Tag Archives: Dr Michael Griffin

Dr. Griffin

This afternoon Dr. Michael Griffin, NASA‘s administrator, came to speak at UT. I was fortunate enough to be able to hear him, and it was fantastic.

He spent 30 minutes laying out his vision for the next 30 years of space exploration. I won’t go into the details, but his plan includes a large amount of lunar exploration, during which time we’ll be honing our skills and technologies, and then use that knowledge to pursue Mars. I have to say I think his plan is wise.

His vision includes opportunities for entrepreneurs to support NASA’s projects in a variety of roles. This means that Blue Origin, SpaceX and others will have a part to play in NASA’s plan. This is the same agency which effectively squashed Beal Aerospace a few years ago, so this is fantastic news!

I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. He said a lot of things that I found exciting, but there was one salient quote. A professor asked a question that prompted Griffin to talk about education.

NASA’s role in education is to pursue technologies that are exciting enough to motivate kids to stick with the hard subjects and pursue technical degrees so that they can come participate in these thrilling projects. We have not done a very good job of that for the past 35 years.

I wanted to stand up and start singing! President Bush did a great thing when he appointed an engineer (Griffin holds no less than 5 advanced degrees in engineering) to this position. He’s the right man for the job. I just can’t say enough good things about Dr. Griffin.

I’ve been saying for a while that I don’t want to go to work for NASA. Dr. Griffin changed my perspective. If he’s still the one in charge when I graduate, I’ll submit my resume.

NASA’s Mistake

Um, I can’t let this go without comment. Yesterday NASA’s administrator, Michael Griffin, was interviewed by USAToday. In that interview, he admits that the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station are mistakes. I completely agree.

This is the best move NASA has made in 30 years. The Space Shuttle program is a failure. The program has launched just over 100 times, and they’ve lost two craft. Would you get in a car that blew up once every fifty times you drove it? By contrast, Russia has continued to use the same technology since their space program’s inception over 40 years ago, and they’ve never lost a single ship!

Last weekend I was visiting with some folks and someone quipped in a disapproving voice that we’re going back to the moon using 40 year old technology. I kept my mouth shut, but it was tough for me. I wanted to yell, “have you even paid attention over the past 20 years!?!?”

Merging the best of shuttle and Apollo technology is absolutely the right direction for NASA. I’ll say more about going back to the moon in another post, but I couldn’t let this go.

See, while NASA has been putting time, money & energy into the shuttle and space station programs, other countries have started their own space agencies. There’s more than 30 of them around the globe. Oh, sure, you’ve heard of the Chinese and Japanese space agencies, but how about Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden. Even Finland has one! Finland!

Now, there’s a lot of people at NASA that would like for you to believe that we’re working cooperatively with all of these agencies, and that’s true, partially. We’ve been working together with them on the space station. But what about planetary exploration? Um, no. We’re competing with them.

See, someone is eventually going to fully explore the Moon. And Mars. And beyond. And the first one that does gets to claim the resources that they find for their very own. Remember the exploration of the Americas? Like that, only planetary.

The good news is that NASA has experience, and a lot of the other players are still learning. This is why it makes such great sense for us to apply what we’ve learned through the shuttle to the Apollo technology from years ago.

Its all very exciting, really. If you, like me, want to keep up with what’s going on, NASA Watch is a great website which tracks what they’re up to.