— NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will be full participants in a sweeping review of existing
space policy called for by President Barack Obama in May, according to administration officials.

Led by Obama’s National Security Council (NSC), the policy review will address a number of areas, including space protection, international cooperation, acquisition reform and national space strategy.

During a July 21 address to NASA staff, televised live from the agency’s headquarters here, Bolden said the purpose of the NSC review is to provide the nation with a comprehensive approach to space.

“The nation needs to have a coherent idea about what it’s going to use space for, so President Obama has asked [National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones] to put together a group to at least take a look at the national space policy … we hope to be participating in that as a full member,” Bolden told NASA employees.

Bolden said he and Garver spoke with Jones during a July 20 visit to the White House with the Apollo 11 astronauts.

“To listen to Gen. Jones talk about NASA and to talk about the collaboration and the part that we will play in the national security strategy, I think is important,” Bolden said, adding that he and Garver were scheduled to meet later that day with White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren to discuss the space policy review.

After an unceremonious swearing-in July 17 at NASA headquarters, Bolden and Garver met with senior officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a cabinet-level office responsible for preparing the president’s budgets and overseeing federal agencies. OMB has been taking flak from some politicians, including Bolden’s political patron Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), for short changing NASA.

“They don’t want to be our friends and we don’t want to be their friends, but we do want to work collaboratively and cooperatively together. And that’s happening,” Bolden said of the meeting.

Bolden and Garver are taking over at a challenging time for NASA. The agency plans to retire its shuttle fleet in 2010, at least four years before its successor is slated to come online. Although candidate Obama endorsed NASA’s goal of going back to the Moon by 2020, since taking office in January, the president has not repeated the pledge.

While a NASA budget outline released in February included the 2020 deadline, by the time the Obama administration had settled in and released a more detailed budget proposal in early May, the 2020 date was gone.

The White House science adviser, meanwhile, called for a blue-ribbon panel to take a fresh look as NASA’s post-shuttle human spaceflight plans, including its struggling effort to field the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and its partially space shuttle-derived Ares 1 rocket. The panel, led by retired Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Norman Augustine, is due to brief the White House in mid-August on options for an affordable and sustainable human spaceflight program that expedites a new capability for ferrying astronauts to the international space station and supports missions to the Moon and points beyond.

Sources familiar with the NSC-led review told Space News the Augustine panel’s results will inform the administration’s broader study of existing space policy, and that Bolden will be personally involved in any deliberations that follow its completion.

During his July 21 address to NASA staff, Bolden expressed support and optimism for the Augustine panel, and said he would have called for such a review himself had he been appointed earlier.

Bolden sought to reassure NASA employees that the Augustine review was “not something to fear” while acknowledging that the agency was not of one mind when it comes to exploration. “There are some of you sitting in this audience that think we’re wasting our time talking about the Moon … And there are some of you who may even say, ‘yeah, we need to go to Mars but we can go there in the next thousand years and I really don’t care.”

Bolden said NASA’s challenge, regardless of destination, is to “figure out the single most efficient, most cost effective path is to get there.”