It depends on what end of Pennsylvania Avenue you’re on. At the White House, space came up during for the second time this week. McClellan put the best possible face on NASA’s decision to halt future shuttle flights until the ET foam problem is resolved:
Q Is the administration going to take any steps to take a hard look at what’s going on with the shuttle program at NASA right now? Does the President believe that the NASA administration has an effective control of the program, in light of what’s happened the last 24 hours?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, a couple things. One, the safety of the crew is the top priority. The President relies on the judgment of the experts, the engineers at NASA. Engineers at NASA look at all the issues, and they assess the risk. The President appreciates NASA’s commitment to safety and acting out of an abundance of caution. He is confident in the job that Administrator Griffin and the experts at NASA are doing.
In terms of the latest announcement, NASA has not made any decision or announced anything about the timing of the next mission. The experts at NASA continue to look at all the facts and all the data. And once they have had the opportunity to do so, then they will come to some conclusions and make decisions about how to proceed.
[Scroll down not quote halfway through the transcript for this exchange.] A bit later McClellan added, “Space exploration is a high priority for the United States, and we want to continue to lead the way.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chair of the House Science Committee, is a little more skeptical about the shuttle program’s future. In an interview with an upstate New York radio station he expressed some apparent doubts about when, or even if, the next shuttle mission would take place:
Boehlert today told Binghamton radio station W-N-B-F: “The shuttle program is not dead — if they can find an answer to the questions about the foam.”
Boehlert said without that answer — in his words — “it will not return to flight.”
The article plays up the possibility that the shuttle may not return to flight, although it’s not clear whether Boehlert really believes that is a real possibility, or if he’s simply stating that the shuttle will not fly again until (rather than if) a fix is found.