(CBS) — Senator Mark Kirk says President Barack Obama wanted to cut, by a third, the Space Grant Program that funds research, education and service projects designed to promote an interest in space and the sciences.

Senator Kirk says President Obama wanted to fund the Space Grant Program at $26 million, but that the senator has moved to successfully get that figured bumped up to its previous level of $40 million.

It’s not yet been voted on by the full Congress, though it has made it through House and Senate committees, according a Kirk staffer.

Chicago State University physics student Harold Johnson says space grants have allowed him to quit his job in a downtown restaurant and concentrate fully on his studies.

He says, “My life has just expanded and exploded since then. I’ve traveled around the world and done research and I’m continuing to get more and more opportunities.”

Senator Kirk says, “The space program is uniquely able to motivate kids to want to go to math and science.”

Apollo commander Jim Lovell calls the Space Grant Program…”money well-spent.”

The three made their comments this morning at the Adler Planetarium.