[Guest post by DRJ]
NASA’s hometown newspaper the Houston Chronicle followed up on recent reports that Obama’s leading candidate to head NASA is former shuttle astronaut, test pilot, and retired Marine Corps General Charles Bolden, Jr.:
“The former test pilot left NASA in 1994 after 14 years of service to return to the Marine Corps, where he rose to the rank of major general. He retired in 2003.
But Bolden has remained familiar with NASA’s workings and personnel. He serves on NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, one of nine experts who advises the administrator. He is also an adviser to the four high-ranking NASA officials who are overseeing the upcoming space shuttle reconditioning flight to the 18-year-old Hubble Space Telescope. Bolden piloted the shuttle Discovery in 1990 that flew the observatory into space.”
It could be considered a bipartisan appointment since President George W. Bush previously tried to appoint Bolden as NASA’s deputy administrator:
“In 2002, President George W. Bush nominated Bolden to serve as NASA’s deputy administrator. However, the nomination was withdrawn after the Pentagon objected to civilian agencies drafting high-ranking officers during wartime.”
Other names are rumored to still be on Obama’s short list but this appointment makes sense if, as Bloomberg reported last week, Obama carries through on a plan “to tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China.”
It’s not clear whether NASA will survive as a civilian institution during an Obama Administration but I’m sure the Pentagon would be happy to take responsibility for government’s efforts in space. Maybe it would be cheaper and more efficient to consolidate space issues in the military, or maybe it’s a bad idea. What do you think?
UPDATE: PJ Media’s Rand Simberg says Bloomberg got it wrong:
“Despite what some of the (non-transition) sources quoted say, there is little relationship between a human moon landing and space warfare in near-earth orbit. Guidance systems for the latter are easily developed in the absence of orbital rendezvous and docking, which have different requirements. And despite myths promulgated by science fiction about being bombarded from the moon, it is really not a militarily useful high ground against the earth.
Yes, it will save costs if NASA can use existing, or modified existing, vehicles, but this wouldn’t involve any “tearing down of walls,” and it should be done regardless of what the Chinese are doing, simply to make the program more affordable and sustainable.
How did this confusing and misleading story happen? In an email from someone familiar with the transition team’s activities, it seems pretty simple:
This story is very strange. We asked questions about EELVs; about how the DOD and NASA cooperate; and what has been discussed with China. They were unrelated questions. It seems as though the reporter tied them together for his odd conclusion.“
Thus, Bolden’s appointment may mean Obama’s goal is efficiency through multi-agency cooperation, not tearing down walls. I’m for that.