Sometimes a star party is just a star party

The president assembled quite a group at the White House last night: NASA administrator Charlie Bolden and deputy administrator Lori Garver, former astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Sally Ride, and science advisor John Holdren. A space policy summit? Nope, a star party, attended by 150 middle schoolers with a focus on science education, not space policy. Obama’s brief speech at the event didn’t drop any hints about NASA’s future, and Holdren wasn’t offering any hints, either:

Asked by a reporter what he would say if a middle school student asked him if America is returning to the moon, Holdren said simply, “We will certainly go back to the moon at some point.”

And would the administration be willing to put another $3 billion into human exploration? “We’ll be looking at that,” he said.

Earlier in the day President Obama spoke at the awards ceremony for the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation, an event also attended by Bolden and Holdren. Obama did not explicitly mention space policy in this speech either, instead focusing on education as well as previously-announced plans to increase federal spending on R&D to 3 percent.

However, Spaceflight Now’s Craig Couvalt reads between the lines to conclude that the administration is likely to request additional funding for NASA’s human spaceflight program. Sources tell Couvalt that Holdren has had “unofficials sessions” with members of the Augustine committee and received the options presented in the report “favorably”. Holden, he reported, “expressed optimism that the White House can help with funding shortfalls toward modification of the Bush plan.”

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