NASA's Administrator on 'Drunken Astronauts'

One final note on last week's story of astronauts and alcohol...and a reflection of the position in which NASA says it finds itself. 

You'll recall that when an outside panel, led by Col. Richard Bachmann of the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, brought up the subject of two cases in which astronauts allegedly had been drinking before flights, it provided no specifics.  The report itself did not even say whether the astronauts involved had been on shuttle flights.  You can find the text HERE

Today there's a statement from Michael Griffin, the head of NASA.  "I am sure you realize that the report was assembled from anecdotal information, unverified by the committee and, indeed, not documented in a way that would allow us to pursue the cited incidents to closure," he writes. "This does not mean that the claims made in the report are untrue, but it does necessitate a 'go slow' approach on our part regarding any public statements we might make."

He continues, "Given the seriousness of the report's allegations, the only responsible action we can take, and the action we will take, is to investigate the cited behaviors in an attempt to establish the firmest possible basis of fact upon which to base future decisions. In no way do I want to minimize the importance of the concerns raised by the committee's report. However, and precisely because they are so serious, I feel compelled to insure that I will act on the basis of fact rather than assertion. Only in this way can we preserve and enhance the trust that must exist between and among our flight crews, their physicians, and NASA management.

"Finally, I cannot end this note without stating to all of you my personal belief in the professional excellence and dedication to the mission, and indeed the essential goodness, of our astronaut corps. I personally began working with our flight crews more than twenty-five years ago, and I know many, many former and current members of the corps as valued professional colleagues and personal friends."

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