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An Open Letter From Michael New

Status Report From: NASA Science Mission Directorate
Posted: Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

In September of 2002, I arrived at NASA HQ and was welcomed by Michael Meyer, my new “senior colleague” and the former Astrobiology Discipline Scientist, with a big grin and two boxes of (paper) proposals.  Thus began my leadership of the Exobiology Program. With a great deal of trepidation, I organized my first peer review panel (in ways that horrify me today but what was a novice to do?). The panel met in two over-heated (and not just because of the panelists), basement conference rooms in a hotel in Virginia; the meeting space was so uncomfortable that I walked into one panel to find a very senior member of the community lying on the floor in his tank top — I thought I had lost him!  We soldiered on, though, and for the next fifteen years I managed the Exobiology Program through all sorts of ups and downs. I’ve worked with countless wonderful people, both at NASA HQ and in the astrobiology community, and I like to think that my efforts enabled some great science.

In June of 2017 I was asked by the Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, to detail into the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Research.  Subsequently, the permanent position was advertised, I applied, and was selected.  The new position is exciting and terrifying since, for the first time in a long time, I’m being asked to do things that I don’t know how to do — in some cases, that no one knows how to do.  I will always think of myself as an astrobiologist, though, even if I’m wearing a tie.

I leave the Exobiology Program in great hands.  Dr. Lindsay Hays will be taking over for me. Lindsay is an accomplished organic geochemist who did her PhD with Dr. Roger Summons, was an Agouron postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Ann Pearson, and a NASA Postdoctoral Management Fellow with Dr. Mary Voytek and me.  She has organized and participated in peer reviews for Exobiology, Astrobiology, and a number of other programs in Planetary Science, and has organized workshops on the early Earth and Martian biosignatures.  She was the Editor-in-Chief of the 2015 Astrobiology Strategy and was instrumental in bringing that document to completion.  Many of you know her already, and I’m sure you will all welcome her with the same collegial attitude that welcomed me years ago.
 
With many kind thoughts,
 
Michael New
Deputy Associate Administrator for Research

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