Agency Awaits Griffin's Next Move, Constellation's Future
Widely rumored development problems with NASA's next-generation
manned space program, early campaign promises by President-elect
Brack Obama to trim spending on space exploration, and reports of
head-butting between the transition team and Administrator Michael
Griffin are causing uncertainty within NASA.
The Washington Post reports Griffin, a brilliant but
confrontational rocket engineer, has said he does not expect to be
retained as administrator. Questions also surround the
Constellation program, including a return of US astronauts to the
moon and possibly a first manned mission to Mars.
The Post reports Griffin has made it clear that he has no
interest in staying if it means a significant shift in strategy.
But transition team bean counters want to look at saving money by
scrapping the troublesome Ares I rocket, and instead upgrading the
legacy Delta IV or Atlas V to make them safe for human
The Post adds it has exchanged e-mails with Griffin, asking
whether such a change in direction would trigger his resignation...
and got, essentially, a yes.
"NASA's purpose is to produce technical solutions to achieve
space policy goals enunciated from above," Griffin responded. "If
agency management cannot be trusted to do that, they should be
replaced. Specifying solutions from outside the agency cannot
On the issue of resistance to working with the Obama transition
team, Griffin memoed NASA employees to denounce a recent Orlando
Sentinel article which described a "red-faced" confrontation with
the Obama team. The transition team point person with NASA is
former NASA Administrator Lori Garver.
Underlying the other controversies is Obama's early campaign
position advocating a five-year delay in returning to the moon, to
free up federal funding for education.
There's no shortage of passionate bloggers and internal leaks to
feed the controversies at NASA in the last month of the Bush
administration. But the Post reports that what will happen after
January 20th is still a toss-up.
Or, as As Scott Pace, the new director of the Space Policy
Institute, tells the paper, "Those who talk don't know, and those
who know don't talk."