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(Cross-posted from Tipping Points)

In the days since the election, a few people have asked for my thoughts on the "transition" that needs to take place at NASA as the reins of power are passed to Barack Obama. While I would not pretend to be an expert on the agency as a whole, I think I may, in the years that it took to write Censoring Science, have developed enough of an understanding of the way the agency’s science effort has been "managed" under Bush, Cheney and administrator Michael Griffin to voice some informed opinions there.

Other reporters or bloggers always have their own deadlines and points to make, and ask me to squeeze my thoughts into a sentence or two. But my main recommendation here is controversial enough to require more than that. It must be supported by facts. Many relevant facts will be found in my book, and new crucial details were revealed in the report on censorship at NASA (pdf) that the agency’s own Office of Inspector General released this past June, six months after the book’s release. In Censoring Science, I reviewed facts and testimony that cast serious doubt on the administrator’s account of his own involvement in the censorship of climate science at his agency (he denied knowing anything about it), but I refrained from stating directly that I believed he was involved.

The new facts in the Inspector General’s report have changed my mind. I now believe that the preponderance of evidence shows that Michael Griffin not only knew what was happening while the single most egregious act of censorship—directed at climatologist James Hansen, specifically—was taking place, but that Griffin in fact authorized this activity.

This alone should be grounds for his dismissal. On top of that, the ignorance and outright animosity he has displayed toward science in general, climate science in particular, and even scientists as individuals (he has referred to them as children) should disqualify him from leading what was once arguably the most inspiring scientific organization in the world. There has been a brain drain during his tenure, and morale is low in the agency’s science mission. We should also remember that NASA’s climate science program, at more than $1 billion a year, is by far the largest of any single organization in the world, while Griffin's public statements indicate that he is remarkably ignorant of climate science and completely out of step with mainstream scientific thinking on the causes and consequences of global warming. It seems highly inappropriate for such an individual to lead such an important program.

NASA might have a chance to recover its prowess and inspire entire generations once again, but it has no chance, in my view, with Michael Griffin at the helm.

Why I believe Administrator Griffin helped censor Jim Hansen

Censorship at NASA makes for a long and dismal story. It began early in George W. Bush’s first term and was too widespread to cover even in a book. Michael Griffin inherited an active, though secretive, censorship program when he became administrator in mid-2005. The crucial series of incidents I will review here gave him his first chance to do the right thing, but instead of stepping in to stop the censorship, he helped escalate it. When Jim Hansen finally brought these incidents to light in the media more than six weeks after they began, Griffin and his top aides performed a deft public relations move, cut loose and scapegoated the young man who had been carrying out their orders, twenty-four-year-old George Deutsch, and managed to portray the administrator as a champion of scientific openness and integrity. The media and Congress then bought into this cynical and shameless ploy.

The crux of what turned out to be a short-lived clampdown on Jim Hansen (thanks only to his courageous resistance) was a set of directives laid out in two phone calls, one to Leslie McCarthy, the public affairs officer at Jim’s institute in New York, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and the other to Leslie’s boss, Mark Hess, public affairs chief at the institute’s parent organization, Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The first call took place late in the day on December 15, 2005; the second, the following day.

The drama on Thursday the fifteenth had begun with a story on ABC’s Good Morning America. In a short spot dedicated mainly to other things, correspondent Bill Blakemore noted that new data from NASA showed 2005 has having tied or broken the record as the warmest year in the history of instrumental measurement, that is, since the late 1800s. The basis for Blakemore’s statement was a routine analysis of the Earth’s temperature that Hansen and his group were planning to release later that day. It was not surprising news, since the six hottest years on record had occurred in the previous eight years. That same day, two other scientific groups that conduct similar analyses released similar results.

Hansen’s group had been publishing this type of analysis for more than twenty years without incident. This morning, however, according to many eyewitnesses, ABC’s brief newscast precipitated what came to be known as a "shit storm" at NASA headquarters in Washington. At about 5:30 pm, Leslie McCarthy in New York received the last of the many calls she received from headquarters that day. On the line were David Mould, NASA’s Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, the head of public affairs for the entire agency; Dean Acosta, the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs and Mould’s second-in-command; Mould’s assistant, Deputy Press Secretary Jason Sharp; and young George Deutsch, a recent hire in public affairs. All were political appointees. Part way through the call, Dwayne Brown, a career public affairs officer with more than twenty years at the agency, joined these four in Acosta’s office. They laid out to Leslie a number of new, restrictive rules on the dissemination of scientific information from Hansen’s institute. We’ll turn to the details in a moment.

