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Texas Lawmakers Say They'll Fight to Save Constellation Program

Lawmakers from Texas and local economic development leaders say they’ll fight to save NASA’s Constellation program in the wake of President Obama’s proposed budget that ditches the space agency’s back-to-the-moon plan. As Jack Williams reports, some say the new budget proposal could have a chilling effect around NASA’s Clear Lake campus.



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“We will not fly human back into space, I can assure you, for 15 years, 20 years. It’s just not going to happen.”

Bob Mitchell is the president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. He says he’s spent the past few days trying to figure out how the Clear Lake area would withstand what could be a huge economic hit if the President’s plans for NASA go forward. He says a good  chunk of the 35,000 local NASA-related jobs could be at risk. But he says it’s more than just about the Houston-area.

“If we pass this budget, we will give up our leadership in space and the Chinese, the Indians and the Russians are sitting back with their arms crossed right now going, great, I don’t have to worry about them anymore. Now it’s our race, it’s not theirs. Let me tell you something, and I hate to be this blunt about it but whoever controls the leadership of space controls the leadership of this world and if we don’t control space, we lose our leadership.”     

Because the President’s proposal is just that, Mitchell says there is still room for a fight.

“If Congress decides that hey, we’re not going to support those plans that the White House has put forward and they create their own plans, the next option is that that bill goes back to the President. The President has a choice. He can veto it, which it’s also attached to 11 other bills as well, or he passes it the way the Congress sees fit.”

Under the President’s proposal, NASA would actually get more money, but it wouldn’t be for the manned spaceflight program. It would actually do-away with the Constellation program, including the Ares-1 rocket and Orion space vehicle programs. Sugar Land Congressman Pete Olson’s district includes NASA.

“This is my priority and I can promise you we’re going to fight and we’re going to fight and we are going to fight because we can’t lose our leadership in human spaceflight. It’s unacceptable that this administration is just going to willingly accept a second-tier status.”

A lot of the extra money for NASA in the proposed budget would be spent on helping commercial operators develop of sort-of “space taxi” that could ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and beyond. Olson says that’s not a good idea.

“It’s untested. I mean, we just got done throwing $6 billion of the budget at that when we are making progress and we can be back in space, back to the moon much quicker and I think that’s the proper mission for our country. I think we need to continue the Constellation.”

Congressman Ted Poe says the Texas delegation has its work cut-out for it over the next 6-8 months as the budget wrangling begins.

“We were going to do what we can, especially members of the Texas delegation, and others, to not only prevent NASA cuts, but to increase NASA spending. As the world knows, we spend a lot of money and we waste of lot of money, but NASA is not one of those agencies that money is wasted. It’s money well-spent.”

The 18-billion dollar proposed NASA budget would mean about a half-penny for the space agency for every dollar spent on the federal budget. 

Aerial view of Johnson Space Center

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Jack Williams

Executive Producer for Daily News

Jack is back in Houston after some time away working in public radio and television in Lincoln, Nebraska. Before leaving for the Midwest, he worked in various roles at Houston Public Media from 2000-2016, including reporting, hosting and anchoring. Jack has also worked in commercial news radio in Houston, Austin...

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