I’ve noticed a lot of impatience in the blogosphere over the lack of an Obama pick for NASA administrator. Some people have even been pining for Mike Griffin to take the reigns again (as much of an unmitigated disaster as that would be). Personally, I would recommend patience. I’d rather Obama take his time and pick someone creative and open-minded, someone who can really turn NASA around. Another pick like Griffin would probably do irreparable harm to NASA (all in the name of reliving their glory days).
NASA needs a change. Right now it does do some good work, but compared to the opportunity cost of how it’s doing things (and how much we’re paying for it to do things), it isn’t even remotely worth the money it’s getting per year. Sure, $17B times the dot product of NASA’s trajectory, and what needs to be done to create a spacefaring society is still a decent sum of money. But in spite of bright spots like MER, COTS, Centennial Challenges, and a many other excellent programs and projects, a large percentage of the money appropriated for NASA every year is not being used in a way that aligns with the benefit of the nation as a whole. If NASA wants to live up to its true potential, there are probably going to be many painful changes. And it’s going to take some unique talents and lots of patience to effect those changes. Especially in the face of parochial interests.
That’s why I think it’s a pity that Isakowitz is out of the running. He sounded like someone really capable of navigating NASA through these times. I do have to say that I’m actually pleased with Obama (for maybe the second or third time since January 20th), seeing as how he as at least shown enough huevos to not completely get rolled by parochial interests that care more about maintaining the status quo than actually doing anything useful in space. Here’s to hoping for a pleasant surprise when he finally makes his pick. Until then, I’m going to be patient.