Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Yet more...

The Washington Post has perhaps the most interesting article of the bunch about tensions between NASA's administrator Michael Griffin and Obama's NASA transition team ("Uncertainty Clouds Transition at NASA", by Joel Achenbach. 12/15./2008.).

Basically it sounds like Obama's team (at least one of whom has high-level NASA experience) are skeptical of some of the information they're being given on the Constellation program (basically the manned-space program replacing the Shuttle, and intended as the vehicle for a return to the Moon. Note that Constellation is nothing to do with the proposed X-ray Observatory formerly known as Constellation-X).

Rumors of delays and costs overruns in the Constellation program are nothing new. Those of you who read Alan Stern's November 23 editorial in the NYT decrying routine acceptance of cost increases as a cancer overtaking NASA may remember that Constellation was one of the programs he chose to specifically mention by name.

My personal opinion is that hard scrutiny, especially of the components of Bush's Moon/Mars plan, will not hurt NASA in the long run. There are many reasons why programs rarely come in on cost, few of which involve deliberate malfeasance, but that does not mean it should be accepted without question.

We certainly need a long term plan for space, more powerful launch vehicles, a replacement for the Shuttle (if we are to continue with manned space flight), and most importantly a rational, justifiable, sustainable, cost-effective plan for the long term development of space (including, if needs be, manned space flight). Simply continuing Bush's plan is unlikely to be the best way of doing that.

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