Charles Bolden: NASA's new endeavor (April 29)

Six astronauts are scheduled to lift off into space on shuttle Endeavour’s final mission today, reminding the world of the United States’ continued leadership in space. And while Endeavour will complete its last voyage, the Obama administration’s commitment to human exploration remains as strong as ever.

American astronauts continue to live and work aboard the International Space Station 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, as they have for more than 10 years. And this critical research facility in low- Earth orbit will continue to be the anchor of our human spaceflight for the next decade.

We at NASA are committed to maintaining America’s leadership role in human exploration — and sending U.S. astronauts into space aboard American-made spacecraft.

It’s time for NASA to get out of the expensive business of owning and operating space transportation systems to service the International Space Station, and focus our limited resources on developing new vehicles to take us farther into deep space.

We recognize this is a difficult time for much of the devoted workforce that has made the shuttle program the incredible success it has been for three decades. However, this new approach will spur economic activity, create jobs and allow NASA to focus on the really hard stuff — such as sending humans to an asteroid or Mars.

President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget achieves these ambitious goals by supporting all the elements of a hard-won, bipartisan NASA Authorization Act. It’s a budget that will help the nation win the future through innovation, expanded technological capabilities and strengthened U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace.

Funding for the final shuttle mission in June, STS-135, was included as part of the budget agreement the president reached with Congress recently, and the president has included a half-billion dollars in next year’s budget to pay the pension costs of thousands of dedicated shuttle workers.

These workers met their obligations to us, and now a grateful nation will uphold its end of the bargain.

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