April 13th, 2010
05:17 PM ET
5 years ago

Space coast awaits president's visit, concerned about future

ALT TEXT

Space Shuttle Discovery blasts off from Kennedy Space Center in April. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

Kennedy Space Center, Florida (CNN) – Tim Keyser and Dan Quinn, who work on the space shuttle in the vehicle shop at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, are eager to welcome President Barack Obama when he meets Thursday with NASA workers and officials on America's future in space.

Changes are coming to NASA.

The space shuttle has long been scheduled for retirement at year's end - there are just three scheduled launches remaining - and the president has cancelled NASA's follow-on program, Constellation. The space agency has already spent about $9.5 billion on that project to develop a next-generation rocket, Ares, and the crew capsule, Orion.

"I'd advise him to go back and reconsider on the Constellation program," space shuttle mechanic Keyser told CNN.

Keyser works on the space shuttle's mid-body and payload bay, "We change the tires every time we come back from space," he said.

He and his co-workers were shocked to hear of the president's plans to cancel Constellation, a program that would have ensured jobs for many of those currently working in the space shuttle program, he said.

"We didn't expect that," he said. "We're still hoping that maybe we'll get an extension on the shuttle program. We're going to hope that till the
end."

Keyser and Quinn are both employed by United Space Alliance (USA), a private NASA contractor jointly owned by the Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation. USA works on the space shuttle program in Florida, Texas and Alabama and has also been working on Ares and Orion.

Quinn, a shuttle technician who works amid the complex plumbing and wiring of the shuttle's three main engines, said he's hoping the visit will convince the president "to maintain the leadership role that the United States has always had in manned spaceflight technology."

For Quinn, the space program is all in the family. His father worked for Grumman during NASA's Apollo moon program in the 1960s, and two brothers also work at the Kennedy Space Center.

"The region would be hit hard if we should lose the shuttle program ... hopefully everyone's prepared," said Quinn adding that he's hoping the
president's visit might inspire "a revisit of the situation."

But just three days before the visit, USA notified its workforce that the company will lay off about 175 employees, most in Florida and some at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, on June 4.

And, layoffs in the space shuttle program are just getting underway.

Allard Beutel, news chief at the Kennedy Space Center told CNN layoffs at the center will likely reach "the 7,000 range" with the end of the shuttle and the cancellation of Constellation.

Friends and neighbors of those who work at the Kennedy Space Center are also worried about what the future holds for central Florida's space coast, once the shuttle stops flying and NASA no longer has a rocket to launch people into space.

"We're just concerned about property values," Orlando-based real estate agent Kimberly Campbell told CNN while enjoying the sun and surf at nearby Cocoa Beach. "We're afraid a lot of people will just walk away from their properties," she said. "If they lose their jobs what are they going to do?"

Dennis Krolsch manages the Cocoa Beach Pier, an array of restaurants and bars within eyesight of the space center's launch pads.

Krolsch, who says he's seen each of NASA's 131 space shuttle launchings since 1981, says the space shuttle "is a huge economic boost for the community," and when the shuttle stops flying, Krolsch said, "everyone in the area is going to feel the impact of that."

The president has proposed increasing NASA's budget by $6 billion over five years. But the president is asking Congress to shift funding away from NASA's costly human spaceflight program to NASA's scientific programs, including robotic missions to other planets.

The president's budget would also provide funding to private launch companies to develop spacecraft to ferry astronauts.

Under current plans, when the space shuttle is retired, U.S. astronauts will need to ride Russian Soyuz rockets to reach and return from the
International Space Station. It's expected to take several years or more before commercial launch companies are capable of carrying astronauts into orbit.

The curtain coming down on the space shuttle and Constellation's shut-down are not just a matter of dollars and cents for residents of central
Florida who've grown accustomed to watching space shuttles thunder into space.

"The tears are starting to flow and people are starting to get nervous because there aren't too many shuttle flight lefts," said Lou Patino of
Kissimmee, Florida. "We've suffered through the accidents," Patino said, "If it were up to me I'd have the president build four more of those shuttles."


Filed under: Florida • President Obama
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. 8 Years of “trickle down economics” has only left a wet spot on working America's shoes!

    Bag the whole program, we do not need any more moon rocks nor can we afford this program.

    April 13, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. Save 'em in the womb, so a "christian" holy war can send 'em to the tomb

    This is just a "make work" program to employ overpaid contractors and government employees.

    Time to cut the strings, if it is a valid endeavor the "private sector" under capitalism will take over.

    No more taxpayer subsidy.

    April 13, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. MikeH

    Raise taxes to pay for it and I'll support going back to the Moon.

    May I suggest taxing Halibuton, Bechtel, Blackwater, and all the other war profiteers.

    Arrest Dick Cheney, and charge people $20.00 a throw to hit ol' Dick in the face with a whipped cream pie. You'll make millions.

    April 13, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  4. Mark from Louisiana

    Why should America spend all that money at NASA when it could be better used in the inner city...........................................................

    April 13, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  5. Ancient Texan

    No surprise this president cancelled the Space Program. He's got more personal things to accomplish. His face on Mt Rushmore comes to mind.

    April 13, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  6. Mr. Moderate

    Alright America, here's the reality. We are spending more that we are taking in and eliminating waste, welfare and foriegn aid will only make a small dent.

