The chief of science at NASA is moving forward.
Thomas Zurbuchen, better known as Dr. Z, later announced his position in 2022 as Chief of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, a position he has held for more than six years, as announced via Blog post (Opens in a new tab) Tuesday (September 13).
Successful missions under Zurbuchen’s watch flew around Solar System. the first Mars helicopter, clevernessmade its maiden flight in April 202, indicating an “extraterrestrial” presence Wright brothers Moment, ‘Like Zurbuchen Description once The excursion. Ingenuity landed with another high-profile NASA mission, the Perseverance Rover on Mars, in February 2021.
long overdue James Webb Space Telescope rose to outer space Roughly late 2021. The huge observatory, which is now operating in a gravitationally stable spot about 1 million miles (1.5 million km) from Earth, is “the coolest space telescope ever created by humans,” Zurbuchen wrote in an article for Space.com early this year.
The Zurbuchen period also saw NASA switch to private robots the moon Missions under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program (CLPS). CLPS, in turn, is intended to aid another large ticketing program developed during his tenure at NASA: ArtemisAnd the Which aims to put astronauts on the moon in mid-2020.
Other major science programs that Zurbuchen oversaw included, to name a few of the 100 or so, accepting commercial astronaut experiments on board. International Space StationPreparation of the first kinetic impact test of an asteroid (Arrow) And the Osiris RexNASA’s first mission to return an asteroid sample.
“I had a hard time making this decision, because I love working with the NASA Science team, and I doubt I’ll get a better job after that,” Zurbuchen wrote on his blog. “There is no other job in the world that allows me to work on more exciting tasks, or has a greater potential to influence scientific discovery.”
Zurbuchen served under three permanent administrators at NASA and during three presidential administrations, Democratic and Republican. He said he was ready for change, and that good leadership always required renewal. “The state of the NASA Science Program is strong and ready for that change now,” he wrote. “It’s a good time to move on.”
Senior leaders of NASA and the space community have applauded Zurbuchen’s contributions, which will extend into the next decade through long-term efforts such as the ambitious Mars Sample Return Project to bring a persistence cache to Earth from the Red Planet, and two missions focused on ice. moons (Europa clipper in JupiterAnd the dragonfly In Titan, Moon Saturn). Zurbuchen even defended it More Unidentified Flying Objects Search.
Bill Nelson, General Manager, said: separate statement (Opens in a new tab).
Zurbuchen was a “force for positive change” at NASA because of his approach to “investing in new and better ways to achieve the goals of space science and the development of society as a whole,” added Bobby Brown, head of the Johns Hopkins Laboratory of Applied Physics for Space Exploration. sector, in Report from Reuters (Opens in a new tab). (The lab is a longtime partner in NASA’s planetary missions, such as the Ongoing Mission new Horizons The investigation that flew past Pluto In 2015 and the body of the small Kuiper belt MU69 in 2019.)
Zurbuchen, who took over the position in 2016, wrote that he served the longest continuous term ever for NASA’s chief of science. Zurbuchen added that he has no immediate plans after NASA beyond “taking a break” and pursuing personal activities such as skiing.
The agency reported that he oversaw 36 selected assignments, and authored or co-authored more than 200 articles regarding the sun. (This is very important since there was another quest launched during the Zurbuchen period: the Parker Solar Probedesigned to withstand unprecedented approximation fluctuations in the solar atmosphere.)
Zurbuchen received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Bern in Switzerland, and among his many NASA awards is the 2022 Distinguished Service Medal. Agency officials said that NASA is now looking for a new co-director through nationwide research.