Devon Island Expedition

Devon Island Expedition
This blog features educational updates on my Devon Island Expedition of July 14-20, 2007. Other sites:,

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Farewell, 2008

Well, it's that time of year again, the end of it, that is! Did you have a good 2008, despite the financial crisis and other world events?

Of course, one of the most significant events was the election of a new US President, who will take office in just a few weeks. He will face challenges for sure, but the general mood of the country, indeed the world, seems to be one of cautious optimism. Even Russian President Medvedev is on record as being positive about improved relations with the United States.

In the narrow area of space exploration, which greatly interests me, what will happen? The biggest question is who will lead NASA? It seems highly unlikely that Mike Griffin will be asked to stay on, but will the new Administration have NASA high enough on its priority list to make a decision quickly? One of my astronaut colleagues actually made a bet with me that Griffin will be asked to stay on. I understand that another of my colleagues started a keep Mike petition online, and it appears that Mrs. Griffin has also sent out emails urging support for her husband (please see

All very interesting and surreal. I personally doubt that Mike will be asked to stay. But, I've been wrong before!

What is going to happen to NASA? I don't know, nor do I have any insider information. I do think that whatever happens, NASA will be dramatically changed. This is more of a feeling than anything else.

I am worried that NASA will lose its place as the world leader in manned space flight. Russia will, by default, become the leader after the Space Shuttle is retired in 2010. China is coming up fast.

What do you think?

Leroy Chiao

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What's Going On At NASA?

The Orlando Sentinal and other publications reported recently that NASA, at the very highest levels, is not cooperating with President-Elect Obama's NASA Transition Team. There was reportedly a very public, unfriendly exchange at a book publication event at NASA HQ between Administrator Mike Griffin and Transition Team Leader Lori Garver.

There seems to have been enough eyewitnesses to this and other incidents, that it would be fair to conclude that something bad is happening. What's going on at NASA? It's hard to know for sure, but it sure smells like a combination of desperation and frustration. No matter what one's opinion happens to be, the fact is that there will be a new President in just a few weeks and his transition team for space is going to be advising him on everything that should be done with NASA.

If Mike is afraid that the Constellation Program is about to be canceled or radically altered, the best course of action would be to calmly make his arguments to the Transition Team, to try to persuade them that his course is best. They are the ones who will be calling the shots. There are rumors that Ms. Garver herself may be in line to become the next NASA Administrator.

It may be a losing strategy for Mike to simply try to persuade, but it's going to be a lot better than confrontation.

And, who is Ms. Garver? She was the NASA Associate Administrator for Policy and Plans when Dan Goldin was NASA Administrator. Not many of us in the space business had really heard of her until after she had left NASA in 2001, when she publicly campaigned for contributions in an unsuccessful attempt to become what she called the "First Soccer Mom" to fly in space. She had hoped to use the money to buy a seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

She may not have technical credentials, but she doesn't necessarily need any, so long as she takes the advice of qualified specialists. What she does have, is political clout and savvy, especially with the incoming Administration.

One thing is for sure. Change is coming to NASA. Best for everyone if all play nicely.

Leroy Chiao