NASA Chief Backtracks On Shuttle 'Jihad' Statement

Michael Griffin said he now supports the White House's timetable for introducing a replacement for the nation's aging space shuttle fleet.

K.C. Jones, Contributor

September 8, 2008

2 Min Read

NASA administrator Michael Griffin said in an e-mail to colleagues that the federal government's Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget are waging a "jihad" to retire the space shuttle. Griffin, however, later backed down from the criticism and issued a formal statement saying he supports White House policies.

Over the weekend, The Orlando Sentinel obtained and published the August 18 email Griffin sent as part of a discussion with advisors.

"In a rational world, we would have been allowed to pick a shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability, we would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than 'not later than 2014') and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so," Griffin said in the internal e-mail.

The Ares launch vehicle and Orion crew capsule are part of Project Constellation, a NASA initiative to build a manned space vehicle to replace the aging shuttle fleet.

"The rational approach didn't happen, primarily because for OSTP and OMB, retiring the shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision. Further, they actively do not want the [International Space Station] to be sustained, and have done everything possible to ensure that it would not be."

Griffin's explanation of the e-mail, released Sunday, said the leaked memo failed to provide context and it failed to reflect his White House support.

"The leaked internal email fails to provide the contextual framework for my remarks, and my support for the administration's policies," Griffin said. "Administration policy is to retire the shuttle in 2010 and purchase crew transport from Russia until Ares and Orion are available."

Griffin went on to say that the White House does not plan actions that would "preclude continued operation of the International Space Station past 2016."

"I strongly support these administration policies, as do OSTP and OMB," he said.

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