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Houston, we have a problem: Nasa will struggle when shuttle retires, says boss

One might think Michael Griffin Michael Griffin can refer to:
  • Michael A. W. Griffin, links to Griffin Genealogy pre Norman Conquest.
  • Michael D. Griffin, the Administrator of NASA.
  • Michael F. Griffin, the Christian terrorist who murdered Dr. David Gunn.
 has much to celebrate. The agency he heads, Nasa, receives $17bn (£8.53bn) a year and is buoyed up by the kind of public support Americans normally reserve for celebrities and gods. He has presidential backing for the most ambitious plan to take humankind into the solar system solar system, the sun and the surrounding planets, natural satellites, dwarf planets, asteroids, meteoroids, and comets that are bound by its gravity. The sun is by far the most massive part of the solar system, containing almost 99.9% of the system's total mass. . And next week he will lead commemorations for Nasa's 50th anniversary.

For some reason, though - perhaps it's the windowless room in the basement of the US embassy in London, or the entourage of identical suits looking on from the sidelines - Griffin, who was passing through London on the way to a heads of space agencies meeting in Paris, does not seem like a man about to crack open the party poppers poppers Drug slang A regional street term for amyl nitrate or isobutyl nitrite .

Griffin, 58, once told reporters: "I don't do "I Don't Do" was the debut single by glamour model Michelle Marsh, released on 6 November 2006. The single reached 27 in the UK in its first week, selling only 9,000 copies and over 16,000 copies as of January 2007. The single spend a total of four weeks in the Top 75.  feelings. Think of me as Spock." It was a statement that reinforced his reputation, even among fellow scientists and engineers, for making decisions on the strength of the evidence before him. Since George W Bush appointed him in 2005, he maintains he has yet to face a single tough challenge. "It's just a job. You wake up in the morning and try to do what you need to do to move the ball down field."

But for all his logic, Griffin has wandered into some of the most incendiary INCENDIARY, crim. law. One who maliciously and willfully sets another person's house on fire; one guilty of the crime of arson.
     2. This offence is punished by the statute laws of the different states according to their several provisions.
 controversies in the agency's history. Recent apologies include one to the spacefaring community for criticising what many view as the pinnacle of its achievement, the $100bn International Space Station; another went to Nasa's thousands of employees after he doubted, on a radio show, whether global warming global warming, the gradual increase of the temperature of the earth's lower atmosphere as a result of the increase in greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution.  was worth worrying about. He had already had a very public spat with his chief climate scientist, James Hansen For the American politician from Idaho, see Jim D. Hansen. For the American politician from Utah, see James V. Hansen.

James E. Hansen (born March 29 1941 in Denison, Iowa) heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies[1]
, who complained of being censored by the agency's press office.

Griffin says he made a mistake airing his personal views on global warming, but refuses to comment on whether his opinions have changed, though he admits he still disagrees with some of what his chief climate scientist says. "[People] will have to wait until I'm not the head of Nasa to get my own views."

Griffin is happier talking about the trajectory of the agency over the past half century, how its role has changed, and where he sees its future. When Nasa was set up, it received a pile of money that allowed the agency to make giant leaps in technology. It developed two types of rocket simultaneously, the Saturn I
For the moon of Saturn, see Mimas (moon).

The Saturn I was the United States' first dedicated "space launcher," a rocket designed specifically to launch loads into Earth orbit.
 and Saturn V

For the moon designated Saturn V, see Rhea. Saturn V is also an alternative designation for the Centaur rocket stage.

"Saturn 5" redirects here.
, then there was the lunar lander, the Apollo capsule and three generations of spacesuit. The investment won the space race and bought America enduring leadership in the new realm of the heavens.

That's not to say grave mistakes were not made. In the vacuum that followed the Apollo programme, Griffin says America squandered squan·der  
tr.v. squan·dered, squan·der·ing, squan·ders
1. To spend wastefully or extravagantly; dissipate. See Synonyms at waste.

 a unique chance to push on to other planets. The error, he believes, was the Nixon administration's decision to focus on sending astronauts into orbit around the Earth.

"Working in low Earth orbit (communications) low earth orbit - (LEO) The kind of orbit used by communications satellites that will offer high bandwidth for video on demand, television, and Internet communications.  was not bad. Working exclusively in low Earth orbit was bad," he says. "I spent some time analysing what we could have done had we used the budgets we received to explore the capabilities inherent in the Apollo hardware after it was built. The short answer is we would have been on Mars 15 or 20 years ago, instead of circling endlessly in low Earth orbit."

