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Griffin: No Word On Reappointment From Obama

By | January 12, 2009

      NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said last week he has thus far received no word, either way, on whether President-elect Obama will ask him to remain at the helm of the space agency.

      As a matter of routine, all political appointees are expected to submit their resignations when one president leaves the White House and a new president arrives, and Griffin said he submitted his resignation along with more than 3,000 other political employees. Non-political federal employees, called Hatch Act employees, can remain in their posts from one administration to the next.

      While Griffin has said he would be willing to stay on as administrator if Obama asked, he also had pointed words with an Obama aide, Lori Garver, when she asked how much money might be saved by canceling at least part of the Constellation Program now developing the next-generation U.S. spacecraft system, the Orion space capsule (crew exploration vehicle) and the Ares 1 rocket that will loft Orion into orbit. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, Dec. 12, 2008.)

      But Griffin is drawing strong support from lawmakers in Congress on both sides of the aisle, who would like to see Obama retain him as the space chief.

      For example, during a Space Transportation Association breakfast on Capitol Hill, Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas, ranking Republican on the House Science and Technology Committee, endorsed Griffin. "I’m very hopeful he’ll be returned here" as NASA administrator in the Obama administration, Hall said.

      The committee chairman, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), also has urged Obama to at least keep Griffin on during a transition period, and also to consider retaining Griffin through the full four-year Obama term in the White House.

      But already, rumors are swirling that Obama has decided to replace Griffin, an engineer and pilot expert in the arcane details of space travel programs, choosing instead some scientist.

      If so, that might signal that Obama intends to move away from space exploration programs that include the space shuttles and their replacement, the Constellation Program developing the next-generation U.S. spaceship system Orion-Ares.

      NASA also has extensive science programs, which a scientist might favor.

      Among names of potential Obama picks for NASA administrator are former NASA science leader Charles Kennel and former astronaut Charles Bolden, a retired Marine Corps major general.

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