While we've been overwhelmed with astronomical news from the AAS
meetings this week, meanwhile back at the NASA ranch,
Administrator Mike Griffin appears to be on his way to riding
off into the sunset.
He and all other political appointees from the Bush
administration have submitted their letters of resignation as a
matter of course, but it's not expected that Griffin will be
asked to stay on. Even though family
and friends of Griffin's have been petitioning to
keep him on board, all indications are that Griffin will be
replaced. His resignation is effective Jan. 20, the day Barack
Obama is sworn in as the new president of the US. There are some
lists developing of potential replacements. The trouble is, as
happens most of the time, many of these lists are complete
Cowing over at NASA Watch is
trying to keep track of it all, sorting out real from
not-so-real. Then there's another list, at Obamanasa.gov –
and nothing about the authenticity of this site can be found —
where you can actually vote for who you think would best serve
as the new head of NASA. And guess who is currently (as of 11:30
am CST) leading the vote count: our very own good friend Phil
Plait, the Bad Astronomer. Right
now he has a comfortable lead (2,614 to 695) over – you'll never
guess: Wil Wheaton, aka Wesley Crusher on Star Trek the Next
Generation. OK, you're probably seeing the legitimacy of this
list. But it's fun, nonetheless, to speculate. So who is really in
the running for the NASA Administrator job?
Charles Bolden. A former astronaut who, if chosen, would be the
first black NASA administrator. He currently seems to lead the
list of potential candidates.
Pete Worden. Currently the Director of NASA's Ames Research
Center, was Commander, 50th Space Wing, at Air Force Space
Command, and a professor of Astronomy at the University of
Sally Ride. The first American woman to fly in space in 1983.
She served on the commissions that investigated both the
Challenger and Columbia accidents, and wrote an editorial in
support of Obama during the presidential election.
Alan Stern. The principal investigator the New Horizons mission
to Pluto. He was the associate administrator for the
Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters, but left
abruptly, and later criticized NASA for ongoing cost overruns in
space and planetary science missions.
Wesley Huntress. A former NASA space science chief, was key in
getting the Hubble Space Telescope and
the Galileo probe to Jupiter launched.
Scott Hubbard. Known for turning around NASA's Mars program
after back-to-back failures in the late 1990s, Hubbard was a key
member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. He went on
to serve as a director of NASA's Ames Research Center before
leaving the agency for academia.
Don't think this isn’t a big decision for Obama. The Government
Accountability Office rated the impending retirement of NASA's
shuttle orbiter fleet as one of the top 13 issues the new
president will have to deal with, and deal with soon. The
administration is expected to nominate new NASA leadership
before making any significant decisions regarding U.S. space
policy and the future of the human spaceflight program.
So, who do you think should be the next NASA Administrator?