Spaceflight Insider

New appointees fill top NASA positions

NASA logo image credit NASA

Image Credit: NASA

Signaling an era of new leadership, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has appointed Steve Jurczyk to serve as the agency’s associate administrator and Melanie W. Saunders to the position of acting deputy associate administrator, succeeding Deputy Associate Administrator Krista Paquin, who is resigning June 10.

NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk. Photo Credit: NASA

NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk. Photo Credit: NASA

Jurczyk, Saunders, and Paquin all have had long careers working for the space agency. Jurczyk, who has been serving in an acting capacity in his current position since March 10, came on board in 1988, working as an engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where he worked on space-based remote-sensing systems. At Langley, he held several positions, including director of engineering, director of research and technology, deputy center director, and finally, director.

Since 2015, Jurczyk served as associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, where he worked with industry and academia developing new technologies for both robotic and human spaceflight.

In 2016, he was given the latest of many awards, the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Executive, which is the highest honor a person in a federal leadership position can attain.

Jurczyk holds both a Bachelors and Masters of Science in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia. He is currently an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

“I want to thank Steve for stepping up to the plate as acting associate administrator these past few months, and look forward to his counsel going forward,” Bridenstine said.

The position of NASA associate administrator is the space agency’s highest-ranking civil service job.

Saunders, who has been serving as acting deputy center director at Houston’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) since February 1 and is on an acting basis taking over the position being vacated by Paquin, has been with NASA since 1994, when she came on as manager for International Policies for the International Space Station (ISS).

She subsequently served as deputy manager of the JSC‘s External Relations Office, associate manager of the ISS program, JSC associate director, and JSC acting deputy center director.

Her most recent position involved managing close to 11,000 civil service employees and contractors, including those at the White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Like Jurczyk, she has been recognized numerous times in her career, earning two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals.

Saunders holds a Bachelors in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Davis.

Paquin, the longest-serving of the three, joined NASA in 1984 as a Presidential Management Intern. For 22 years, she worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, holding the positions of associate director of management operations, deputy director of the Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate, deputy director for Planning and Business Management of Flight Programs, and Goddard associate center director.

In her most recent position, Paquin was responsible for leading mission support functions and overseeing several key areas, including human capital management, strategic infrastructure, procurement, protective services, audit liaison, and agency directive management for operations at NASA headquarters, NASA’s shared services center, and various NASA partnerships.

Recognized with numerous awards over the course of her career, including the agency’s Outstanding Leadership Medal, Paquin holds a Bachelors and Masters in Urban Planning and Management from the University of Maryland.

Bridenstine welcomed Saunders to her new position and thanked Paquin for her “distinguished service” to NASA.

“The agency has greatly benefited from the talents of all these dedicated civil servants,” he emphasized.




Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazine’s guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Especially interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at the 2008 Great Planet Debate held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.

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