Mike Griffin's wife pleads for his job

By Phil Plait | January 1, 2009 4:00 pm

In the "Wow, this is really awkward" department, NASA chief Mike Griffin’s wife has sent out an email pleading for people to sign a petition for her husband to keep his job.


She sent this to friends and family, urging them to sign an online petition that will get sent to Obama. First off, most online petitions aren’t worth the paper they aren’t printed on. Maybe this one will bear weight, who knows. At the time I write this it has over 2000 signatures.

But second, she had to have known this would become public. It’s pretty unseemly to have this happen; it’s not normally done for political appointees to ask to keep their jobs in a public way, and to have your spouse do this is a even weirder. Had it remained private that would be different, but she sent this note via email, basically guaranteeing it would get out. The petition, it should be noted, was not started by her, but by former NASA Associate Administrator Scott Horowitz.

Third, I find it hard to believe that Mike Griffin himself didn’t condone this, either actively or passively. It’s possible she didn’t tell him she was going to do this, but she had to have found out about the petition first, and then sent that email. It doesn’t seem likely that she would keep that info from Mr. Griffin. And if she did, then the misjudgment lands at her feet, not his.

As I’ve said before, I’m ambivalent about Griffin. He’s done some good things and some bad things. His tendency to wildly spin stories bugs me a lot, but when it comes down to brass tacks he’s done a lot of good for NASA. I can’t imagine this will help his chances, as it might leave a bad taste with many politicians. We’ll see.

Tip o’ the spacesuit visor to Levi Tooker.


Comments (43)

  1. Dang, wish I’d’ve thought of this before getting laid off.



  2. Change can be good. If you need a petition to save your job maybe you shouldn’t have that job. But still, he hasn’t destroyed NASA, but he hasn’t done anything radically awesome either. Would Buzz Aldrin make a good head of NASA? I hear he delivers quite a punch! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOo6aHSY8hU

  3. Levi in NY

    Woohoo, I got mentioned on the blog of the JREF president! I feel famous now. :)

  4. I have nothing against the guy, but fresh blood in a position can be a good thing.

  5. Bill

    The email was first posted on NASAWatch nearly a week ago …. http://www.nasawatch.com/archives/2008/12/vote_to_keep_mi.html

  6. Wildride

    You know, if there’s one thing politicians hate, it’s people who go around publicizing their desire to fill or retain a job, and gathering public support to that end. It’s just so unseemly.

  7. Jeffersonian

    So, the petition wasn’t actually made by his wife, has the email been verified?

  8. It’s just so unseemly.

    It’s not logical, but for many positions, it is unseemly, at least the “going public” part. Though I’m not sure how public this was supposed to become. My guess is, not very.

  9. Nemo

    Is there not some opposing petition we could sign? I.e., “President Obama, please fire Mike Griffin”?

  10. Nemo

    N/M, I see that there is. (Follow Bill’s NASAWatch link, above.)

  11. Nemo

    Direct link to the “fire him” petition:


    Currently way behind… let’s get those numbers up! :)

  12. SLC

    I think that President Obama should appoint Bob Park as director of NASA to clean up the mess over there.

  13. Gonzo

    Though I’m not sure how public this was supposed to become. My guess is, not very

    Uh, not to be a jerk or anything, but they put a petition on the Internet, there is absolutely no way anyone involved thought that this wouldn’t become public.

    Unless they’re all 22 year old college students. And in that case, they would’ve used Facebook.

  14. Seems to have backfired with folks filling in negative comments.

  15. Gary Ansorge

    Leaving a “bad taste” with politicians is not my concern. I only want to know if, on balance, Mike has done a reputable job for NASA and the development of our space going capabilities. If he has, then he SHOULD be retained. No politicians need apply. One thing in Mikes favor,,,he has six or seven degrees and is a hard nosed engineer. From his mis-comments in the media, it’s pretty obvious he really doesn’t give a damn about politics,,yeah, now THAT’S my kind of man.

    SLC: I have little use for a neo luddite like Bob Park,,,

    Gary 7

  16. Mike Griffin, like many others, serves at the pleasure of the president. His wife is trying to tie the President’s hands in a way that smacks of what the Republicans are promising to do to block any reforms put forth in the new year, well before the President and new senators and congresspeople take their seats in January. THAT is unseemly, distasteful, and shouldn’t be condoned. Mike’s wife is naive at best and comes across scheming at worst… it’s very “dog in the manger” and I don’t think it should be honored with anything more than a “thanks for your opinion” from the Obama administration.

    I don’t care for Griffin’s handling of many things at NASA, but even if he were the best thing to hit NASA HQ, his job isn’t sacrosanct — it’s Barack Obama’s call to appoint who HE thinks best for the job, not Mike Griffin’s wife, or that of a disgruntled former NASA exec. Hubris is an ugly thing.