The next day, Leslie’s boss, Mark Hess, was "directed to contact Mr. Acosta," in the words of the Inspector General. When Hess called and reached Acosta, David Mould joined in. Afterwards, Hess called Leslie McCarthy to compare notes. They agreed that they had been given more-or-less identical sets of rules. Since the rules were unprecedented and Hess and McCarthy had misgivings about them, they decided to summarize them in writing. (One of Mould, Acosta, and their fellow censors tactics was to work only by word of mouth so as not to leave a paper or electronic trail.)

On Monday, the 19th, Hess sent an e-mail to Jim Hansen’s supervisors at Goddard Space Flight Center. "At some point fairly soon," he wrote, "... I need to sit down with you and fill you in on the discussion both Leslie McCarthy ... and I had with David Mould and Dean Acosta." Hess later told me that the reason he sent this e-mail was to place responsibility where he thought it belonged. Acosta and Mould "were not going to put public affairs into trying to be the thought police," he said. "If there were legitimate concerns between scientists in terms of how NASA communicates what it’s doing, those are discussions that need to take place between scientists."

Indeed, NASA’s founding charter, the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, directs the agency "to provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof." "[W]e cannot reconcile that the Space Act would permit any purposeful obfuscation of scientific research by the Agency in any news dissemination forum as ‘appropriate’ under the Act," adds the Inspector General.

On Tuesday, the 20th, Hess sent an e-mail to Mould and Acosta, copied to Leslie McCarthy—in order, in the words of the Inspector General, "to memorialize the directions given during the teleconferences and to get written confirmation of these new directives." Since this oddly charming e-mail is the crux of the matter in many ways, I will quote it in its entirety:

David and Dean:

Leslie and I have been consulting on a summary of the discussions we had with you last week concerning the folks at GISS [Hansen’s institute] and how we should be coordinating with Goddard [Space Flight Center] and HQs [headquarters].

We took a crack at this, but before Leslie sits down with Dr. Hansen to go over these procedures, we thought we’d send you what she plans to talk to him about to make sure it captures all the information and activities you want provided to Leslie and from there on to you all.

It basically falls into three areas: interviews, web content and meetings—if we’ve missed anything, please let us know.

Any edits or other thoughts you have would be most helpful so that we can talk to Dr. Hansen about this as soon as possible. Also, I’m here throughout the holidays, so if you want to get together to discuss, before or after, just let me know a good day and time, and I’ll come down to HQs.

Best regards, and hope you both have a great Holiday.

Mark

PAO Procedures (to cover all scientists, including NASA civil servants and/or GISS contractors who receive NASA funding)

  1. NASA policy from the Administrator is that all calls or e-mails from the news media for interviews, comments or other information with NASA employees are to be immediately forwarded to the cognizant PAO [public affairs officer] for coordination with Headquarters Public Affairs. No comments or interviews should be granted until they have been coordinated and approved by the NASA HQs Science Mission Directorate and Public Affairs Office. If a reporter calls, or sends an e-mail directly to a NASA employee (or NASA funded contractor), the employee should immediately refer the call or forward the e-mail to the GISS PAO [Leslie McCarthy] who will work the request with [Goddard] and HQs. These requests will be forwarded to HQ Public Affairs who will in turn, work them with Drs. Mary Cleave and Colleen Hartman [the two most senior scientific managers at NASA]. Drs. Cleave and Hartman will have the right of first refusal on all interview requests. They will provide direction back to HQ on who will handle the interview. All interviews with NASA employees should be reported on fully via the HQ Public Affairs "On the Record" procedure.
  1. All content for the GISS webpage needs to be sent to Drs. Mary Cleave & Colleen Hartman, as well as HQ Public Affairs, for approval before posting. This includes the posting of accepted scientific journal articles, datasets, science briefs, and news/features.
  1. Dates of coming speeches, data releases, scientific meetings/conferences must be provided to the GISS PAO with enough advance notice to be able to keep HQ fully informed of any activities which may generate significant media coverage.

