Last week, I wrote about NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, and how he may be replaced when Obama takes office. Given that he was a Bush appointee, I imagine he must be thinking he's on his way out as NASA's top banana. That may explain why he made a public statement aimed at Obama about NASA's future.
Basically, he said that the incoming Administration needs to stick with going back to the Moon, and that backing down from such an endeavor would be a mistake. After commenting that he would be honored to continue on with NASA if asked, he said:
"Two successive Congresses - one Republican and one Democrat - have strongly endorsed the path NASA is on. I think it's the right path," Griffin said.
"For 35 years since the Nixon administration, we've been on the wrong path. It took the loss of (space shuttle) Columbia and (the accident investigation) report to highlight the strategic issues to get us on the right path," he said.
"We're there. I personally will not be party to taking us off that path. Someone else may wish to, but I do not."
That's a pretty strong statement, and makes clear his thoughts (refreshing from someone in charge of a government agency). I happen to agree with him; going back to the Moon is what NASA should focus on, as long as the science is not sacrificed.
The caveat here is the economy. If we lapse into a depression, then NASA may be the first on the chopping block. But I hope that's not the case; NASA employs many thousands of people, and letting them go would be a huge mistake, both economically and for the future of the nation.
Also, the rockets that take us to the Moon will be capable of vastly larger payloads than we can currently loft, making solar system and deep space science easier. Look at what the Cassini Saturn probe is doing, and then imagine launching much larger probes with far more capabilities than we have now... going back to the Moon can benefit all of space exploration and science if done properly.
Personally, I think Griffin will be replaced, and I don't have a clue who might be the person to take over. But I do hope they listen carefully to what Griffin has to say. Some of what Griffin has done in the past needs to be forgotten (or maybe even apologized for), but on other topics he's right on the money.