Johnson Space Center Directors
Eleven directors have served at Johnson Space Center since it was opened in 1962.
Several JSC directors posed for a group photograph at Johnson Space Center in August of 2002. Check out the portrait and meet the directors.
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Robert R. Gilruth: Nov. 1961-Jan. 1972
Christopher C. Kraft Jr.: Jan. 1972-Aug. 1982
- On Sept. 19, 1961, NASA announced that the $60 million manned space flight laboratory would be located in Houston on 1,000 acres of land to be made available to the government by Rice University.
- Gilruth was named the first director of the MSC, and transferred his headquarters to Houston effective March 1, 1962.
- Gilruth declared an "Open House" for the weekend of June 6 and 7, 1962 and welcomed the public to the new NASA/MSC. Some 52,000 people toured the center and viewed displays depicting the past, present and future hardware of the space program.
- Gemini IV, launching on June 3, 1965, became the first flight controlled from Houston's Mission Control Center.
- Apollo 11’s Eagle landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969, becoming the first of six successful Apollo Moon landings. The Apollo program met the late President John F. Kennedy’s goal, provided invaluable spaceflight experience for NASA and inspired the nation. Three more Apollo missions landed on the Moon during Gilruth's tenure.
Gerald D. Griffin: Aug. 1982-Jan. 1986
- Two Apollo missions landed on the Moon in 1972.
- The MSC was renamed in honor of the late president Lyndon B. Johnson on Feb. 17, 1973 -- which would have been Johnson's 65th birthday.
- The United States' first manned space station, Skylab, operated from May 14, 1973, to February 18, 1974.
- On July 17, 1975, the first international space docking took place during the Apollo-Soyuz project.
- Space Shuttle Columbia launched for the first time on April 12, 1981.
Jesse W. Moore: Jan. 1986-Oct. 1986
- In 1983, the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite was put into orbit by STS-6.
- JSC was selected as NASA's lead center for development of a U.S. space station.
- From June 18 to June 24, 1983, Sally Ride served as a mission specialist aboard STS-7, becoming the first American woman to fly in space.
- As a mission specialist aboard STS-8, which flew from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, 1983, Guion Bluford Jr. became the first African-American to fly in space.
Aaron Cohen: Oct. 1986-Aug. 1993
- The Challenger accident occurred on January 28, 1986, just five days after Moore was named as center director. The disaster claimed all seven crewmembers of STS-51L, including Christa McAuliffe, who was to become the first teacher in space.
Carolyn L. Huntoon: Jan. 1994-Aug. 1995
- The space shuttle returned to space when STS-26 lifted off on September 29, 1988.
- In October 1988, Cohen signed a document that would lead to the development of a privately funded visitor complex near JSC -- today's Space Center Houston..
- Cohen submitted proposals for the development of a Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) -- a larger facility to train astronauts for spacewalks.
George W. S. Abbey: Jan. 1996-Feb. 2001
- STS-60 took with it the first Russian cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev, on a U.S. space shuttle.
- The new Mission Control Center became operational in July 1995.
- In 1995, the Sonny Carter Training Facility was named for astronaut M. L. "Sonny" Carter who was instrumental in developing many current spacewalking techniques. Huntoon presided over the dedication.
Roy S. Estess (Acting Director): Feb. 2001-March 2002
- August 30, 1995, was the first JSC Safety Awareness Day.
- The National Space Biomedical Research Institute, or NSBRI, was established. The NSBRI consists of many well respected research institutes and solicits proposals for biomedical research.
- Abbey and JSC aided in the development of the Discovery Pyramid at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas. The pyramid celebrates space exploration and encourages young visitors to be interested in science.
- In February 1996, JSC was designated the lead center for space station development and shuttle operations.
- The new NBL began operations in January 1997, replacing the Weightless Environment Training Facility.
- The Longhorn Project was launched on February 5, 1997. The project brought longhorn cattle to the grounds of JSC, enabling students to learn about livestock and agricultural issues.
- Construction began on the International Space Station: a Russian Proton rocket placed the Zarya Module in orbit in November 1998. The next month, the STS-88 mission saw Space Shuttle Endeavour attach the Unity Module to Zarya.
Jefferson D. Howell Jr.: March 2002-November 2005
- The International Space Station grew by leaps and bounds, becoming self-sufficient -- fully operational without a shuttle present.
- In 2001, a total of 18 spacewalks were conducted --12 from shuttles and six from the ISS -- which set a new record for number of spacewalks performed in a single year.
- In April 2001, the station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, was deployed on the ISS, bringing a new range of technological abilities to the station.
- Seven flawless shuttle missions were flown during Estess' tenure as acting director. All of these flights but one were dedicated to space station assembly and maintenance, with the other mission servicing the Hubble Space Telescope.
Michael L. Coats: November 2005-December 2012
- Howell oversaw a series of successful Shuttle missions.
- In April 2002 STS-110 delivered the S-Zero section of the Station's main truss.
- STS-111 took experiment racks and equipment to the Station as well as a replacement wrist-roll joint for the Canadarm2 two months later. It also delivered the Expedition 5 crew, and returned home with the three members of Expedition 4, who had spent almost 196 days in space.
- STS-112, in October 2002, delivered the S-One section of the Station's main truss.
- STS-113 added another section to the main truss and took aloft the Expedition 6 crew. It brought home Expedition 5 crewmembers, who had spent almost 185 days in space.
- Howell guided JSC through the difficult days after the Feb. 1, 2003, loss of Columbia on STS-107 as the center contributed to the investigation of the accident and began the process of return to Shuttle flight.
Dr. Ellen Ochoa: January 2013-present
- From STS-121 to STS-135, Coats oversaw 20 space shuttle missions that carried on the program’s return to flight, completed assembly of the International Space Station, performed the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission and flew the final shuttle mission.
- During the 21 expeditions under Coats’ leadership the International Space Station expanded to a six-person crew in 2009, was completed in 2011 and saw advancements in research and technology, which have already demonstrated benefits to human life in the areas of human health, telemedicine, education and observations of Earth from space.
- Coats led the JSC team through a time of transition with the cancellation of the Constellation Program, completion of the Space Shuttle Program, stand up of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program (Orion) for future deep space exploration by humans and ushering in commercial spaceflight providers for low-Earth orbit flights.
- During his tenure JSC celebrated its 50th anniversary and held its first Innovation Day to help foster internal collaboration and technology advancement.
- Ellen Ochoa, a veteran astronaut, has been named the center’s 11th director.
- Ochoa served as deputy director September 2007-December 2012.
- Ochoa is JSC's first Hispanic director, and its second female director.
- Ochoa, who considers La Mesa, Calif., to be her hometown, became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993.
- She has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit.
- Prior to her astronaut career, she was a research engineer and inventor, with three patents for optical systems.