Let me draw your attention to the most important points here:

Item 1) "memorializes" prior approval and redirection of all media interviews with scientists and even gives the right to deny them. This was unprecedented in NASA’s fifty-year history. Reporters had always been able to contact scientists directly. This directive led to the most notorious outcome of this particular clampdown, when the agency prevented National Public Radio from interviewing Hansen during the same week that the phone calls took place. George Deutsch played the most active role in preventing the interview, explaining all along that he was acting on orders from Dean Acosta and top management. This was the main reason he was ultimately dismissed; however, the role of his superiors in preventing this interview was not mentioned in the news reports related to his dismissal.

Also, while this directive appears, at least, to keep control in the hands of scientists, Dean Acosta, a political appointee in public affairs with no science background, overruled Cleave and Hartman, the agency’s top two scientists, in the case of the NPR interview.

Item 2) provides for similar control of purely scientific information, published on the Web. (Again overruling Cleave and Hartman, Acosta kept the temperature analysis that had initiated the storm at headquarters off the Web for about a day.)

Item 3) generated much discussion, since it directs public affairs to monitor Jim Hansen’s every professional move—more plainly, to spy on him. Although most career NASA people were repulsed by this idea, he was in fact monitored for more than a year, until at least early 2007.

Most germane to the present discussion is the statement in item 1) that this new policy came "from the Administrator," Michael Griffin. The two phone calls were not the only times that Mould and Acosta claimed to be following Griffin’s orders. They made this assertion in other conversations during this time period as well. Even Mary Cleave and Colleen Hartman understood it that way. Given the importance of this issue and the many discussions at headquarters that took place on December 15th and for many days thereafter, it is hard to believe that the administrator would not have known that his name was being invoked.

Breaching the wall at Headquarters

Please bear with me as I step back and tell you a little about how I did the research for my book. (I am gratified, by the way, that the Inspector General’s report corroborates nearly every detail in the book that it bothers to address—although the book goes places the report seems to have avoided. More on that in a moment.)

My approach was to talk first to the folks lower down the totem pole at NASA, at Hansen’s institute, Goddard Space Flight Center, and headquarters, in order to build a timeline of what happened and of who knew what when. Since this revealed contradictions with nearly everything the agency’s senior officials had already told news outlets such as the New York Times, I figured I would encounter resistance as I moved up the totem pole. Still, I sincerely wanted the managers’ side, or sides, of the story. When I felt that I had the facts pretty much straight, I decided to start at the very top by speaking to the administrator himself. Unfortunately, Dr. Griffin opened our conversion by telling me a patent lie that he spent the next hour-and-a-half trying to support. He claimed that he hadn’t heard anything about the spot on Good Morning America on December 15th nor anything about any possible "communications problem" involving Jim Hansen until six weeks after the fact, when the Times broke the censorship story. I would not have been surprised had he told me he hadn’t known what Mould and Acosta were up to, specifically, but to say that he had been unaware of an issue that had dominated headquarters for at least two days and prompted two or three calls from the White House? An hour or so after the Good Morning America spot, Mary Cleave told Dwayne Brown that Griffin himself had received one of these calls. And at the end of that long day Dwayne had gone directly from a meeting with Cleave to the phone call with Leslie McCarthy. It was Dwayne who enunciated items 2) and 3) during that call, on the authority of Cleave and Griffin. George Deutsch later testified under oath to Congress (pdf) that headquarters had been deluged with media inquiries that day, and in another forum revealed that "NASA public affairs staff met with senior leaders at the agency to discuss the problems with Hansen, and the topic of firing Hansen was raised." Considering the uproar Jim’s firing would have caused in the news media, it is hard to imagine that Griffin would not have been involved.

It may have been a tactical error for me to talk to Griffin first, and I may have made another when I asked him if I could speak to a few of his top aides next, listing them by name: Mould, Acosta (who left the agency the day after I spoke to Griffin), Mary Cleave, and Dwayne Brown. Griffin recorded my conversation with him (as did everyone at headquarters) and by the time I reached the others, it seemed that they had been briefed. They kept their boss scrupulously out of the picture, in spite of the many holes and contradictions this created in their stories—Cleave being the least convincing. It took me five months to breach that wall.

