Both Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel report today that the White House is planning a “space summit” in Florida next month where President Obama will discuss his new vision for NASA. The timing of the event, though, could cause some heartburn for an organization over 1,500 miles away.
The event, expected to take place at or near the Kennedy Space Center, hasn’t been formally announced by the White House (the Sentinel article suggests a formal announcement could come today) (update 11:45 am: the White House has announced it, according to the AP), but Sen. Bill Nelson all but confirmed the event to both papers. Details in general about the event are scant, including the event’s agenda and who will be invited to attend. An unnamed White House official told Florida Today that the conference would include “the implications of the new strategy for Florida, the nation and our ultimate activities in space”.
Nelson, meanwhile, hopes that by the conference the White House and NASA will make several changes to the plan. Nelson told the Sentinel he wants to see one more shuttle flight added to the manifest (although not explaining why only one, instead of several as others in Congress have proposed), a commitment to human exploration of Mars as the plan’s long-term goal, and continued development of a heavy-lift launcher.
The issue about the conference, though, is its timing: Thursday, April 15. That may work well for Florida (other than it’s also the deadline for filing tax returns), and also some in Washington: Nelson tells Florida Today the timing is good since his space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee will vote “on NASA’s budget” in May (a reference, presumably, to an authorization bill). However, it could cause some angst in Colorado Springs, home of the Space Foundation. The 15th happens to be the last day of the National Space Symposium, one of the major annual space conferences in the US. A competing space event with a presidential imprimatur, depending on the specifics of that event, could wreak havoc on attendance and the conference’s agenda. For example, NASA administrator Charles Bolden is scheduled to speak on the afternoon of the 15th according to the latest agenda; that seems unlikely if there’s a space conference featuring the president in Florida at the same time.
However, at least the National Space Symposium will have that day something the Florida conference won’t: Spock.