Status Report

NASA’s Chief Technology Officer for IT Chris Kemp Is Leaving The Agency

By SpaceRef Editor
March 14, 2011
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NASA’s Chief Technology Officer for IT Chris Kemp Is Leaving The Agency

It is with mixed emotions that today I am announcing my resignation as NASA’s Chief Technology Officer for IT.

I’d like to thank my incredible team and colleagues for all of their support over the past five years, reflect on some of the incredible things we have accomplished together, and let you know how I arrived at this difficult decision. First, to my team at both NASA Ames Research Center and NASA Headquarters – you deserve all of the credit – and I mean that literally – it has been an incredible honor working with you and watching you all accomplish amazing things – often with little more assistance from me than providing occasional bureaucratic air-cover. I also owe everything we have accomplished to those who have provided air cover for me.

What an incredible experience the past five years has been. When I joined NASA, I was in awe of how much potential the organization had to inspire people. My first role at NASA was helping catalyze public-private partnerships and commercialization of NASA data. I had the opportunity to help finalize an incredible collaboration with Google that aimed to “Bring Space Exploration Down to Earth” by making vast sums of NASA information accessible in Google Earth… using Space Act authority to ensure taxpayers were not footing the bill. Microsoft had a new platform called World Wide Telescope, so we launched a collaboration with Microsoft to enrich their platform with NASA data as well. As CIO of Ames, I had the opportunity to lead the implementation of NASA’s Agency-wide Security Operations Center, launch NASA’s Nebula Cloud Computing project, and host the launch of and the White House cloud computing strategy. Perhaps the most exciting experience was working with the Space Operations Mission Directorate on an “astronaut manual” to take Photosynth images of the International Space Station. And there are dozens of other experiences of which I am incredibly proud.

Deciding to leave NASA has not been easy, and is something I’ve been struggling with for the past few months. About a month ago, I mentioned to one of my mentors that “it’s a very difficult time to be an entrepreneur at NASA.” She responded “is it ever a good time to be an entrepreneur at NASA?” Reflecting on this, I realized that most of my accomplishments at NASA were not at Headquarters, but out in the field where I could roll up my sleeves and work on projects and get stuff done. Whereas I thought I had the best of both worlds being a Headquarters employee stationed in Silicon Valley, I actually had the worst of both worlds… no influence when I can’t be in all of those meetings at NASA HQ, with no mandate to manage projects at Ames. As budgets kept getting cut and continuing resolutions from Congress continued to make funding unavailable, I saw my vision for the future slowly slip further from my grasp.

So, today, I am announcing that I am leaving the place I dreamed of working as a kid to find a garage in Palo Alto to do what I love.

I hope that our efforts to ensure a more open, collaborative and efficient NASA persist through the many great people, projects, and organizations that I will miss more than I can possibly express here. Thank you all for an incredible five years together.

SpaceRef staff editor.