Press Release

Margaret Meixner Appointed to Lead SOFIA Science Mission Operations

By SpaceRef Editor
April 13, 2020
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Universities Space Research Association (USRA) announced today the appointment of Dr. Margaret Meixner to the position of Director, Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), Science Mission Operations, effective April 13, 2020.

SOFIA, NASA’s major airborne astronomical observatory world-wide, conducts observations in the far-infrared that are unique and impossible to obtain even with today’s largest, most advanced high-altitude ground-based telescopes. It paves the way scientifically for the soon-to-be launched James Webb Space Telescope, while simultaneously filling a unique scientific niche in the mid- to far-infrared over the longer term. 

As Director of SOFIA, Dr. Meixner will assume the leadership and management of the SOFIA Science Mission Operations. She will provide the scientific, technical and management guidance for the SOFIA team and working in partnership with the Deutsches SOFIA Institute to maximize the scientific productivity and impact of the observatory. Dr. Meixner will work closely with NASA to ensure the success of SOFIA so it remains at the forefront of research in astronomy, astrophysics, and planetary science. 

Dr. Ghassem Asrar, USRA Senior Vice President of Science stated, “We are thrilled to have Margaret aboard. Her scientific and technical knowledge of infrared astronomy observations and science together with her management experience and community leadership complements our existing and talented team to guide SOFIA moving forward. We are excited to have Margaret join USRA as we continue to fulfill our mission of supporting U.S. space program in science, technology and education.” 

Prior to joining Universities Space Research Association, Dr. Meixner was at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) where she held several leadership positions since 2002. She is currently James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Project Scientist, and the former Instruments Division Deputy and former Webb Instrument Team Lead. She was promoted to Distinguished Astronomer, STScI in 2017, and since 2016 has been Community co-Chair of the Origins Space Telescope Science and Technology Definition Team. She is also a Principal Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University, and a member of NASA’s Astrophysics Advisory Committee.

A recipient of several awards and honors, Dr. Meixner was named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2015 and recognized for her leadership in infrared instrumentation for astronomy. Dr. Miexner was also awarded the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) Science Achievement Award in 2009, and the 1994 Annie Jump Cannon Special Commendation of Honor.

She earned her B.S. degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics in 1987 from the University of Maryland, College Park, and received her master and doctorate degrees in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. 

About USRA:
Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology and engineering. USRA operates scientific institutes and facilities, and conducts other major research and educational programs, under Federal funding. USRA engages the university community and employs in-house scientific leadership, innovative research and development, and project management expertise.

About SOFIA:
SOFIA is an international partnership, funded jointly by NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) manages SOFIA Science Mission Operations (SMO) for the NASA Ames Research Center, in support of NASA’s Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate. SOFIA, a major airborne astronomical observatory, paves the way scientifically for the soon-to-be launched James Webb Space Telescope, while simultaneously filling a unique scientific niche in the mid- to far-infrared over the longer term. 

SpaceRef staff editor.