Obama Team Eyes New NASA Chief - InformationWeek
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1/15/2009
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Obama Team Eyes New NASA Chief

The space agency's current top executive has reportedly clashed with the president-elect.

A retired fighter pilot and U.S. Air Force general could become the next NASA chief.

The Wall Street Journal reported that retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jonathan Scott Gration is the top candidate under consideration for the post. Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said an announcement could come within the next few days.

Gration has no experience with NASA, but he does have military aerospace experience, according to the report.

If chosen, Gration would replace current Administrator Michael Griffin, who has been rumored to clash with members of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team.

A Florida newspaper reported that Griffin had demanded to speak directly with Obama after complaining at a party that the next president's space policy expert, Lori Garver, lacked qualifications to judge NASA's rocket program. The paper also reported that he coached employees on how to handle inquiries from the transition team and monitored inquiries.

NASA communications chief Chris Shank denied that Griffin argued with Garver and said Griffin did not tell employees to withhold information from the transition team.

Griffin has worked hard to promote NASA's rocket program, lunar exploration, and human space travel. The rocket program was recently dealt a setback when NASA announced that the launch date for the next-generation space shuttle and the Constellation's Ares rockets would be delayed until 2015, leaving a five-year gap in the program.

Gration has worked closely with Obama on national security issues and served as a space policy consultant to the campaign.

The appointment comes after Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin and others have warned that the United States could fall behind other countries in human space exploration without increased funding.

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