Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator for the past 14 months, announced March 12 that he will retire April 30.
“I will work with the White House on a smooth transition to the new administrator,” Lightfoot wrote in a note to NASA employees.
It is unclear who the new administrator will be. President Donald Trump has nominated Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to be NASA’s permanent head, but the conservative congressman faces opposition from senators who object to having a politician run what has traditionally been a nonpartisan agency.
Before Lightfoot became acting administrator in January 2017, he was NASA’s associate administrator, the agency’s highest-ranking civil servant. Before that, he was director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
Separately, the Space Foundation announced March 12 that Vice President Mike Pence will speak April 16 at the 34th annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. Pence, who chairs the Trump administration’s National Space Council, is expected to make a space policy announcement.
“The vice president’s participation at the symposium indicates the priority this White House is placing on America’s position in space,” said Thomas Zelibor, the foundation’s chief executive officer.