The following is a column by space technology expert Jeff Krukin:
The political will to increase NASA's consistently paltry budget has consistently remained paltry since the years of Apollo. NASA was conceived to accomplish a national security mission, and without this imprimatur NASA has received infrequent Presidential attention.
Does the recent emphasis on retired military officers as the next NASA Administrator portend a return to an overt national security posture for NASA's manned space programs?
On Jan. 9, 2009 in "Is Greater NASA-Pentagon Collaboration Coming?" I wrote about the possible decrease in long-standing barriers between the U.S. civilian and military space programs. After reading Andy Pasztor's "Political Tensions Hamper Search for NASA Chief" in the Wall Street Journal last week I find myself wondering just how extensive NASA's military role may become.
Consider that a few weeks ago retired USAF General Scott Gration looked to become the next NASA Administrator. Now another retired USAF General, Lester Lyles, is a contender. And Sen. Bill Nelson has suggested yet another retired USAF General, Charles Bolden.
I imagine many who voted for Barack Obama did so because of their strong anti-war beliefs, so I wonder how they feel about a potential military man at NASA's helm.
And it must be causing a lot of thinking, and perhaps sleepless nights, in the capitols of our allies and adversaries who understand the economic and military value of space.
At this point it's all speculation, which can create as much space debris as the recent collision of U.S. and Russian satellites over Siberia. And like that collision, the long-term fallout remains impossible to predict.
Jeff Krukin is available to speak on issues related to space exploration and technology. For information on how to bring him to your next event, visit www.premierespeakers.com/jeff_krukin.