After nearly 14 months as acting administrator of NASA, Robert Lightfoot has announced that he will be retiring from the space agency effective April 30.
“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,” he said in a message to NASA employees.
“The grit and determination you all demonstrate every day in achieving our missions of discovery and exploration are simply awe inspiring,” he added. “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.”
Lightfoot became acting administrator on Jan. 20, 2017, after the departure of Charlie Bolden, who had been appointed by President Barack Obama.
President Donald Trump nominated Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the new administrator last September. However, the nomination has been stalled in the Senate, where it appears to lack sufficient votes for approval.
Lightfoot began his NASA career at the Marshall Space Flight Center in 1989 as a test engineer and program manager for the space shuttle main engine technology test bed program and the Russian RD-180 engine testing program for the Atlas launch vehicle program. He later became director of the center. [Full biography]
Below is the message he sent to NASA employees.
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!