Administrator Michael Griffin was more than prepared when he answered a
question from a young lady who asked him, "Why does higher gravity
make things round?"
who described himself as "just an engineer that got a nice
promotion," gave a lengthy, technical answer to the question as he
appeared in front of a forum crowd Tuesday morning. Quite a number of
children were part of the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 crowd of 300 or so
at the forum, and he made a point of giving the kids priority as he took
questions from the audience.
made few remarks before opening the floor up for questions.
just want to say that it is a real thrill for me to be here,"
Griffin said. "Iíve been a pilot for some decades and, like many
of you here, was fascinated with flight in all its forms. When I could
afford to do so I took flying lessons. And when I could afford to do so,
I took more flying lessons to get my instructor rating so I could get
other people to pay me to teach them to fly."
who has spent his entire 37-year career in aerospace, said he loves
everything NASA does and that it is an honor for him to be the
administrator of the organization, especially this year as NASA
celebrates its 50th anniversary.
question for Griffin dealt with what the next 50 years hold for NASA.
amazing to think of what we can accomplish in the next 50 years if we
continue to get the kinds of budgets, in real dollar terms, that we have
been getting," Griffin said.
on to say he expects to have a permanent base on the moon in 15 years,
and expects a base on Mars in the early 2020s. He believes that if
current policies continue through future Congresses and presidential
administrations, NASA will have the necessary funding to get it done.
asked about the danger of radiation exposure during extended space
travel, Griffin admitted he didnít know what the solution to the
danger would be.
need to understand the radiation environment in deep space,"
Griffin said. "In the short run we plan to store the water we need
to bring along around the outside of the spacecraft since water is a
good radiation shield.
the long term we need to understand why the cockroach can take
[radiation] and humans canít. What is it in cockroach DNA that makes
it that way? We are not going to learn that on earth. We need to go to
space in order to study it."
Administrator Michael Griffin surrounded
by the Harmony Kids group from Monona, WI,
who helped name the Harmony node that served as the central hub
for the International Space
Station. From left are Mary Brackey, Elizabeth
Strauss, Miriam Syvertsen, Joy Farkas, Griffin, Margaret Brackey,
and David Dexheimer. David and his wife, Mary, and their
daughter Margaret attended the launch at the Kennedy Space Center
in October 2007. Photo by Hilary Lawrence
Many of the questions
centered on the impending shutdown of the shuttle program and progress
on the replacement Constellation program. Griffin shared that the
available funding did not make it possible to continue the shuttle until
Constellation is ready to fly. In the interim NASA will rely on the
Russian Soyuz system to supply the International Space Station and
transport its crews. He did say that he would prefer not to rely on
another nation to support our space needs, but the funding simply does
not support continuing to fly the shuttle while developing a replacement
asked about the reported vibration problems with the Constellation solid
rocket motor, Griffin offered that he was surprised at the reaction to
the reports and asked, "I wonder what the response should be to an
on to say a number of engineering answers to the challenge are under
development, and a meeting next month will choose the top two for
response to a comment that excellence is always expected from NASA,
Griffin added, "What we are doing here is exploring space; this is
rocket science, we are operating on the frontier."
was asked to speculate what he might do if the NASA budget were doubled,
a budget that in real terms would be comparable to the Apollo era
budgets. He answered in three parts: first, he would not put the United
States in a position where it had to rely on other nations for access to
space. He would extend the shuttle program and accelerate development of
the Constellation program.
he would develop significant new systems in parallel, much as happened
during the Apollo program.
finally, he would restore research funding to the levels seen early in
NASAís history. He would encourage more "blue sky" stuff,
some of which, admittedly, would not work.
country has benefited enormously in the past from the vision of
policymakers that understood that investment in science, engineering,
technology, and mathematics without a guarantee that it will work pays
off," Griffin said. "It does not all work, but for this
country most of it has worked, and has paid off enormously."
NASA does not have as
large a presence at EAA AirVenture this year as it has had in years
past, and Griffin was asked why that was. He said that was due to a
number of special 50th anniversary celebrations that are going on across
the country, but he fully expected NASAís usual display to be back