Former NASA administrator speaks out against Constellation's ax

By Trang Do - Bio | Email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Billions of dollars have already been spent on the Constellation project.

NASA is receiving more federal dollars under the President's new budget, but not for Constellation.

The commercial and international sectors will soon play a huge and new role in America's space program.

This budget includes more than a billion dollars to commercial companies to develop new technologies.

But this comes in exchange for Constellation paying the ultimate price.

The Ares program got its start on Dr. Michael Griffin's watch as NASA administrator.

Griffin is now a professor of engineering at UA-Huntsville, and he said Monday's decision has huge implications for North Alabama and our nation as a whole.

"If this decision carries forward it will mean that someone has decided that the space program is best off without NASA," Griffin said.

About 2300 people work on the Ares rocket program, an arm of Constellation, at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center.

It's a highly skilled and trained workforce that Alabama's Fifth District Congressman Parker Griffith fears could be lost.

"I think those 2300 jobs are critically important to us here economically," Griffith said. "But I think those positions that you're talking about are represented by individuals with years and years of experience in manned space flight. This is a culture that we're talking about. It can't be replaced."

Griffin said most troubling to him is that NASA has no shuttle alternative to replace Constellation.

Instead, President Obama is proposing $6 billion over the next five years to spur development by private companies of human space flight rockets.

"It seems as if the decision being recommended today is that we outsource our human space flight program," Griffin said. "I'm tempted to ask what's next, are we going to outsource the Marines?"

A NASA spokeswoman said Monday the closing of Constellation will cost $2.5 billion over two years.

But it's too soon to tell what will happen to the thousands of people for whom Constellation is their livelihood.

Marshall Space Flight Center is not yet commenting on the news.

But the center is planning a media briefing for Tuesday.

This is not the official end for the Constellation program, Congress still has to sign off on the president's budget.

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