NASA Chief Urges Focus During Space Shuttle Mission

All Wired Up: Space Station Spreads its New Solar Wings
The starboard 1A solar array extends out from the newly delivered S4 truss at the International Space Station after a successful deployment on June 12, 2007. (Image credit: NASA TV.)

HOUSTON -- NASA chief Michael Griffin urgedspace agency employees to stay focused on their work despite a turbulent yearto date for the government organization.

?We?ve hada lot of distracting events in the news on NASA over the last five months,? Griffin told employees during an NASA-wide update from the agency?s Washington, D.C. headquarters. ?They?re depressing and distressing and distracting and diverting. Ijust want to urge everybody to keep the focus.?

The nearflawless June 8 launch and ongoing mission of NASA?s space shuttle Atlantisand its STS-117 astronaut crew to the International Space Station (ISS) is anexample of the payoffs to the space agency?s work, he said.

Over thelast half year, NASA has seen:

  • The arrest and subsequent dismissal of astronaut Lisa Nowak stemming from a bizarre love triangle with a fellow shuttle spaceflyer William Oefelein, who was also dismissed.
  • A freak, mission-delaying hail storm that damaged the shuttle Atlantis fuel tank for the STS-117 mission.
  • A murder-suicide here at the Johnson Space Center earlier this year.
  • Two derailments of the same train carrying segments of shuttle rocket boosters to NASA?s Florida spaceport.

Griffin, himself, recently drew fire forstatements that publiclydoubted whether global warming was an issue humanity could and shouldrespond to.

?Iregretted having caused controversy,? Griffin said Tuesday. ?I didn?t do a verygood job of answering the question, and that?s bad. I need to represent theagency in a better fashion.?

While Griffin spoke, 10 astronauts aboard NASA?s space shuttle Atlantis and the InternationalSpace Station unfurled a pair of newstarboard solar arrays at the orbital laboratory.

The newsolar arrays, which smoothly unfolded from the tip of the Starboard 3/Starboard4 truss segments installed by the STS-117 and ISS astronauts during a Mondayspacewalk, will prime the orbital laboratory for the future addition of newhabitable modules and international laboratories.

?That?swhat we are really all about, not distractions,? Griffin added.

NASA isbroadcasting the space shuttle Atlantis' STS-117 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for mission updates's video feed.

  • Video Interplayer: Space Station Power Up with STS-117
  • STS-117 Power Play: Atlantis Shuttle Crew to Deliver ISS Solar Wings
  • Complete Shuttle Mission Coverage


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.