Griffin answers astronomers’ concerns

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) issued a press release Tuesday with the contents of a question-and-answer exchange between the AAS’ Committee for Astronomy and Public Policy and NASA administrator Mike Griffin. Among the notable responses from Griffin:

  • He says that science funding at NASA will increase at 1% per year (somewhat below the current inflation rate) through FY2011, then go to 2.4%/year (the current estimate for the overall growth of the agency’s budget) starting in FY2012.
  • Griffin doesn’t think that there is a better way to manage science missions to avoid debilitating cost overruns: “I think that the uncertainties in program planning, budgeting, and control that we experience in state-of-the-art, first-of-a-kind missions will always be with us.” His best recommendation: “allocate appropriate reserves on the ‘front end’ of any program, and then leave that reserve in place!
  • Griffin is also skeptical about claims of a looming workforce crisis at NASA, noting that while 25% of current NASA employees are eligible to retire in the next five years, not all of them will choose to do so. “I regard this as an opportunity to bring in the next generation of scientists and engineers, who will take us to the Moon and Mars.”

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