  17. Didac

    Begging for your job is the worst way to keep it. Begging for tools for performing your job in an excellent way is not only advisable buy it’s a duty… even if these tools are only in the benefit of your successor…

  18. Buh-Bye Griffin…..

    You lost a shuttle with lives aboard (for no real reason), you whined in the press about “blogs” criticizing you (weak man, weak), you’ve continued to create the obnoxiously useless and wasteful ISS, you have epically failed to tell what NASA is doing for public right now, you’ve lost control over scientifically useful missions like the MSL, and you are continuing to promote going back to the Moon (which is a fantastically idiotic idea – I bet things have changed up there a lot since we were there 40+ years ago- your manned Mars idea is, to your credit, even dumber). I’m not going to make fun of you for having your wife do what she did, it’s amazingly embarrassing, but really, she knows it’s probably your only chance.

    Mr. Obama- Please put in somebody that will kill off this stupid manned space program that has no clear goals or barely any scientific benefit. Then have that person re-direct all of those wasted resources into-

    1- Launching fleets of next generation telescopes (Gamma Ray, Infrared, X-Ray, etc.)
    2- Developing even better robotic probes to send to Mars, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and any place else interesting in this solar system
    3- Launching sample return missions to those places
    4- Sending probes to the most interesting comets and asteroids
    5- Develop an international monitoring system for tracking possible Earth impactors (and fund how to actually deal with them)

    Wow there is a lot to do and a universe to discover! Please fire the whiner in chief and get somebody that can put NASA back on track as the lead agency in the world for promoting scientific discovery. Or you could keep him and get the benefits of yet another moon rock. Those are really great. Honestly.

  19. Cheyenne

    Real epic fail on my part. I take back and apologize for the sentence about Griffin losing the shuttle. There are about 100 wrongs in saying that…..should have re-read before posting.

  20. Gary Ansorge

    Now you’ve gone and done it, tweaked my bell,,,

    Humanity: a highly successful species that seems bent on its own destruction. Regularly destroys millions of acres of forests and their attendant complex ecosystems to plant sugar cane for conversion into automobile fuel. Currently exceeds the regenerative carrying capacity of their planetary ecosystem by about 200 %. (ie, we have about 4 billion more people on earth than the ecosystem can effectively support). The “logical” solution to this problem of excessive fecundity is war, famine or plague to reduce their numbers however, since this would likely cause technological collapse and starvation of the remaining 2 billion(estimated eco carrying capacity for tribes of hunter gatherers is about 20 MILLION humans world wide), the most HUMANE solution is for humanity to get the heck off their planet, take their techo, civilization somewhere the effluents will not be significant to any other life forms and spread life to the stars,,,now, that’s a NOBEL aspiration(from my POV) and I don’t care how hard it is, it must be done.

    GAry 7

  21. Cheyenne

    Gary – I’m not going to defend the way we have been living on this planet. Quite frankly, looking at all of the wars and famine and…..ugh, I’m not going to go too far down that road. We (humans) suck at times. But we can do better. And will do better.

    The Earth is an extraordinary planet. Best in the universe. We won the cosmic lotto living here. We need to take better care of it. There is absolutely no freaking chance that 7 billion, or even just 2, people will be able to live on any other rock in this universe for eons. Just launching unmanned probes to Mars fail 70% of the time. People watch shows like Star Trek and Dr. Who and get into this nonsensical idea that we’re going to be cruising around the universe in these enormous spaceships for long periods of time. It ain’t gonna happen. It really, really ain’t. It’s fun fiction but it’s fiction.

    So let’s look at NASA and what the US is doing on the manned mission front with an honest cost/benefit calculation. We do get some technology and science advancement from manned missions but it’s weak and costs way, way too much (and please, the next person that says – “Yeah but look at the Iraq war costs so we should have manned missions!”…step down the line).

    I want to know if there is life in this solar system (even just bacterial like), if there is life outside of this solar system, if there are other Earth like planets out there, what dark energy is, what dark matter is, how the universe began, how it will end, and about 20 other questions like that. Sending people into low earth orbit is so frakkin useless in finding things like this out it just boggles the mind that we continue to do this. I wish we could be a space faring species but we aren’t going to be if we’re honest with ourselves (at least, not in the way that people think). So let’s cut this stupid garbage out and instead be the species that figures out everything that we can about this universe is what I say.

