NASA Administrator Names: Getting Stuck In The Rumor Mill

Keith's note: A cautionary note with regard to possible NASA Administrator names being circulated, self-promoted, and otherwise tossed around - from the Book "New Moon Rising" that the late Frank Sietzen and I wrote back in 2004:

"As the new Administration continued to fill in open positions, the job of NASA Administrator seemed to get scant attention. One name had circulated with some frequency in late 2001: former New Mexico Senator and Astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt. It wasn't so much that Schmitt was seen as an obvious answer as much as it was the fact that his name had been tossed into the round robin that the media tends to stir up at times such as this.

In this case this happened in an AP wire story just before Christmas. With everyone heading out of town, no one was around to knock Schmitt's name off the list. As such the story continued to circulate - and Schmitt's name stayed in play. People started to get used to hearing his name. Schmitt would later say that he had gotten several calls during that period - but that they were from mid- to low-level staffers that were seeking to confirm his location and how to contact him.

A rather humorous consequence of this way of circulating names occurred in January 2001. The National Air and Space Museum had hosted a special event honoring science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke and the film "2001: A Space Odyssey". Part of the festivities included a showing of the newly restored film at the old location of the Newseum in Rosslyn, Virginia.

Opening the showing was a taped presentation made several weeks earlier by Clarke at his home in Sri Lanka. Not knowing precisely who would be in attendance, Clarke had spoken to who he thought might be there. Clarke welcomed "Dan Goldin" adding "I understand your successor Jack Schmitt is there with you." This resulted in a large chuckle in the audience given that Goldin was not present - and Schmitt was - and he was as much in the dark about the process as anyone else.

The explanation for Clarke's comments may be what Space Frontier Foundation's Rick Tumlinson has suggested. Tumlinson had visited Clarke in Sri Lanka several weeks before and had given Clarke a lay of the land with respect to the political landscape. At the time Tumlinson was traveling Schmitt's name was still echoing in the media."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on November 18, 2016 4:54 PM.

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