Will potential NASA budget cuts affect JSC?

January 27, 2010 4:17:55 PM PST
Years ago, it sounded like science fiction - a grand vision to create bases on the moon to launch longer missions into space. Now, just days away from the announcement of a new government budget, those dreams of space exploration may be even farther away.

The president is expected to submit his budget to congress next week and we're getting an early idea of what's in store for NASA. The news is not what the NASA community was hoping for.

This is just a proposal that the president would float in his budget. Because it is not a done deal, NASA is not issuing any official statements as to what it might mean.

Up and down a road aptly named NASA parkway, it is evident one place after another what NASA and the Johnson Space Center mean to the community here.

"NASA is an inspiration to the kids. Having that go away is a bigger deal than anything," said former NASA employee Maragret Savoy.

Resident Ken Flotten said, "Probably gonna be layoffs and with the economy as bad as it is now, I'd hate to see it get any worse."

According to published reports, if the president has his way the constellation program and a planned trip back to the moon are over. The agency's mission would focus more on climate research and extending the life of the International Space Station to 2020.

U.S. Congressman Pete Olsen, whose district includes JSC, said Wednesday, "I strongly urge the President to reconsider any attempt to reduce the role of human space flight at NASA. But Congress also has an important role in the decision making process and I will be working steadfastly with my colleagues to ensure that this short-sighted proposal is not the final answer on the future of NASA."

Another resident, Annette Porfirio, said, "There are a lot people in our area who depend heavily on the NASA program, both contractors and NASA employees, and I think that particular program would impact quite a few people."

Governor Rick Perry was in Houston Wednesday and we asked him his thoughts about massive cutbacks and an indefinite end to NASA-run human space flight.

"I'm not gonna say NASA needs to be a sacred cow and hands off, but I could probably find a lot of earmarks where billions of dollars were spent in special interest that didn't do a cotton picking thing to help Texas' economy," Gov. Perry said.

Perry's opponent in the GOP gubernatorial primary, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, released a statement saying in part, "I am very concerned by reports NASA's human space flight programs might become even more severely constrained. I would strongly oppose any further cuts to human space flight funding that would make the United States dependent on foreign nations for manned space access."

We talked with people who work at NASA both at JSC and in Florida, and the thought is the end of the constellation program would not impact JSC. The primary impact here would be in training astronauts for future manned missions to the moon and mars and other places. Regardless, the impact would be felt in the local economy.