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