Science and Exploration

NASA Webb Program Director Greg Robinson Announces Retirement

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
July 22, 2022
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NASA Webb Program Director Greg Robinson Announces Retirement
Gregory Robinson

After more than 30 years of service at NASA, the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope Program Director Gregory L. Robinson is retiring on July 29.

“Greg is the real deal. He’s been a steady hand, leading the Webb team through unprecedented challenges and once-unimaginable successes,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Put simply, Greg is everything a public servant should be. The proof is in the pudding: Webb will give humanity a new view of the cosmos and fundamentally alter our understanding of the universe. As we gaze up to the sky with a renewed sense of wonder, we know Greg’s leadership helped make Webb’s novel innovation possible – and that his impact at NASA will be realized for generations.”

Robinson’s contributions to the agency have been far-reaching, from leading NASA programs in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington to overseeing the largest and most complex space science observatory ever flown in space.

“Greg’s calm and engaging leadership style has been instrumental in completing development of Webb, which is now delivering awe-inspiring views of our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “His effectiveness, including his successes in building trust and collaboration among the massive, international Webb team, will have a lasting impact on both the agency and the worldwide astrophysics community.”

Robinson’s tenure as Webb program director at NASA Headquarters began in 2018, where he was instrumental in completing the last four years of mission development – a mission that is now delivering to the world the first images of the hidden infrared universe. Robinson was appointed to head a program that involved nearly 20,000 people across 29 states and 14 countries.

“Greg helped push the international James Webb Space Telescope team across the finish line with his calm approach to technical and human challenges, leading to complete and magnificent success,” said John Mather, a Nobel laureate and Webb’s senior project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Robinson’s career with the agency began over three decades ago. Prior to Webb, Robinson was deputy associate administrator for programs in the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, from February 2015 to March 2018, where he provided oversight of 114 missions in various lifecycle phases and developed best practices to improve performance.

Over his 33 years at NASA, Robinson held several senior executive positions, including deputy director at the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, from February 2013 to February 2015, where he helped lead a major reorganization of the Center to improve project performance while continuing world class research and technology development. During his tenure, Robinson initiated the formulation for Solar Electric Propulsion and the European Service Module work continued, in support of Artemis. In addition, the Spacecraft Fire Safety project was preparing for delivery for launch to the International Space Station.

Robinson completed a detail assignment as acting deputy assistant administrator for systems for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service from April 2011 to June 2012, where he led the formulation of the Joint Polar Satellite System program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series program to confirmation. He also led the agreement with the United States and Taiwan that led to the development, launch, and operation of a Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (COSMIC) follow-on mission.

Robinson served as NASA deputy chief engineer from 2005 to 2013, leading the development of program and project management and engineering policy. He was intricately engaged with all space shuttle missions after the shuttle Columbia accident. He is one of the pioneers of the NASA Technical Authority.

The first 11 years of his NASA career were spent in multiple leadership roles at Goddard.

Robinson is the recipient of numerous accolades, including the NASA Presidential Rank Distinguished Executive, the NASA Meritorious Senior Professionals and Executives Award, and the 2022 “Management Excellence” Finalist for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. He was also named to the TIME 100’s Most Influential People of 2022.

“I feel incredibly appreciative and honored to have worked with a stellar team at NASA,” said Robinson. “This was a dream career at an agency that allows you to reach for new heights so that we can reveal the unknown for the benefit of all humanity.”

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.