By then I was focusing on another chapter in the censorship story—an earlier clampdown that had preceded the 2004 presidential election—in which a young political appointee whose name I had not mentioned to Griffin, J.T. Jezierski, had played a minor and essentially innocent role. Part way through the call, I realized that J.T. had been Griffin’s deputy chief of staff and White House liaison in December 2005. Not showing my cards, I asked casually what had happened in the administrator’s suite on December 15th. J.T. remembered the day very well. He told me he had received an irate call from the White House that morning. He added that the "sustained media presence ... of Dr. Hansen" was the dominant issue all that day and the next for every top official in public affairs and communications at the agency—himself, chief of staff Paul Morrell, strategic communications director Joe Davis, and David Mould—and that these officials also held extensive discussions with Michael Griffin during those two days.

Six weeks later, when the story surfaced on the front page of the New York Times, Sherwood Boehlert, Republican head of the House Science Committee, started an investigation. On February 14th, 2006, Valentine’s Day, Boehlert’s chief of staff, David Goldston, met with Griffin, Mould, and other top NASA officials in Griffin’s Washington conference room. It turned out that there was a fragmentary electronic trail: the inexperienced Mr. Deutsch had sent some damaging e-mails. In this meeting, the top officials hung Deutsch out to dry, saying he had done everything on his own and lied to them all along. With the help of the news media, this became the conventional wisdom: that a young, rogue, Republican zealot had gone a bit too far. Griffin soon issued a Statement on Scientific Openness that did, admittedly, work a change in his agency—and came off the hero. This is a despicable fallacy.

"Particularly troublesome to us," reads the Inspector General’s report, "is that when the denial of the National Public Radio interview became controversial, Mr. Deutsch’s leadership distanced themselves from him on this issue by not taking responsibility for any actions taken in connection with the interview denial. Instead, Messrs. Mould and Acosta intimated that Mr. Deutsch had acted alone in denying the request from National Public Radio, when, in fact, Mr. Deutsch was simply carrying out their orders or intent."

One of the more outrageous claims that Mould and Acosta made during the Valentine’s Day meeting was that they had never received the e-mail from Mark Hess, quoted above. They admitted to making the phone calls, but they also denied strenuously that the e-mail accurately reflected either the content of the calls or NASA policy. This, in spite of the fact that Acosta had told a reporter from Space News only a week earlier that the e-mail was "pretty consistent" with NASA policy. He and Mould claimed that they had merely asked Leslie McCarthy to give them a heads up whenever something potentially newsworthy appeared on the horizon. (She had in fact given them a heads up about the temperature study, but that’s another story.)

Michael Griffin defended Mould and Acosta at every turn. House staffer David Goldston told me later, "It was clear that we were never going to get a story that was vaguely believable to us, and Mike [Griffin] was not being helpful. His goal really was to make peace, but largely by defending his guys ... and when it became clear to me that he was not trying to be an honest broker in the meeting ... I just decided to give up."

Griffin told me that he saw no reason to punish anyone, because he never saw "a piece of actual evidence." This was again untrue. Deutsch’s e-mails, which circulated among many of the administrator’s top aides, frequently mentioned Dean Acosta and the involvement of others in the administrator’s suite on the ninth floor of headquarters. Still, Griffin and his ninth-floor bunker-mates managed to paint the disagreement between Mould and Acosta, on the one hand, and Mark Hess and Leslie McCarthy, on the other, as a "he said/she said" and thereby stymie the Congressional investigation.

Consider the following paragraph from the Inspector General’s report:

"Despite statements to the contrary that Messrs. Mould and Acosta made either singularly or collectively to NASA senior leadership and Congressional staff—where they denied receipt of [Mark Hess’s] e-mail—Mr. Acosta (or someone operating his equipment) received it. Our forensic examination of his computer reflects that he received it at 2:19 p.m. on December 20, 2005. Shortly thereafter, he forwarded the e-mail to [Jason Sharp] the Deputy Press Secretary (also a participant in the December 15, 2005, teleconference) with the comment, "Take a look at this and let me know what you think?" [The forwarding was actually executed on Acosta’s Blackberry.] At 2:55 p.m., [Sharp] responded with some rewording of section 2 of the original e-mail. So, while two people deny receiving the e-mail, ... the evidence shows that it was received by one of them. Even accepting the remote possibility that the properly addressed e-mail was not delivered to Mr. Mould’s account, or that he deleted it without reviewing it, we question whether it is reasonable to believe that Mr. Acosta (who was Mr. Mould’s subordinate and whose computer clearly received and forwarded the e-mail, and who shared a contiguous office suite with Mr. Mould), would never have discussed this e-mail with Mr. Mould—especially given the seriousness of the issues discussed." (Elsewhere, the report states that "it defies logic that Mr. Acosta would not have discussed this subject with [Mr. Mould].")

