Who Will Be the Next NASA Administrator?

by Nancy Atkinson on January 9, 2009

Mke Griffin
While we’ve been overwhelmed with astronomical news from the AAS meetings this week, meanwhile back at the NASA ranch, Administrator Mike Griffin appears to be on his way to riding off into the sunset. He and all other political appointees from the Bush administration have submitted their letters of resignation as a matter of course, but it’s not expected that Griffin will be asked to stay on. Even though family and friends of Griffin’s have been petitioning to keep him on board, all indications are that Griffin will be replaced. His resignation is effective Jan. 20, the day Barack Obama is sworn in as the new president of the US. There are some lists developing of potential replacements. The trouble is, as happens most of the time, many of these lists are complete speculation. Keith Cowing over at NASA Watch is trying to keep track of it all, sorting out real from not-so-real. Then there’s another list, at Obamanasa.gov – and nothing about the authenticity of this site can be found — where you can actually vote for who you think would best serve as the new head of NASA. And guess who is currently (as of 11:30 am CST) leading the vote count: our very own good friend Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer. Right now he has a comfortable lead (2,614 to 695) over – you’ll never guess: Wil Wheaton, aka Wesley Crusher on Star Trek the Next Generation. OK, you’re probably seeing the legitimacy of this list. But it’s fun, nonetheless, to speculate. So who is really in the running for the NASA Administrator job?

Charles Bolden. A former astronaut who, if chosen, would be the first black NASA administrator. He currently seems to lead the list of potential candidates.

Pete Worden. Currently the Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, was Commander, 50th Space Wing, at Air Force Space Command, and a professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona

Sally Ride. The first American woman to fly in space in 1983. She served on the commissions that investigated both the Challenger and Columbia accidents, and wrote an editorial in support of Obama during the presidential election.

Alan Stern. The principal investigator the New Horizons mission to Pluto. He was the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters, but left abruptly, and later criticized NASA for ongoing cost overruns in space and planetary science missions.

Wesley Huntress. A former NASA space science chief, was key in getting the Hubble Space Telescope and the Galileo probe to Jupiter launched.

Scott Hubbard. Known for turning around NASA’s Mars program after back-to-back failures in the late 1990s, Hubbard was a key member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. He went on to serve as a director of NASA’s Ames Research Center before leaving the agency for academia.

Don’t think this isn’t a big decision for Obama. The Government Accountability Office rated the impending retirement of NASA’s shuttle orbiter fleet as one of the top 13 issues the new president will have to deal with, and deal with soon. The administration is expected to nominate new NASA leadership before making any significant decisions regarding U.S. space policy and the future of the human spaceflight program.

So, who do you think should be the next NASA Administrator?

Source: Florida Today


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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