Jody Singer, Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, announced her retirement today. Appointed in 2018, she is the first woman to lead the Huntsville, AL-based center where NASA’s most capable space transportation systems — from Saturn to the Space Shuttle to the Space Launch System — were developed. NASA will conduct a nationwide search for her successor.
Singer’s retirement is effective July 29. Her deputy, Joseph Pelfrey, will be Acting Director until a permanent replacement is named.
Over her 38-year career at NASA-Marshall, Singer rose up the engineering ranks in the Space Shuttle program, the Ares program, and its replacement, the Space Launch System, where she was Deputy Program Manager. In 2016, she was appointed Deputy Center Director and two years later became the 14th Director, succeeding Todd May.
The successful first launch of SLS last November on the Artemis I uncrewed flight test was a crowning achievement.
In a statement, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson praised both Singer and Pelfrey.
“I wish Jody well during her retirement. And I know individuals at the beginning of their career at NASA – and members of the Artemis Generation who dream of working here – will be inspired by Jody’s service, knowing their contributions can help return NASA astronauts to the Moon and prepare us for crewed missions to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “And Joseph Pelfrey is no stranger to Marshall, having joined the center two decades ago as an aerospace engineer. Today, he helps guide Marshall’s broad portfolio of human spaceflight, science, and technology development, which supports missions across NASA. We are confident Joseph is prepared to guide Marshall through this transition.”
Singer’s retirement is the latest in a series of Center Director departures, many of whom spent 30 years or more at the agency.
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Glenn Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, Kennedy Space Center, and Johnson Space Center, as well as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology, all have Directors appointed by Nelson over the past two-and-a-half years.
Most are NASA insiders. Of the six Center Directors selected by Nelson, four were deputy directors or from NASA Headquarters: Armstrong’s Bradley Flick, Glenn’s Jimmy Kenyon, Kennedy’s Janet Petro, and Johnson’s Vanessa Wyche. The new head of JPL, Laurie Leshin, came from academia, but had worked at NASA-Goddard and NASA Headquarters in the past. Makenzie Lystrup, the new Goddard Director, is the only one whose career was in industry, but with one of NASA’s major contractors, Ball Aerospace.
NASA’s three other Center Directors have been in their positions for varying periods of time. Eugene Tu has been leading Ames Research Center since 2015, Clayton Turner was appointed Director of Langley Research Center in 2019, and Richard Gilbrech started his second tour as Director of Stennis Space Center in 2012 (he also was Director from 2006-2007).
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