Alumnus John Grunsfeld named NASA’s chief scientist

By Tim Miller

John M. Grunsfeld (M.S. 1984, Ph.D. 1988) has been named chief scientist of NASA by agency administrator Sean O’Keefe, succeeding Dr. Shannon Lucid. His duties will involve deciding on research policy and priorities for the organization, which includes deciding which experiments will be conducted in the International Space Station.

Grunsfeld is a Chicago native who earned his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before coming to the U of C for his graduate studies. He was selected to become an astronaut in 1992 and first flew into space in 1995 aboard the shuttle Endeavor. He has logged a total of over 45 days in space over the course of his four missions. He has been awarded NASA’s exceptional service medal three times, in 1997, 1998, and 2000.

“With his background in physics and astronomy, John is a natural selection to direct NASA’s important space-based science activities,” O’Keefe said in a press release.

Grunsfeld has served on four shuttle missions, including as payload commander on a 2002 mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope by installing a new digital camera and a new power system. Before embarking on that mission, he spoke to a group of Lab School students and took a CD created by them into space with him. He had previously serviced the telescope on a 1999 mission that installed a new gyroscope.

“Servicing the Hubble Space Telescope is far and away the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done. It’s helping us answer fundamental questions about our world and our place in the universe,” Grunsfeld said in a press release.