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Does Obama Have a Problem At NASA? 479

Posted by timothy
from the hey-what's-a-few-trillion-in-deficit? dept.
MarkWhittington writes "Has NASA become a problem for the Obama transition? If one believes a recent story in the Orlando Sentinel, the transition team at NASA, led by former NASA Associate Administrator Lori Garver, is running into some bureaucratic obstruction." Specifically, according to this article NASA Administrator Michael Griffin made calls to aerospace industry executives asking them to stonewall if asked about benefits to be gained by canceling the current US efforts to revisit the moon; we mentioned last month that cutting Aries and Orion is apparently an idea under strong consideration by the Obama transition team.
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Does Obama Have a Problem At NASA?

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  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:47AM (#26089313) Homepage

    ... but if I were Obama, Michael Griffin would be so fricken canned.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      Are you kidding? The guy KNOWS he's cannned. Hell, the transition team's first stop was probably taking pictures of his office and measuring the drapes. He's toast and he knows it. And so he's just trying to make as big an ass of himself as he can right now to try and claim later that he was only fired because Obama didn't like his "honesty," not because he's a GLARINGLY bad manager who's been more interested in towing the Bush line and diverting big bucks to Bush-friendly contractors than to actually deliv
    • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:46AM (#26090039)

      He can't do that. Peter Griffin has rockets that could be converted into makeshift missiles and used to bombard Washington.

      Then Griffin would declare the US disbanded, replaced by a Galactic Empire with Griffin as Emperor.

      I say give him the cash to keep him quiet. Better that than we all end up slaving in the Uranium mines on Pluto.

      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:01AM (#26090235)
        No worries, mate. If Griffin launched the attack they would have to cut the number of missiles back because they went over budget, the missiles would arrive so late that the cities would have plenty of time to evacuate, and the vast majority of them would either completely miss their target or malfunction before they even left the pad.
    • by roccomaglio (520780) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:49AM (#26090083)
      From the article: Michael Griffin, noting that no one on Lori Garver's team has any engineering expertise, suggested that Garver was "not qualified" to judge the Constellation program. Garver will not comment about the conversation, but has hinted that there will be a new administrator chosen at NASA shortly and that there will be change to NASA policy."
  • Gossip (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:48AM (#26089325)

    Sounds like a lot of backbiting rumors spread by someone with a bone to pick.

    It's pretty easy to tell how much money would be saved by cancelling Aries and Orion outright. Just look at how much money they have outlined in budget projections.

    The harder question is whether there is some cheaper alternative, and how much it would cost. But that's not something that can be answered accurately in response to a snap question. And saying so is not stonewalling.

  • by diskofish (1037768) on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:48AM (#26089327)
    It's hard to believe that NASA would be against their program being cut. While I like the space program,if it's going to be cut spending on nothing or cut spending on the space program I would pick the former. While I'd prefer to cut other things, NASA spending is probably one of the easier things to cut, from a political standpoint.
  • by fprintf (82740) on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:51AM (#26089353) Journal

    What is with the entitlement mentality within government? I am sure the article blows what actually happened way out of proportion, but if there *was* any sort of conversation asking industry partners to stonewall, resist, camoflage or otherwise derail the effort to understand the risk/reward of future space efforts, everyone involved within the government should be canned. If I did anything of the sort at my place of work, I'd be out on my ass so quickly!

  • by theaveng (1243528) on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:55AM (#26089385)

    That means we need to axe a lot of programs, or (a) face potential bankruptcy of the whole country or (b) face the reality that we have to cut Medicare and SS benefits to a needs-based program rather than an entitlement. We have a huge amount of Baby Boomers about to retire, and don't have the money to support them all unless we start saving immediately.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Samschnooks (1415697)

      face the reality that we have to cut Medicare and SS benefits to a needs-based program rather than an entitlement.

      That's how they started. SS was never intended to be an entitlement program when it was created in the 1930s.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eravnrekaree (467752)

      Actually extending medicare to everyone would actually reduce the per person cost for medical care. Evidence shows that a universal health care system can be operated more efficiently, provide better coverage and more preventative care, reducing costs through preventative treatment, and operating at an at cost basis to provide the best service for the lowest cost. So actually doing universal health care would save us money, and everything has to be paid for in one way or another, universal health care is de

  • by Angostura (703910) on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:55AM (#26089387)

    For some reason the submission goes to a site that mentions the original articles appeared at the Orlando sentinel, but doesn't link to the articles. So here they are:

    December 11: NASA chief Griffin bucks Obama's transition team [orlandosentinel.com]

    and

    December 12: NASA chief insists he's cooperating with Obama's team [orlandosentinel.com]

    • by mknewman (557587) * on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:17AM (#26090511)

      I work at NASA and got this message yesterday:

      HQ Special: A Message from the NASA Administrator
      A recent report in the Orlando Sentinel suggested that NASA is not cooperating with members of President-elect Obama's transition team currently working at Headquarters. This report, largely supported by anonymous sources and hearsay, is simply wrong.

