple pie. But he noted that we could do more for NASA and our community by working together. It began to rain much harder, with lightning (Al Green is also a minister), and the protesters left. Al said we elected the president to work with us, and that the best way to get changes to the NASA program is to work together, not turn our backs on those who's ideas we disagree with.
Next, two leaders from the labor unions spoke. They provided details of their plan for NASA, which includes:
- Extending the Space Shuttle through 2011 (perhaps 2012) by using all available hardware
- Continuing development of the Orion spacecraft
- Using an Atlas or Delta launch vehicle to put Orion in orbit to support the International Space Station. This can be done by 2013.
- Develop a heavy-launch vehicle by 2016
- Rebuild the long-neglected infrastructure of the Kennedy Space Center
There was hardly any mention of the commercial space initiative, but this was a save-the-jobs rally, and a company like SpaceX that can design and build a rocket and a seven-person space capsule in a few years with a total of only 900 people, isn't going to be real popular.
It was a great evening! Please do what you can to help our nation and our local community by supporting positive efforts for a productive space program."