Watching the bolts pop out from the creaky NASA administration. This is important, as the dream of exploration — of frontiers, of leadership in a great endeavor — has an important role in the American mind. Losing or abandoning this dream may have intangible but far-reaching effects.
- “Frustrated NASA chief vents in internal e-mail over fate of agency“, Orlando Sentinel, 7 September 2008 — Leak of a secret internal email.
- Offical Statement of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin about his August 18 Email, NASA press release, 7 September 2008
- “Big Questions on NASA Infighting for Shuttle Astronaut Tom Jones“, Popular Mechanics, 11 September 2008 — The EU is not the only one dependent on Russia.
“Frustrated NASA chief vents in internal e-mail over fate of agency“, Orlando Sentinel, 7 September 2008 — Leak of a secret internal email.
In congressional testimony and speeches across the country, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has presented the Bush administration’s space policy as under pressure but on track to returning humans to the moon by 2020. His public face has been steadfast.
But privately, the agency chief is far less certain.
In a remarkably candid internal e-mail to top advisers obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, Griffin lashed out last month at the White House for what he called a “jihad” to shut down the space shuttle, expressed frustration at the lack of funding for a new moon rocket — and despaired about the future of America’s human-spaceflight program.
The tone of the note depicts a man watching as his finely crafted plans for a revitalized space-faring NASA appear to be melting before his eyes.
Offical Statement of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin about his August 18 Email, NASA press release, 7 September 2008
The following is the complete statement of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin regarding the Aug. 18 email published by the Orlando Sentinel:
The leaked internal email fails to provide the contextual framework for my remarks, and my support for the administration’s policies. Administration policy is to retire the shuttle in 2010 and purchase crew transport from Russia until Ares and Orion are available. The administration continues to support our request for an INKSNA exemption. Administration policy continues to be that we will take no action to preclude continued operation of the International Space Station past 2016. I strongly support these administration policies, as do OSTP and OMB.
“Big Questions on NASA Infighting for Shuttle Astronaut Tom Jones“, Popular Mechanics, 11 September 2008 — The EU are not the only ones dependent on Russia. Excerpt:
Remember, Griffin was ordered to stop flying the shuttle in 2010. You know, get it off the stage as soon as possible. Then he was told, “Bring on Orion as quickly as you can after that.” The original plan, about four years ago, was for Orion to be ready by 2012. But Congress has been given budgets every year by the president that have not included the funds to do these things at the pace they need. So the two-year gap turned into a five-year gap. Congress figured there was no downside: Just let it slip and, big deal, we have a long gap. That was all fine when it was five or six years in the future, but now the Russians have turned unfriendly, and we don’t know where that’s going to go. And suddenly a bunch of people are saying, “There’s this big, long gap, and it’s unacceptable, and, NASA, why didn’t you take care of this?”
How dependent are we on Russia for the next five to eight years?
Very dependent, and there’s not a lot of ways out of it. At the end of 2011, we were going to have to start paying them for a new round of services. One, to launch our people up there-and that would include not only Americans, but Europeans, Japanese and Canadians, who had been promised rides on a shuttle up to the space station. The second service was to have an emergency lifeboat at the space station, so if there’s a puncture in the hull or somebody gets sick, we can get everybody back on the ground. Long ago and far away, in 2000, there was an American lifeboat being designed to be flown up to the space station on a shuttle. It was canceled because of funding shortfalls, so we said, “We’ll just rent Soyuz from the Russians for that time period.” Well, now these two key services, access to orbit and emergency return, have been monopolized by the Russians. We’re going to have a very expensive and difficult time getting out of this box that we’re in.
How optimistic are people that a new administration and its space policies could bring more funding to these programs?
Griffin is very pessimistic. I think the consensus is that there’s nothing about the space program as it’s currently structured that makes anybody optimistic that either new administration would be a saviour.
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