NASA acting administrator is retiring

Published: Mar. 12, 2018 at 7:40 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 12, 2018 at 8:20 PM CDT
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(WAFF) - Robert Lightfoot has announced his retirement as NASA's acting administrator.

Lightfoot holds the highest civilian post in NASA. He took office on Jan. 20, 2017, the same day as President Donald Trump.

[READ MORE: Huntsville's Robert Lightfoot takes reins of NASA as acting administrator]

Lightfoot is the longest-serving acting administrator, as he ascended to the position as NASA's highest-ranked civil servant.

Before taking over as acting administrator, he was NASA's associate administrator. Before that, he was the director of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

Lightfoot started at NASA in 1989. He moved up the ranks at Marshall and NASA and served as manager of the space shuttle propulsion office in Huntsville.

Lightfoot served as deputy director of MSFC from 2007 to 2009 before taking over as director.

He became NASA's associate administrator in 2012.

Here is Lightfoot's retirement letter.

NASA team,

It is with bittersweet feelings that I am announcing I will be retiring from the agency on April, 30, 2018. I will work with the White House on a smooth transition to the new administrator.

I cannot express enough my gratitude to the entire NASA team for the support during my career and especially the last 14 months as your acting administrator. The grit and determination you all demonstrate every day in achieving our missions of discovery and exploration are simply awe inspiring. I leave NASA blessed with a career full of memories of stunning missions, cherished friendships, and an incredible hope for what is yet to come.

When I look back on my time at NASA, I can't help but think about the people. From my friends in the test areas at Marshall and Stennis, to the folks that I sat with on console launching shuttles, to the Marshall team when I was the center director, and now as the acting administrator to the entire NASA team – what a privilege to work with such dedicated and passionate people every day.

There is no way I would be where I am today without having had such amazing opportunities and such a great set of colleagues. I've learned in so many ways that at NASA we make the impossible possible – whether it is with the missions we do or whether it is a small town kid who was able to lead the greatest agency in the world.

NASA's history has many chapters with each of us having a part. I've written my part and now the pen is in your hands – each one of you. I know you will make this nation proud as you accomplish the many missions you have in front of you. For me, I look forward to more time with my family and closest friends, and cheering the NASA team on from the outside.

God speed to all of you and thanks for the opportunity to be part of something truly bigger than each of us individually!  It's been an unbelievable ride!



"Robert is a tireless public servant who has kept a steady hand on the helm over the last year. He holds a very special place in our hearts at Marshall Space Flight Center and we wish him all the best in his retirement," said Todd May, director of Marshall Space Flight Center.

The NASA administrator is a political appointee.

Steve Jurczyk is currently NASA's acting associate administrator, which is third in command, and would take over the top post if an administrator is not voted on in Congress.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine is Trump's nominee to take the helm at the space agency. The president nominated the Oklahoma Republican in 2017, but he was not confirmed. Trump resubmitted Bridenstine for the position again in 2018. While his nomination has advanced in that legislative body, Bridenstine has not been voted on by the full Senate for the position of NASA administrator.

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