President Obama has praised the creation of potentially hundreds of new jobs by a Boeing deal in Florida; a state still hurting from the loss of some 7,000 Kennedy Space Center jobs after the president ended NASA's space shuttle program.

"The next era of space exploration won't wait, and so we can't wait for Congress to do its job and give our space program the funding it needs," the president said in a statement Tuesday.

"That's why my administration will be pressing forward, in partnership with Space Florida and the private sector, to create jobs and make sure America continues to lead the world in exploration and discovery," he added.

But the president recently sliced a chunk out of the space exploration job market by ending NASA's long-running space shuttle program. He did that, he said, so that NASA could refocus on less routine travel and ultimately send a mission to Mars.

The deal reached with NASA, Boeing and Space Florida, the state's aerospace economic development agency, will re-purpose a Kennedy Space Center shuttle facility so that it can house a commercial passenger spacecraft program and has the potential to create up to 550 Florida jobs.

Separately, Boeing has been at the center of a battle with national labor leaders since the company decided to move a multi-million dollar airplane factory to South Carolina from Seattle, amidst protests there by unionized workers.

The president tried to stay out of the fray publicly on the issue, but the National Labor Relations Board, on which some Obama appointees sit, has sought a legal battle against Boeing for what the board sees as retaliation against union workers.

Still, the president has been clear that the potential for Boeing jobs in Florida are a welcome investment.

"We are...working with NASA and the private sector to bring additional jobs to central Florida. Boeing just made an announcement that we're very happy about," he told Fox News affiliate WTVT in Tampa Tuesday.

Mr. Obama also defended his shutting down of the space shuttle program, which means U.S. astronauts who need to reach the International Space Station will now have to hitch a ride in a Russian space capsule.

"I am hugely committed to manned space flight but I want to make sure that we're doing it right and that we aren't wasting taxpayer money," the president told a Houston TV station. "What we've said with NASA is that we need to re-tool, to take that next big leap forward in space."