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Alan Stern Resigns From NASA

Article written: 26 Mar , 2008
Updated: 27 Feb , 2016
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Alan Stern has stepped down as NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. No word on Stern’s reasons for leaving, or why such an abrupt departure, but the timing suggests it could be related to the erroneous announcement that funding for the Mars Rovers would be cut. Stern is seemingly highly respected and very popular among mission scientists and designers, and Stern had pledged to toe the line about mission spending and cost overruns. There are conflicting reports whether Stern will continue as Principal Investigator for the New Horizons mission to Pluto, but it would be very surprising to see him leave the mission to which he has devoted most of his career.

Stern had only been with the Science Mission Directorate for about a year but during that year Time Magazine named Stern as one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2007.

NASA’s press release concerning Stern’s departure says that Stern “has left the agency.” Administrator Mike Griffin issued the following statement:

“Alan has rendered invaluable service to NASA as the Principal Investigator for the Pluto/New Horizons mission, as a member of the NASA Advisory Council, and as the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate. While I deeply regret his decision to leave NASA, I understand his reasons for doing so, and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Griffin also announced that Dr. Ed Weiler, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and a former Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, will return as interim for Stern’s position.

Weiler was appointed to Goddard in August 2004. His previous stint leading the Science Mission Directorate was from 1998 to 2004.

“Though we regret Alan’s departure, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Ed Weiler back to NASA HQ once again to assume the mantle of SMD leadership. With his experienced guidance, science at NASA will continue to thrive,” said Griffin.

Original News Source: NASA Press Release

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10 Responses

  1. Astrofiend says

    Wow!

    Wikipedia claims that he remains PI on the New Horizons mission. As to whether that is reliable or not is anyone’s guess.

    I have a great deal of respect for Stern and his attitude to NASA and science missions, which overwhelmingly constitute NASA’s crowning successes despite the recent focus on manned missions and the space station.

    They will have a hard time finding a replacement for someone of his experience reputation – I hope it’s not the continual barrage of budget cuts that have brought this on, as has been discussed in recent articles…

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  3. Kevin Koski says

    Politics has ondone many a great person,this looks to be another one of those events,his will be a great loss.

  4. tontotoo says

    Stern publicly made his boss Mike Griffin look bad over the Mars rovers – what did he think was going to happen when you defy your boss in the press?

    And if Stern was such a friend of the space program, why did he allow the Mars Science Lander to become a bloated money hog?

    Stern’s first and only priority was getting New Horizons to Pluto – after that, the other space probe missions could go hang.

    Too bad Pluto wasn’t reduced to being just one of the KBOs until after NH was sent into space – I bet that mission wouldn’t have happened if Pluto stopped being a major planet.

    NH is a waste in and of itself. After all, Pluto is a lot like Triton and we have already seen that place, plus a whole bunch of other small icy worlds.

    NH is redundant and another example of wasted space money, all cause Stern wanted to go there and make a name for himself. Well, he got his wish, didn’t he?

  5. von Dawson's Express says

    why did’nt he stay and fight? You end up leaving (get the sack) in the end any way, I know, have been there enough in the past.
    BUT,
    The money is wasted else where, Iraq and Afghani for two places.
    better spend the money on space projects, protect jobs on Earth and educate kids than fight stupid wars…

  6. Spacemad says

    Hi, I was shocked to hear that Alan Stern had resigned from NASA! I know he was upset with many of the budget cuts made lately but I didn’t imagine he would leave, 🙁

    I hope he continues to direct the New Horizons mission. He has invested a lot of time & energy in NASA & I hope he will continue to direct his energy & knowledge on space projects.

  7. Astrofiend says

    tontotoo Says:
    March 27th, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Stern publicly made his boss Mike Griffin look bad over the Mars rovers – what did he think was going to happen when you defy your boss in the press?

    And if Stern was such a friend of the space program, why did he allow the Mars Science “Lander to become a bloated money hog?

