NASA Announces Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Leadership Changes

WASHINGTON(RushPRnews)13/11/08— NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Rick Gilbrech announced Wednesday that he will be leaving the agency for a position in the private sector. NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin announced that Doug Cooke, who has been serving as deputy associate administrator for the directorate since its inception in January 2004, will become the associate administrator. The change is effective Nov. 24.

“I’m very pleased for Rick that he has been offered such a wonderful opportunity. At the same time, I regret the loss to NASA of such a talented individual,” said Griffin. “Rick has served as a deputy center director, a center director, and as an associate administrator, all crucial positions. He played a key role in helping the shuttle return to flight. Rick will be missed.”

“My career with NASA has been a tremendously rewarding experience not only because of the exciting missions but primarily because of the fine people with whom I was fortunate enough to work,” said Gilbrech. “Mike Griffin’s leadership has set NASA on a solid course to return humans to the moon, and I am confident this talented team will continue the challenging and rewarding work of the Constellation Program. I am thankful I was able to play a part in this next chapter of human exploration and look forward to following NASA’s progress as I launch into my next career.”

Gilbrech’s departure concludes his 17 years at the agency in various roles, including as director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., and as deputy center director of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

In naming Cooke as the new associate administrator, Griffin said, “Doug Cooke has served NASA since the earliest days of the space shuttle program. There is no better engineer in the agency, a talent which is indispensable at the top, and especially so in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, where so much of our future lies. I am tremendously pleased to ask him to head this team.”

Cooke has 35 years of experience at NASA in the space shuttle, space station and exploration programs. He has been assigned significant responsibilities during critical periods of each of these programs. Prior to his appointment to NASA Headquarters, Cooke served as manager for the Advanced Development Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Cooke provided leadership for the planning of human missions beyond Earth orbit; including the moon, Mars, libration points, and asteroids.

Cooke has played a pivotal role in planning for future space exploration since 1989. He helped to lead a NASA team that produced the “90-Day Study” on lunar and Mars exploration. He was subsequently assigned to the Synthesis Group, led by Lt. General Tom Stafford, which reported to the White House in “America at the Threshold: America’s Space Exploration Initiative.” Cooke was selected to be the manager of the Exploration Programs Office, where he initiated and led agency-wide studies for the human return to the moon and exploration of Mars.

He served as NASA technical advisor to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board from the time of the accident to the publishing of the report. Following the space shuttle Challenger accident, Cooke helped lead a civil service and contractor team in the return of the shuttle to flight in September 1988.

Cooke served as deputy manager of the Space Station Program in 1996. In 1993, he led the engineering and technical aspects of the redesign of the International Space Station and subsequently served as vehicle manager, leading and managing the hardware development and systems engineering and integration for the project.

Cooke is a graduate of Texas A&M University in College Station with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering.

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