Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin concluded this year’s Von Braun Space Exploration Symposium in Huntsville on Friday with a candid assessment of his former agency’s purpose and a sobering message for the younger generation. According to Griffin, “NASA is a national security program.” He emphasized that every aspect of the public space program is centered around the United States’ position in the global arena.
While acknowledging the scientific accomplishments like the Hubble telescope, Griffin made it clear that even these projects serve a national security purpose. He stated, “Hubble is a national security program. It’s about asserting our superiority over others.” Griffin pointed out that during President John F. Kennedy’s time, the goal of going to the moon was to demonstrate the superiority of the American way of doing things, and today, the threat is China.
President Xi Jinping of China frequently asserts his intention to make China the world’s superpower, according to Griffin. He warned that China’s presence on the moon while the United States struggles to get there would have profound consequences for the world order. Griffin expressed his desire for the United States to be there to greet China, not just watching them on TV.
Griffin reflected on an old essay he wrote for Aviation Week & Space Technology, acknowledging that while he had some points right, he realized that having more funding, like during the Apollo years, doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. He noted that NASA had more money during his tenure as administrator and continues to have a substantial budget today.
Regarding NASA’s plans for the Artemis mission, Griffin expressed skepticism and outlined several challenges. He criticized the development time of the Space Launch System, which took twice as long as the Saturn V. He also questioned the logic behind the lunar gateway space station, stating that it doesn’t make sense for the country to build three crew vehicles that can’t operate in lunar orbit without assistance.
Griffin’s remarks marked the end of the symposium, which convenes experts in aerospace, government, and academia to discuss various issues related to space programs. The event is sponsored by the American Astronautical Society.
Got questions about Huntsville? Use this form to Ask the Lede.
[Ask the Lede form]