Congress, NASA, White House

Nelson: “I am frustrated”

If one believes the conventional wisdom, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has effectively blocked the potential nominations of Scott Gration and Steve Isakowitz to be NASA administrator for one reason or another. If true, that makes a comment that Nelson told the Washington Post in an article Sunday about the search for an administrator and a clarified space policy particularly interesting. “I am frustrated, because I don’t know what the delay is,” Nelson said “recently”, according to the article.

The article also gets a comment from Nick Lampson, the former congressman who may, or may not, be in the running for the job, who at least gives the appearance of not knowing what is going on. “If they do, indeed, have a plan that might involve asking me to do something, I’d like to at least know what that is.”

The rest of the article talks about the uncertainty about what direction the new administration might take NASA, but at the times the article itself appears to be confusing. The article discusses the FY2010 budget outline that endorses the overall goals of the Vision for Space Exploration, including shuttle retirement in 2010 and returning humans to the Moon by the end of the next decade. Then, however, it adds:

Then Obama fogged up the picture during a visit to Central Florida. The president said in an interview, “I think it’s fair to say that there’s been a sense of drift to our space program over the last several years.”

The article doesn’t state when that trip took place, but the quote is from a March 11 briefing with “regional” reporters, including Mark Matthews from the Orlando Sentinel, that took place at the White House, not in Florida.

Towards the end of the article is this passage:

A long-standing debate in the space community is whether resources are best devoted to manned spaceflight — which is expensive and risky — or to unmanned programs that include robotic space probes, orbiting telescopes and satellites that monitor Earth’s environment.

Obama did not pick sides in that debate, saying at a town hall gathering in Florida last month, “I want to review with NASA what are we doing in terms of manned flights to the moon or to Mars versus are we better off using things like Hubble that yields us more information and better bang for the buck.”

Obama did indeed make those comments in a Florida town hall meeting—last May, as the primary campaign was winding down and nearly three months before he issued a detailed space policy. Did he really repeat them word-for-word last month, or did the Post get their dates mixed up?

4 comments to Nelson: “I am frustrated”

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