In the course of their investigation, the Inspector General’s staff interviewed all six participants in the December 15th phone call: Mould, Acosta, Sharp, George Deutsch, Dwayne Brown, and Leslie McCarthy. All but Mould and Acosta agreed on the content of the call—and, by implication, that the e-mail was accurate. The report also observes that Acosta and Sharp must have thought the e-mail was essentially true when they first received it, since Sharp made only one small correction.

The Inspector General’s forensic examination of Mould’s computer was "inconclusive." By the time of the investigation, Mould had used two computers at NASA. The first had been " ‘wiped’ and only a minimal amount of data could be retrieved from that system." The "second computer ... was also examined, revealing gaps in the stored e-mails" for the critical weeks in question.

In advance of the Valentine’s Day meeting, a staffer at the House Science Committee had re-typed Hess’s e-mail and sent it to Griffin’s staff for review. According to the Inspector General’s report, "[A]t some point after receiving a copy of the questioned e-mail ... Messrs. Mould and Acosta met alone with [Jason Sharp] to discuss the questioned e-mail." "We found this meeting ... to be interesting," the report continues, "in that [Sharp] was not on the recipient list for the original e-mail. ... [D]espite the fact that Messrs. Mould and Acosta denied receiving the original e-mail, they called a meeting to discuss this e-mail with the same person to whom one of them had forwarded the original e-mail."

Let’s face it, this is solid evidence that Mould and Acosta lied to Congressional investigators and to the news media. And they continue to lie. Acosta, as I say, has left NASA, but Mould has retained his position for almost three years now, since the clampdown occurred, and continues to enjoy Michael Griffin’s active, even ferocious, support.

I "find it interesting" that the Inspector General’s report only goes so far. It is a step in the right direction, in that it climbs higher up the totem pole than Griffin’s staff and the House Science Committee did when they blamed everything on a hapless young subordinate, but it stops sharply at the border of the office of public affairs—an office that has no operational authority. Now, instead of a rogue twenty-four-year-old, we have two rogue senior managers. Are we seriously expected to believe that Mould and Acosta decided to censor scientists all on their own? When I look closely not only at this series of incidents but at others that I cover in my book, I find that the report has been sanitized of every detail that would in any way point not only toward Griffin’s involvement and that of his aides outside public affairs but of the two White House offices that have directed the censorship of climate science at NASA and other federal agencies throughout the Bush/Cheney years: the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality. To choose the most blatant example, despite the crucial importance of Mark Hess’s e-mail, the report avoids quoting it with its damaging phrase "from the Administrator."

The report alludes to Mould and Acosta’s "mendacity." "In the face of strong evidence to the contrary," it reads, "the collective body of senior NASA Public Affairs Officials continued to deny to our investigators, congressional staff, and senior NASA management, the existence of any type of suppression, censorship or improper interference. (Mr. Acosta described such allegations as ‘ridiculous.’)"

It is not only NASA public affairs officials who have displayed mendacity. When I spoke to Michael Griffin in January 2007, he claimed that his staff had done a thorough internal investigation and found that no one at NASA, even George Deutsch, had done anything wrong. He even claimed that Deutsch was not disciplined, that his departure had nothing to do with censorship: "George was confronted with the fact that ... he had lied on his résumé and he resigned." When I reminded Griffin that his second-in-command, Deputy Administrator Shana Dale, had told the House investigators in Griffin’s presence during the Valentine’s Day meeting that Deutsch had been confronted with his e-mails and the lies he had told about them and fired, Griffin responded, "I don’t recall that."

I am actually impressed at how far the Inspector General’s report went, because there was every reason to expect a total white wash. As I reported in my book, e-mails indicate that the Inspector General himself, Robert Cobb, played golf with Griffin’s predecessor, Sean O’Keefe, and tipped him off about pending audits. Inside the agency, Cobb had a reputation for retaliating against whistleblowers and blowing their covers when his mandate was to support and protect them. A long investigation by the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency—during the Bush/Cheney years—revealed that Cobb had quashed a report on the Columbia shuttle disaster that would have been embarrassing to the agency. When the Council’s report led three lawmakers to call for Cobb’s ouster, Griffin defended him with the same argument he had used to shield Mould and Acosta, that the report did not "contain evidence of a lack of integrity on the part of Mr. Cobb." With his sanitized report Mr. Cobb seems to have protected Griffin and two White House offices, likewise.

