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Meet the Team Guiding NASA - The World’s Largest Independent Space Agency

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The Org has delved into NASA’s org chart to learn who is calling the shots at the largest independent space agency in the world. Image courtesy of NASA.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Artemis Program recently hit a bump in the road when Jeff Bezos, who owns Blue Origin, sued the company for “unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals.”

Despite the escalation of the new lawsuit, NASA’s senior leaders are committed to proceeding with their space exploration program.

The Org has delved into NASA’s org chart to learn who is calling the shots at the largest independent space agency in the world.

NASA

Sumara M. Thompson-King is NASA’s current General Counsel, overseeing all legal issues related to NASA activities, including the current lawsuit with Blue Origin. Thompson-King has been with NASA since 1986, initially serving at the space organization’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She moved to NASA’s headquarters in 1991, then became Deputy Associate General Counsel (Contracts) in 1995. She was elected into the General Counsel position in June 2014. The graduate of Georgetown University was also the recipient of the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award in 2016, NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal and Exceptional Achievement Medal for her litigation efforts.

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NASA General Counsel Sumara M. Thompson-King. Image courtesy of NASA.

NASA’s 14th Administrator is Bill Nelson. A member of the Democratic party, Nelson served in the United States Army Reserve from 1965 to 1971, then left to practice law as a legislative assistant to Governor Reubin Askew. In 1972 he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, then in 1978 he was elected to the US House of Representatives, where he remained a representative until 1991. Nelson was the second sitting member of Congress to have ever traveled to space. In 2000, Nelson was elected into the US Senate in Florida and remained in office until 2018. He was appointed to serve in NASA’s advisory council in 2019.

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NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Image courtesy of NASA.

Assisting the Administrator in decision making is Deputy Administrator Pam Melory. After graduating with an MS in Earth and Planetary Science from MIT, Melory became a student pilot for the United States Air Force, slowly making her way up the ranks. She joined NASA in 1999 and was a Pilot for Space Shuttle Mission STS-92 and STS 112. Eventually, she joined the Astronaut Office as Orion Branch Chief. From 2009 to early 2021, Melory served in different leadership roles in the space and aviation industry; most recently, she was the Director of Space Technology and Policy at Nova Systems, an engineering and technology company based in Australia. She was sworn in as NASA Deputy Administrator on June 21 this year.

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Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy (left) hugs Travis Thompson (right), former Closeout Crew Lead. Image courtesy of NASA.

Chief Financial Officer Margaret Vo Schaus manages NASA’s budget. A first-generation American whose parents were Vietnamese refugees, Vo Schaus is an experienced financial management and business operations executive who has served in various leadership positions for science and engineering organizations. The Stanford graduate was most recently the Director Of Business Operations in the Office of the Under Secretary of Research and Engineering at the US Department of Defense. “The budget is more than just financial management – it is crucial to supporting the world’s most talented workforce and maintaining mission support,” Vo Schaus said in a statement.

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NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (left) swears in Margaret Vo Schaus as NASA's Chief Financial Officer. Image courtesy of NASA.

Chief Information Officer Jeff Seaton has been with NASA since 1991 when he joined as a Research Engineer for robotic systems. He joined NASA’s headquarters in 2011, where he was the CIO for the organization’s Langley Research Center. The robotics enthusiast has served as a mentor to students who enter robotics competitions and received multiple awards for his service to NASA. Seaton has a BS from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and an MS from Virginia Tech.

Overseeing technical readiness and executions of mission operations at NASA is Chief Engineer Ralph Roe. Roe began his career with NASA in 1983 when he joined the Kennedy Space Center as a Propulsion Systems Test Engineer. He became the first Director for NASA’s Engineering and Safety Center in 2003 and stayed in the position until February 2014, when he was elected to become NASA’s Chief Engineer. Roe has a BS from the University of South Carolina and an MS from Central Florida.

Leading scientific endeavors at NASA is Chief Scientist James L. Green. After receiving his PhD in Space Physics from The University of Iowa, Green joined NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center where he developed the Space Physics Analysis Network. He later became the head of the National Space Science Data Center at Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA’s largest space science data archive. From 1992 to 2005, Green served as the Chief of Science Proposal Support Office, later joining NASA headquarters as Director of Planetary Science Division in 2006. He has published over 110 scientific articles in renowned journals and is a recipient of the Arthur S. Flemming Award and Japan’s Kotani Prize.

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Jim Green has been NASA Chief Scientist beginning May 1, 2018. Image courtesy of NASA.

W. Russ DeLoach was named the Chief of Safety and Mission Assurance at NASA in December 2020 after the retirement of his predecessor Terrence W. Wilcutt. DeLoach started his career at NASA in 1987 as an intern. He later joined Kennedy Shuttle and International Space Station, where he worked on system safety assessments. DeLoach has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida.

These are just a few of the executives at NASA. To explore more positions, you can visit The Org’s database here.

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