About the same time space shuttle Atlantis’ landing was waved off today due to continued rainy weather in Florida, the White House announced that former shuttle commander Charles Bolden Jr. will be nominated as NASA’s next administrator. President Obama also chose Lori Garver to be Bolden’s deputy administrator. Obama said, “These talented individuals will help put NASA on course to boldly push the boundaries of science, aeronautics and exploration in the 21st century and ensure the long-term vibrancy of America’s space program.”
Several different sources expect Bolden to be a strong proponent of manned spaceflight, since he has flown on the shuttle four times, with over 680 hours in space. Many believe he will also be strongly in favor of the Constellation program, as well as support the efforts of some members of Congress who would like to see the life of the space shuttle extended beyond 2010.
Bolden and Garver will have to be approved by Congress, which can sometimes be a lengty process. Let’s hope not – over four months without an official administrator is long enough.
Bolden will have his work cut out for him, as NASA has a lot on its plate, but no real growth in its budget. The fiscal year 2010 budget request of $18.686 billion includes $456M increase for science and $630M increase for Exploration. Some of that increase is because of the one-time Recovery Act stimulus money. Future budget proposals for fiscal years 2011, 2012, 2013 also are also relatively flat. NASA Watch.com reported several sources say Bolden expressed concern at his meeting with President Obama because he was told that further cuts to human spaceflight in future budgets might be needed.
Meanwhile, the crew of STS-125 will stay on orbit another day. NASA officials are still hoping the shuttle can land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida rather than Edwards Air Force Base in California.
The astronauts will have two opportunities to land in Florida Sunday and two at Edwards. The first Florida opportunity, the astronauts would fire Atlantis’ twin braking rockets at 8:58 am EDT with landing at 10:11 am. A second Florida landing opportunity is available at 11:49 am.
Friday’s landing attempt was also canceled because of rain, low clouds and lightning. The forecast for Sunday is marginal, with clouds and rain expected, but flight controllers are hopeful conditions will improve.