Steve Jurczyk, Former NASA Leader, Passes Away

Steve Jurczyk, Former NASA Leader, Passes Away

Steve Jurczyk, whose 32-year NASA career saw him rise to the very top of agency leadership, died on Thanksgiving Day from pancreatic cancer. He was 61.

Stephen Jurczyk, April 16, 2015. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky}

Jurczyk became NASA’s top civil servant, Associate Administrator, in 2018 after serving as the head of the Space Technology Mission Directorate and Director of Langley Research Center before that.

As the most senior civil servant he served as Acting Administrator for several months from the beginning of the Biden Administration on January 20, 2021 until Bill Nelson was sworn in as Administrator on May 3, 2021.

He soon retired from NASA and in January 2022 became President and CEO of Quantum Space, a startup focused on commercial lunar-related infrastructure and services as part of Kam Ghaffarian’s IBX.  In June of this year he became Executive Vice President of Space Programs at IBX.

With Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia, Jurczyk began his NASA career at Langley Research Center in 1988 as an Aerospace Technologist. In 1994 he moved to Goddard Space Flight Center as Spacecraft Systems Manager, returning to Langley in 1997 and rising up to Center Director in 2014.  The next year he moved to NASA Headquarters to lead STMD.

He received a number of top NASA and civil service awards including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Executive. He leaves his wife, Ann, and daughters Kim and Sarah. His posted obituary asks for donations to a cancer charity in lieu of flowers.

Tributes began pouring in on X yesterday from a broad cross-section of the space community after news of his passing was posted by Keith Cowing of NASAWatch (@NASAWatch). Among them were current Administrator Bill Nelson; Thomas Zurbuchen, who was Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate during many of the years Jurczyk was at Headquarters; Bobby Braun, head of the Space Exploration Sector at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab whose efforts as NASA’s Chief Technologist in the early 2010s led to creation of STMD; Jared Zambrano-Stout, Vice President for Government and External Relations at Axiom Space, who was a White House National Space Council staffer while Jurczyk was AA; and space reporter Eric Berger of Ars Technica.


Editor’s Note: I got to know Steve while he was head of STMD and I was a member of the Space Technology Industry, Government and University Roundtable (STIGUR) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. STIGUR is a forum for STMD to get feedback from individuals in the space community on the Directorate’s activities. Steve always welcomed our comments with genuine enthusiasm and appreciation. He was a delight to work with and will, indeed, be sorely missed.  My deepest condolences to his family.

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