Pete Worden to take the reins at Ames
NASA has announced that Pete Worden will be taking over as director of Ames Research Center, replacing Scott Hubbard (who was one of the most outspoken and savvy members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board) who stepped down a few months ago.
Worden's name may sound familiar, as he's been involved in some of the most interesting work the Air Force Space Command has done in recent years. I don't know him personally (though we've met briefly a couple of times), but I've been writing about his work for more than 15 years. He's been a pioneer and leading thinker in two areas that are of great interest to me: The creation of a new generation of inexpensive, fully-reusable launch vehicles (Worden was the visionary behind the DC-X vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing test rocket built under the auspices of the Strategic Defense Initiative, aka Star Wars, then taken over by NASA and killed off), and the issue of asteroid and comet impacts on Earth, including how to detect them and what to do if we find one with our name on it.
Worden retired from the Air Force a couple of years ago, briefly went to Washington to serve in the new dept. of Homeland Security, and then went out to pasture as a professor at U. of Az. I'm delighted to see him back in the saddle again in a position of importance, and can hardly wait to see what he manages to do there. Ames has always been one of NASA's most interesting places, especially for those interested in the possibilities of life elsewhere, and it's been somewhat under siege in the new belt-tightening at NASA. Worden will hopefully help to get Ames some of the respect it deserves from hq. He's a well-known guy in DC, and though he is a very pleasant and engaging person, it is my strong impression that he doesn't take shit from anyone.