NASA appears to be in the position of being a priority for our new president, somewhat of a rarity. So what can NASA expect under the Obama administration? NASA administrator Mike Griffin met with employees at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday where workers asked if he would continue as administrator under the new president. “If the next president asks me to continue I would be happy to do it,” said Griffin, “But, I doubt that will happen.” However, if asked to stay, he would only if the Obama White House didn’t interfere with the direction NASA is going (presumably he meant the Constellation program and returning to the moon), and didn’t try to force any personnel on him. He also spoke out against extending the shuttle or using EELV rockets to transport humans to space instead of NASA’s current Ares I rocket design.“If somebody wanted me to stay on but said, ‘No, we need to go over here,’ well,” he said with a shrug, “do it with somebody else.” What else can NASA expect with the new presidential administration?
“While NASA usually does not factor as a near-term decision for incoming Administrations, this year the General Accounting Office highlighted Shuttle retirement as one of its top 13 urgent issues across the government,” NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale wrote in her blog after last week’s election. Dale said NASA has been developing a large set of reference material for the new presidential team to review.
Officials close to Obama’s transition team have said the new president is likely to review Constellation, the replacement for the shuttle that suffers from technical and financial problems that could delay its first scheduled mission in 2015.
Some have speculated Constellation could be terminated and replaced by more space shuttle flights and a different rocket design.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, one of Obama’s closest advisers on space, wants to keep Griffin as administrator, and lobbied the Obama team to keep Griffin, at least, for the time being.
Some congressional and industry sources have cited several potential replacements, from former astronaut Sally Ride to Lori Garver, a former top NASA administrator who heads Obama’s NASA transition team.
Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute told Universe Today that putting NASA through a big reorganization could be counterproductive. “Given that NASA has reached a point of stability internally and organizationally, I would hate to see a year or two wasted by yet another re-organizational exercise,” he said. “The new president should give NASA their priorities, tell them what budget they’re going to get and move on from there. NASA has a lot on its plate right now, simply with the transition from the shuttle to whatever comes next. They need to stay focused over the next couple of years on completing their flights safely. So they should focus on that and not reorganization.”