Planetary Society leaders applaud the choice of Michael Griffin as proposed NASA Administrator, as announced today by President Bush. The appointment comes as Congress debates America's role in space - a role that was changed last year by the Administration's new policy focusing U.S. space goals on human and robotic exploration of the solar system.
Planetary Society President, Wes Huntress said, "Mike is an excellent choice because of his passion for space exploration, his technical expertise and his long experience in space flight engineering. He resonates with the President's new vision for space and will add a down-to-earth insistence on logic and realism." Huntress served as NASA Associate Administrator from 1992 to 1998.
Griffin's appointment comes at a critical time for the Agency. In two months, the shuttle is expected to return to flight after a hiatus of more than two years following the loss of the Columbia orbiter and its crew in 2003. That accident led to a re-evaluation of the purpose of human space flight and a consequent redirection of human space flight policy by the United States. The new direction points towards planetary destinations beyond Earth orbit and away from a long-term focus on the shuttle and international space station. Funding this Vision for Space Exploration is a key issue in the proposed NASA budget currently being considered by Congress.
Louis Friedman, Society Executive Director, noted, "The new exploration vision for space policy is a radical change for NASA operations. Mike Griffin can provide the strong leadership required to turn this vision into reality."
The Planetary Society strongly recommends the early retirement of the space shuttle, an early completion of the new Crew Exploration Vehicle, development of a heavy-lift launch vehicle using shuttle rocket components, and a strong focus on the Mars exploration goal as a driver for the intermediate milestones at the Moon or elsewhere.
Griffin is a strong advocate for space exploration. His broad background includes civil, military and commercial space experience. Prior to his current job as Director of Space at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, he has been Associate Administrator for Exploration at NASA, Vice President at Orbital Space Systems, and a Deputy Director for Technology of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. He has also worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on planetary missions.
Neil Tyson, Chair of The Planetary Society Board and a member of the President's Commission on Implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration, said " The tasks we set forth for NASA in our Commission report requires the likes of Mike Griffin to lead and accomplish. This appointment is the right choice, at the right time, and for all the right reasons. The Planetary Society's Board strongly supports Griffin's appointment as the new NASA Administrator."