In December, the National Research Council issued a report on NASA’s strategic direction that concluded that there was “no national consensus” on NASA’s strategic goals, including a lack of widespread acceptance of plans for a human asteroid mission by 2025. After his keynote speech at the Goddard Memorial Symposium in Greenbelt, Maryland, yesterday, I asked NASA administrator Charles Bolden if he agreed with that conclusion. Before I could complete the question, though, he offered a one-word answer: “No.”
What, then, can NASA do to combat the perception of that lack of consensus identified in the report? “All we can do is to present to people over and over and over again what the President and Congress have told us to do, and that establishes the national consensus,” he said.
One challenge, Bolden acknowledged, is funding, which is nothing new to the space agency. “NASA has been under this kind of budget pressure from the time of [former administrator] Mike Griffin and even before Mike Griffin,” he said. “It is never going to be different. Anybody who thinks that better times are coming and NASA is going to get all this money so that they can do everything that the nation is asking us to do, that is not going to happen, and we fully realize that.” Those budget pressures force the agency to be much smarter, he said.
Bolden said he wasn’t bothered that some even at NASA weren’t fond of a human asteroid mission. “Show me an organization where 100 percent of the people agree on anything,” he said. “We are all smart people. We all have an idea of where we ought to be going.”
“That’s what the President told us to do, and that’s what the Congress told us to do,” he said of the 2025 asteroid mission. “And it’s also something that I think is important, and I’m the NASA administrator. It is the right thing to do.”