Obama likely to name outsider to head NASA

Obama said to pick a retired Air Force general and close confidant - with no space experience - to head NASA.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

Barack Obama's attack on NASA and the space establishment looks likely to continue, as the Washington Post reports Obama is likely to appoint a close advisor to head the troubled agency.Tensions have been running high between the transition team and NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. Obama's team has indicated it's likely to kill NASA's Constellation and Ares programs.

The likely pick: Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jonathan Scott Gration, who is "not at all known to members of the space community," according to space industry analyst John Logsdon. The space community might not like it, but the move would put NASA firmly under Obama's control. And that could mean an end to Griffin's emphasis on manned space flight. But Griffin is not going out without a fight. In December, a number of NASA employees, former employees and even Griffin's wife, Rebecca, signed a petition asking Obama to keep Griffin on the job. "I felt honored. And embarrassed at the same time. I really, really, really always wanted the job to be about the space program and not about me," he said.

Item one on the NASA agenda is what to do about the space shuttle. Griffin's plan is to close down the space shuttle in 2010, even though the next version won't be ready until 2015 (government time). In the meantime, the U.S. hitches rides on Russian rockets. Cost to extend the shuttle program: $3 billion a year.

But Obama appears to be leaning towards switching the civilian rocket program over to the Pentagon,which seem to know how to finish programs on time and has next-generation rockets ready to go.

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