UPDATE: Griffin Blasts Obama on Human Spaceflight

UPDATE: Griffin Blasts Obama on Human Spaceflight

UPDATE: Here is a link to a YouTube video of Griffin’s remarks in Huntsville. Thanks to the reader who sent it in.

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has put down in writing what he was reported as saying during a panel session in Huntsville last week.

In an op-ed for today’s Space News, Griffin blasts the Obama Administration’s handling of the U.S. human spaceflight program. He accuses President Obama of having no interest in human spaceflight until during his campaign for President he “realized that he had to win Florida” and “changed his tune.” Thus it should be no surprise, Griffin argues, that, once elected, Obama cancelled the Constellation program and has repeatedly ignored laws passed by Congress to build a new Space Launch System (SLS) and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) instead.

Griffin initiated the Constellation program during his tenure as NASA Administrator under President George W. Bush to implement Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration. Its goal was to return humans to the Moon by 2020 and someday send them to Mars. President Obama proposed cancelling Constellation in February 2010. Following months of intense debate, Congress agreed, but only after Obama agreed to replace it with the SLS/MPCV program.

Griffin attacks virtually every aspect of Obama Administration’s management of the human spaceflight program, especially what he calls a “smear campaign” against SLS. Charging that the Administration “is focused on killing human spaceflight by the death of a thousand cuts,” he nevertheless hails “some true heroes at NASA who are clearly focused on affordability and sustainability” and “should be commended for their innovation and their approach, which is closer to what Congress approved and the president signed into law.”

Griffin was quoted by the Huntsville Times last week as making similar comments during a panel discussion moderated by Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle. Griffin is currently Eminent Scholar and Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

In his op-ed, Griffin icily rejects a claim published in the Orlando Sentinel that the SLS would cost $38 billion. Although the headline of that Orlando Sentinel article did assert that $38 billion “could be” the cost for the “new moon rocket,” the text of the story was about SLS and MPCV combined. Regardless, Griffin claims that such data would be available only to NASA’s leadership and releasing it was an example of “the tiresome Washington game of leaking a highly biased story in order to set the terms for an upcoming debate.” He ends his commentary by saying “Let the games begin.”

The Senate has subpoenaed NASA documents relating to the SLS program because NASA has not provided them voluntarily. The House Appropriations Committee marked up the FY2012 appropriations bill that includes NASA in July and increased the amount of funds that would be available for SLS and MPCV compared to what the President requested. It cut the amount for the commercial crew program that the Obama Administration champions. The full House has not acted on the bill yet, nor has the Senate.

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