An engineer with a physics degree is President George Bush's choice to lead NASA. Bush's decision to nominate Michael Griffin to the job, announced 11 March, won immediate plaudits from both Democrats and Republicans, signaling that a swift confirmation by the Senate is likely.
But if he gets the job, Griffin will immediately face a host of difficult budgetary and programmatic decisions, ranging from whether to service the Hubble Space Telescope to whether the Voyager 1 and 2 satellites should be shut off as planned in NASA's 2006 budget request.
Griffin is as technically-oriented as his predecessor Sean O'Keefe was politically-oriented. Griffin once served as exploration chief at NASA in the early 1990s, was technical director of the Pentagon's missile defense effort, worked for a rocket manufacturer, started a company backed by the CIA, and now is head of the space department at Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. He is known as a low-key and methodical thinker who wrote a textbook on aerospace engineering. While lacking the high-level connections of O'Keefe, a protégé of Vice President Dick Cheney, Griffin is deeply familiar with many aspects of the space agency's work.
"I am pleased President Bush is sending us a nominee with a strong technical background," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who chairs the space and science panel on the Commerce Committee, said in a statement. "I look forward to his confirmation hearing and, hopefully, having a smooth nomination process through our committee."
No date for that hearing has been set.