Today, Lori Garver steps down as the deputy administrator of NASA. Seeing her leave this post leaves me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I’m glad that this will allow her to start a new chapter of her life, as well as take a quick break from the nonstop, high-pace job that comes with being the deputy administrator. But I’m also saddened that NASA will be losing one of its staunchest advocates and promoters.
I met Lori many years ago, on my first career business trip. I was quite young, and brand new to the space industry. Lori was the executive director of the National Space Society. Lori traveled to Harvey, Illinois, to proselytize about space exploration in a small conference room in a third-rate hotel.
After her talk I introduced myself to her and explained what I was doing; Lori said we should be working more together and to meet with her and the NSS team back in Washington. Since that day, I haven’t stopped working with Lori and getting her advice and insights on space, politics and everything in between.
During Lori’s tenure at NASA, she constantly leaned forward to promote the President’s Space Policy agenda. Whether it was the retiring of the Shuttle, exploration of Mars or landing on an asteroid, Lori tackled all these issues with candor, insightfulness and humor. She had many supporters of her style of leadership, and even many detractors, but that never slowed down her mission to move the NASA agenda forward.
She brought to NASA a huge sense of pride for what the agency did and never hesitated, regardless of the venue, to articulate the NASA story. I think the enthusiasm that she brought to the agency is part of the reason why NASA is consistently voted the best federal agency to work for.
Possibly Lori’s greatest accomplishment at NASA was transitioning the Agency from the stale, pale and male culture into a more diverse workplace. Her outreach to get young women interested and involved in space is nothing short of remarkable. I can’t tell you how many times I would introduce Lori to women from AGI and see her spend 20 to 30 minutes guiding and counseling them in all the opportunities that are available to them.
I’m glad I went up to speak to her that day back in Illinois, and I’m glad I have become such good friends with her and her husband, David. Washington is a unique town, and though I’m saddened today about her departure, I know that she will be re-orbiting our space policy universe sometime soon.