Pres. Obama talks NASA's future with Dave Ward

November 2, 2011 2:47:29 AM PDT
As the president runs for re-election, the biggest issue is jobs. Here in our area, the employment uncertainty is most acute for those in the aerospace and oil and gas industries.

In a one-on-one interview with President Barack Obama, we asked him about the future of NASA and drilling.

Right now, the president is committed to passage of his American Jobs Act, a White House bill that goes before the Senate next week. And although it's not included in this bill, what about NASA and the space program? A lot of jobs are at stake there, too.

"I am hugely committed to manned space flight but I want to make sure that we're doing it right and that we aren't wasting taxpayer money," Obama said.

Thousands of NASA jobs have been lost as the shuttle program ended and the manned space program migrates to the Orion project.

"What we've said with NASA is that we need to re-tool, to take that next big leap forward in space. The shuttle program had a wonderful run but the truth of the matter is that the next phase, including the Orion project, was way behind schedule and didn't seem to be meeting its budget objectives," President Obama said. "So what we've done is to try to say let's take a step back, let's figure out how do we re-tool."

Captain Christopher Ferguson was the commander of STS 135, the final last shuttle mission. He, along with his STS-135 crew members, was also at the White House to meet with the president. Ferguson says he hopes the Orion program will help retain the United States' position as a leader in manned space flight.

"I would love to see us go back to the moon for a period of six months, perhaps a year, to prove that we have the capability as a human species to live off of this planet, yet we're still close enough to come home if we need to in the event that something doesn't work the way it's supposed to," Ferguson said. "I believe we're explorers and we're going to continue to explore because it's our nature."

We also talked to the president about the state of the oil and gas industry and if he believes additional drilling will bring more jobs to the economy.

"We're actually at the highest production levels of oil and gas that we have ever been, and I am a big proponent of energy independence," he said.

A few hours after our interview, the president announced the extension of nearly 1,400 deep-water oil and gas leases that have been on hold since since last year's BP Gulf spill. The lifting of the moratorium should mean a hefty boost in Houston and Gulf coast drillers. However, the president is not expecting quick job creation from it.

"As you know, the oil and gas industry frequently takes decades to develop; in the meantime, we are in a situation right now where unemployment is way too high," Obama said.

The release of these oil and gas leases in the Gulf have to be great news for Houston and the oil and gas industry.


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