I think that it’s pretty much a fait accompli that someone will, and probably in less than three weeks. On The Space Show on Sunday, David Livingston asked me if I’d heard any rumors who might be the next administrator. I told him that the only name that I’d heard (and not from any off-the-record discussions) was Charlie Bolden. Bobbie Block has a blog post up now confirming him as a front runner.
I have no idea, assuming that he is in fact going to be chosen, and accepts, what this would mean for the agency, or my own desires for its future direction. The last time we had an astronaut as administrator (Dick Truly), it was kind of a disaster. He basically went to war with the GHW Bush administration over the Space Exploration Initiative, going so far as to send his congressional liaison over to the Hill to lobby against it, in preference to focusing on the space station, which eventually got him fired and replace by Dan Goldin (frying pan, fire). One shouldn’t draw grand conclusions from a single example (though many love to do so with Apollo, Shuttle, and ISS), but we have one unfortunate result of our one experiment with an astronaut administrator.
The other candidates mentioned are Scott Hubbard, Sally Ride (another astronaut, of whom I have good reason to think would be a disaster, from my point of view, because she doesn’t seem to share my own space vision based on past statements and activities), Wes Huntress and Alan Stern. Of those four, the only one that I can say right now that I’d like to see get the job is Alan Stern, based on his past comments about needing to harness private enterprise much more than the agency has been. For what it’s worth, Keith Cowing claims that none of them are interested in the job, with the possible exception of Hubbard.
What I found interesting though, is the last bit:
The current head of Obama’s transition team, Lori Garver, is hoping to be deputy administrator.
Lori has told me herself that she has no interest in being administrator, so this is consistent with that, at least. But I think it would be a mistake. I actually think that it’s more important for the deputy to be technical, with technical management experience, whereas the administrator need (even, perhaps in light of the Griffin experience, should) not be. The deputy is sort of like the COO of the agency, managing daily operations and coordinating the centers. The administrator is more like the CEO, and should be laying out strategy, and interacting with the public, White House and Congress. So while not necessarily endorsing her for either, I actually think that, assuming I had to make a choice, she’d be a better pick for administrator than deputy.