Friday, March 11, 2005

NASA honchos and exotic locales reports that Mike Griffin is the new head of NASA nominee. Griffin is currently head of APL at Johns Hopkins University, his bio shows a aerospace heavy background, with previous stops at APL, JPL, HQ, Orbital Sci Corps, and CSC. And, interestingly SDIO and In-Q-Tel (I always wondered what came of that little venture, some interesting stuff, I'm sure - looks like primarily "knowledge technologies" according to their website). Degrees from JHU and UMd and some DC area universities, and USC.

So, what does this mean. Don't know. has Griffin testimony on NEO hazards before the Senate. That's pitching for APL missions. More interesting is his 2003 testimony on the Space Plane. Hm, he testifies as In-Q-Tel COO, in summary, he wants to shut down the Shuttle, abandon the space plane (moot point now) and rely on wingless ballistic capsules on disposables, while the private sector develops reusable launchers. Ping. This sounds familiar. My old friends, the California Libertarians for Space strike again. Impressive. Not sure this will work, but looks like you'll now get to try it. 1999 testimony as Orbital person supports this. I guess the space cadets in the White House staff did their homework well. But in 2004 in a quote on he argues for shuttle-C for Mars exploration lift to LEO. Ouch, article on ResarchResearch quotes him as saying NASA should get more money, but that the Mars exploration should proceed even if it means taking money out of the space science (ie university research lines). Wah. This will not make him popular in certain sectors, and casts new light on the removal of the Congressional "wall" between exploration and science. This is 2003 testimony, before the official launch of the Moon/Mars initiative. Interesting.

I suspect the text book "Space Vehicle Design" by M. Griffin will become a required read this month. Available from your favourite online book seller in 2nd edition now, for a modest $100 or so.

So, what does this all mean... well Moon/Mars rocks on. Shuttle and ISS are dead. Spam in a can until the market comes up with a cheaper, faster, better Reusable Launch Vehicle, and a lot of pain for some space science sectors. Expect there will be some creative tension just east of the beltway and south of the Smithsonian.

Fun places to do science...

Space Telescope Science Institute - Baltimore, just off the JHU campus (top of the parking lot across from physics and astro). Fun place, best place for good conversation and surprise encounter at lunch, just be on time and grab a random table. Beware of the local hotels, legendary for their permanent six-legged population, stay up Falls road and drive down. For dinner, try to get a table at Helmands (Afghan) close to downtown 806 N Charles. Used to be for afficianados only, but became very popular with journalists after 2001. The proprietor is well connected. Fabulous food, I recommend the pumpkin for desert and Aushak lamb for entree (we tried to recreate the recipe for Martin Rees once, worked fairly well, but then my wife is amazing).


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