NASA Statement on New Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Appointment

Laurie Leshin formally assumes her roles as director of NASA JPL and vice president of Caltech in May. (Credits: Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on the appointment of Dr. Laurie Leshin as director of the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California.

“NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a storied history of defying what was once thought impossible in the field of space exploration. In this new era of groundbreaking discoveries and constant innovation, it is clear that Dr. Laurie Leshin has a track record of scholarship and leadership needed to serve as director of JPL and cement the center’s status as a global leader in the 21st century.

“Under Dr. Leshin, the technology invented at JPL will continue to allow humans to explore the places in our universe that we cannot yet reach and spark the imaginations of future mathematicians, engineers, and pioneers in classrooms across America. I want thank Mike Watkins and Gen. Larry James for their contributions that the JPL team will build on for decades to come.”

For information about NASA’s missions, discoveries, and activities, visit:

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Caltech Names Laurie Leshin Director of JPL

Laurie Leshin formally assumes her roles as director of NASA JPL and vice president of Caltech in May. (Credits: Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

The distinguished geochemist and space scientist brings more than 20 years of leadership experience in academic and government service to JPL.

PASADENA, Calif. (Caltech PR) — Laurie Leshin, president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), has been appointed director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and vice president of Caltech. Leshin will formally assume her position on May 16, 2022, succeeding Michael Watkins, who retired in August 2021, and Lt. Gen. Larry D. James USAF (Ret.), who currently serves as JPL interim director.

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NASA’s Perseverance Rover Collects First Mars Rock Sample

This sealed titanium sample tube contains Perseverance’s first cored sample of Mars rock. The rover’s Sampling and Caching System Camera (known as CacheCam) captured this image. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Perseverance rover today completed the collection of the first sample of Martian rock, a core from Jezero Crater slightly thicker than a pencil. Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California received data that confirmed the historic milestone.

The core is now enclosed in an airtight titanium sample tube, making it available for retrieval in the future. Through the Mars Sample Return campaign, NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are planning a series of future missions to return the rover’s sample tubes to Earth for closer study. These samples would be the first set of scientifically identified and selected materials returned to our planet from another.  

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JPL Director Michael Watkins to Return to Academia

Michael Watkins (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

After having served five years as director of JPL, Michael Watkins will move to the Caltech campus as professor of aerospace and geophysics. Larry D. James becomes interim director of JPL.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — JPL Director Michael Watkins announced Monday he will step down from his position as the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to resume his academic and research career at Caltech as professor of aerospace and geophysics. His last day as JPL director will be Aug. 20. JPL is a federally funded research and development center managed by Caltech for NASA.

“There is no place in the world like JPL. It has truly been the great joy of my life to dedicate almost three decades to JPL, and to spend the last five years leading the Lab is the highest honor,” Watkins said in his announcement Monday to JPL’s 6,000 employees. “I treasure above all my interactions with the incredible people who make JPL what it is and who dedicate lifetimes to mission success after mission success.”

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