    Stern’s first and only priority was getting New Horizons to Pluto – after that, the other space probe missions could go hang.

    Too bad Pluto wasn’t reduced to being just one of the KBOs until after NH was sent into space – I bet that mission wouldn’t have happened if Pluto stopped being a major planet.

    NH is a waste in and of itself. After all, Pluto is a lot like Triton and we have already seen that place, plus a whole bunch of other small icy worlds.

    NH is redundant and another example of wasted space money, all cause Stern wanted to go there and make a name for himself. Well, he got his wish, didn’t he?

    Wow tontotoo, at first I thought you were joking, but then I realised that you were serious and couldn’t stop a little reflexive vomit escape into my mouth.

    “After all, Pluto is a lot like Triton and we have already seen that place, plus a whole bunch of other small icy worlds”

    Really? How do you know what Pluto is and is not like? No scientists do, because THERE IS BARELY ENOUGH DATA ON IT TO FILL A FLOPPY DISK! Seeing as we’ve seen most other components of the solar system, do you think it may be nice to see Pluto and the Kuiper belt, seeing as they constitute an important part of the overall system? I’m not even going to mention the fact that it is our only chance to see Pluto in say, oh, the next 220 years. Oh wait, I just did. What a great point!

    “And if Stern was such a friend of the space program, why did he allow the Mars Science Lander to become a bloated money hog?”

    Uh, yeah, Mars Science Laboratory – only one of the most valuable missions to ever launch in terms of expected scientific return. Of course flagship like this are going to take priority over smaller missions. It sucks that these missions can’t get funded too, but that’s the world we live in, isn’t it?

    “Stern’s first and only priority was getting New Horizons to Pluto – after that, the other space probe missions could go hang.”

    And here we come to axe you obviously have to grind. Did he cancel your favourite mission? Poor you.

  8. Laurel Kornfeld says

    “Too bad Pluto wasn’t reduced to being just one of the KBOs until after NH was sent into space – I bet that mission wouldn’t have happened if Pluto stopped being a major planet.”

    Pluto still IS a major planet in addition to being a KBO, and Stern has rightfully opposed the controversial IAU demotion conducted by four percent of its members. I hope he stays on as PI of New Horizons. That mission has a lot to teach us about the outer solar system, and it most definitely is not a waste of money.

  9. korak 12 says

    Pluto is smaller than at least a few KBOs we know. The ice ball is smaller than our Moon.
    Its solar orbit is very eccentric compared to the 8 main planets. What more do you need?
    Or does this have nothing to do with facts as I suspect?

    It ain’t a real planet, people just got sentimental over a ball of ice because they knew about it for 70 some years.

    Get over it. Pluto is a big KBO, and I bet there
    are a lot more KBOs bigger than it to that we have yet to detect.

  10. Laurel Kornfeld says

    Pluto is smaller than only ONE KBO we know of, and that is Eris. There is no reason both Pluto and Eris cannot be considered both KBOs and planets. The crucial difference between most KBOs and objects like Pluto and Eris is that the latter have achieved hydrostatic equilibrium, meaning they have enough self-gravity to pull themselves into a round shape. This is what distinguishes them as planets. Having an eccentric orbit does not disqualify an object from being a planet, or Mercury would be out as well. And if we find more large round KBOs out there, that will be even more likely to sink the IAU’s new planet definition. Imagine if we find a Mars-sized object in the Kuiper Belt. Under the IAU’s current definition, that object would not be a planet because it orbits in a belt of objects, yet Mars, an object of the same size as this hypothetical one, is considered a planet. Does this make sense to you? The status of Pluto has nothing to do with sentiment; it has to do with sense. It makes no sense to define an object solely by where it is while ignoring what it is. Large round KBOs like Pluto and Eris are geologically much more akin to planets than to asteroids or small, shapeless KBOs. A workable planet definition must incorporate WHAT an object is in addition to where it is. Until then, sorry, but many people will justifiably not “get over” an untenable and ridiculous definition.

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