Today I joined with NASA’s good friend Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana to celebrate the arrival of the new Orion crew capsule and the 50th anniversary of Kennedy Space Center.
For 50 years, Kennedy has been America’s gateway to space.
In fact, the road to space always has – and always will – lead right through the great state of Florida.
With the delivery of this magnificent golden anniversary present there is no doubt, as the poet Robert Frost once said, “You still have promises to keep and many miles before you sleep.”
This is a milestone moment for the Space Coast, NASA and America’s space program.
Orion’s arrival here at Kennedy marks a major accomplishment in the ambitious new American space program that President Obama and Congress have approved.
It’s a new and exciting chapter in American great space exploration story, one that will see more discoveries, scientific breakthroughs, and, ultimately, more Americans in space going to places never before visited.
Two years ago, in this very building, the President set a goal of sending humans farther into space than we have ever been – to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s.
Washington agreed that the best way to do that was for NASA to turn over the delivery of cargo and crew to the International Space Station and other low-Earth destinations to private companies so that we could concentrate on building America’s next generation space exploration system, the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System.
By investing in American companies—and American ingenuity—we are spurring free-market competition to give taxpayers more bang for the buck, while enabling NASA to do what it does best—reach for the heavens.
We’re also ending the out-sourcing of American space jobs and bringing them right back here to Florida and other states all across the country.
This strategy is producing tangible results and the teams here in Florida and across the nation are making steady progress.
In May, SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, became the first private company to launch and dock to the International Space Station and return its Dragon 9 capsule safely back to Earth.
Today we are looking at further proof that our strategy is working.
When Orion takes its first test flight in 2014, it will travel farther into space than any spacecraft designed for humans has flown in the 40 years since our astronauts returned from the moon.
But we still have miles to go. Beginning today, Orion will undergo final construction and integration, supporting at least 350 Space Coast jobs.
You should also know that the President’s 2013 budget includes $500 million in investments in NASA’s 21st century Space Launch Complex and Exploration Ground Systems activities.
This will create new jobs in Florida and will help modernize and transform Kennedy Space Center’s launch infrastructure to benefit current and future government and commercial users.
NASA is a driver of innovation and economic growth, a creator of high-skilled and high-paying jobs, and a force for inspiration in the American people.
And today NASA and the Kennedy Space Center are again lifting our sights and lifting the spirit of our nation to new heights.
I want to again congratulate the team here at Kennedy and our partners at Lockheed Martin for achieving this historic milestone. Together, we are setting America’s space program on a course of greatness for the next 50 years and beyond.