Leslie Livesay Named Deputy Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Leslie Livesay begins her tenure as deputy director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday, March 18. She succeeds Larry D. James, who served as deputy director since September 2013.

Livesay headshot for bio

Leslie Livesay is JPL’s new deputy director.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

During a career spanning more than 37 years at JPL, Livesay has managed teams in the development of technologies and flight systems for planetary, Earth science, and astrophysics missions. She served as the project manager of the Kepler space telescope mission, led the lab’s Engineering and Science Directorate, was director for Astronomy and Physics, and most recently served as associate director for Flight Projects and Mission Success, overseeing the implementation and operations of all JPL flight missions.

“Having served a variety of roles at JPL, I’ve been fortunate to be able to work up close with the many remarkable organizations that make this lab such a special place. I’m looking forward to my new role as we dare mighty things together, boldly driving transformative science and technology,” said Livesay.

Born in Chicago, Livesay holds a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California. She is the recipient of the American Astronautical Society Carl Sagan Memorial Award, Aviation Week Network’s Laureate Award, NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal, and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal.

As the first woman to be named JPL’s deputy director, Livesay serves under Laurie Leshin, who in May 2022 became the first woman to lead JPL. Functioning as the laboratory’s chief operating officer, the deputy director is responsible for the day-to-day management of its resources and activities. Managed by Caltech for NASA, JPL employs about 6,000 scientists, engineers, technicians, and business support personnel, and manages over three dozen flight missions and science instruments, with more in development.

“Leslie has blazed a path in numerous senior leadership positions across JPL. She brings remarkable experience and capabilities to the role as we look toward the enormous and exciting opportunities that lay ahead,” said Leshin. “I also want to express my deep gratitude to Larry James, whose tenure is marked with multiple successful missions, significant improvement in JPL’s operations, and exemplary institutional stewardship.”

Lt. Gen. James was the Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in Washington before retiring from active duty and coming to JPL. Earlier in his career, he trained as an Air Force payload specialist for the Space Shuttle Program. James also served as vice commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles and as commander of the 14th Air Force at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where he was responsible for all Department of Defense satellite and launch systems.

“I’ve been a space enthusiast from an early age, so it’s been a privilege to have been part of JPL,” said James. “Although my time here is done, I’m eager to see the full manifest of missions and projects that we’ve been working on come to fruition, and I know Leslie will thrive in her new role. As for me, I’ll be taking a new position in Australia to help build their space capabilities and continue to strengthen the U.S.-Australia partnership.”

A division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, JPL began in 1936, going on to build and help launch America’s first satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. By the end of that year, Congress established NASA, and JPL became a part of the agency. Since then, JPL has managed such historic missions as Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, the Mars Exploration Rover program, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, and many more.

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