    As a nation we need to realize that many many painful cuts must be made like this program and the jobs program in Ohio that is forcing the Air Force to buy a jet engine they don't need. Sadly, yes people will lose their jobs, but this is only the beginning of what needs to be done.

    April 13, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  7. Obama the Liar

    here's a clue NASA.....your future has been appropriated for his health care SCAM.

    April 13, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  8. Obama the Liar

    It's called Socialism.

    April 13, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  9. Larry

    As much as I love that bunch of atom-splitters at NASA this is a horrible economy and adjustments have to be made. Millions of people have already made them.

    Colonizing the moon, which is one of the current proposals, can wait.

    April 13, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  10. Wayne

    NASA is budgeting $1.75 million to torture monkeys.

    Why?

    April 13, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  11. MikeMaz

    While I applaud NASAs lead into space over the decades, I really dont understand the benefits and really the money we have spent on space I think could have been used elsewhere.

    April 13, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  12. Rickster

    The space program doesn't fit into Premier Obama's plan of wealth redistribution, therefore, it must go.

    April 13, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  13. jason twombley

    krolsch needs to stop whining, and if he was smart, he woulda had savings to tide him over instead of sucking up sun and fun in his leisure..every day companies close, this is no different...stop crying in your beer krolsch.SHEESH. AMERICA CANNOT AFFORD THE SUPER EXPENSIVE SPACE PROGRAM, LIVE WITH IT

    April 13, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  14. inofritzn

    minus 1000 jobs here in CO thanks to Orion being shut down. Thanks Obama!

    April 13, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  15. R. Christopher

    I do not work for NASA and do not live in FL. But, does anyone else realize that cell phone, parts of the Internet and a lot of things we use everyday, including medical equipment, were designed for the Space Program originally. How can we spend 600+ BILLION to make weapons, but have to cut NASA's budget that is less then 20 BILLION. Why not spend 500 BILLION on defense and 100 BILLION on space, something that will give up new resources in 20-50 years, and advance technology.

    In zero gravity you can make chemicals and compounds that you can not make on Earth and some of these can be used for medical research.

    They will give 700 billion to the banks, but scraps to something as valuable as NASA, typical short sighted politicians

    April 13, 2010 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  16. Albo58

    Our hack Senator Bill Nelson all but prostrated himself in front of this inept President and Obama went after the NASA budget like a fat man at a buffet! This President and our Senator both need to be put back into the mule's butt from where they both fell out!

    April 13, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  17. payback

    ...I was eleven years-old. when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. I was hoping to see this event repeated before I die. Or possibly, Mars. I disappointed, By Obama, for cancelling the Orion program. I do support the President. But on this I don't. I'm Pro-Space Program.

    April 13, 2010 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  18. Concerned Non-Citizen

    CNN, why do you always tell all the terrorists in advance where the President will be at a certain date/time? With Bush/Cheney we only got "surpise visit" and "undisclosed location"...

    You started to do so back when Senator Obama was a candidate! Did you do that so that every Redneck and would-be-assassin could find him?!? Did you not think anybody would notice???

    Do you not think the Secret Service is monitoring your reporting of sensitive information? Do you think you are so clever that your covert aiding of the terrorists, foreign and/or domestic, will never, ever be revealed? They have you on file, you betcha!

    I say: cease and desist! And i say the same to all of the MSM! Leave him alone! You don't understand what he is/will become! Your grandchildren will tell you...

    CNC

    PS: They have me on file as well, of cause :-) Oh, and don't worry, even if you delete this post it IS on file. In triplicate...

    April 13, 2010 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  19. Jerry - Florida

    Oh well, people of Florida, you are reaping what you sowed. You voted the Liar-in-Chief into office. All Floridians should collectively tell President NObama to stay in Washington and TRY and take care of the pressing business of our nation.

    HE and his moronic administration have done enough damage already. I can almost picture Florida's Catty Castor with her head so far up NObama's behind that she will be having trouble breathing.

    Stay tuned!

    April 13, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    finally a president that realizes the space program is going nowhere

    April 13, 2010 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  21. Bill Ellis

    As things are happening, President Obama's popularity is on the up swing and the Party of NO is slipping. Ain't it a beautiful thing to watch?!

    April 13, 2010 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  22. Obamalism

    He will stop at nothing in his pursuit of killing jobs and ingenuity.

    More global warming..err climate change research anyone?

    April 13, 2010 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  23. SJB

    Now here's a wasteful program that can be CUT!

    April 13, 2010 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  24. one voice

    Scrap the space program, it's foolish to spend money in space when we are hurting right here at home.

    April 13, 2010 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  25. Ken in NC

    I am on the side of the people in Florida about keeping our shuttle, however we don't have the money to fund it so what do we do. Cuts have to be made somewhere and while it is unfortunate, space is still new to us. We have to stop the bleeding someplace and we have to do it fast. I grew up as a child watching the launches on an old B&W TV and so it is personal to me but I know too that if we have to stop spending somplace, we have to start someplace and right now everyone wants to make cuts but not in their backyard. The President has had to make some tough decisions and I hate to see the shuttle program halted but it has to start someplace.

    April 13, 2010 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |