CAPE CANAVERAL - Saying he"didn't handle the situation well," NASA Administrator Mike Griffinsent out an agencywide e-mail Monday to clarify controversial comments on thespace shuttle and International Space Station programs.
"As I have often saidpublicly, the shuttle is the most amazing machine humans have ever built, andit has been the recipient of the most brilliant engineering that America canprovide. The station is a more difficult engineering project, by far, than wasApollo," Griffin said.
His intention was not"to criticize or diminish the efforts of those who have devoted theirlives -- and in some cases given their lives -- to the space program," hesaid.
"I do hope you knowthat I would never speak of our efforts, past or present, in a way intended todenigrate the efforts of the engineers, technicians, managers, scientists andadministrative personnel who 'make it happen' at NASA and at ourcontractors."
The e-mail, a copy of whichwas obtained by FLORIDA TODAY, follows a meeting Griffin had a week agotoday with the editorial board of USA Today.
Asked then whether theshuttle had been a mistake, Griffin said, "My opinion is that it was. . .. It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barelypossible."
Asked whether the spacestation had been a mistake, he said, "Had the decision been mine, we wouldnot have built the space station we're building in the orbit we're building itin."
In his e-mail, Griffin saidhe realized the comments "have left some hurt feelings behind."
Griffin acknowledged thathe believes "we have been restricted to low-Earth orbit for far too longand that the proper focus of our nation's space program should be theexploration of the solar system."
But he added, "We mustcomplete the station and the only tool with which we can accomplish that is theshuttle."
"At this point, anexpeditious but orderly phase-out of the shuttle program, using it to completethe assembly of the station while we develop a new system, is the best thingthat we can do for our agency and the nation," he said.
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