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Dr. Michael D. Griffin nominated as next NASA Administrator

Posted by: NeuronExMachina - Sun Mar 13, 2005 9:48 am
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Dr. Michael D. Griffin nominated as next NASA Administrator 
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Post Dr. Michael D. Griffin nominated as next NASA Administrator   Posted on: Sun Mar 13, 2005 9:48 am
I'm surprised that nobody's mentioned yet Dr. Michael D. Griffin's nomination to be the next NASA Administrator. Griffin is currently head of the space department at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, At other times in his career he's been with a great many organizations, including JPL, In-Q-Tel (the CIA's interface with private industry), and the Strategic Defense Initiative (i.e. the much-ballyhooed "Star Wars" program). has an article with a lot of information on him, as does wikipedia. Many of you should be interested in this quote about him in the article:

Worden said that he believes Griffin will “make maximum use of the true private sector” in implementing the space exploration vision, heading one of the central recommendations of a blue ribbon panel Bush chartered last year to advise him turning the exploration goals into reality.

Stadd said some of the smaller, entrepreneurial firms vying for a role in NASA’s new exploration plans ought to be very happy the White House picked Griffin.

“From an entrepreneurial standpoint he has someone who has actually experienced what it is like to be on the other side of the table dealing with the government,” he said. “We haven’t had that before.”

Last year he also gave testimony to Congress on the future of human spaceflight. There were a number of interesting quotes:

"So, recognizing that others may differ, for me the single overarching
goal of human space flight is the human settlement of the solar system,
and eventually beyond. I can think of no lesser purpose sufficient to
justify the difficulty of the enterprise, and no greater purpose is

"What the U.S. gains from a robust, focused program of human space
exploration is the opportunity to carry the principles and values of
western philosophy and culture along with the inevitable outward
migration of humanity into the solar system. Is this valuable? The
answer must depend on one's worldview, I suppose. But consider a map of
the world today, and notice the range of nations in which English is
spoken as a primary language, and in which variations on British
systems of justice, politics, culture, and economics thrive today. Was
the centuries-long development of the British Empire, based upon
Britain's primacy in the maritime arts, a misguided use of resources? I
believe not. ... Can America, through its mastery of human space
flight, have a similar influence on the cultures and societies of the
future, those yet to evolve in the solar system as well as those here
on Earth? I think so, and I think our descendants will consider it to
have been worth twenty cents per day."

"The necessary requirements of human expansion into the solar system
cannot be met without a greatly increased program of unmanned
scientific exploration. This can only be seen as a "win-win" for all
those involved in any aspect of space exploration. In the end, it comes
down to letting robots and humans each do what they do best."

"For interplanetary flight, something more than chemical propulsion is
clearly needed for other than return to the moon or, possibly, the
first expeditions to Mars. Nuclear propulsion makes the most sense to
me; several options are available, including both nuclear-thermal and
nuclear-electric concepts. We once had an operating, ground-tested
(though not flight-tested) nuclear-thermal upper stage intended for use
on the Saturn V. The program was cancelled thirty years ago, when it
became clear that a Mars mission was not in the nation's immediate
future. Numerous nuclear fusion concepts potentially applicable to
space propulsion exist, most notably those involving electrostatic
confinement of the nuclear core, but none of these is receiving more
than token funding. There also exist a number of promising approaches
to electric propulsion, notably the Vasimir engine concept. In the long
run, some form of nuclear-electric propulsion is likely to offer the
best combination of efficiency and packaging capability for
interplanetary flight."

"I have alluded above to some of the technical hurdles that we face in
a commitment to a permanent program of human space exploration.
Broadly, the tools necessary for this enterprise include:
* Heavy-lift launch capability, in the 100 metric ton to LEO class
or greater.
* Reliable, efficient, and cost effective transportation to LEO for
moderate size payloads.
* Compact space qualified nuclear power systems.
* Nuclear and nuclear-electric upper stage vehicles for application
to interplanetary flight.
* Space and planetary surface habitat and human suit technology.
* Technology and systems for utilizing the in situ resources of the
moon, Mars, and asteroids.
* Reliable and routine Earth-to-LEO crew transfer systems."

"I will repeat only briefly my remarks above concerning ISS; we should
do what is necessary to bring the program to an orderly completion
while respecting our international partnership agreements, obtaining
where possible as much scientific value as we can from the enterprise
while accommodating ourselves to the fact that such value is inevitably

"Regarding the Space Shuttle, I have previously offered my opinion to
this Committee that we should move to replace this system with all
deliberate speed. While the Shuttle's capabilities are extensive and
varied, it has proven to be extremely expensive to use, unreliable in
its logistics, and operationally fragile. It is extremely risky for the
crews who fly it because, while its mission reliability is no worse
than other launch vehicles, there is seldom any possibility of crew
escape in the event of an anomaly. The shuttle has met none of its
original goals, despite the best efforts of some of our nation's best
engineers to achieve those goals. Neither NASA nor the nation as a
whole saw, or could see, these problems looking forward in 1972, when
the shuttle program was approved. But, three decades later, I think we
must admit to ourselves that it is time to move on."

I'm somewhat less enthusiastic about this quote:

"On the engineering side, the first order of business is largely to
restore capabilities that we once had, and then to make them more
reliable and cost effective. It may not be impossible to consider
returning to the moon, or going to Mars, without a robust heavy-lift
launch capability, but it is certainly silly. Our last Saturn V was
launched thirty years ago, and while I do not necessarily advocate
resurrecting an outdated design, this is the class of capability which
is needed for the human space flight enterprise."

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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 13, 2005 10:48 am
Nice post, I particularly liked the quote:

"and I think our descendants will consider it to have been worth twenty cents per day"

certainly puts NASA's costs in perspective to the overall US buget.

He is obviouly very pro manned space exploration which is good, I was not sure that O'Keefe was really behind it or was just following the political line. I like his remarks on the shuttle and heavy lift vehicle but have a concern that developing a HLV as well as the CEV would slow the process down to much.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 14, 2005 1:15 pm
The process need take no more than a few days -- the legendary B-52 was designed from nose to tail in a D.C. hotel room in one night (the design requirements that the Boeing team had gone to Washington to present on had changed -- the other teams needed time, Boeing didn't), and presented to and accepted by the DOD the next morning.

If we can somehow manage to get just a fraction of America's industrial and intellectual might behind the space program, we could have humans on Mars in under two decades.

Unfortunately, NASA has proven itself to be nearly incapable of doing that.

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering

In Memoriam...
Apollo I - Soyuz I - Soyuz XI - STS-51L - STS-107

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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 24, 2005 9:49 pm
I am very happy that he supports 100 ton to LEO HLLVs. Tumlinson has been very ugly in his stance against HLLVs. The idea for private industry to have launch vehicles while NASA 'buys rides' plays to the strength of neither party.

An SDV HLLV can large truly large inflatable structures, be used for JIMO missions ans the VSE. I think it best to push for private 100 ton payloads to give HLLVs extra payloads. It is easier to build a 100 ton space factory with only station keeping thrusters than to build an orbital craft.

We must support heavy Lift--and I don't mean that dog of a Delta IV 'heavy' either.

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