NASA's chief is fuming over what he calls a "jihad" by the White House to retire the space shuttle and delay the development of a new moon rocket.
In an Aug. 18 e-mail obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, which reported its contents yesterday, NASA administrator Mike Griffin says he is "as pessimistic as it is possible to be" about the space program.
When he took the helm at NASA in 2005, Griffin planned to retire the shuttle in 2010 to free up money for the Constellation program — a project set to build over the next three years a new generation of space vehicles that includes the Ares moon rocket and Orion crew capsule, according to the Sentinel. But budget constraints have extended that timeline to 2015.
Russia's invasion of Georgia last month may restrict NASA's use of Soyuz spaceships, leaving American astronauts without a means of transportation to the International Space Station before the new US spacecraft is ready. Congress has banned high-tech purchases from Russia because of that country's relationship with Iran, and lawmakers' exemption of space station-related purchases expires in 2011.
Griffin retracted his comments after he was contacted by the Sentinel. In a statement, he said the e-mail "fails to provide the contextual framework for my remarks, and my support for the administration's policies."
The White House had no immediate comment this afternoon on the Sentinel's report.
What do you think about Griffin's remarks? Is NASA losing the space race?
(Artist concept of Ares I and Ares V rockets by NASA)