Last week, Claire Evans penned a piece for this website on three programs that NASA, our much-maligned space agency, is getting right. Well,...
Last week, Claire Evans penned a piece for this website on three programs that NASA, our much-maligned space agency, is getting right. Well, here's another thing to add to the "doing wrong" column: not playing nice with the new President-elect.According to a story in the Orlando Sentinel, NASA administrator Michael Griffin is blocking Obama's transition team from getting information it needs to make decisions about the agency's place in the new administration. Griffin's obstructionism is reportedly an effort to protect the Constellation program, the project to design and build a space shuttle replacement. The program is already costing too much and taking too long.From the piece:The tensions are due to the fact that NASA's human space flight program is facing its biggest crossroads since the end of the Apollo era in the 1970s. The space shuttle is scheduled to be retired in 2010, and the next-generation Constellation rockets won't fly before 2015.Nearly four years ago, President Bush brought in Griffin to implement a plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 as a prelude to going to Mars. Griffin and his team selected Constellation, with its NASA-designed Ares I rocket and Orion capsule, as cheaper and safer than existing rockets. Constellation – especially Ares 1 -- is the center of what Griffin sees as his legacy to return humans to the frontiers of space. Griffin has made no secret that he would like to stay on but only, as he recently told Kennedy Space Center workers, "under the right circumstances," including being able to finish Constellation.But budget problems and technical issues have created growing doubts about the project. Griffin has dismissed these as normal rocket development issues, but they've clearly got the transition team's attention. At the end of the day, this could end up being an ideological argument about the need (or at least prioritization) of manned space flight. But, it's not as if Barney Frank, a known manned space exploration hater, is the head of the transition team. In fact, all the people on the team have backgrounds in space policy.