Michael Watkins, director of the center for space research at the University of Texas in Austin, has been appointed as the new director of NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
“Dr. Watkins is no stranger to the NASA family,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Watkins has worked with JPL for more than 20 years aiding the Mars Curiosity Rover, Cassini, Mars Odyssey, GRAIL and GRACE missions.
“I am confident that he will do an excellent job as he begins a new chapter in the incredible legacy that [California Institute of Technology] and NASA have written together through JPL for generations,” Bolden said.
Watkins, who also serves as the Clare Cockrell Williams Centennial chair in engineering at UT Austin, will succeed the retiring Charles Elachi.
NASA JPL currently handles spacecraft, rovers/landers, instruments, airborne/ground and technology demonstration missions including the Jason 3, Disturbance Reduction System, Soil Moisture Active Passive, ISS-RapidScat and Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2.
Caltech manages JPL for NASA.