Saturday’s Wall Street Journal features a letter to the editor from none other than Neil Armstrong, in response to an article from earlier this month about deliberations President-elect Obama’s transition team is making on the future of NASA’s exploration architecture. (Both links may require a WSJ.com subscription.) Armstrong seems particularly concerned that the transition team would make a decision about accelerating Constellation, revamping the program, and/or extending the life of the shuttle:
I certainly hope that isn’t accurate, in that the transition team should play no part in such decisions. While these men and women are experienced and enthusiastic space program veterans, they are neither aerospace engineers nor former program managers and cannot be sufficiently knowledgeable to make choices in the technical arena.
It’s not at all clear, though, that the team is making any decisions, as opposed to simply gathering information and making recommendations for the new administration. Armstrong has no problems with allowing the new president to make those decisions, and states that, contrary to a report earlier this month in the Orlando Sentinel, he should have no problem getting the technical information from NASA needed to make that decision:
He should have no difficulty receiving high-quality information from NASA. Engineers are painfully honest and insist on presenting any assumptions used in their decision process. Therefore a conclusion can only be challenged when an erroneous assumption can be identified. Because this approach is somewhat unfamiliar in business and politics, its importance is often overlooked.
Finally, while not explicitly calling for Mike Griffin to remain as administrator, he does endose, in general terms, agency management:
NASA’s management is very strong and its engineering and scientific talent extraordinary. I believe they can be counted on to deliver new knowledge, excitement and inspiration as they continue their expansion of the human boundary.