I have spoken to dozens of people who were touched by the brutal censorship campaign that took place at NASA until Jim Hansen’s actions brought it to a halt. All but the political appointees were dying to tell their stories. They expressed many regrets, much pain, and a sense of shame that this had occurred at the agency they love. Few were vindictive, although many hoped that the bad apples might be removed, so that the atmosphere of fear and loathing would lift and NASA might recover its integrity. It seemed that it helped these people to be allowed to tell the truth, that it was a healthy exercise in truth and reconciliation. It is true that the censorship mostly ended after Hansen brought it public, but the lies continue to fester. An inquiry that calls the senior players, including Griffin, to testify under oath and the threat of perjury but without fear of retribution would probably help heal the deep wounds that still remain.

But, in any event, Michael Griffin must go. After deep reflection, I come to the conclusion that he almost certainly authorized the restrictive policies that David Mould and Dean Acosta delivered to Leslie McCarthy and Mark Hess by phone three years ago, and that these policies were rescinded two months later not because Griffin found them distasteful, but because his staff had been caught—and he might be, too. I suspect that the reason for Griffin’s continued radical stand in defense of his top two, obviously guilty, public affairs officials is that if a full investigation, scrutinizing all the details, were ever undertaken, his own responsibility for one of the most bare-knuckled acts of censorship during the Bush/Cheney years would be made perfectly clear.

Originally posted to Thin Ice on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 02:10 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  that's really disturbing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, xaxnar, pixxer

    It's time for a change regardless.

  •  wow. impressive work (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, xaxnar, pixxer

    Just reading your description about what you did to get the story. Excellent work.

    "President-elect Barack Obama" -- The title that thrills

    by auntialias on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 02:25:57 PM PST

  •  Although on the flip side (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, pixxer, axel000

    This guy doesn't seem to crash shuttles at the same rate as his predecessor. I guess he has saved us tens of billions and quite a few astronaut lives !

  •  Griffin wants to go to the Moon/Mars (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, dorkenergy, pixxer

    which should not be our priority right now. We need to focus on Earth science for a while. I say that as someone who has worked on satellites headed to both Mars and the Moon (and Mercury, for that matter), as well as earth remote sensing.

    Radarlady

    •  I couldn't agree more ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vcmvo2, Simplify, dorkenergy
      •  Hey Mark (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Uthaclena

        I do feel you are overly pessimistic when it comes to space development.  

        I am curious, and would be interested in your thoughts as to why you think space development remains a long way off.

        •  Good memory Ferris! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurt

          At the Netroots convention I think I said a thousand years. This is just a ballpark number, of course, but it still sounds right to me--maybe even low. What I was talking about in Austin, I think, was actual colonization: regular people living out their lives. "Space development" is a different thing, but I still think anything significant will take most of a century.

          All just opinions on my part, of course. I am reminded of a remark by Wally Schirra that I used as an epigraph to my book, "I left Earth three times, and found no other place to go. Please take care of Spaceship Earth."

          Space is a damn inhospitable place--and it's awful big.

          Great to have your comments.

    •  I disagree. (5+ / 0-)

      We can do earth science AND expand our reach into space.

      In the last few years, I think we've had some pretty spectacular unmanned missions...and kept the shuttle flying. In my opinion, not bad.

      And I've never been a fan of the shuttle...but right now it's the only manned vehicle we've got...

      When a government violates the unalienable rights of the people, it loses its legitimacy.

      by Rayk on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 03:06:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'll admit, I'm a big fan of Mars missions. (0+ / 0-)

        The shuttle I've regarded from the beginning as pandering to people who wanted show but didn't understand substance. It hasn't been without some returns, of course, but the science per dollar from human missions pales in comparison to the return from the robotic stuff.

        A goal of sending humans to Mars is to some degree a different story. It's fantastically expensive and dangerous, but would be another truly inspirational mission. And I suspect the cost is minuscule when compared to some other things we've seen lately, like bailing out AIG...

        Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40

        by pixxer on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 09:30:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Griffen too the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify

      words talking about our home planet out of the NASA mission statement.

