WASHINGTON — NASA Associate Administrator Chris Scolese, the agency’s third in command and top-ranking civil servant, is returning to Goddard Space Flight Center to serve as director of the Greenbelt, Md., lab.

Marshall Space Flight Center Director Robert Lightfoot will move to Washington from Huntsville, Ala., to serve as NASA’s acting associate administrator until a permanent replacement is named. His deputy, Gene Goldman, will serve as Marshall’s acting director. The changes, announced Feb. 21, take effect March 5.

“Both Chris and Robert are dedicated public servants who have a passion for NASA and exploration,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a press release. “We are fortunate to have such talented and experienced leaders who are capable of assuming these critical responsibilities during this important time.”

The move puts Scolese in charge of the NASA field center leading the development of the $8.5 billion James Webb Space Telescope. In 2011, NASA took the massively overbudget program away from the Science Mission Directorate and put it under Scolese.

Scolese is a 25-year NASA veteran who ran the agency for several months before Bolden was sworn in as NASA administrator in July 2009. He is replacing Rob Strain, who is stepping down as Goddard director March 4 to become chief operating officer at Boulder, Colo.-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies.



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Dan Leone is a SpaceNews staff writer, covering NASA, NOAA and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public communications from the American University in Washington.