NASA, White House

It’s official

Florida Today reports this morning that the White House has officially nominated Charles Bolden to be NASA Administrator, and also nominated Lori Garver as Deputy Administrator. This confirms reports this morning by the Orlando Sentinel and NBC News that a Bolden announcement would come Saturday.

The timing, it seems, was intended to be tied to the landing of the space shuttle Atlantis to end the STS-125 Hubble repair mission. However, the announcement came out around the time NASA waved off a landing attempt today, deciding to try again tomorrow and hope for better weather in Florida rather than land today in California. That, combined with the early-morning announcement at the beginning of a holiday weekend, would seem to deprive this of the “hoopla” that President Obama had promised earlier in the week: so much so that the news wasn’t immediately available on the White House web site.

1 comment to It’s official

  • red

    I’m not sure how much Bolden contributed to or agrees with these particular parts of the recent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel report he contributed to, but here are some excerpts:

    “Although continuing to fly the Shuttle would minimize the U.S. launch vehicle services gap (currently projected at 5 years) between Shuttle retirement and the beginning of Constellation flights, the ASAP does not favor this approach.”

    “With limited resources, funding an extension of the Shuttle program will constrain available resources for the Constellation program, merely postponing or shifting the gap while exposing NASA to the increased risk of Shuttle flights and deferring the Constellation program.”

    This of course assumes that Shuttle savings should go to Constellation, and that Constellation is the only way to reach the other side of the gap.

    “The ASAP is not convinced that the Ares I and Orion initial operating capability (IOC) date can be improved appreciably by additional resources.”

    Yet the ASAP understands at least this one of the many problems with Constellation.

    “The ASAP concludes that the private sector cannot bridge the gap.”

    That’s a startling claim by a safety panel. How does it know that? What might happen if NASA actually adequately funded COTS-D or a COTS competition for crew services? Would the conclusion change? By “bridge”, do they mean “totally close” or “shrink”? More to the point, “bridge the gap” or not, do they expect the private sector to be faster than Ares/Orion, and to be able to take over for Ares/Orion if the private sector come in later than Ares/Orion?

    “• There is no evidence that Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) vehicles will be completed in time to minimize the gap.”

    Minimizing the gap means finishing before Ares/Orion. I’d say there’s plenty of evidence for that, conveniently furnished by Ares/Orion on a regular basis. At any rate, it’s irrelevant because even with Ares/Orion, NASA needs the private sector for cost-effective crew transport so funding is available for Ares/Orion to do beyond-LEO work, and NASA also needs redundancy.

    “• COTS vehicles currently are not subject to the Human-Rating Requirements (HRR) standards and are not proven to be appropriate to transport NASA personnel.”

    This sounds like an internal problem for NASA to fix, which I think they’re planning to do with stimulus funding.

    “• The capability of COTS vehicles to safely dock with the ISS still must be demonstrated.”

    Of course, but this is also true of Ares/Orion. This just needs to be solved by doing the demonstrations.

    “The ASAP suggests that stability of policy and technical goals is particularly crucial for complex, expensive, safe, long-term programs and for cost-efficient, cost-effective, and safe mission plans and workers.”

    Sometimes stable policy and technical goals just means stagnation and failure. Why not choose something less complex and expensive?

    “The ASAP notes that precursor robotic missions can conduct initial fact-finding and data collection, enhancing the viability of human exploration and offering opportunities to improve safety.”

    I agree with this statement. In particular, NASA isn’t doing nearly enough lunar precursor robotic missions.

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