New Director of NASA’s Langley Research Center Announced

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Bridenstine Announced the New Director of NASA’s Langley Research Center Monday

There’s a new Director in town at NASA’s Langley Research Center, according to a press release by NASA on Monday, September 9th. The position’s current occupant, Davide Bowles, retires at the end of the month, after 39 years at NASA. He’ll be succeeded by Clayton Turner. Turner served under Bowles as deputy director since 2015, so the transition should be a smooth one. Still, come the end of the month, 3400 employees will look to Turner for leadership.

What is the Langley Research Center?

Clayton Turner, NASA's new Director of Langley Research Center

Portrait of Clayton P. Turner

Those 3400 employees who report to Turner are a mixture of “…scientists, researchers, engineers and support staff, who work to make revolutionary improvements to aviation, expand understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, and develop technology for space exploration,” according to the press release. 

Of Clayton, Jim Bridenstine, NASA Director, and Trump Beeblebrox punching-bag, said, “[His] wide range of engineering and leadership experience will serve Langley and the agency well as our Artemis program works to send astronauts to the Moon by 2024 to prepare to go to Mars,” (Good job for staying on script with the Mars thing, Dir. Bridenstine!)

As for Bowles, Bridenstine acknowledged his years of service, saying, “I also want to thank David for four decades of public service from Langley, where he addressed the challenges associated with space and air travel, as well as developing future aviation vehicles. His contributions to NASA and America are appreciated.”

Turner’s Qualifications:

During his time as deputy director, he pretty much did what all deputy directors do—All of the crap admin work that the director doesn’t work. Anyone who has ever worked for (or currently works for) a large corporation or government agency… Am I preachin’ The Word, or am I preachin’ The Word!?

Crazy pentacostals believing they're infested with the holy spirit

I WILL preach on!

I know I am. I’ve been there. As such, in Turner’s case that “crap work,” was figuring out how to meet ridiculous deadlines on major projects—like Artemis. It was also trying to figure out how to best use the lab’s resources to help private contractors meet those deadlines. As if that weren’t already a full-time management job, Turner served as director of Langley’s Engineering Directorate. With that hat on, “…he was responsible for the conceptualization, design, development and delivery of ground and flight systems and for designing, enabling and implementing engineering capabilities to meet NASA missions.”

A Good Captain for This Ship

Turner’s entire career appears to have been leading up to this type of position. For example, He started 29 years ago “as a design engineer with the Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment project, where he spearheaded development of the laser aligning, bore-sight limit system.” From there, he climbed the ladder incrementally. As a result of so much hard work, that kind of leadership gleams with experience built from the ground up. 

Sorry, but I’m a bit old school on this. In fact, someone experienced like Turner is exactly what NASA needs at the Langley Research Center right now. As I reported yesterday, things in other departments at NASA aren’t exactly business-as-usual right now. The Human Spaceflight department has been operating under an interim director since Bridenstine demoted William Gerstenmaier. Without a clear long term vision for that program at the moment (other than, “Oh, S&*t! We have to get a human onto the Moon by 2024!), engineers, managers, and any number of other positions within a dozen different departments of NASA make decisions each day they’re not sure will stick.

In Turner’s case, he’s got the experience to lead every one of those 3400 employees. That experience also provides a sense of steadiness within an agency that’s been fraught with turmoil lately. Langley’s resources will be instrumental in ensuring that both commercial and NASA projects related to Artemis succeed. Therefore, here’s to a successful transition for Turner and a great retirement for David Bowles.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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