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Proposed NASA Cuts Draw Fire

Florida legislators say a plan to reduce the space agency's operating budget could hurt the economy and innovation.

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to cut NASA's human space exploration spending by nearly $700 million -- but the plan is running into opposition.

President Barack Obama proposed spending more than $4 billion for human space exploration during the fiscal year 2010, but the House subcommittee that oversees the funding proposed the cut to NASA's budget last week. NASA's allocation for human space exploration is currently about $3.5 billion.

Democratic Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas and Republican Congressman Bill Posey sent a letter to their colleagues Monday urging restoration of the funds. Both representatives are from Florida, where NASA's Kennedy Space Center has a major impact on jobs and the economy.

"Tens of thousands of jobs are at stake in our state and across the nation," they wrote. "In 2008, the U.S. space industry contributed approximately $100 billion to the U.S. economy and directly employed more than 262,000 people in 41 states at skill levels and pay scales far above national averages according to the Department of Labor."

They said that, in Florida, every NASA job translates into 2.82 more jobs, which, in fiscal year 2008 gave Florida $4.1 billion in output, $2.1 billion of household income, and 40,802 jobs.

"With the second-highest job loss numbers in the nation in 2008, maintaining current jobs in Florida and ensuring future work at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) represents a road to economic recovery for Florida and our nation," they said.

"A strong space program is crucial to our economy as a whole and is in the best interest of the nation; the next generation human space flight program will no doubt lead to innovations that will improve the lives of every American and help us address important issues facing our nation, including the development of new alternative energy, health care, and communications technologies," they said.

Without an increase in funding, the United States will increase its reliance on Russia for space travel and visits to the International Space Station, they said.

"Retirement of the shuttle is inevitable, but minimizing the gap between the retirement of the shuttle and the next generation exploration capability would help maintain and strengthen our leadership position in human space flight," they wrote.

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