With few officials details released yet about next Thursday’s space conference at KSC, the space community is seizing upon any bit of information about the event. That was the case yesterday when Florida Today reported that, according to the White House, President Obama will spend only two hours at KSC on the 15th, arriving at 1:45 pm EDT, giving a speech at 3 pm, and leaving at 3:45 pm. While it was clear for some time that he wouldn’t be spending the full day there (since he’s also attending fundraisers in Miami that day) many were clearly disappointed that he would not stay longer. Left unanswered, though, is the question of just how long Obama needs to be there: is two hours sufficient for giving his speech, having private meetings with various officials, and whatever else he needs to drum up support for this plan? It doesn’t leave that much time for sightseeing, to be certain.
What Obama will say in his speech is also still a mystery: will it be a defense of the current plan, or will he announce small- or large-scale tweaks to it? (Major changes seem less likely, as they would likely undo the work assignments NASA announced Thursday.) Speaking at the Space Access ’10 conference in Phoenix Thursday night, NASA’s Alan Ladwig offered a hint of one minor thing Obama might mention in his speech: a reference to the impending 20th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. “Hopefully next week, when the president speaks down in Florida, if we’re able to work this out, he’s going to reveal the most recent photos from Hubble as part of the 20th anniversary,” Ladwig said.
Elsewhere, in an interview with Popular Mechanics, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver said that despite a slow start, people are beginning to better appreciate the benefits of the agency’s new direction. “While the budget rollout might have been better planned and managed, we recognized the cancellation of Constellation was not going to be initially popular with those who had committed to the program,” she said. “There is a growing segment of the space community that understands what this budget proposal makes possible and strongly supports this program shift.” The challenge for the president next Thursday is to further broaden support in a region—Florida’s Space Coast—where concerns about job losses and their economic impact have generated vocal opposition among many to this new plan.