President Obama assured workers he is "100 percent committed" to the future of NASA, despite ending all space shuttle flights and nixing plans for a return to the moon.
While announcing his plans for the space program at Florida's Kennedy Space Center Thursday, Obama blamed his predecessors for cuts in NASA's effectiveness.
"I believe that space exploration is not a luxury, it's not an afterthought in America's quest for a brighter future," he said. "It is an essential part of that quest."
Obama will expand the space program's budget by $6 million in five years. He said the increase in funding will allow America "to peer deeper into the universe than ever before," including a probe of the sun's atmosphere and other endeavors.
"We want to leap into the future," not continue on the same path as before, Obama said.
He added that by 2025, he expects U.S. space exploration to reach beyond the moon. He said that within his lifetime, the U.S. "will send astronauts to Mars and bring them back safely."
A 'Devastating' Decision?
Still, Obama's space vision has stirred some controversy. His outline scraps former President Bush's plan to send a man to the moon for a seventh time -- which some fear will lead to increased job cuts.
A number of former astronauts call the decision "devastating," including the first man on the moon Neil Armstrong.
The administration insists the plan is actually going to create 2,500 more jobs in the Florida Space Coast by 2012 and 10,000 over the next decade.
Other plans in the space program agenda include building a heavy lift rocket and working with private companies for shuttle missions.
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