Michael Griffin, the Bush administration’s nominee to head the NASA, looks like a promising choice to lead the agency out of its current wilderness and on toward the solar system. He will bring substantial technical expertise to a post that has recently lacked it, as well as a strong background in space science and engineering, and a seemingly sound sense of where NASA may be pouring money into questionable ventures. Griffin is head of the space department at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Phy-sics Laboratory in Maryland. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Hopkins, five master’s degrees from various institutions and a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. He has headed an organisation financed by the CIA to invest in new technologies, served as the chief technical officer for a small aerospace firm and worked in the government’s missile defence programme.

His strong technical background should stand him in good stead at NASA, where he will be able to second-guess the agency’s engineers, and in testifying before Congress, where he will be able to handle questions without relying on aides. But he is no mindless cheerleader for NASA. Last year, he questioned why so little was expected to result from the tens of billions of dollars that would be spent on the Moon-Mars programme in coming years. — The New York Times