Obama plans Florida space summit to defend his vision for NASA, Orlando Sentinel
"In the latest sign that his NASA vision is in peril, President Barack Obama will announce today his plans to host a space summit in Florida on April 15. The move follows weeks of criticism from Congress about his proposal to cancel NASA's Constellation moon-rocket program in favor of an approach that would push NASA engineers to develop new technologies while using commercial rocket companies for future astronaut missions."
President Obama to Host Space Conference in Florida in April, White House
"The President, along with top officials and other space leaders, will discuss the new course the Administration is charting for NASA and the future of U.S. leadership in human space flight. Specifically, the conference will focus on the goals and strategies in this new vision, the next steps, and the new technologies, new jobs, and new industries it will create. Conference topics will include the implications of the new strategy for Florida, the nation, and our ultimate activities in space."
Keith's note: This is not good news for the annual backslapping fest in Colorado Springs (the National Space Symposium). Charlie Bolden is supposed to be speaking on the last day - i.e. 15 April. I would guess that he will now be in Florida on this date - along with most of the news media. Oh well, Spock speaks on the evening of the 15th.
Sen. Nelson urges Obama to set NASA agenda, WDBO
"Part of that would be saving the workforce at Kennedy Space Center that otherwise in large part would be laid off in the cancellation of the Constellation program," Nelson said. "There's only one person that can lead the space program and that's the president. If he'll clearly set the goal, if he'll clearly say we're going to mars within a defined time frame, then we can get this space program back on track," he said."
Keith's update: Jay Costello is reporting on MSNBC that NASA has been urging the President not to travel to KSC for this summit. My sources at NASA Headquarters tell me that this is not the case.
Either way, it should be clear that this summit was not a NASA idea. Announcing something like this on a Sunday afternoon - with no NASA follow up is weird enough. In addition, the choice of a date is weird. Not only does it chop the end off of a large annual event that many space people attend, but it also brings the need for enhanced security during a shuttle mission - one whose launch could slip at a moment's notice. In addition, there is a question of cost. Given that the focus is on human space flight, and by its location, on Florida, one would expect that the entire KSC work force will want to try and attend or listen in. Given the logistics involved, this could amount to loss of perhaps half a work day. Multiply this by the tens of thousands of people affected. This time not only needs to be charged to something, it also puts a crimp in preparations for subsequent shuttle missions.
While the President is almost certain to walk into a buzz saw of public outrage over the new space policy, there is something to be said about this trip. Not unlike Daniel in the lion's den, instead of relying on staff or surrogates to push this new policy, he's going to take the message there personally. Given the reaction to this space policy across the state of Florida this may not be the smartest thing to do politically, but given that it is "his" policy, it is probably the right thing to do from a personal perspective.
That said, he is going to get an earful. Telling people about how cool his new policy is or reminiscing about sitting on his grandfather's shoulders as an Apollo lunar crew passed by won't go far with this crowd. They live and breathe space exploration 365 days a year - and have done so for decades - and now they are going to be unemployed.