      He must go./

      My loving marriage of 17 years is now a symbol of inequality and discrimination.

      by coigue on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 03:18:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have to disagree with an either/or approach to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bill White

      space.

      Thats a McCainism.  We can do more than one thing at a time using common technology.  The same development of earth science monitoring sats can be applied to sats sent to Mars, Europa, Titan etc.

      Government for the people, by the people

      by axel000 on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 08:42:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  if we want to solve the problems of climate (0+ / 0-)

      change, we need new areas to expand our economy, and our energy resources.  We need to use NASA to develop a space economy, even while we continue to do earth science.

      Its time for NASA to become a space developmental agency.  

    •  Not true (0+ / 0-)

      I was at a meeting where he was forced to defend his decision to cut funds for Moon/Mars in order to expand to the outer planets.

      His response to those who wondered what would happen to their jobs?

      Don't specialize.

      As if "scientist" was some sort of actual job, rather than a description of a huge, varied class of jobs.

  •  I have a different impression of Griffin. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White, axel000

    He's much better than O'Keefe. If he did bad things during the Bush administration...well, he didn't have the power to defy them.

    Griffin wants to go to the moon and Mars. I think we can have earth science and still expand our reach in space. I agree with Griffin on this.

    There will be plenty of folks in earth orbit in the next few years.

    Personally, I think that the administrator of NASA should be someone interested in space exploration and someone with the political skills to keep the programs going.

    Griffin, to my eye, is pretty good in both areas...unlike that useless bean counter, O'Keefe.

    When a government violates the unalienable rights of the people, it loses its legitimacy.

    by Rayk on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 03:04:43 PM PST

  •  Well, what I think is this.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, axel000

    Griffin certainly has done things of which I disapprove.

    So did Werner von Braun.

    But I think that von Braun did some great work for NASA. And while nowhere near as talented as von Braun, Griffin is better than average as a NASA administrator...at least in recent years.

    I certainly would be happy with someone else, just so that person had the right qualities for the job -- political skill, interest in space exploration. I believe we can balance earth science, planetary science and manned flights.

    Ideally, I would love a NASA closer to the old one --- a bold talented organization that takes chances...because spaceflight isn't easy or safe, and requires intelligent risk.

    We won't be getting that...the public is afraid of risk; but astronauts and engineers are up to the task.

    When a government violates the unalienable rights of the people, it loses its legitimacy.

    by Rayk on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 03:17:38 PM PST

    •  I don't think we disagree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vcmvo2

      although you seem to have a higher regard for Griffin's engineering abilities than I do. You may also be underestimating the amount of trust that has been lost with the science community, both inside and outside NASA. He's buried himself there on pretty much every side -- technical, personal, and fiscal -- and I don't think he can dig himself out of that hole. Maybe "we can balance earth science, planetary science and manned flights," but I don't think Griffin can -- nor that he even wants to.

  •  I never thought I would see the Space Act.... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, xaxnar, kydoc, Maverick80229

    ...cited in a diary but I am glad that you mentioned it. NASA has an an unusual and specific commandment, taken seriously within the agency, to dissemenate information about its activities. To that end, it basically gives aways its innovations in publications that help private enterprise benefit from spinoffs from space technology, responds completely and fully to information requests, has an active program with schools, and does its level best to get its science out there.

    Then along comes this. It really started with Dan Quayle, who hated NASA and was put in charge of keeping it in a box, privatizing it and spinning it off.

    NASA has one of the noblest missions of all governmental agencies: Pure science to promote giant leaps for mankind. To suppress that science is a moral crime, and against the agency charter.

    Tonight I'm going to party like it's 1929.

    by Bensdad on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 08:25:45 PM PST

  •  The lost years (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FerrisValyn, kydoc, Thin Ice

    As a long time advocate for space, it's really frustrated me to see NASA continually starved for funding, censored, and hobbled by bean counters with small minds. If just a tiny fraction of the money and effort that had gone into enabling Wall Street to invent bigger and better ways of playing games with money and blowing financial bubbles, well it doesn't bear thinking about. Don't even talk about what we could have had for the price of Bush's Iraq obsession.

    Now more than ever there will be voices crying to cut back NASA because we can't afford it, when in truth we can't afford NOT to invest heavily in basic research and R&D of all kinds. NASA in the 60's inspired millions, drove technological innovation - and recycled tax dollars back in to the economy in all kinds of places where they multiplied an a myriad of ways.

