NASA is about to close an important chapter in its history. Chief Scientist Jim Green, who has worked at the agency for over 40 years, now plans to retire in early 2022. He started by developing NASA’s equivalent to the internet (the Space Physics Analysis Network) shortly after he arrived in 1980, but he’s best known for overseeing some of NASA’s biggest space exploration projects in the past 15 years — you’re likely very aware of his work.
Green directed NASA’s Planetary Science Division during the Curiosity landing in 2012, and played a key role in both promoting and explaining the Mars rover to the public. He further took leading roles during the Juno probe’s investigation of Jupiter, Messenger’s tour of Mercury, Dawn’s visit to Ceres and New Horizons’ historic flyby of Pluto. The scientist also greenlit plans for the Perseverance rover currently roaming Mars.
It’s not yet clear who will succeed Green, although he will assist with the search for his replacement. However, it’s safe to say he’ll have a healthy legacy. He both nurtured missions and made them more accessible to the public — he helped explain why Curiosity, New Horizons and other vehicles were exciting. If you’re pursuing a career in space science, Green’s work might well have served as an inspiration.
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