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Obama launches new vision for space exploration

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Call it NASA: The Next Generation. The president is pointing America toward a new direction in space, and some heroes from NASA's long-ago glory days don't like it.

New rockets to the moon have been canceled. And the space shuttles are about to be mothballed. Instead, the Obama administration wants to rely more on private companies to fly into space over the next few years, while also working to develop a big government rocket ship.

But the plan lacks details, and neither a specific initial destination nor a spacecraft has been settled on.

From Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, to the last astronaut to leave his footprints there, many Apollo-era space veterans are upset. They especially don't like President Barack Obama's cancellation of President George W. Bush's return-to-the-moon mission. They accuse Obama of abandoning American leadership in space to the Chinese and Russians.

But others in a younger generation, including Internet pioneers of the 1990s, are excited about the president's vision. NASA will spend $6 billion to encourage private companies to build their own spaceships to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

They see the Obama plan as the only way to eventually get astronauts to Mars.

In a visit Thursday to Cape Canaveral, the president will try to sell a skeptical space community on his concept. He is bringing some new adjustments to the plan to demonstrate his commitment to exploring space, building spacecraft and keeping local jobs, administration officials said.

The Obama plan extends the space station's life by five years and puts billions into research to develop the big new rocket ship capable of reaching a nearby asteroid, the moon or other points in space.

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