NASA Administrator Resigns in Address to Agency Employees
The chief of the U.S. space agency said today he will step down next week to make way for a new hire to be selected by the incoming Obama administration to take his place.
In a televised address to all NASA's facilities, Administrator Michael Griffin thanked the agency's 300 000 employees for their contributions over his four-year term to getting the space shuttle program running smoothly again after the calamitous failure of the Columbia orbiter in 2003, which brought the program to a halt. Pres. George W. Bush named Griffin, a veteran aerospace engineer, to the post in April 2005 to head the space shuttle recovery effort and to supervise the planning for NASA's future objectives in space as outlined in the president's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration.
Griffin today said that the professionals at NASA had a duty to support the next administrator as diligently as they had supported him, according to a published account online from the Associated Press.
"NASA will look great whether we're asked to return to the moon and establish a permanent presence there and go to Mars, as I think we ought to be asked to do, or whether we're asked to carry out some other task," Griffin stated. "If you can't support the agenda, then the proper thing to do is to leave," he added. "There are many different things that you could do with a $17.5 billion NASA civil space program. But what we can't do is squabble and fight."
President-elect Obama has not yet named a candidate to replace Griffin, but press speculation has circled around retired Air Force Gen. J. Scott Gration, who served as an advisor to the new president on military matters in the past.
The outgoing administrator told agency employees that he considered getting the shuttle program up and running after the Columbia disaster to be his greatest accomplishment.
"Nothing â'' nothing in the world â'' is harder than picking yourself up after a cataclysm like that and moving forward, and we've done it," he said.
Griffin, 59, was NASA's 11th administrator over its 50-year history. He is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the International Academy of Astronautics.