Longtime Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana moving to NASA HQ with new role

Janet Petro to serve as acting center director

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana at Johnson Space Center on Aug. 3, 2018 after the commercial crew assignment announcement. (Picture: WKMG/Emilee Speck)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – After leading Kennedy Space Center for more than a decade, Robert “Bob” Cabana is taking on a new role at NASA headquarters as associate administrator, the space agency announced this week.

Steve Jurczyk, who was acting NASA administrator until Bill Nelson was confirmed, announced his retirement as associate administrator on Monday. Associated administrator is the highest ranking civil servant at NASA and does not require Senate confirmation unlike administrator and associate administrator.

Cabana, a former astronaut, has been the KSC director since 2008 during a critical time as the center prepared to end the space shuttle program.

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“Bob has a relentless determination to expand America’s role in space. Under his leadership, Kennedy has emerged as a modern, world class multi-user spaceport, partnering with commercial customers and supporting NASA’s science and human exploration missions,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “Bob is the real deal – he has the vision and management skills to bring NASA to even higher heights.”

Always with a smile and a good story from his adventurous career, Cabana has managed KSC as it became a spaceport for multiple companies under the commercial crew program, launched astronauts for the first time since 2011 and prepared to launch NASA’s Artemis moon rocket.

He’s been there to greet the first three groups of astronauts to arrive on the old space shuttle runway as they prepared to launch with SpaceX.

Cabana graduated from U.S. Navy test pilot school and became a naval aviator before becoming a NASA astronaut in 1986. He flew on four space shuttle missions, including as the commander of the first space station assembly mission in 1998.

Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana, center, welcomes SpaceX Crew 2 astronauts, from left, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur as they arrive at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 16, 2021. The launch to the International Space Station is targeted for April 22. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Nelson and Cabana first met while the then U.S. representative was training to fly on the space shuttle and Cabana was an astronaut candidate in 1985.

“I’m honored to have been selected by Sen. Nelson to serve as associate administrator of NASA,” Cabana said in a statement. “Bill and I have a shared passion for America’s space program, and I look forward to serving NASA and our nation in this new capacity. As much as I am going to miss the incredible team at Kennedy, I can’t wait to take on this new challenge.”

In his new role, Cabana will join NASA’s leadership team under the Biden administrator.

Janet Petro will serve as acting center director. She has been deputy director at KSC since 2007.