During a Strategic Management Council meeting on Tuesday, I asked JSC Director Mike Coats and MSFC Director Robert Lightfoot to put together a very small team to help me develop an accelerated plan for research and development on a heavy lift launch vehicle for future exploration, in support of that element of the President's FY11 NASA budget. Regrettably, this was subsequently reported by the news media as a request for a "Plan B" alternative to the President's budget.
As I have said in all hands meetings, Congressional testimony, and interviews, I advised the President on our budget for FY11 and it is MY budget. I have not asked anyone to develop an alternative to that budget and plan, and I don't want anybody to do so. Rather, I have asked - and am asking - for input on how the exceptional talents and capabilities we have developed in our organization can best be applied going forward to advance the elements of our new plan.
I find great comfort in knowing that President Obama has seen fit to put his faith in us to develop a game-changing strategy in our four mission areas, and that he has given us a $6 billion plus up on our FY10 budget as a show of support and trust. I fully believe in the plan that this budget has allowed us to set out for NASA's road ahead, and unlike many of our detractors, I do believe it will very likely allow us to reach exploration destinations sooner and more efficiently than we would have been able to while we were struggling to develop the Constellation Program.
Will this be difficult? Yes, it will, but as President Kennedy said when he challenged the nation to send humans to the moon and bring them safely back to Earth in 1961, we do it not because it's easy, but because it is hard. I'm told that Dr. Robert Gilruth, the Director of the Johnson Space Center in the days of Apollo was heard to have said at the end of the Apollo Program, "People will know how difficult it was for us to go to the Moon when they try to return."
We in the NASA family know all too well the difficulty of the things we do, and we now want to go to Mars and other deep-space destinations. We all know that we can't get there with the technology and knowledge base that we have today, and that is why we must aggressively embark on a robust program of research and development. I firmly believe we have a budget that supports the goals and dreams we all share, and that we will maintain our technological leadership as well as our acknowledged leadership of human space flight in the world. I need all of you to believe as I do and pull together as a team to make this happen.
Thanks very much for the privilege of serving again with all of you and being able to call myself your leader.