Less guarded comments of a similar vein have previously landed Griffin in hot water. Endlessly circling the Earth today means being aboard the International Space Station. The 400 tonne behemoth behemoth (bē`hĭmŏth, bĭhē`–) [Heb.,=plural of beast], large, fanciful primeval monster, like Leviathan, evoking the hippopotamus mentioned in the Book of Job. , which will be about finished next year, has taken 20 years to design and build and many space officials around the world wince when Griffin appears to criticise its value.

Griffin's knack for blunt assessment is shored up by a genuine drive to put in place the building blocks for a truly space faring nation. He accepted the job, he says, mainly because the president and Congress committed Nasa to a bolder vision for astronauts in the aftermath of the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003. If people were going to risk their lives, the thinking went, make sure it is something worth risking them for.

Griffin wants to see American astronauts back on the moon by 2020, though many in the industry say the agency is loathe to let 2019 - the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing - pass without fresh prints on the surface. Early work will focus on creating a permanent moon base. From there, Nasa will turn its sights on the incomparable task of a crewed mission to Mars.

For Griffin, this is the stuff of dreams. As early as 2004, he was advocating that astronauts should be sent to touch down on hurtling asteroids This is a list of numbered minor planets, nearly all of them asteroids, in sequential order.

As of late September 2007 there are 164,612 numbered minor planets, and many more not yet numbered. Most asteroids are ordinary and not particularly noteworthy.
 or visit waypoints out in space known as Lagrange points, where the gravity of the sun and Earth effectively cancel out Verb 1. cancel out - wipe out the effect of something; "The new tax effectively cancels out my raise"; "The `A' will cancel out the `C' on your record"
wipe out
 rather than loop around the Earth.

But Griffin has a problem, and it is one he is vexed by. To fly people to the moon, Nasa must develop a new rocket. And to pay for it, the agency must cancel all future space shuttle space shuttle, reusable U.S. space vehicle. Developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), it consists of a winged orbiter, two solid-rocket boosters, and an external tank.  flights. It means that from 2010, for around five years, the Years, The

the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]

See : Time
 nation that beat the Soviet Union in the space race will not only be grounded, but will have to pay Russia for seats aboard Soyuz if it wants to visit the space station it bankrolled and built.

It is more than a matter of pride. Griffin likens the space station to a miniature Antarctic research base, which needs a regular supply of food and water, which suffers technical glitches, and needs to have its staff rotated on a regular basis for their sanity if nothing else. Both the US and Russian space agencies agree that at a minimum, it needs two independent supply chains - read rockets - to ensure the safety of the station and those on board. Nasa's push for the moon and Mars will leave just one. "Anyone who doesn't understand why that is a problem, from my perspective, just hasn't done enough real things in their life."

And then there is the election. The vision for moon and Mars is tightly associated with the Bush administration and while it has widespread support, the new president may well decide to tinker with it. The Republican candidate John McCain For McCain's grandfather and father, see John S. McCain, Sr. and John S. McCain, Jr., respectively
John Sidney McCain III (born August 29, 1936 in Panama Canal Zone) is an American politician, war veteran, and currently the Republican Senior U.S. Senator from Arizona.
 has emphasised the need to ensure taxpayers are getting good value from Nasa, leading some to fear a return to the moon will be viewed as an expensive re-run of project Apollo. The Democrat Barack Obama has stated that Nasa needs to be "redefined" and hopes to fund an $18bn education programme by delaying Nasa's moonshot for five years. All of this, says Griffin, should not shift Nasa's sights on the moon and Mars. "We're on the right path and it is of course fragile, but I think it's crucial we remain on it.

Griffin has urged British officials to reconsider their long-standing opposition to human space exploration. "I would like to have our oldest and closest ally with us as we return to the moon, he says.

In the future, Griffin wants to see the burden of space travel shared with private industry. In October, Richard Garriott, a US games developer and son of a Nasa astronaut, will become the sixth private space tourist to fly aboard the Russian Soyuz to the space station in a deal brokered by the California-based company, Space Adventures.

Does Griffin himself have plans to go into space? "If I could fit it in and somebody offered me the opportunity, sure. But there's a lot of things I don't have time to do and right now, and that's probably one of them."

Space quotes

"It is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind." The US national aeronautics and space act The National Aeronautics and Space Act (Pub.L. 85-568) is the United States federal statute that created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Act, which followed close on the heels of the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik, was drafted by the United States  of 1958

"God has no intention of setting a limit to the efforts of man to conquer space." Pope Pius XII Pope Pius XII (Latin: Pius PP. XII), born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli (March 2, 1876 – October 9, 1958), reigned as the 260th pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City, from March 2, 1939 until his death.

"I looked and looked but I didn't see God." Yuri Gagarin, first man in space

That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." Neil A Armstrong, Commander of Apollo 11

"I did not see the Great Wall." Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut
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Date:Jul 26, 2008
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