NASA Not Cooperating with Obama Transition
by Dracomicron, Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 07:14:27 AM EST
We expected the Bush administration to pull shenanigans before Obama could take office, and they have, from not implementing the safety protocols on the bank bailout to hiring as many partisans to career government jobs and changing as many environmental rules as possible to make the new President's job harder once he takes office.
What I didn't expect is for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which has captured the hearts and minds of children and adults alike, to be the impetus behind the most blatant refutation of the incoming presidency yet.
When I was a kid, NASA was the coolest thing ever: they sent people into outer space. I saw a space shuttle on its pad down in Cape Canavral when I was no more than 8, and I was more jazzed about that than I was about Disney World.
Little did I know that, less than 25 years later, this epic institution would arrogantly blow off the president-elect who is dedicated to restoring the rule of science over superstition to the government.
NASA administrator Mike Griffin is not cooperating with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, is obstructing its efforts to get information and has told its leader that she is "not qualified" to judge his rocket program, the Orlando Sentinel has learned.
In a heated 40-minute conversation last week with Lori Garver, a former NASA associate administrator who heads the space transition team, a red-faced Griffin demanded to speak directly to Obama, according to witnesses.
"Not qualified?" This is the Lisa Garver who has given more than twenty presentations over the last two decades to various space-related conferences. The same Lisa Garver who helped run NASA's development & integration for two years. That seems hard to swallow.
What is the real issue? I don't honestly know.
Is he afraid for his job? He did decide to continue using the space shuttles even after the weakness in their design was made clear two years before his appointment (when the Columbia went down).
Is he concerned that Obama will dismantle NASA? He has already been critical of the organization, saying that he'd delay the Mars program to fund Education and that NASA has lost focus and is no longer associated with inspiration." Given Griffin's commitment to getting the International Space Station completed by 2010 as a precursor to manned travel to Mars by 2030 or so, I suppose I could understand that he might be aggravated by Obama's lack of faith in his organization.
Does he feel guilt over funneling money from research and development into more and more low-orbit manned space flights, so much so that we have No other current alternative for manned spaceflight when the shuttle program is decommissioned in 2009? Obama will either have to mothball the shuttle program altogether and go without a manned flight program until new technology can be put into service or extend the service and put up with an antiquated, inefficient, and expensive system... which of course is what Griffin wants to have happen.
When Bush made his largely-meaningless 2003 gesture of talking up putting Americans on the moon and Mars, Griffin seemed to have taken the idea to heart, and he has very specific plans in mind to achieve that end, the Constellation capsule.
According to industry officials, Griffin started calling heads of companies working for NASA, demanding that they either tell the Obama team that they support Constellation or refrain from talking about alternatives.
The companies, worried that Griffin may remain and somehow punish them if they ignore his wishes, have by and large complied.
One consultant said that when Garver invited "several" mid-level aerospace executives to speak to the team, their bosses told them not to go and warned that anything said had to be cleared first with NASA because Griffin had demanded it.
Well goodness! Not even NASA, that bastion of practical science, is immune to Bush-style obfuscation and scheming. The budget of NASA is relatively small, $18 billion or so, but, quite frankly, it's starting to look like that money is being thrown down a bottomless hole as surely as the bank bailout was. Is it time for us to shut major operations of NASA down and give that money to more immediately deserving programs until we can start our space program from scratch using new and efficient technology?