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New NASA Boss Seeks to Hasten Next Spacecraft

June 15, 2005|From Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA's new boss is changing his top officers as the space agency tries to meet President Bush's goal of sending astronauts to the moon in a decade or so and later on to Mars.

Administrator Michael D. Griffin, on the job for just two months, wants to speed up development of a shuttle replacement and is putting people in the job who share that objective. A NASA spokesman said Tuesday that such sweeping shifts are normal in changing regimes.

Toward that end, Griffin announced Monday that Doug Cooke, a deputy in NASA's exploration systems office, will take charge of the department in an acting position. He replaces Craig Steidle, who is resigning effective June 24.

Steidle, a retired Navy rear admiral, was brought in by former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe to head the newly formed exploration office in 2004, after Bush announced a new space initiative for the country.

The presidential plan calls for the three remaining space shuttles to be retired by 2010 and replaced by a new crew exploration vehicle that will begin flying to the International Space Station and, with modifications, ultimately carry astronauts to the moon and Mars.

The goal is to have astronauts back on the moon between 2015 and 2020.

Griffin, a rocket scientist who holds seven degrees, wants the new vehicle in place as soon as possible once the shuttles are retired, so the United States isn't left stranded without any means of launching humans. He finds unacceptable the four- to five-year gap in launches endorsed by O'Keefe, his predecessor.

O'Keefe, a budget expert who is now chancellor at Louisiana State University, would not have had the crew exploration vehicle ready until 2014.

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