NASA Names Lystrup as New Goddard Space Flight Center Director

NASA Names Lystrup as New Goddard Space Flight Center Director

Makenzie Lystrup is the new Director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA announced today.  A planetary scientist and astronomer, she comes from Ball Aerospace, which builds science instruments and spacecraft for NASA and other government agencies. Her appointment is effective immediately.

Makenzie Lystrup, Director, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.  Photo Credit: NASA/Keegan Barber

Lystrup received a Ph.D. in astrophysics from University College London after obtaining a B.S. in physics from Portland State University. She was an NSF post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder and at the University of Liege in Belgium.

From 2011-2012, she was a Congressional Fellow for the American Institute of Physics–Acoustical Society of America working in the office of then-Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) on technology, national defense, nuclear energy, and nuclear nonproliferation issues. (Markey was elected to the Senate in 2013.)

She succeeds Dennis Andrucyk who retired at the end of last year. David Mitchell has been serving as acting director in the interim.

Goddard, headquartered in Greenbelt, MD, oversees a $4 billion portfolio of science and technology programs and a workforce of 10,000 civil servants and contractors.

Ball Aerospace is a major contractor designing and building scientific instruments, spacecraft, or both for Goddard-managed projects including NOAA’s polar-orbiting weather satellites, the NASA/USGS Landsat land remote sensing satellites, and NASA’s most iconic space telescopes including Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as well as the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope now in development. Ball is designing and developing Roman’s Wide Field Intrument Opto-Mechanical Assembly.

Lystrup’s scientific research focused on planetary atmospheres. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and author of Jonathan’s Space Report, knows Lystrup’s work and via email to pointed to her scientific accomplishments in Earth-based observations of Jupiter’s atmosphere in the infrared, especially Jovian aurora, as well as the aurora on the other giant planets.

After her congressional fellowship, she joined Ball Aerospace as Space Sciences and Technologies Business Development Manager. Over the next decade, she rose to Vice President & General Manager, Civil Space Strategic Business Unit, leading Ball’s contributions to JWST, the Imaging X-Ray Polarimeter Explorer (IXPE), Landsat 9, and Roman.

Ball also built the Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) spectrometer that is scheduled to launch overnight at 12:30 am ET as a hosted payload on the Intelsat 40e satellite.  NASA TV coverage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch begins at midnight.

Lystrup is the first female Goddard Director. Last year Laurie Leshin was appointed the first female director of NASA’s other major science facility, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, so now the directors of NASA’s two major science centers are women. JPL is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center operated by the California Institute of Technology rather than a NASA civil service organization, but many count it as a NASA Center and most of NASA’s space and earth science programs are managed by one or the other.

Women hold other top NASA science positions as well. Nicky Fox is the new Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. Four of the six SMD divisions are led by women permanently or on an acting basis: Lori Glaze, planetary science; Karen St. Germain, earth science; Diane Malarik (acting), biological and physical sciences; and Margaret Luce (acting), heliophysics.

Lystrup was sworn in today by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, left, swears in Dr. Makenzie Lystrup as Director of Goddard Space Flight Center, as NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy looks on. April 6, 2023, Photo Credit: (NASA/Keegan Barber)

Lystrup said she is “humbled and honored to lead such an amazing and diverse world-renowned team” and will focus on “growing the next generation of innovators along with ensuring our team has the resources and tools to advance technologies and make new discoveries that boost the space economy and benefit us all.”

Nelson called her a “natural leader” who brings “a scientist’s drive for discovery along with a wealth of industry experience and knowledge.”

In addition to the main campus in Greenbelt, Goddard manages several other NASA facilities around the country:

  • Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, VA. NASA routinely launches scientific balloons and sounding rockets there. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), operated by the Virgina Commercial Space Flight Authority, is also at Wallops. Northrop Grumman and Rocket Lab conduct orbital launches from MARS.
  • Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, WV.
  • Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, NY.
  • White Sands Complex in White Sands, NM.
  • Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, TX.

Goddard also has close relationships with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD that operates Hubble and JWST, and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD that builds science spacecraft like the DART mission that impacted an asteroid last year and the Parker Solar Probe.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.