    People want inspiration? Sample return missions from Enceladus and Europa’s ocean. Finding earth-like planets with a mission like Terrestrial Planet Finder. Finding life that arose independent from earth anywhere (HOLY FREAKING GAZANGA!). How’s this for the boredom factor? Sending another bloke to the ISS to keep a journal of his sleeping experience (that’s a real “science project” going on now) or cataloging how spiders make webs in Zero G (yeah, real too).

  22. kuhnigget

    “Holy freaking gazanga”…heh heh.

    Bob Hope and Hedy Lamar star in…oh, wait. gazanga singular, not plural. :)

  23. Cheyenne

    Kuhnigget- According to the Urban Dictionary a Gazanga is “an oversized guinea pig”. I just learned that.

    But now I want a Enceladean guinea pig from NASA as my next pet. I want it bad. They should know that I promise to never criticize them on blog comments again if I get one.

    Wow today is a slow work day.

  24. kuhnigget

    @ cheyenne:

    Sorry. You can tell where my mind tends to dwell.

    BTW, can we visit Europa first? (That’s after my moon colony, of course.

    Slightly, but not by much, off topic… I read a news report this a.m. that said Obama was trying to forge a stronger relationship between NASA and the Pentagon, supposedly to help bridge the booster gap once the shuttle goes offline. Oh yeah, I can see how well that will work out.

  25. Cheyenne

    Kuhnigget- Yeah, I saw that too. It’s actually the link from my name on my first comment above. Apparently Obama is concerned that the Chinese are going to get back to the moon before we do for some reason and so the Pentagon and NASA should pair up on developing space launch programs to speed up development and cut costs.

    Let the Chinese have the moon. We’ve been there and done that. 40 flipping years ago. Cool then, stupid now. Honestly, if NASA’s major effort is to get us back to that rock it will have hit itself in the head with the stupid stick far to many times (whack “ooooh, that hurts”, whack, “ooooh, that hurts”, whack “ooooh that hurts”, whack….).

    I don’t mean to be offensive to you about the moon thing. I know you like it. It doesn’t float my boat though. Me likey Europa lots. And all the other moons out there. Fascinating stuff.

  26. e=mc hammer

    Wow, according to Cheyenne, the US shouldn’t even bother with manned space flight. Robots can do it all!

  27. Cheyenne

    e=mc- Exactly right!

    And as every year goes by they get even better – and humans up there become even more pointless!

  28. e=mc hammer

    Except you are wrong, Cheyenne. Robots cannot do it all.

    How long would a TEGA have been clogged in human hands on Mars, for example? And I am still awaiting a robot probe capable of fixing HST. Phil may say it was not supposed to be serviceable, but the truth is that it would have been a colossal waste of money had humans not repaired it.

    Kids don’t grow up saying “I want to be a robotic explorer” when they grow up. They want to be astronauts.

  29. Cheyenne


    You shouldn’t wait for a robot that can go fix Hubble. It should take a bow, get its props for being such a kick butt cool scope, and retire. Then we should launch 2 or 3 successors to it right away with bigger mirrors, upgraded electronics, and more advanced kit.

    TEGA is on Mars. We got it there because it’s a robot. If you want to wait for humans to travel along with it then have a seat for the next 50 years as NASA tries to figure out the radiation problem alone (one of 9000 problems with sending humans there- and judging by the newest tests they have done with how radiation effects neurons in the brain – well, let’s just say that an astronaut wouldn’t be able to unclog TEGA because he wouldn’t even know his own name or how to put his boots on).

    Look at how far we have come with Mars probes in just the last few years. The first rover went about what, 12 feet and worked for a few days? The latest ones have worked for 5 years and have gone miles and miles. MSL is going to….oh wait, backburner because of Griffin’s plan. Oh well. Let’s get some people back to the moon (slow golf clap commencing).

    And to anybody that says we should do it all- we can’t. There isn’t enough money, we’re in a recession, and unmanned flight wins over manned flight by every regard. It’s cheaper, faster, safer, more productive, and we can do it now. In our lifetimes. Bigger discoveries could be made sooner if we could shift our resources now (money, engineers, etc).

  30. e=mc hammer

    Cheyenne – you may make some good points, but I will trump your argument and shut it down for good by reminding you that survey after survey of American taxpayers state that they support manned space activities, want them to continue and support them far more than unmanned activities.

  31. Cheyenne

    It takes a little more than that to shut down my argument for good 😉

    Survey after survey also show that 60% of Americans can’t name the Vice President or who the Speaker of the House is. 65%-70% think that Creationism is real and Evolution is wrong. A significant fraction actually laugh at jokes made by CarrotTop. And people once thought parachute pants were cool (actually, kind of poised for a comeback I think).

