Bolden: No Lack of Consensus on NASA's Strategic Direction

Bolden: No Lack of Consensus on NASA's Strategic Direction

During the question and answer period following his keynote address at the American Astronautical Society’s (AAS) Goddard Memorial Symposium, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden expressed strong disagreement with the main finding of a congressionally-mandated study of NASA’s strategic direction that there is a lack of national consensus on the agency’s plans and objectives.

The National Research Council’s NASA’s Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus report concluded that there is an absence of a national consensus and a lack of evidence that a human mission to an asteroid “has been widely accepted as a compelling destination by NASA’s own workforce, by the nation as a whole, or by the international community.”

But, following Wednesday’s speech – which Bolden joked had been written particularly long to reduce time for questions — the Administrator responded with a quick and resounding “No” to the question of whether he agreed or not with the committee’s conclusion.

“All we can do is to present to people over and over and over again what the President and Congress have told us to do,” he said, naming the NASA 2010 Authorization bill as evidence of that consensus. Yet the bill does not actually include mention of a human spaceflight mission to an asteroid.  The goal to send humans to an asteroid by 2025, before heading to Mars in the 2030s, was instead announced by President Obama during a speech in Florida in April 2010.

Bolden was steadfast, however: “that’s what the President told us to do…what the Congress told us to do.” He added that “it is the right thing to do” and that he was excited about it.

In response to a criticism that has been made since the goal was announced that the specific destination asteroid has not been named, Bolden said that when President Kennedy announced men would land on the Moon before the end of the decade, he did not say they would land on the Sea of Tranquility.  “I can’t tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025,” Bolden asserted.

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