NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Rick Gilbrech announced Wednesday that he will be leaving the agency for a position in the private sector. NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin announced that Doug Cooke, who has been serving as deputy associate administrator for the directorate since its inception in January 2004, will become the associate administrator. The change is effective Nov. 24.
"I'm very pleased for Rick that he has been offered such a wonderful opportunity. At the same time, I regret the loss to NASA of such a talented individual," said Griffin. "Rick has served as a deputy center director, a center director, and as an associate administrator, all crucial positions. He played a key role in helping the shuttle return to flight. Rick will be missed."
Gilbrech's departure concludes his 17 years at the agency in various roles, including as director of NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., and as deputy center director of NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
In naming Cooke as the new associate administrator, Griffin said, "Doug Cooke has served NASA since the earliest days of the space shuttle program. There is no better engineer in the agency, a talent which is indispensable at the top, and especially so in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, where so much of our future lies. I am tremendously pleased to ask him to head this team."
Cooke has 35 years of experience at NASA in the space shuttle, space station and exploration programs. Previously, he served as manager for the Advanced Development Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center. He also served as deputy manager of the Space Station Program in 1996. In 1993, he led the engineering and technical aspects of the redesign of the International Space Station and subsequently served as vehicle manager.
Cooke is a graduate of Texas A&M University in College Station with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering.