Editor's note: As has always been the case, when NASA's next Administrator has been under consideration, rumors fly, names are floated (some sane, some wacky), rumors abound, unsuspecting people suddenly see their names online and get annoying phone calls late at night at home and ... well, you know the process. Usually, none of this is close to correct.
A blog posting by the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday has exploded into a series of un-sourced stories that suddenly proclaim former astronaut Charles Bolden as the front runner to replace outgoing Administrator Mike Griffin (spousal petition campaign not withstanding).
As they say, nature (and the news) abhors a vacuum.
Let's take a deep breath.
First of all, Mike Griffin is toast (sorry Scott and Becky, game over). Second, President-elect Obama has a broad plan. Alas, NASA's role in this plan is only partially colored in. Despite wild ruminations about what the Transition Team at NASA does or does not do or want, many things remain in limbo.
That said, Charlie Bolden is an A-1, five star class act. At some point I will convey a seemingly innocuous encounter I had with him 20 years ago in Building 4 at JSC which, to me, speaks volumes about the man. Sean O'Keefe sought him out to be his deputy. Pentagon politics thwarted that plan. NASA's loss.
This may all be media hype. It may also be spot on. One thing is certain, Mike Griffin is leaving. Obama has a plan. I can see a clear path wherein Bolden is a player at NASA. His post-NASA career speaks volumes to his leadership capabilities.
Let it happen as it needs to happen, folks. Look forward, not backward.
This could be good. Very good. You can buy engineering smarts by the yard. Yet true leadership is much harder to find, and trumps engineering smarts 7 days a week. This is more than being the smartest guy in the room. It is about knowing when this is - or is not - the case. Oops, Mike Griffin never installed that software.
In the final equation, Mike Griffin is just dime-a-dozen hired help. In contrast, Charlie Bolden is a much rarer breed: NASA at its finest.
NASA needs a Kirk in the captain's chair, not a Scotty.