Cleave cleft NASA science, but Stern to stem?

By Phil Plait | February 13, 2007 9:55 am

My feelings are on record about Mary Cleave, Associate Administrator at NASA for the Science Mission Directorate. She announced her retirement recently, and let’s just say I won’t be terribly sad to see her go. A lot of science missions were cut during her term.

What I am thrilled about is her replacement: Alan Stern (NASA just released this news, though I haven’t found it on their website yet.) Alan is a planetary astronomer and a fighter for unmanned science: as the Principal Investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto he better be! Having an actual planetary scientist in charge of Science at NASA is very, very promising. His career has depended on unmanned science packages, so that’s a plus in his favor as far as I am concerned (manned flight has enough political clout already).

I don’t know Alan personally, but I know many folks who work with him, and they speak very highly of him. He’s a go-to guy, and one of the hardest working people in the business. He’s also big on education and public outreach, which is something NASA sorely, sorely needs right now. Do we have someone in this role who will fight for unmanned science? Do I dare hope?

The news from NASA lately has been going from bad to worse (even with a potential increase in science funding in the budget, which I haven’t written about yet), but maybe, just maybe, the gradient may be heading to the plus side.


Comments (17)

  1. Schwaumlaut

    Wow, them’s some awful puns. I guess it had to balance the good news?

  2. Chip

    I’m jaded due to the recent years, with stories of politically appointed administrative backwardness and setbacks here and there in the otherwise high aiming NASA mix, but – this is encouraging.

  3. CR

    Yayyy! I, too, hope that this means good things for both NASA and for science in general! At least at this point, it seems things are taking an optimistic turn.

  4. Finally some hopeful news! FWIW, Mary Cleave was once an astronaut, and they generally tend to take a dim view of unmanned space — so the whole Dawn “thing” should have been no surprise to anybody.

    Stern, though, is definitely one of the “good guys.” Now we just have to hope that he won’t be shut out of decisions within NASA. The best of people can do little if nobody listens to them.


  5. Irishman

    Sam Wise, you are correct. I wasn’t aware of that.

  6. Rich


    I’m surprised to see an add for “clean” coal on your site. Here in Texas we’re battling a proposal to build 11 new coal-fired electrical plants. The obvious concern is that even the cleaner plants still emit more CO2 than natural gas (and probably other fossil fuels as well) – so clean coal is still an oxymoron compared to other choices. Please don’t let this good blog become a platform for energy company propaganda.

  7. Shawn S.

    Phil you gotta quit hanging out with Seth Shostak! He’s rubbing off on you!

  8. Rich, the ads are delivered by Google. I can filter some out, but a lot of nonsense gets through.

  9. Laguna2

    Phil cannot influence what Google places as advertising.
    Its a bot that places it in context of the pages content.
    I doubt Phil is very enthusiastic by Advertisings like
    “Free Bible Courses” and “The Messiah has returned” either.

  10. DaveG

    Yes, this sounds like excellent news! Good to see the old bag go. Now maybe NASA will start making some progress with someone like Alan in control.

  11. abdeelmd1

    Maybe Cleave had to drive somewhere to change her diaper. :^)

    Is Stern a good choice? Or in six months will we be stealing Erno’s nose?

    Wonder who gets that ref.

  12. Buzz Parsec

    I think the “preparing the nose for cloning” scene was stolen directly from the 3 stooges. Woody, shame on you!

  13. MERman

    I don’t think they knew about cloning in the 3 Stooges era, Einstein.

    Since Stern obviously won’t have time to devote to NH, who is going to run that now? Obviously the Pluto probe was just a stepping stone to bigger and better things in NASA adminstration. Makes you wonder how much he really cares, or do they all end up becoming politicans when you get your money from the Government? Can you say Faust?

  14. Irishman

    MERman said:
    > Since Stern obviously won’t have time to devote to NH, who is going to run that now?

    Obviously? Besides, NH isn’t due at Pluto till 2015 – I think he has a few years.

  15. Isn’t it marvellous to hear great news for a change!

    I don’t mind the puns either.

    Just hope things don’t go too far in the other direction in terms of manned and robotic probe exploration – we need them both – we need to fund them both and not that no-expletive-suffices-enough illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq and the funding to the Terrorist government of Israel as it continues to violate UN resolutions, human rights and general principles of Humanity inits continued ilegaloccupationof Palestine and parts of Syria.

    Fund Space NOT war!


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