Keith's 6 Oct. note: NASA Watch sources report that this upcoming trip to China and then Indonesia is Charlie Bolden's idea first and foremost. The White House did not ask him to go to either country - nor do they want him to go. But he is going anyway. The trip to Saudi Arabia was similarly unrequested and unsanctioned as far as the White House was concerned. This begs the question in the White House and elsewhere as to why Bolden is focusing his energy on foreign trips at a time when NASA's domestic support is sagging. Moreover, there is growing concern within the White House as to why Bolden is not getting the message that the White House has been sending to him. Bolden's recent gaffs in the Middle East and ethics issues with Marathon Oil haven't exactly helped his relationship with the White House. Stay tuned.
"But it remains unclear whether Bolden is making his trip at the behest of the White House or on his own initiative. White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro declined to comment on Bolden's China visit and referred media queries to NASA. When asked about Bolden's trip NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage referred to last November's joint U.S.-China communique that calls for expanded discussions on human spaceflight cooperation. Cabbage said the trip "is being coordinated with all appropriate government agencies," even as a senior Republican lawmaker requested a security briefing on the visit before it happens."
"In an Oct. 5 letter to the NASA chief, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said he strongly opposes any partnership with Beijing that involves human spaceflight, including efforts to involve China in the international space station. "I need not remind you that no such planning or coordination has been approved by the Congress," wrote Wolf, the ranking member on the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that oversees NASA spending. "In fact, several recent NASA authorization bills have explicitly sought to place strict limitations on coordination with China."
Keith's 9 Oct. update: That's rather odd. The White House is normaly much more forthcoming on commenting on matters such as this given that a senior government official such as Bolden is going to China (and Indonesia and Viet Nam). Unless, of course, as is the case with this trip, this is not their idea and they'd rather that he not go on the trip in the first place. Relations between the U.S. and China are rather frosty right now. As such, you don't really want someone prone to public gaffs making a highly visible trip with media dogging him the entire time. Stay tuned.
U.S. Lawmaker Balks at NASA Chief's China Visit, Space News
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's plan to visit China this month for high-level talks about possible cooperation on human spaceflight has prompted a senior Republican appropriator to request a security briefing on the trip before it happens. In an Oct. 5 letter to the NASA chief, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said he strongly opposes any partnership with Beijing that involves human spaceflight, including efforts to involve China in the international space station."