While it’s been mentioned in the comments in the earlier post on the subject, it’s worth a post itself. Space News scored the first interview with Ed Weiler, the director of the Goddard Space Flight Center and the interim replacement for Alan Stern as head of the Science Mission Directorate. The interview makes it clear that Weiler, who previously served in a similar position at NASA headquarters, is still getting up to speed on the issues. He also declined to comment on the circumstances of Stern’s resignation.
The interview does raise the question of the future of some of the programs that Stern promoted while on the job, including planning for a Mars sample return mission near the end of the next decade and a reinvigorated suborbital program. On the last point, Weiler was asked about the request for information that NASA issued recently for suborbital flight services; Weiler responded, “I know nothing about this,” although he was supportive in general of the efforts Stern made on suborbital programs. (That last comment, though, may be causing some concern among companies in the entrepreneurial suborbital industry, based on some conversations I had with people at the Space Access ’08 conference going on now in Phoenix.)
Scientific American, meanwhile, has an article with comments from the space science community about Stern’s resignation, as they speculate why he resigned, and what impact it will have on the agency’s science programs. “It means potentially a black day for science at NASA,” said Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson. “It’s clear that [Stern] was pushing very hard on the system,” James Bell, a Mars scientist at Cornell, said. “He may have thought he had more latitude with Mike Griffin than he did.”