Senate OKs Griffin as NASA head

Hopkins rocket scientist's first task will be getting shuttle program off ground

April 14, 2005|By Gwyneth K. Shaw | Gwyneth K. Shaw,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Senate confirmed Michael D. Griffin - head of the space department at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory - to be NASA's 11th administrator last night.

Griffin, 55, replaces Sean O'Keefe, who left the agency earlier this year to become chancellor at Louisiana State University.

Griffin has a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland and five master's degrees. He has worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration before - including as its chief engineer - and for the Defense Department, in its Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. After leaving the government, he worked for several private firms, most recently at In-Q-Tel, a venture capital organization funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.

His nomination, announced by President Bush a month ago, proceeded with lightning speed. At a confirmation hearing on Tuesday, several senators expressed the desire to put Griffin to work quickly, in time for the scheduled launch of the next space shuttle mission, now slated for the next month.

The launch is the first since the Feb. 1, 2003, loss of the shuttle Columbia.

Sen. Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who leads the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement last night that the immediate need for a leader at NASA was behind the decision to push Griffin to the floor without a formal vote from the committee.

"Dr. Griffin's first task will be to ensure that the shuttle program gets back on its feet safely," Stevens said.

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