On Thursday a reporter for Orlando television station WESH interviewed President Obama on a variety of topics, including space flight. In the interview, the president didn’t break any new ground on space policy, emphasizing that this is a “period of transition” for NASA that requires the development of new technologies. He also indicated, responding to the comment from the reporter (who apparently believes that there won’t be another NASA human spaceflight until 2025) about the jobs on Florida’s Space Coast lost with the shuttle’s retirement, that NASA will “figure out how we can move as many of the folks… who have expertise into these new projects”.
The question and answer is at the end of part 1 of the full interview video at the link above, starting just before the 4-minute mark. A rough transcript follows.
Reporter: When the manned space program shut down, we lost 9,000 jobs at NASA and in that general area. We’re not planning to have any more manned space flights until 2025. Do we risk losing the expertise and the behind-the-scenes acumen and public support by waiting that long to put men back in space?
Obama: Well, keep in mind that what we’ve done is said that we’re in a period of transition. I am absolutely committed to manned spaceflight. We had to make a choice. Frankly, we probably should have been doing a better job planning this out 20 years fr— 20 years ago. But the shuttle, and low orbit vehicles, had sort of played themselves out. For us to make the next leap, so that we’re not just going to the Moon but maybe Mars, we needed to revamp our technology, our heavy-lift vehicles had to be significantly improved. And so what we’ve done is said, look, we’re going to emphasize human spaceflight, that’s part of what makes America great, and it sparks the imagination not just in this country but the world. But in order to do that, we’ve got to take this transition time to start developing new technologies, more effective rockets, making sure that, as humans are in space longer, that we’ve figured out how to maintain environments for them. So, there’s going to be a huge amount of investment and work made in those areas, and the folks at NASA are the ones who are the experts. So even if the shuttle program has been suspended, what we’re trying to do is figure out how we can move as many of the folks—the engineers, the scientists, the technicians—who have expertise into these new projects to develop that next stage of human space flight.