      I would like to reiterate what I have stated in a previous e-mail to all NASA Officials: we must make every effort to "lean forward," to answer questions promptly, openly and accurately.

      We are fully cooperating with transition team members. Since mid-November, the agency has provided 414 documents and 185 responses to 191 requests. There are six outstanding responses, and the agency will meet the deadline for those queries.

      Also, we strongly urge full and free cooperation by companies performing work for NASA. I am appalled by any accusations of intimidation, and encourage a free and open exchange of information with the contractor community.

      The transition team's work is too important to become mired in unsupported and anonymous allegations. The President-elect's transition team deserves everyone's complete cooperation.

      Michael D. Griffin
      Administrator

      Point of contact: David Mould, Office of Public Affairs, 202-358-1898

  • by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768NO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:55AM (#26089403) Journal

    Obama has nothing against NASA. He has EVERYTHING against Mike (global warming is a myth) Griffin, a known Bush lackey and a incompetent manager. Ask anyone in the know about Orion and Ares and they will tell you while it WILL work, it is horribly designed and way over budget for what it is and its DIRECTLY contributed to Griffin, unlike other unmanned programs that where running before he took over and lost funding due to him and Bush's "lets get a American on Mars without spending any more money" ploy.

    Griffins job is canned, he's just drawing out the hanging right now and trying to wrap it in a Obama hates NASA spin, not a Obama hates incompetent Bush republican flunkies spin.

    • Frankly (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Griffin's comment on Global Warming was excellent and probably the only thing about him to like. He simply expressed the biggest issue standing, we don't know what the optimal climate is. If anything the comments of the those who didn't like his remark were more akin to the right wing religious nuts. It is a religion now and will always be one because anything which is brought up to disprove it is immediately derided regardless of merit. If anything the whole GW document is nothing more than a new age B

      • Re:Frankly (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Abcd1234 (188840) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:24AM (#26090629) Homepage

        we don't know what the optimal climate is.

        Anything other than the current climate is non-optimal for the current crop of human beings, as the places we live, the technology we utilize, and our very ways of life are a direct response to the local environments we populate. Change that environment, and a *lot* of people will suffer (African drought, anyone?), as they will be maladapted to the new climate.

        Of course, humans can change. But when climate change is happening very rapidly (as is the case now), neither we, nor other species, will be able to compensate fast enough, and the results can be devastating.

        As such, Griffin's statement is, at best, extremely naive, bordering on ignorant.

        • That is crux of the issue. What about when grapes were grown in Great Britain? Was that an optimal climate? Who decides? Those with the most money or the loudest voices? It obviously was warmer then for a good part of the world, so when was it right?

          Plus nature has always been a harsh mistress. It has wiped out more species than we will ever know about. We find examples all the time of species that existed but are gone now. We can have one volcano explode and affect the environment more than man can

  • by zentec (204030) * <zentec@@@gmail...com> on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:56AM (#26089411)
    It is unfortunate that we've come to this point in American history, but the truth is probably that we can't afford a grandiose space program right now.

    NASA will still exist, but the bureaucrats running it need to go.  NASA will have a chance at manned space flight, but they need to figure out a way to do it cheaper.  The rest of the nation has tightened its belt, the rest of the nation is concerned about the ballooning debt, NASA isn't exempt from the changes.

    If I had my choice, I'd much rather see the billions spent on a shuttle launch go toward turning children into future aerospace engineers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pumpkin Tuna (1033058)
      Sorry, but I have taught kids and the best way to turn children into future aerospace engineers is to launch some new rockets. I have shown 3rd graders poorly drawn CGI of a Ares 1 launch and it was enough to garner "oohs," "aahs," and "I want to do thats,"
      • by Octorian (14086) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:08AM (#26089545) Homepage

        And the problem is that NASA/etc. focuses so much on inspiring the 3rd graders, yet don't seem to care so much once those kids get to high school and can actually develop that interest into something useful towards their future.

        • by Pumpkin Tuna (1033058) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:24AM (#26089719)
          I also taught high school, and you are right that high school kids get left out. But I think it's less the fault of NASA and more the fault of high schools. High school is so rigid and change-adverse that any attempts by an outside agency to come in is usually shot down. This is even more evident with the focus on high stakes testing.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by p0tat03 (985078)

          The problem is that 3rd graders don't want to know *how* to get there, but high school kids do, and we don't tell them that. We show them all of these cool jobs that they could do when they grow up, and then we don't tell them what they need to do to get there. Oops.

