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NASA CTO for IT Chris Kemp Stepping Down to ‘Do What I Love’

Photo: NASA

NASA Chief Technology Officer for IT Chris Kemp announced on his blog earlier this week that, after five years with the space agency, he is stepping down.

The announcement was made with “mixed emotions,” he wrote on his NASA blog. In the end, the “difficult decision,” he said, turned on the lack of opportunity for entrepreneurship at the agency.

Here’s an exchange he recounted on the blog:

“About a month ago, I mentioned to one of my mentors that ‘it’s a very difficult time to be an entrepreneur at NASA.’  She responded ‘is it ever a good time to be an entrepreneur at NASA?’ Reflecting on this, I realized that most of my accomplishments at NASA were not at Headquarters, but out in the field where I could roll up my sleeves and work on projects and get stuff done. “

He called being a NASA Headquarters employee stationed in NASA’s Silicon Valley-based Ames Research Center “the worst of both worlds.”

“No influence when I can’t be in all of those meetings at NASA HQ, with no mandate to manage projects at Ames,” he characterized it. “As budgets kept getting cut and continuing resolutions from Congress continued to make funding unavailable, I saw my vision for the future slowly slip further from my grasp.”

But, working at NASA was a dream, he wrote and, in a blog post that was nothing if not frank, Kemp also touted the “incredible” experiences.

“When I joined NASA, I was in awe of how much potential the organization had to inspire people,” he wrote, before launching into a recounting of his first experience at NASA — a collaboration between NASA and Google for the web giant’s Google Earth project — and the most exciting, working with the Space Operations Mission Directorate on an “astronaut manual” to take Photosynth images of the International Space Station.

So, what’s next for Kemp? According to his blog, he’s decided on a workplace a bit more lowkey than NASA.

“I am leaving the place I dreamed of working as a kid,” he wrote, “to find a garage in Palo Alto to do what I love.”

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