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NASA Names Robyn Gatens Acting Director for International Space Station

Robyn Gatens
Robyn Gatens Credits: NASA

Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has named Robyn Gatens as acting director of the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters. The appointment was effective Aug. 25. Sam Scimemi, the former director, has assumed new responsibilities as a special assistant for the agency’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

“Robyn has demonstrated her leadership and strategic vision for the International Space Station and our efforts to enable a robust low-Earth orbit economy, and I am confident she will continue to do so as acting director,” said Lueders.

In this role, Gatens will lead strategy, policy, integration, and stakeholder engagement for the space station program at the agency level, working closely with International Space Station Program Manager Joel Montalbano at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Gatens will provide technical advice for the program, as well as overseeing program execution and managing risks.

Gatens has been the deputy director for the International Space Station, sharing responsibility with the director for day-to-day management. She engaged in NASA’s strategic planning to leverage the space station to enable a robust low-Earth orbit economy. She also played a leadership role in NASA’s response to an independent external review of the operations and management of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, which the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space manages, and provided leadership for the new strategic direction for the U.S. National Laboratory. Additionally, she serves as the systems capability leader for environmental control and life support and crew health and performance systems and leads an agency-wide team of system-specific subject matter experts.

Gatens has 35 years of experience at NASA in both the space station program and in development and management of the life support systems for human spaceflight missions. She began her NASA career in 1985 at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where she held various leadership positions, including systems lead for the station’s regenerative environmental control and life support system (ECLSS), ECLSS division chief, and manager for the Orion Crew Support and Thermal Systems.

She is the recipient of NASA’s Outstanding Leadership and Exceptional Achievement Medals. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

For almost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. Under this unique international partnership, 240 people from 19 countries have visited the station, which has hosted more than 3,000 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.

Learn more about the International Space Station at:


Stephanie Schierholz
Headquarters, Washington