Seems Charlie Bolden got tired of answering the question, "So, is NASA dead now?" At least, that's my guess. Even many of my personal pals, who I always over-assume are fully educated about the space industry due to my friendship being inflicted upon them, have asked me, "What will NASA do? Are they folding? Is this the end?"
Why, did the International Space Station just blink out of existence? Did all of our satellites and space crafts suddenly fall out of orbit or stop signaling from around the solar system?
I am continually stunned at how many professed patriotic Americans are unaware to a large degree about this agency that largely makes their lifestyle possible. Even worse, why doesn't the American government understand the importance of the space program -- what it has done in the past and could accomplish again if leadership meant more than squabbly politics?
No idea how long this announcement by Bolden has been planned, but it hit the wire yesterday that NASA opened a new office for "deep space missions" -- although under this official umbrella, they are also including a trip to our nearby Moon. Yeah, remember the Moon? Just when I thought NASA, Spacetweeps and Wiccans were the only ones who remembered it was there! ;)
The new department will be called the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, with the unsatisfying acronym HEOMD. Not even a little catchy. And pardon the implied pessimism, but it will combine the skeletons of two previous organizations under the Space Ops administrator Bill Gerstenmaier, and attempt to define what is next for manned missions sans Space Shuttles.
Not envying Bill his job even a little. Or anyone with the title of "astronaut" right now. Seems even the Right Stuff isn't immune to job uncertainty.
Don't quit your day job. Oh, wait...
Despite naysaying by certain press outlets who have no facts and rely on speculation, the astronaut corps will remain intact, the ISS will continue operations under the newly created conglomerate, and, as always, a new heavy lift vehicle will be in the plans.
A great deal of pessimism surrounds this latter directive, given that construction and budgets are continually at the whimsy of rotating Presidents, and every new cabinet in the White House changes directions before any path is completed.
Nonetheless, the current administration committed to an asteroid visit, and a trip to Mars; with this newly created department, Charles Bolden announced that NASA was "recommitting to American leadership in space for years to come."
The idea here is that NASA will concentrate on human missions further out into the solar system, but pass the torch of been-there-done-that low Earth orbit to the private space industry... if they can produce results.
I grow weary of typing this phrase, but once again, Time Will Tell.