Washington » Utah's congressional delegation on Tuesday presented a united front in fighting the Obama administration's plans to kill a future rocket-propelled space vehicle.
The five Utahns in Congress said in a letter that halting the Constellation program would jettison perhaps thousands of jobs in the Beehive State and cede leadership on technology and innovation to other countries.
"Such a course will come back to haunt us in the future," said Sen. Orrin Hatch. "Canceling the project now, in a time of high unemployment and after our nation has already invested heavily in the technology, is penny wise and pound foolish."
Hatch signed the letter to President Barack Obama along with Republican Sen. Bob Bennett, Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson.
The bipartisan letter underscores the difficulty the Obama administration may have in tossing the Constellation program, which has ties to multiple states where members of Congress are likely to defend spending for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The administration, in a document released in February, said that the Constellation program has zoomed billions past its initial budget estimation and keeping it going would siphon vital money from the International Space Station.
Obama's budget called for shifting the U.S. efforts to explore space to joint ventures with private, commercial interests, and it increases funding for work on climate science, green aviation, science education and other priorities.
Bishop, whose district include Alliant Techsystems, which produces solid rocket motors and employs 3,500 people, said that Obama's budget on NASA doesn't save any money and that it would actually cost $2.5 billion to end the Constellation program. Moreover, Bishop says Obama's move hurts the country's ability to enhance its missile defenses.
"There is a direct link between our national defense capabilities and our role as global leaders in space exploration," Bishop said. "Destroy one and we stand to lose our global dominance in the other."