Mike Griffin
John Hopkins University  /  AP file
Mike Griffin also told the hearing that he wanted to eliminate the lengthy gap between the current space shuttle would retire and when its successor would launch.
updated 4/12/2005 3:06:09 PM ET 2005-04-12T19:06:09

The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said today that he would push for swift confirmation of NASA Administrator nominee Mike Griffin with the intent of clearing him to report for duty Monday April 18.

Griffin said during his confirmation hearing before the Commerce Committee this morning that his two top priorities would be safe return to flight of the space shuttle fleet and eliminating the lengthy gap between retiring the shuttle fleet in 2010 and fielding a replacement vehicle, the Crew Exploration Vehicle now scheduled for its initial launch in 2014.

Griffin also said he would reconsider the decision by his predecessor, former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, to cancel a planned shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. “We should reassess the earlier decision in light of what we learn after return to flight,” Griffin said.

Griffin said that once the shuttle has flown successfully again for the first time since the February 2003 accident that destroyed the shuttle Columbia and killed its crew, he would review two options: sending a shuttle to refurbish the popular space telescope or mounting a simple robotic mission to de-orbit Hubble and plunge it into the ocean.

The option of sending a robotic spacecraft to refurbish Hubble with new instruments, batteries and gyroscopes is off the table, Griffin said.

With regard to the Crew Exploration Vehicle, Griffin noted that in the 1960s the Gemini program took only three years and the development of the Apollo capsule only about 6 years from award to fruition. He said 2014 is too far out for flying for the first time a vehicle he compared to the Apollo capsule.

“President Bush said no later than 2014. He didn’t say we couldn’t be smart and do it early,” Griffin told members of the Commerce Committee. "That would be my goal. It is unacceptable to me that it should take from 2005 to 2014 to do the same thing” the country did during the 1960s.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the chairman of the Commerce Committee, said he would try to get Griffin’s nomination out of committee and send to the floor of the Senate for a vote as early today. The U.S. Constitution requires the Senate to approve presidential appointments.

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