Lampson: not going to be NASA administrator

Former congressman Nick Lampson tells the Houston Chronicle in today’s edition that he is not a candidate for the NASA administrator job. Lampson said he has not undergone the background checks and other vetting that would correspond with being a candidate for the job. And about those reports he had met with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel? The NASA position did not come in the latest meeting between the two former House members, Lampson told the paper.

The Chronicle suggests that with Lampson no longer a candidate for the job (as noted here last week), the White House might now turn to Charles Bolden, the former astronaut strongly endorsed by Sen. Bill Nelson. But if the Obama Administration wasn’t interested in Bolden before, why would they turn to him now and look like they’re capitulating to Nelson?

15 comments to Lampson: not going to be NASA administrator

  • Brian Koester

    Argghhh!! Maybe the President is going through what JFK went through as he was turned down by 16 men before James Webb took the job.

    Bringing back Mike Griffin looks better and better. NASA as an agency should be exempt from having their administrator have to resign when a new president comes in. If a President wants a new admin, surely he will let it be known and then can accept a letter of resignation and in the meantime there can be continued leadership at the agency.

  • sc220

    Bringing back Mike Griffin is not a solution. I’d much rather have your hero, Alan Stern, at the helm rather than Dr. Schtickroket. At least Stern has an appreciation for science and a more organized approach to space exploration than just getting flyboys out beyond earth orbit.

  • Doug Lassiter

    NASA as an agency should be exempt from having their administrator have to resign when a new president comes in.

    It is. Dan Goldin was kept on for more than one administration. He was asked to stay. Mike left because he wasn’t asked to stay. (And he may have been explicitly asked to leave.) This position is for a Presidential appointee. If the current President doesn’t appoint you to it, or ask you to continue, you’re not it.

    He was not asked to stay BECAUSE the White House trusted Scolese to provide interim leadership, which he has, and BECAUSE the White House specifically didn’t want Griffin’s leadership. Pretty simple. This isn’t about an obligation of a new President to continue with business as usual.

    Of course, that’s the single most important fact in the future of NASA. If Obama had wanted to continue with business as usual, Mike probably would have been asked to stay. We may therefore count on business not being continued as usual.

  • chuck2200

    Scolese has done a good job thus far. I’d be interested in opinopns of him as the appointee for the top position permanently. Any takers?

  • Doug Lassiter

    That depends a lot on what the administration wants to do with NASA. Scolese appears to be a capable manager, and without doubt is an insightful engineer. He’s also a nice guy! But those things may have little relevance to an agency that may be faced with some serious policy changes. Such changes would require absolute buy-in and big time leadership skills. I don’t think Scolese has ever had any opportunity to demonstrate these on an agency scale.

    He probably doesn’t have the gravitas of an O’Keefe (who came from a leadership position in OMB) or Griffin (who brought a wall full of diplomas), and that gravitas would figure strongly in the political arena, as he tries to sell such policy changes on the Hill.

    His project management and oversight experience on the science side of the house is a big plus, and his testimony at House Space last month shows that he has a good grip on the daunting costing challenges that it has faced. But I don’t see his fingerprints on the human space flight side.

    I suspect the new administrator will be asked to do a lot more than just hold the steering wheel and follow the straight line in the road.

    For those who want to “meet” Chris Scolese, I suggest reading the NASA ASK/APPEL project management magazine interview with him two years ago. That interview did a pretty good job getting under his skin.

  • Brian Koester


    Decaf, ever tried it? :-) just kidding….

    Dr. Stern has made it clear that he indicated to the other contenders he is not interested in the job and is focusing on his kids.

    Sure I admire Dr. Stern’s accomplishments and thought he would make a great administrator, not because he is my hero (although we should have more scientists & engineers as hero’s in my opinion) but rather because his career in space science is exemplary(see wikipedia), he is a pilot (or used to be) he is a COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) program supporter. He had/has an intimate understanding of the budget challenges involved at NASA, is a reformer and can handle the politics of it (such as speaking to congress) and is a good public speaker who has some charisma.

    He is NOT in the running though, but aren’t all these characteristics qualities that the next admin should have?? IMHO – Yes

    That’s why when Steve Isakowitz’s name was floated I paid attention because he has a very interesting resume that had a lot of the same experience.

    I challenge other poster’s to list their top three qualities a future admin should have.

  • […] the Houston Chronicle wrote the obituary for Nick Lampson’s prospects to become NASA administr…, after Lampson himself appeared to tell the paper that the White House had not offered the job to […]

  • I’ll offer up a name – Dr. Lennard Fisk – he is also a former SMD Associate Administrator, and preceeded Dr. Stern, until he was forced out by Goldin in the 90s.

  • Brian Koester

    Len Fisk would be great, not sure if he’d go for it at this stage in his life. The more I look at Pete Worden, the more he seems like the guy with the life experience, the NASA experience and the chops to do the job.

    Former military(29 years), runs NASA’s Ames Research Centre and was involved in the DC-X program. Loads of credible experience and has pretty good sense of humor too apparently.

    Even if he could be Admin for 2-3 years, I think he would keep things on track.

  • Doug Lassiter

    I suspect that a good sense of humor would be a valuable survival skill right now, even if it is pretty irrelevant to the program. But Worden is a politically savvy, well connected, and creative guy. He veers towards left field sometimes, or at least takes unconventional approaches to problems, but the agency may need that. He may well keep things on track, but it might not be the track you’d expect. His science background is solid. Some might be concerned about his DOD experience (not just “military”, but Pentagon and Space Command), which may well not be seen as sending the right message in an Obama administration.

  • Brian Koester

    You raise a good point about his Space Command experience, but if it came up I would point to the fact he has been retired for a while and if President Obama takes NASA in a different policy direction — like a more international version of the Vision for Space Exploration (see my comments on Pres. Obama’s science rep Holdren on this site) voila! Problem solved.

    (In fact it might be useful for elements of the Chinese Space effort to see an Military man as the NASA chief)

  • Doug Lassiter

    In fact it might be useful for elements of the Chinese Space effort to see an Military man as the NASA chief

    Oh, great. So the idea is to intimidate the Chinese with military prowess on the 9th floor of HQ? Such that they’ll back off from space exploration, bow down to us, and continue to buy up our T-bills, right? It’s pretty obvious that, much like with the Russians two decades ago, their allegedly threatening space efforts are simply a ploy to get us to join forces. They know they can’t compete with us technologically, but they can buy in to greater glory by working with us, and making it look like we need them. Which we probably do, money-wise. That, I can confidently predict (and I think you were trying to), is what’s going to happen. The template for this is well established.

  • Brian Koester

    @Doug Well said! Lol!

  • Ron Carlson

    I think that Chris Scolese, Bill Gerstenmaier, and John Young would all make excellent candidates for NASA Administrator.

    Whether any of them would actually want the thankless job of dealing with “Obama” and Congress is open to question.

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