NASA Publishes Oral Histories of NASA's Leadership When the Agency Turned 50

NASA Publishes Oral Histories of NASA's Leadership When the Agency Turned 50

Four years have passed since NASA celebrated its 50th anniversary and the NASA History Office is just now publishing a compendium of oral histories from NASA’s leaders at that time.

NASA at 50:  Interviews with NASA’s Senior Leadership, available free as an e-book, includes interviews with the top NASA officials at Headquarters, NASA’s field centers, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA turned 50 on October 1, 2008, which seems much longer ago than four years.   Mike Griffin was Administrator and the agency was embarked on the Constellation program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020.  Shana Dale was his deputy, Scott Pace was in charge of program analysis and evaluation, Scott “Doc” Horowitz ran the exploration program, and Alan Stern was in charge of science.  The only faces from that era still in charge of major units at NASA Headquarters today are Bill Gerstenmaier — then head of Space Operations, now in charge of Human Exploration and Operations — and Jaiwon Shin, then and now the man in charge of aeronautics.

Most of the interviews took place in 2007 and a few in early 2008.  They reflect the NASA program of the George W. Bush Administration.  The 350 page book provides transcripts of interviews with the following NASA leaders at that time.  The titles below reflect their positions when they were interviewed.  Some retired, some took on new responsibilities in NASA, and some moved on to other jobs.

  • Mike Griffin, Administrator
  • Shana Dale, Deputy Administrator
  • Rex Gevenden, Associate Administrator (AA)
  • Charles Scales, Associate Deputy Administrator
  • Bryan O’Connor, Chief, Office of Safety and Mission Assurance
  • Chris Scolese, AA, former Chief Engineer
  • Scott Pace, AA for Program Analysis and Evaluation
  • Bill Gerstenmaier, AA for Space Operations
  • Scott “Doc” Horowitz, AA for Exploration Systems
  • Alan Stern, AA for Science
  • Jaiwon Shin, AA for Aeronautics
  • Michael “OB” O’Brien, Assistant Administrator for External Relations
  • Robert Cobb, Inspector General
  • J.T. Jezierski, Deputy Chief of Staff and White House Liaison
  • Pete Worden, Ames Center Director
  • Kevin Petersen, Dryden Center Director
  • Woodwow Whitlow, Glenn Center Director
  • Ed Weiler, Goddard Center Director
  • Charles Elachi, Director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (operated by CalTech for NASA)
  • Mike Coats, Johnson Space Center Director
  • Bill Parsons, Kennedy Space Center Director
  • Lesa Roe, Langley Research Center Director
  • David King, Marshall Center Director
  • Richard Gilbrech, Stennis Center Director

The interviewers asked soft-ball questions, but skimming through it provides some interesting glimpses into the thinking at that time.

Editor’s Note:   From a space policy standpoint if you only have time to read one, look at Bill Gerstenmaier’s where he describes the challenges of needing to have “the split personality of dealing with the extreme technical side to the extreme lawyer, political side, and figure out how to make sure that as the interface between those groups, all is clear.”  He’s a superstar at doing just that, IMHO.  The interviews with Pete Worden and Ed Weiler are also particularly good.

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