          I got into code because I saw some really, really cool stuff being worked on at a lot of companies, and I had the resources to play with it at home. To get people into aerospace you need to do the same - inspire them to get into the field, and t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sockatume (732728)
      I think someone really needs to sit down and say "the unfunded mandate has to go". With the current timeline, manned space flight will account for more or less NASA's entire budget within about ten years, and there are projects being slashed left and right already. A NASA which forgets about landing humans on the moon and Mars for a decade or two would be a cheaper NASA with a much wider variety of science missions. (IMO, of course, and I'm welcome to any new information on their funding situation and where
    • by kid_oliva (899189) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:31AM (#26089823) Homepage
      If you spend billions on a shuttle launch you ensure jobs for people who want to go into aerospace. Take the money away from that so you do not have any shuttle launchings and you have pretty much removed it from most people's minds. I remember growing up in the 80's and the shuttle launches were a big thing. Now it hardly receives any coverage. It would be great to have a president with a mind for the future like JFK. Granted he wasn't perfect but it is better than a rehash of FDR ideas that have put us in the place we are in. That's my $.02. Go ahead and mod me down now.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by aztektum (170569)

        That is my argument also. 700 billion to prop up failing banks who screwed themselves? Or 700 billion for NASA and other science agencies to develop research programs fuel marketable ideas that would create jobs? Billions for the broken, decrepit auto industry (which, thankfully, does not appear to be happening any time soon) that has failed to provide valuable products for consumers (other than mechanics who repair them). Or billions spent to develop new technologies with companies that are trying new thin

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by genner (694963)

      If I had my choice, I'd much rather see the billions spent on a shuttle launch go toward turning children into future aerospace engineers.

      Why would you want to do that?
      When they graduate how are they going to find a job?

  • Analogy (Score:5, Funny)

    by El Yanqui (1111145) on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:56AM (#26089415) Homepage
    If we can put a black man with a funny name in the White House then surely we can put a man on the moon again!
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:08AM (#26089543) Journal

    This was an easy article to find, that's following up this story... Being on Space.com, it was on Slashdot's side bar... ;)

    http://www.space.com/news/081211-nasa-obama-transition.html [space.com]

  • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:37AM (#26089883) Journal
    Forget Griffin. The real decision Obama is going to have to make with NASA is whether or not to tell people the big secret: that the chimps they sent into space came back super-intelligent.
  • Sadly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:42AM (#26089961) Journal

    ...sadly, I think many slashdotters are going to be disappointed as NASA funding under Obama takes a backseat to a number of other programs that are targeted at much larger domestic constituencies.

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:42AM (#26089977)

    You're doing a heck of a job, Griffie!

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:43AM (#26089991) Homepage Journal

    Obama's transition team isn't asking NASA programmes only about cutting their budgets to zero. The review is also asking them about accelerating those programmes, increasing their budgets so their benefits are delivered sooner.

    Griffin, the Star Wars scientist / CIA "entrepreneur" [wikipedia.org], is stonewalling any change by the new Chief Executive (Obama). Which is of course threatening those projects even worse, because there's going to be less time to evaluate and save the worthwhile ones, as the economic meltdown accelerates and Obama's busy leading the nation fulltime. And of course the stonewalling shows an agency that will need an even more radical makeover by the new administration.

    But why should NASA be any different from the rest of the government Bush built? Hey, over in Congress, a minority of the minority Republicans in the Senate (next month their numbers shrink to a nearly insignificant count) are stonewalling even a bridge loan from money already allocated to Detroit. They destroyed New Orleans and New York. Maybe if a Christmas Earthquake hits California they can have laid waste on every coast except Alaska's - which they maybe managed with drilling in ANWR.

  • by miffo.swe (547642) <daniel DOT hedblom AT gmail DOT com> on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:00AM (#26090215) Homepage Journal

    If i was an American i would be much more concerned with military spending than with NASA. The various spy organizations and domestic surveillance programs alone makes the NASA budget look like weekly allowence. Add the military spending and NASAs budget is just silly in comparison.

    If there is one area where money is spent for nothing its in the military.

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:54AM (#26091155)

    who say they refuse to cooperate with the incoming administration make me laugh. What part of a 79% disapproval rating for their, that is, Bush's administration and their work do they not get? It has been de rigeur to clap their hands over their ears, say nah-nah-nah-i-cant-hear-you, and ignore reality for years in their places of work, but the reality train is about to run them over and they better get the hell out of the way.

    Obama doesn't seem like a vindictive guy, but absolutely pissing off the incoming teams at NASA, NSF, and all the other agencies that fund research and buy big dollar systems with these antics is a 100% sure-fire way to kill your career dead, dead, dead. What company, university, or lobbyist is going to hire a guy who is persona non grata if not dickhead #1 with the only game in town, aka the federal government?

  • Bad Strategy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday December 12, 2008 @01:39PM (#26092771)

    When the incoming administration sends their representative over to see if your programs should continue, stonewalling is a really bad idea. Pissing them off isn't too smart, either.

    In the first case, funding will get cut due to ignorance. In the second, out of spite. Either way you are out of a job in a bad economy. More likely, Obama's people wil just figure that NASA management is full of blow hard morons, replace them and put someone else in their place that they can work with.

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