NASA expects blue ribbon panel, bloodshed awaits

by | Apr 8, 2009 | Seradata News | 0 comments

A blue ribbon panel to review NASA’s direction is likely according to Dr John Olsen, NASA exploration systems mission directorate integration office director. Speaking to Flight last week at the National Space Symposium Olsen said he expected the panel to happen once the new administrator is in place

People involved in DC politics tell Hyperbola that unless the Obama administration can find a politician that has already been vetted to take the NASA job (this is why politicians names such as Nick Lampson are popping into the frame) the post of administrator isn’t going to be filled anytime soon – Hyperbola has already described how long it could take and how acting administrator Christopher Scolese could be there for some time

More disturbingly Hyperbola has been told that Obama would like the administrator to find the agency’s new direction

How true this is Hyperbola has no idea, earlier information had suggested that a reason for the problematic search for a new space chief was that the candidate was viewed as a reflection of the agency’s future direction and so different points of view within the Obama administration about what NASA should do were manifesting themselves in in-fighting about who should be that candidate

Leaving major decisions to the administrator is a way of distancing any decision from the administration. Any policy like decisions on NASA’s future are going to be prime time news programme items and bad PR mitigation will no doubt be high on the Obama to-do list

How different things work in US and UK politics Hyperbola has no idea (I doubt the television show West Wing was an accurate depiction of US politics) but in the UK government panels, blue ribbon or not, commissions, whatever you want to call them are usually set up to do one thing, produce a conclusion that the government of the day knows it wants but needs the cover of an allegedly independent body to come up with it, especially if it is going to be a controversial decision – like ending manned spaceflight

What adds to the turmoil over the administrator is the fact that Shuttle is supposed to be retired next year and the Government Accountability Office identified Shuttle as one of the incoming administration’s most pressing issues. NASA doesn’t have time to waste

Hyperbola’s point of view is that someone with good Shuttle knowledge should be made administrator with the understanding that they will be there to over see the fleet’s retirement (whenever that is) and then another adminisrator should be put in place afterwards to manage the implementation of the follow-on programme, whatever that may be

Or what should have happened is that Michael Griffin should have been kept in post and given the job of managing the agency until such time as Shuttle was retired and/or a panel had identified the new direction and a new administrator found to take that new agenda forward

The Space Frontier Foundation is preparing to lobby for the new direction to be based primarily on a commercial footing with a fully funded Commercial Orbital Transportation Services option D, human spaceflight systems, as part of the fiscal year 2010 budget. In February the Space Exploration Alliance had a “Blitz” of Congress in support of the Vision for Space Exploration but I am not sure how close to the Ares/Orion architecture that support stuck

What is sure is that the delay in selecting a new administrator and the creation of the blue ribbon panel, and its 30 or 60 or 90-day study of what should be done, is going to give the industry and advocacy groups plenty of time to organise for campaigns both quiet and overt to push for their own visions – the debate that is yet to come will make the public spats about Ares I crew launch vehicle look like a picnic

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