NASA Administrator Charles Bolden dismissed rumors that the future of U.S. space exploration is in jeopardy and rejected speculation that his agency has no plans for future human spaceflight.
âThose who perpetuate that myth only hurt the space program,â Bolden told businessmen, academics and journalists Tuesday afternoon at the National Press Club.
âSuch talk undermines our nationâs goals at a very critical time,â he said. âThe truth is we have an ambitious series of deep space destinations we plan to explore and we are hard at work exploring the hardware and the technologies to get us there.â
Boldenâs remarks came after he was awarded the International Public Service Award by the Word Affairs Council of Washington.
Though he is still waiting for Congress to adopt a budget for 2013, Bolden said NASA is in ârelatively good shapeâ financially, crediting the discontinuation of the space shuttle program, which he said cost the administration $2 billion just to maintain.
NASAâs requested budget for the 2013 fiscal year comes to a little more than $17.71 billion, a decrease of about $60 million from this 2012 estimated budget. The biggest decrease in the requested budget is in the space operations section, accounting for a $173.8 million cut, thanks to nearly $500 million being shaved off from this yearâs space shuttle budget.
âIf you look at what we do for the money that we get I think weâre doing very well,â he said. âThe prospect for the future is good unless your aÂ pessimist and you believe that the people we hire, that we elect to run the government wonât rise to theÂ occasionÂ andÂ Â run the government. But Iâm an eternal optimist.â
The future of NASAâs budget remains a question heading into potentially a new presidential administration. Bolden said he has not given much thought to the idea of a Mitt Romney White House, saying that he âlovesâ and âadmiresâ President Barack Obama, who in 2009 chose Bolden to be NASAâs 12th administrator.
Texas Republicans have been critical of the Obamaâs space flight priorities and complain that he has tilted toward Florida, a swing state in presidential election, at the expense of heavily Republican Texas.
Last month, in an online discussion forum hosted by the website reddit.com, Obama voiced his support for the space program, calling it a priority for his administration.
âThe key is to make sure that we invest in cutting edge research that can take us to the next level â" so even as we continue work with the international space station, we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid as a prelude to a manned Mars flight,â Obama said in response to a question.
Romney has yet to take a firm stance on the future of NASA and space exploration.
With officials of private spaceflight companies such as SpaceX and Lockheed Martin in attendance, Bolden said he welcomed advancements in commercial space flight and âanything that brings jobs and income into the economy.â
He also expressed support for private flights and privately owned space stations for tourist purposes.
âCommercial space is not a national priority, it is an imperative,â he said. âNASA canât go to the exploration that we want to do if we donât have a viable, sustainable commercial space program with US capability to get humans into orbit.â