First Female Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center To Retire

Jody Singer

Jody Singer, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center Director, announced Monday her retirement, effective Saturday, July 29, after more than 38 years of service. Credit: NASA

After over 38 years of service, Jody Singer, the first female director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has announced her retirement. Her tenure saw significant advancements at NASA Marshall, with a career spanning critical roles in space exploration missions and numerous prestigious awards. Deputy Center Director Joseph Pelfrey will serve as interim director.

Jody Singer’s Retirement Announcement

On Monday, July 17, Jody Singer, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center Director, announced her retirement, effective Saturday, July 29, after more than 38 years of service. Among many firsts in her career, Singer was appointed as the first female center director at Marshall in 2018, after serving as deputy director from 2016 to 2018.

Marshall’s current deputy center director, Joseph Pelfrey, will serve as the interim acting director until Singer’s successor is identified through a nationwide search and open competition.

Tributes and Interim Leadership

“I wish Jody well during her retirement. And I know individuals at the beginning of their career at NASA – and members of the Artemis Generation who dream of working here – will be inspired by Jody’s service, knowing their contributions can help return NASA astronauts to the Moon and prepare us for crewed missions to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “And Joseph Pelfrey is no stranger to Marshall, having joined the center two decades ago as an aerospace engineer. Today, he helps guide Marshall’s broad portfolio of human spaceflight, science, and technology development, which supports missions across NASA. We are confident Joseph is prepared to guide Marshall through this transition.”

As center director, Singer managed one of NASA’s largest field installations, with nearly 7,000 on- and near-site civil service and contractor employees with an annual budget of approximately $5 billion.

Jody Singer NASA Official Portrait

Official NASA portrait of Marshall Space Flight Center Director, Jody Singer. Credit: Fred Deaton/NASA

Singer’s Impact on NASA Marshall

Under Singer’s leadership, NASA Marshall, known for its prominence in large space transportation systems, has expanded its portfolio to include human lunar landing and cargo systems, space habitation and transit systems, advanced propulsion, additive manufacturing, science payload operations, Mars ascent spacecraft, and cutting-edge science and technology missions through innovative partnerships with other NASA centers, industry, government agencies, and academia. The Marshall team was critical to the successes of NASA’s Webb Space Telescope, the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer mission, the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission, and SLS (Space Launch System), the agency’s powerful heavy-lift rocket.

Career Timeline and Achievements

Singer joined NASA in 1985 through the professional intern program. She joined the Space Shuttle Program Office in 1986 as an engineer in the Space Shuttle Main Engine Office and was involved with Return to Flight activities after the space shuttle Challenger accident. She was the first female project manager for the Reusable Solid Rocket Booster Project from 2002 to 2007 and led the team during the shuttle Columbia Return to Flight activities. Starting in 2008 until the shuttle’s successful retirement in 2011, she was deputy manager in the Space Shuttle Propulsion Office. Cumulatively, Jody was part of 110 space shuttle launches.

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Director Jody Singer

Marshall Deputy Director Jody Singer shares career experiences and lessons learned during the 2017 Shared Experiences Forum. Credit: Emmett Given/NASA

Serving in roles of increasing responsibility, Singer held deputy positions for three concurrent programs, the space shuttle, Ares, and the start-up of SLS. As deputy for the Space Shuttle Propulsion Office, she guided successful fly-out and retirement of the shuttle and the transition of workforce and assets to the Ares Project Office and SLS Program. As the deputy program manager of SLS at Marshall, she helped oversee almost 3,000 civil servants and contractors involved in the developing, testing, and certification of the rocket. From 2013 to 2016, Singer was manager of the Flight Programs and Partnerships Office at Marshall, where she held primary responsibility for the center’s work with human advanced exploration projects, science flight mission programs, technology demonstration missions, commercial crew, and International Space Station life support systems, research facilities, and payload mission operations.

Honors and Recognition

Singer has twice been a NASA Fellow, at Pennsylvania State College and Simmons College Graduate School of Management. She is a recipient of numerous prestigious NASA awards, including the Space Flight Awareness Leadership Award, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the Silver Snoopy, and NASA Outstanding Leadership medals. She also is a recipient of two Senior Executive Service Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive Awards. Her external recognitions include Rotary Stellar National Award for Space Achievement; Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame; Distinguished Fellow by the University of Alabama College of Engineering; Gardner Award; AIAA Associate Fellow; 2022 Alabama Engineer of the Year; and the AIAA Hermann Oberth Award.

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