    So in general, I’m not sure that I particularly care what the public at large thinks about most things given the track record. What I care about in regards to NASA and associated agencies is – What is the best way to spend a dollar and utilize the time of educated engineers and scientists? If we could force the experts to be honest about it for 2 minutes the vast majority would probably fess up to the fact that unmmaned missions make vastly more sense over manned ones.

    If the public doesn’t understand that it’s because NASA is failing to communicate that to the public at large. By the way, if NASA finds life that arose independent of Earth by getting a sample return mission from somewhere in this solar planet, well, I’m pretty sure the public would be awestruck and amazed.

  32. Cheyenne

    hmmmm, “solar planet”…..I hit myself with da stupid stick.

    And also, really just thinking about this, NASA is in the manned space launch business because it thinks it can get more money right (BA has made a point similar to this before)? That is truly sad if you think about the implications of it.

  33. kuhnigget

    Okay, the carrot top thing I get, but parachute pants? Sighhh. Time to visit the thrift store.

  34. The Ill Tempered Klavier


    Cart before horse.

    Humans out there is the whole point of it: Everything else is bonus.

    Go thou to burn incense at the altars of Fineline, God of engineers and Zemoff, God of automation and building contractors, then beg forgiveness.

    “Earth is far too small a basket for humanity to keep all its eggs in.” Robert A. Heinlein

  35. SLC

    Re Gary Ansorge

    1. On numerous occasions, I have challenged supporters on this blog to give me one scientific achievement obtained from the manned space program that could not have been achieved from an unmanned probe. Thus far, the only achievement put forward by the supporters of the manned space program is the effect of weightlessness on the human body. Who cares! The Earth is not about to lose all its mass anytime in the foreseeable future.

    2. Mr. Ansorges’ dismissal of Bob Park, one of the most progressive voices on the internet, is outrageous. I suspect that Dr. Parks’ record of scientific achievement is at least equal to that of Mr. Ansorge. By he way, how about Steven Weinberg, another skeptic of manned space probes?

    Re Cheyenne

    Keep coming fellow. The facts are on our side. Your are in good company, with Bob Park and Steven Weinberg. But of course, you and I and Park, and Weinberg don’t know what we are talking about.

  36. kuhnigget

    @ SLC:

    While I tend to share Cheyenne’s attitude toward robotic spacecraft, especially when compared with the ISS, space exploration is not all about science. Peoples likes their adventures, too. And peoples pays the bills.

  37. Knurl

    @e=mc hammer: survey after survey of American taxpayers state that they support manned space activities

    According to an article in (I think it was) Scientific American, the science literacy rate in the US is 25%, one of the lowest in the developed world. Therefore, 75% of the US population is illiterate about science and thus incapable of making rational decisions regarding science issues. Have you ever tried to find anyone that even knows about SOHO? Are you aware just how large a problem pseudoscience is in this country today (especially creationism and antivaccination)?

    I grew up during Gemini and Apollo and I’m still in love the idea of manned spaceflight. But the return on investment just isn’t there at this point in time, and there are huge problems that have not yet been addressed. The food problem alone on a multi-year mission is one. The federal government is broke, up to their ears in debt, and paid $412,000,000,000.00 in interest during fiscal 2008 on a national debt of $10,600,000,000,000.00. It’s spending billions they don’t have every month on a war that should never have existed, and can’t afford the unmanned programs without borrowing the money.

    Sure, manned spaceflight is cool, but that’s not enough reason to do it at this time. If you want to do it, fine. You pay for it on your own. Count me out. My grandchildren are already screwed.

  38. Knurl

    Oops! I guess I got wrong. Sorry about that. My mistake.

  39. Adela

    The only thing I can think of that would make this more sad for him is if his mother was lobbying for her little Mikey to keep his job.

  40. Steve A

    Manned space exploration is not just about adventure. It does science, and it does provide useful products right now that in the lives of hundreds and thousands is worth it. Check out:

    Not even mentioned there, just this week there was a report of a man whose arthritis was cured using knuckles made out of the shuttle nose material. Typical replacements are made out of material that can be rejected by the body or erode over time. This doesn’t.
    Relieving pain. The program really does nothing for us.

    As for the various internet polls, at least both of them do provide more information to the transition team to make their decision. I think what’s really interesting in the “Save Griffin” one is the amount of astronauts, engineers, and long time NASA employees who have signed it. It does say something about the man if he has that much support inside the agency from the people who have to work with him on a daily basis.

  41. The counter-petition is available here:


    It’s well-written and worth signing if you agree that Griffin should go.

  42. Concerned Citizen

    Michael Griffin has done amazing things for NASA and the people of the world in the short time he has been in his position. He truly a visionary with science being his top priority, not politics. Removing him from his position would be a mistake. I support his wife’s appeal, even if it is a tad unorthodox.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar