Mike Griffin
John Hopkins University  /  AP file
Mike Griffin is currently the head of the space department at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory.
updated 4/13/2005 9:48:49 PM ET 2005-04-14T01:48:49

Michael Griffin, a physicist who has worked in space programs both private and public, was confirmed Wednesday by the Senate as the 11th administrator of NASA.

Griffin, 55, will leave his job as head of the space department at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory. He replaces Sean O’Keefe, who resigned in February after three years to become chancellor at Louisiana State University.

“Dr. Griffin’s extensive background in space and science will serve him and NASA well,” Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement following the vote. “Dr. Griffin’s first task will be to ensure that the shuttle program gets back on its feet safely and effectively. NASA needs its next administrator immediately.”

President Bush’s nomination of Griffin to head the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was confirmed by the Senate by voice vote. The Senate Commerce Committee had forwarded the nomination to the full Senate after generally glowing reviews of Griffin’s background and vision for the space agency.

Lawmakers had sought swift confirmation to put Griffin in charge before the next space shuttle mission, which is schedule for May. No shuttle has flown since the Columbia disintegrated over Texas in February 2003.

“The United States needs to look in new directions and look beyond where we have been in the last several decades,” Griffin told the panel during a hearing Tuesday.

Griffin expressed unreserved support for Bush’s call for humans to return to the moon in the next 10 to 15 years and for human exploration of Mars and beyond. However, he said having the space shuttle service the International Space Station did not qualify as a good risk for human space flight.

Lawmakers urged Griffin to save the Hubble Space Telescope, which is running down and needs repair — a costly mission not without risk to astronauts. He said he would reassess the possibility of a manned mission to the telescope after shuttle flights resume.

Griffin, who holds seven degrees, joined Johns Hopkins in 2004 after serving as president and chief executive officer of a CIA-funded enterprise that worked on national security projects.

His career has included work with Orbital Sciences Corp. and with NASA as chief engineer and associate administrator for exploration.

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