Mayor Parker urges Obama to save Constellation

HOUSTON It's a battle over money for NASA. Houston's mayor says if the president sees how important NASA is to our community, he may have a change of heart when it comes to funding.

NASA has spent billions developing the Constellation program. It even successfully tested the Ares rocket last October. President Obama intends to kill the program, leaving a huge gap in America's space flight plans and an uncertain future for Houston as its leader. Mayor Parker is saying that can't happen.

On Thursday morning, deep in the Kazakhstan wilderness, a Russian Soyuz capsule landed on its side in deep snow. Inside, American astronaut Jeff Williams and a Russian cosmonaut, both returned from the International Space Station.

That will become a familiar sight once the space shuttle retires at the end of the year. Soyuz will be America's only way into space. NASA's new budget eliminates funding for much of the manned space flight program and kills the Constellation program.

"We have to have NASA and we need NASA in Houston in order to do that," said Mayor Parker.

This week, Mayor Parker made her first trip as mayor to the nation's capital. She met with Houston's congressional delegation urging them to save the Constellation program and Johnson Space Center.

"There is no greater vision than going back to space," Mayor Parker said.

Houston's Johnson Space center was called the Manned Space Flight Center, and it's what NASA and its thousands of employees and contractors do here in Houston. That's why President Obama's proposed NASA budget cuts hit Houston especially hard. Without the Constellation program, we stand to lose 11,500 jobs.

"Houston not only has a problem, America has a problem if Constellation is cancelled," said Representative Al Green of Houston.

Local Congress people are working to get NASA's manned space flight funding restored. It's been a tough fight and may be tougher going forward.

President Obama will visit Florida's Kennedy Space Center next month to pledge support there, but is not likely to visit Houston and not expected to restore all of the funding - meaning space shuttles on launch pads in Florida and Houston jobs making that happen may not be around much longer.

"What I am concerned about is that we're not going to be speaking English in outer space, but rather Chinese and Russian," said Representative Michael McCaul of Austin.

Mayor Parker did meet with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during her time in D.C. this week. She asked him to consider a Plan B to keep Constellation alive and, if not that, then some sort of soft landing for Johnson Space Center. That way Houston doesn't lose all those jobs overnight after the last shuttle flight in September.

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