WASHINGTON — NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Tuesday changes to his senior leadership team. Associate Administrator Chris Scolese was named director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Robert Lightfoot, director of the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will serve as acting associate administrator. Both will assume their new responsibilities on March 5.
Scolese, who has been with NASA since 1987, succeeds Robert Strain, who announced his decision to return to private industry in January. Lightfoot joined NASA in 1989 as a test engineer and program manager at Marshall. Lightfoot’s deputy, Gene Goldman, will serve as Marshall’s acting center director.
“Both Chris and Robert are dedicated public servants who have a passion for NASA and exploration,” Bolden said. “We are fortunate to have such talented and experienced leaders who are capable of assuming these critical responsibilities during this important time.”
As associate administrator, Lightfoot will be the agency’s highest-ranking civil servant, responsible for oversight and integration of NASA’s broad efforts in human space flight, science and aeronautics. At Goddard, Scolese will lead a major U.S. laboratory for developing and operating unmanned scientific spacecraft. Goddard manages many of NASA’s Earth observation, astronomy and space physics missions. It was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight facility.
“I am excited with the depth and diversity of experiences Chris and Robert will bring to their new roles,” Bolden added. “I know the entire NASA family will wish them continued success as they begin these new challenges.”
Scolese served as the agency’s acting administrator in 2009 and was previously NASA’s chief engineer. As chief engineer, Scolese was responsible for ensuring that development efforts and mission operations within the agency were planned and conducted on a sound technical and management basis. He also served as deputy associate administrator in the Office of Space Science at Headquarters and previously served as deputy director of Goddard, Earth Orbiting Satellite program manager, and deputy director of flight programs and projects for Earth Science.
Lightfoot began his NASA career as a test engineer and manager for the space shuttle main engine technology test bed program. He then served in leadership positions at Marshall, Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Miss., and Headquarters. In 1998, Lightfoot was named deputy division chief of Marshall’s Propulsion Test Division. He joined Stennis in 1999 as chief of Propulsion Test Operations where he managed space shuttle main engine testing and multiple NASA, Department of Defense, and industry rocket engine test programs. From 2003 to 2005, he was assistant associate administrator for the Space Shuttle Program, Office of Space Flight, at Headquarters.
Both men are highly honored NASA leaders, earning the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive and agency medals for outstanding leadership.