The administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration fleshed out plans for the coming years on Thursday by announcing a lineup of new programs and those NASA centers that would be responsible for them. President Obama’s plan for space, announced this year, would terminate the Constellation program, which was to develop rockets to return humans to the moon. It would focus instead on developing commercial flights of crew and cargo to the International Space Station and long-range technology to allow sustained exploration, including by humans, beyond Earth’s orbit. At a one-hour telephone news conference, the NASA administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., and his deputy, Lori Garver, took turns rattling off names and price tags of new programs at each NASA center. Among them is an effort known as Flagship Technology Demonstrations, intended to test things like orbital fuel depots and using planetary atmospheres instead of braking rockets to land safely. That program would cost $6 billion over the next five years and would be run by the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Kennedy Space Center in Florida is to get $5.8 billion over five years to develop a commercial program for carrying cargo and astronauts to the space station. These new programs, General Bolden said, were “extending the frontiers of exploration beyond the wildest dreams of the early space pioneers.” He was then questioned by reporters who wanted to know why some members of Congress thought this was the end of human spaceflight and about the lack of a long-term goal. “With all due respect to everybody,” the general replied, “a serious and real concern for everyone is the jobs.” As technology advances, there are fewer and “fewer manual-type jobs,” he explained. Even with Constellation, several thousand jobs were going to be lost. “I think that is a significant issue for people,” he said. General Bolden said that since NASA’s budget request was going up in the next five years, a result would be more jobs nationwide and agencywide rather than fewer. There might be a rebirth, he hoped, of people going into aeronautics or earth science.
By DENNIS OVERBYE /NYT