After more than one year, NASA has selected an official who’s currently working with National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration satellite office to lead its Earth science program. On 5th May, NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen announced that the agency had hired Karen St. Germain as their new director of Earth science division, which she will formally begin working on 8th June.
Karen is currently working at the NESDIS department at NOAA as their deputy assistant administrator for systems. This department’s primary role is to operate NOAA’S fleet of weather satellites. St.Germain’s current position is to oversee the development of NOAA’s existing and planned satellites. She also had a role in leading a study on the next-generation architecture of weather satellites, whereby they explored the research using a large number of small satellites where some of these satellites were used in nontraditional orbits.
In a statement, Zurbuchen said that NASA would learn more about our planet from St.Germain’s enthusiasm and experience that she has attained throughout her career. Through a brief video message posted on 6th May, Karen confirmed Zurbuchen’s statement. She explained further that she had learned a lot throughout her career, and she knows what it takes to deliver a capability as well as what it means to meet a broader set of objectives.
The principal objective of the Earth Science Program is to maintain the balance between large and small missions. NASA has currently pushed back some of the middle-class missions such as Earth System Explorer due to limited budgets, as stated by the acting director of the Earth Science Division Sandra Cauffman. In the last meeting held by the company, Cauffman was hoping that the company could release the first solicitation of the program by the end of the year because if they do not do it in 2020, they will not be able to achieve it until after 2022.
The process of filling the Science Division Director took longer than expected because, at the time after the previous director left, the company felt that they had not found someone who had the full set of qualifications that they needed to lead the portfolio. Since 2019, Cauffman, who is currently the deputy director of the division, had remained as the acting director until NASA reopened the selection process early this year and eventually settling with Karen St.Germain.
In his statement, Zurbuchen thanked Cauffman for taking a challenging role as the acting director and successfully keeping the Earth Science work on track.