Robert Lightfoot to Retire as NASA Acting Administrator

Robert Lightfoot to Retire as NASA Acting Administrator

Robert Lightfoot to Retire as NASA Acting Administrator

"I can not 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".

He told agency employees in a memo, obtained by Spaceflight Now, that he will work with the White House to help ensure a smooth transition.

The delay is infuriating some Republican House colleagues of Bridenstine, not only because he's a political ally but also out of concern that NASA can not fully handle its complex charge without a permanent administrator at the helm.

He joined NASA in 1989 where he worked at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as an engineer and program manager for the Atlas 5 rocket.

The lack of a permanent administrator comes at a pivotal point for NASA.

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Lightfoot's leaving follows a period of uncertainty for NASA.

He held the acting director post for nearly 14 months, longer than anyone in NASA's history. He was placed as NASA's associate administrator in 2012, followed by his post as acting administrator in 2017. The grit and determination you all demonstrate every day in achieving our missions of discovery and exploration are simply awe inspiring. After a nomination hearing a year ago, his appointment was stalled after opposition from two Florida Senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, who both opted for a "space professional" to lead NASA. President Trump's nominee to become NASA administrator, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma), was advanced for consideration by the Senate Commerce Committee.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., thanked Lightfoot "for his many years of outstanding service and leadership at NASA", and he prodded the White House to "nominate a space professional for NASA administrator who will actually garner strong bipartisan support". But the full Senate never voted on Bridenstine's nomination as the new head of NASA.

"From my perspective, as the one sitting in that chair, it is always of value to have the person the president wants in this position", says Lightfoot in a hearing of the Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space. He then served as assistant associate administrator for the space shuttle program at NASA Headquarters from 2003 to 2005.

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