Utah's entire congressional delegation sent a letter to the White House on Tuesday asking President Obama to reconsider cancelling the Constellation space program.
The letter says the administration's proposed alternative "seeks funds to subsidize the private development of so-called 'heavy-lift' systems. However, it is important to note these initiatives are preliminary and have largely yet to begin."
President Obama's proposed 2011 federal budget eliminates the Constellation Program. In doing so, it is following one of eight suggested alternatives of a special commission NASA put together last year to look at the future of manned space flight.
The commission's recommendation to do away with Constellation was based on concerns that it won't be in operation quickly enough to bridge the gap between the end of the space shuttle this year and whatever comes later.
Congressional delegations from Utah, Alabama, Florida and Texas are working to get the decision reversed. The decision directly threatens the job of several thousand Utahns who work at ATK Space Systems in Box Elder County, where shuttle motors are built.
Those same motors, with some modifications, would be used on the proposed Ares motors that will lift the Constellations space systems into orbit.
The final space shuttle motor was tested last month. One more Ares test is scheduled for later this year. Beyond that, without funding, the program, and the jobs it supports, are in doubt.
The letter was signed by Sens. Orrin Hatch and Robert Bennett, and Reps. Rob Bishop, Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz.
They note that, while the commercial carriers Obama wants to use are still in development, Ares has had two successful ground tests and one successful launch test.
"In 2005 NASA conducted a series of studies which determined a Shuttle-derived system, which evolved into the present Ares I architecture, provided the most reliable and affordable solution to maintain and enhance our nation's manned space flight capability to LEO (low earth orbit) and beyond," the letter said.
The letter also notes that Obama's budget includes $6.076 billion more for NASA through 2015 that could be put back to Constellation.
"In addition, due to contractual obligations, cancelling Project Constellation will cost taxpayers, at least, an additional $2.5 billion."