Alabama Not Just Football: 30 Amazing People Who Were Built By Bama

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Robert Lightfoot

Robert Lightfoot was the eleventh Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. A native of Montevallo, he graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in mechanical engineering.

He joined NASA in 1989 as a propulsion testing engineer. In 1998 he was named deputy division chief of propulsion testing at Marshall. The next year he transferred to NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to work as chief of propulsion test operations. Within three years he was promoted to deputy director and then director of the Propulsion Test Directorate at Stennis.

In 2003 he moved to Washington, D.C. and began work as the assistant associate administrator for the Space Shuttle Programs in NASA’s Office of Space Operations. He led the NASA office’s return to normal space shuttle mission operation after the 2003 Columbia shuttle explosion. Lightfoot’s efforts over the two-year grounding of Space Shuttle were instrumental in continuing the shuttle program.

Lightfoot moved back to Marshall in 2005 to manage the Shuttle Propulsion Office and to serve as deputy program manager for the Space Shuttle Program. In 2007 he was named deputy director of Marshall. When David King retired in March of 2009, Lightfoot was named acting director of the center and in August of 2009, he was officially named as the eleventh director at Marshall.

In 2012, after leading Marshall’s transition out of the space shuttle era, Lightfoot moved back to Washington, D.C. to serve as the associate administrator of NASA.

He is a recipient of the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executives and a NASA Outstanding Leadership Award. In 2007 he was named a distinguished departmental fellow by the University of Alabama’s department of mechanical engineering, and in 2009 he was named a fellow of the College of Engineering. In 2010 he was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. He serves on the University of Alabama Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board.

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