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Robert M. Lightfoot, Space Shuttle Propulsion Manager at NASA's Marshall Center, Receives Nation's Highest Federal Service Honor
Angela Storey
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)

News Release: 06-136

Robert Lightfoot Robert M. Lightfoot Jr., manager of the Space Shuttle Propulsion Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has been awarded the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executives -- the highest honor attainable for federal government work.

Image above: Robert Lightfoot
Image credit: NASA/MSFC

The Presidential Rank Award is given annually to a select group of senior federal executives for outstanding leadership and service in some of the most critical positions in federal government. Executives who have consistently demonstrated strength, integrity and commitment to public service in their careers are nominated for the award by members of their agency. Review boards of private citizens refer a select few to the president for approval.

Lightfoot is one of only 28 NASA employees nationwide to be selected for the Presidential Rank Award and one of three Marshall Center managers to be honored.

Lightfoot has served in his current position since November 2005, responsible for the manufacture, assembly and operation of the primary shuttle propulsion elements: the main engines, external tank, solid rocket boosters and reusable solid rocket motors.

"I am honored to receive the Presidential Rank Award, one I share with NASA's entire space shuttle community," Lightfoot said. "This award recognizes all the work done by the entire team working Return to Flight issues and the transition of relevant shuttle systems, workforce and facilities to NASA's new exploration systems to be developed as part of the Vision for Space Exploration, the initiative calling for future exploration of the moon, Mars and beyond."

Lightfoot served as assistant associate administrator for the Space Shuttle Program in the Office of Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington from July 2003 until appointment to his current position. His responsibilities included space shuttle Return to Flight activities, budget formulation and integration of shuttle infrastructure into the Vision for Space Exploration. Other responsibilities included providing technical advice and recommendations on readiness and execution of the shuttle program, with a budget oversight of more than $3 billion.

He began his NASA career at the Marshall Center in 1989 as a test engineer and program manager for the space shuttle main engine technology test bed program and the Russian RD-180 engine testing program for the Atlas launch vehicle program. In 1998, he was named deputy division chief of the Marshall Center’s propulsion test division.

In 1999, he joined NASA's Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Miss., as chief of propulsion test operations, managing space shuttle main engine testing and multiple NASA, Department of Defense and industry rocket engine test programs.

Lightfoot was named deputy director of the Stennis Propulsion Test Directorate and in 2001 appointed to the Senior Executive Service, the personnel system covering top managerial positions in approximately 75 federal agencies. He was named director of the test directorate in 2002, responsible for propulsion test facility assets valued at more than $2 billion.

Lightfoot has received numerous awards during his NASA career, including a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 1996 for significant contributions to NASA’s mission. In 1999, he was presented a Silver Snoopy Award, which honors individuals who have made contributions to the success of human space flight missions. In 2000, he received a Space Flight Leadership Recognition Award, which recognizes leaders who exemplify characteristics necessary for success.

A native of Montevallo, Ala., Lightfoot received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1986 from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Lightfoot and his wife, the former Caroline Smith of Huntsville, and their two children, Kelsey and Haley, live in Huntsville.

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