Word has it that Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish (USAF Ret.) [bio] is at the top of a list of choices to replace O’Keefe. Personally, I vote for Zubrin, but that’s not gonna happen, I’m sure.
I think Zubrin does a better job as a gadlfy. He strikes me as a hard guy to work with.
Zubrin is too volatile to sit at the top; he’s an idealist, which means he’s bad at compromise, which is the one thing a NASA administrator needs to be good at. He spoke at the Space Symposium last year and I loved his book (The Case For Mars) but some of the things he said would give this Administration nightmares, and his unpredictability and tendency to point out large pachyderms the moment he sees them are unwelcome.
For example, speaking shortly after a Dr. Tyson, who advocates a moon-to-Mars approach, he pulled up a slide with a proposed design for the moon-to-Mars spacecraft, and quipped, “Noice the resemblance to an Imperial-class Star Destroyer. It’s bigger, actually – but not as fast.” He referred to most NASA programs as “rope sales,” because NASA farms out lots of the calculating and figuring to contractors. NASA asks “how much rope is it going to take to get to Mars?” and the rope-sellers come back and tell you, “ohhh, lots. How much money do you have?” His point about the cost of going to Mars was that “if the rope is of infinite length, then the cost is also infinite, which you cannot reasonably afford.”
When asked why Dr. Tyson was put on the same panel as he was when they clearly disagreed about the best approach to get to Mars, he said “Him? He’s a moon guy. You need a moon guy; it’s in the Vision.” Zubrin recognizes and points out politics whenever it gets near him, which is a habit guaranteed to keep you from getting appointed to a political position.
LGen Kadish, on the other hand, has proven (by earning three stars on each shoulder) that he knows how to cover his ass and the asses of those who stand to promote him. He probably agrees with General Lord and Admiral Ellis that the US needs to weaponize space before anyone else does.
Richard “It was Masonic Mason’s That Built the Pyraminds on Mars and in Egypt” Hoagland has thrown his hat into the ring for the job at NASA.
Kadish is the current head of the missile defense agency, which is having about as much good luck shooting down ballistic missiles lately as NASA is launching space shuttles.