"NASA administrator Michael Griffin has told space station partners that the US agency has no plans for "utilisation and exploitation" of the science research lab for more than five years after it is completed, Dordain said."
Editor's note: In situations such as this, I just have to say: who cares what Mike Griffin thinks or says? Seriously. He will most certainly be job hunting in 15 months and a new Administration - and a new Administrator - will be making (or reversing) such important decisions - not Mike Griffin.
Reader note: I actually spoke to several European space program leaders while in Hyderabad last week, and the questions were certainly in the air: what about ISS? what about the Moon? What about the Vision for Space Exploration? What about Dr. Griffin's programs and restrictive policies on international participation in lunar infrastructures?
The single big, big reason that the Europeans (particularly those in ESA) have to care about Mike Griffin's plans and policies during the next 18 months has little to do with him, and everything to do with their own internal decision-making processes and schedules. Only once every 3 years is there an "ESA Ministerial Meeting"--the big decision making soiree at which budget decisions for the coming three years get made.
The next meeting of the ESA Ministers is in December 2008 (one month after the election in the U.S.). In preparation, during the next 12 months--long before there is a clue as to what might be the policies / plans of the next President, or the next NASA Administrator--ESA has to put together their policy proposals, program plans and budget estimates that will be binding through 2011 or so.
Basically, ESA plans for most of the NEXT adminstration in the U.S. get set in the next 12 months or so, and all they have to go on is Dr. Griffin's black-and-white, "my way or the highway" approach to international cooperation.
This extended decision making process makes ESA less agile than NASA, but it also makes it more stable--not changing direction every couple years. And it is causing them no little angst in laying out proposals for their big meeting next year. The current lack of insight into what direction the U.S. will REALLY be taking after 2009 will probably restrict their range of options significantly.