    After decades of glorifying brain dead celebs, sports stars, and rapacious corporate sharks, wouldn't it be a refreshing change to see our efforts and our adulation turned outward and upward again?

    The Moon and Mars are calling us back, but instead of retreating to expendable boosters, etc. I'd rather we put our efforts into building something like the shuttle was supposed to be, but never was. If we could just make access to low Earth orbit frequent, routine and affordable, we might finally start to see the promise of space begin to be realized.

    If we just funded the late Robert Bussard's Polywell reactor adequately, we could give our children the entire solar system. (Warning, PDF file)

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 08:54:00 PM PST

  •  Replacing Michael Griffin as NASA Administrator (0+ / 0-)

    and canceling NASA are two very different questions.

    Any President who terminates America's ability to put people in space shall hand his political opponents a HUGE cudgel to pummel him with.

    Imagine FOX News, Day 1265 of America's lost inability to fly people in space side by side with video from the most recent Chinese Shenzou mission.

  •  I think your diary reflects a terrible lack of (0+ / 0-)

    understanding of Michael Griffin.  That he knew of the censorship there can be no doubt - he did not.  That he is the right person to head NASA under President Obama - that is for our new president to decide.

    That the diary is deeply, horribly flawed is as clear as the fact that global warming exists.  

    Michael Griffin is one of those exceedingly rare individual who is actually smarter than 99.99% of the people who are in his field.  He would consider this his own personal failing, but has grown to accept it reluctantly but compensates for working twice as hard as the next closest individual. This is a guy who decided to take night classes in control systems and completed a third graduate degree while already the chief engineer of a major aerospace corporation - because he thought it would be interesting.  He is a man without guile, who believes fiercely in what he sets about to do and who is uncharacteristically frank and direct when he speaks.  

    His biggest flaws are that he often will speak as an engineer in public, and this causes great confusion.  He uses strawman arguments as naturally as others may use sports references.  He is often misunderstood when he does so, as is the case in the NYT article referenced above.  So when he challenges conventional thinking on what to do about global warming - it isn't because he hasn't thought about it, it is because the context that he thinks about it is so much larger than his audience that it is a completely failed communication.  The question from his point of view is whether or not the entirety of the issue has been looked at, not by simply doing the usual trades, but looking at EVERYTHING - when he says he thinks it arrogant to assume we know the answer it is because we are in the framework of which he thinks and speaks.  

    This is why he should not be in a position that decides that kind of issue.  However, it is the kind of thinking that you want applied to the task of getting to a specific goal, such as a permanent manned presence on the Moon and some day on Mars.  He is of NO use in my mind as to deciding if it is appropriate to do so.  That should be left to people like Barack Obama and other world leaders, not an engineer, even the most gifted ones.

    Obama/Biden '08 - I see a landslide in our future. Give here!

    by nsfbr on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 08:52:27 AM PST

    •  Just like Griffin and his fellow censors (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, Vladislaw

      you are not responding to the actual facts in my post or in the Inspector General's report, you cast the conclusions aside wholesale and go on to defend the man on the basis of his character. Sorry, that won't do. In order to keep this diary as short as possible (and I know it's too long as it is), I chose to focus only on one set of incidents and verifiable facts. I can tell you, though, that my conversations with many people at headquarters all pointed to the fact that Griffin must have known many of the specifics about the censorship attempt on the day of the "shit storm." Read my book.

      You seem to know him reasonably well, so you must also be aware that he is quite preoccupied with the public's perception of his agency and himself. For this reason alone it is almost inconceivable that he would not have taken an interest in a story that made global headlines, aside from the fact that it evoked the ire --- and a few phone calls -- from the White House that day. Furthermore, J.T. Jezierski's innocent remarks to me indicate unequivocally that Griffin lied. Please address these specific points before claiming he's a man "without guile." Give me a break. I can cite numerous disingenuous remarks he has made to the media over the years, including many that have nothing to do with censorship. He's not even that good a liar, actually. I don't think he's anywhere near as smart as he, or you, think he is.

      •  Griffin lost credibility with me when he ... (0+ / 0-)

        caved in. When he designed his last heavy lift he was against SRB's, it seemed to be something he was fundamentally against.

        Adding the design and development expense of not only a new 5 segment SRB for the Ares I, he doubled down and added a new 5.5 segment SRB for the ARES V.

        That was enough for me.

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