CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 15 (UPI) — President Barack Obama outlined his vision for the U.S. space program Thursday during a speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
“I believe that space exploration is not a luxury, it’s not an afterthought in America’s quest for a brighter future — it is an essential part of that quest,” the president told a select audience of about 200 elected officials, space workers and invited guests.
“But while the measure of our achievements has changed a great deal over the past 50 years, what we do — or fail to do — in seeking new frontiers is no less consequential for our future in space and here on Earth.”
Declaring himself “100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future,” Obama said his strategy includes increasing NASA’s budget by $6 billion over the next five years.
“We will increase Earth-based observation to improve our understanding of our climate and our world — science that will garner tangible benefits, helping us to protect our environment for future generations. And we will extend the life of the International Space Station likely by more than five years, while actually using it for its intended purpose — conducting advanced research that can help improve the daily lives of people here on Earth, as well as testing and improving upon our capabilities in space.”
He said the United States will also invest more than $3 billion to conduct research on an advanced “heavy lift rocket” needed for deep space exploration.
“The bottom line is nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space than I am. 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.”
He noted it has been little more than 40 years ago that NASA astronauts set foot on the moon.
“This was the culmination of a daring and perilous gambit — of an endeavor that pushed the boundaries of our knowledge, of our technological prowess, of our very capacity as human beings to solve problems. It wasn’t just the greatest achievement in NASA’s history — it was one of the greatest achievements in human history.
“And the question for us now is whether that was the beginning of something or the end of something. I choose to believe it was only the beginning.”
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.