At an event Friday in Huntsville, former NASA administrator Mike Griffin accused the current administration of doing “everything it could to oppose human spaceflight”. That statement was not a one-time shot against the Obama Administration: in an op-ed in the current issue of Space News, he goes into great detail regarding his accusation that the administration opposes human spaceflight. That is the theme of his piece: that the administration is doing everything it can to block NASA’s human space exploration efforts, specifically the Space Launch System (SLS) launcher and the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).
And how is the administration doing that? Griffin makes a number of claims, ranging from the 2007 white paper from the Obama campaign that proposed delaying Constellation by five years and the White House’s original budget proposal from February 2010 that sought to completely kill Constellation to more recent efforts. He specifically cites leaking a cost estimate that pegged the cost of SLS and MPCV at $38 billion through 2021 as well as the cost estimate itself, which he says are based on “unrealistic schedule estimates, overly taxed budget allocations and suboptimal development sequencing and with NASA overhead being disproportionally charged to the exploration budget line — in other words, a mismanaged program.” Griffin argues that a “more realistic funding profile”, such as what was included in the NASA authorization act (which only goes through fiscal year 2013), could fund SLS at $1.6 billion a year and enable a 70-ton SLS to fly by 2017 and a 130-ton (“deep-space-capable”, as he describes it) SLS by 2020, allowing for annual flights thereafter. Griffin does not discuss the source of his cost estimates in his op-ed.
Griffin also doesn’t discuss why he thinks the Obama Administration is so dead set against human spaceflight, but concludes that the administration’s goal is its elimination. “Unfortunately, this administration is focused on killing human spaceflight by the death of a thousand cuts. Its plan wastes money, unnecessarily targets NASA’s highly skilled work force, jeopardizes future national security and, most importantly, cedes U.S. space leadership for the next two decades,” he concludes. The question is how convincing his argument will be: many supporters of SLS will sing Griffin’s praises, while critics (of SLS and/or Griffin and his tenure as administrator) will doubtless pick apart his arguments. Will his op-ed change any minds, or is it, in effect, a chance to vent?