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NASA announces pending departure of Science Associate Administrator Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen

Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, will leave the agency at the end of 2022, after six years of dedicated service.

NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen gives remarks following the presentation of the 2022 John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr., Award for Space Exploration to the OSIRIS-REx team by the Space Foundation during the 37th Space Symposium, Monday, April 4, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“NASA explores to better understand our place in the universe, and to use what we learn to support life on Earth. Thomas has made an indelible mark at NASA – indeed, he has held this job continuously longer than any other person – and I am thankful for his dedication to our agency,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.


As the head of science, Zurbuchen oversees nearly 100 science missions. He helped select 36 new missions during his tenure, including Dragonfly, SPHEREx, and the Mars Sample Return mission. He has worked tirelessly to ensure NASA’s science missions build partnerships across disciplines and with industry and other nations to generate new questions and help advance the frontiers of knowledge and exploration.


Zurbuchen brought a wealth of scientific research, engineering experience, and hands-on knowledge to NASA’s world-class team of scientists and engineers. He led the mission directorate during some of the agency’s most inspirational moments, such as sending the first spacecraft to touch the Sun, launching and sharing the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and landing the Perseverance rover on Mars along with the first powered, controlled flight on another planet with the Ingenuity helicopter, to name a few.


He authored or co-authored more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals in solar and heliospheric phenomena. He earned his doctorate and Master of Science degrees in physics from the University of Bern in Switzerland.


Zurbuchen’s many honours include multiple NASA achievement awards, induction as a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, 2020 Outstanding Leadership Medal, 2021 Presidential Rank Award, and 2022 Distinguished Service Medal.


NASA is conducting a nationwide search and open competition for a new associate administrator.

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