|Volume: 02, Issue: 21||12/15/2004|
NASA Administrator ResignsAdministrator Sean O'Keefe, who over the past three years headed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), submitted his resignation on Dec. 13, 2004. O’Keefe helped guide NASA through one of its most painful tragedies, the crash of Space Shuttle Columbia, in addition to leading an aggressive management transformation.
In his letter of resignation to President Bush, O’Keefe said he intends to continue the Administrator role until his replacement is appointed "in the hope the Senate will act on your nomination by February." O’Keefe is then anticipated to become Chancellor of Louisiana State University.
"I've been honored to serve this President, the American people, and my talented colleagues here at NASA," O'Keefe said in a statement. "Together, we've enjoyed unprecedented success and seen each other through arduous circumstances. This was the most difficult decision I've ever made, but it's one I felt was best for my family and our future."
After joining NASA, Administrator O'Keefe focused his efforts on successfully bringing financial credibility to the agency and eliminating a $5 billion budget shortfall for the International Space Station program. He introduced a number of innovative management and budget reforms. O’Keefe also advocated education in mathematics, science, and technology, including the creation of the Educator Astronaut Program, in which a select few outstanding teachers would be chosen to join NASA's Astronaut Corps.
It was the tragic crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, however, that took center stage during Administrator O’Keefe’s tenure. All seven astronauts aboard Columbia were killed as the shuttle disintegrated upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere during STS-107 on Feb. 1, 2003. Following the accident, O'Keefe directed significant changes in the Space Shuttle's safety and management programs.
After the Columbia mishap, O’Keefe played a key role in the implementation of President Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration, announced in January 2004. The new Vision for Space Exploration led to a transformation of NASA, preparing the agency to safely return the Space Shuttle to flight, complete the International Space Station, explore the complexities of Earth, and go back to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond.
During his tenure, Administrator O'Keefe realized a number of significant mission triumphs, including Cassini's exploration of Saturn and its moons, the recent successful hypersonic test flights of the X-43A, and the historic landing of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity on the Red Planet in January. But he has also endured criticism for some of his choices.
One highly criticized decision was that to cancel further servicing missions to the Hubble Space Telescope, which O’Keefe announced in January 2004. Many in the space community voiced strong dissent, and a congressionally requested report from the National Academies' National Research Council recommended that NASA should send a space shuttle mission, not a robotic one as suggested by O’Keefe, to repair the aging telescope. Plans for Hubble repairs will be heard before Congress in early 2005.
O'Keefe, 48, is NASA's tenth administrator. Nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he was sworn into office Dec. 21, 2001. It was the Administrator's fourth Presidential appointment.
"The extraordinary opportunities you have permitted me to assume these last four years have been experiences of a lifetime," the Administrator wrote in his resignation letter. "In the most challenging moments during my service I have drawn considerable strength, resolve and determination to do what's right by the standards you set every day."
For more additional information about Administrator O'Keefe and NASA, visit http://www.nasa.gov .
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