Wednesday, October 19, 2011

State Official: Take Away KSC From NASA

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam suggests that Kennedy Space Center be "run by an authority separate from NASA that could make decisions locally, including development of some land now reserved as a wildlife refuge," according to the October 18 Orlando Sentinel.

"I think it's our responsibility as the cabinet to help develop a vision," Putnam said. "It's worth exploring options for the governance structure of this site so that we can be nimble and agile and close deals."

Putnam argued that under NASA and Congress, KSC's funding and future role are jeopardized by politics, particularly with other states wanting their own space ports. Private firms are building spaceports in Texas and New Mexico, while NASA is considering funding construction of one at Wallops Island, Va. Meanwhile, the retirement of the space shuttle leaves NASA – and KSC – without a government-owned rocket to launch.

Putnam, a Republican, represented Florida's 12th Congressional District from 2001 through 2011.

The Orlando Sentinel article also quotes Republican Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll as stating that most of Florida's congressional representatives have little interest in supporting space exploration.

She told the cabinet that NASA's commitment to KSC appears strong — the agency plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to modernize the facility, if Congress appropriates the money — but that only "one or two" members of the state's congressional delegation have shown strong fight for the Florida space center. She said she and the space industry need to do a better job convincing other members.

"For the greater number of our members of Congress, I don't believe they get it," Carroll said.

Nineteen of Florida's twenty-five representatives in the House of Representatives are Republicans.

Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio are Florida's two Senators. Nelson was a major advocate of the Space Launch System.

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