Particle physics laboratory

Appointment of the head of the space exploration sector

Note from the Applied Physics Laboratory: Appointment of the Head of the Space Exploration Sector

Status report from: Johns Hopkins University
Posted: Thursday January 20th 2022

ADM 2022-002

January 20, 2022

To: All Staff

From: RD Semmel

Subject: Appointment of the head of the space exploration sector

I am pleased to report that our search for a new Head of Space Exploration Sector (SES) has successfully ended with the selection of Dr. Robert D. Braun, who is currently Director of Planetary Sciences at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at NASA and Professor Bren of Aerospace at the California Institute of Technology.

Bobby will succeed Mike Ryschkewitsch, who in October announced his intention to retire. As I reported then, Mike has led SES through a pivotal time, and we deeply appreciate his outstanding leadership and many impressive contributions to the Lab and to our nation.

With over 30 years of experience as a space systems engineer, technologist and organizational leader, Bobby is internationally recognized as a technical authority in the development of entry, descent and landing systems. He has contributed to the formulation, development and operation of several spaceflight missions at JPL. As executive director there, he had programmatic responsibility for approximately half of the lab’s business base, including leading NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Office, Field Program Office returning samples from NASA Mars and Europa Clipper, Psyche, Mars 2020, Ingenuity, Lunar Trailblazer and VERITAS Flight Projects.

Prior to his current role at JPL, Bobby advanced the field of space exploration through an impressive progression of leadership roles at NASA and in academia. He served as Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and prior to that was a faculty member at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he directed the Space Systems Design Laboratory, founded the Center for Space Technology and Research and co-founding an aerospace startup. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgia Tech, Bobby was a member of the technical staff at NASA Langley Research Center.

In 2010-2011, Bobby served as NASA’s first chief technologist in over a decade. In this role, he was responsible for technology and innovation policy and programs spanning industry, academia and all 10 NASA Centers. His work has led to the maturation of a wide range of technologies required for our nation’s future missions in space.

Bobby has authored or co-authored more than 300 technical publications, and his national recognition includes his election to the National Academy of Engineering and his appointment as a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA ) and the American Astronomical Society. (ASA). He is currently a member of the National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board and previously served as Vice Chairman of the National Academies Space Studies Board and a member of the USAF Scientific Advisory Board. He obtained a doctorate. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University, an MS in Astronautics from George Washington University, and a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Pennsylvania State University.

On a more personal note, Bobby is the son of former longtime PLA staffer Jacob “Jack” Braun and fondly remembers the PLA’s holiday season and days as a family in the laboratory when he was a child.

Please join me in congratulating Bobby, welcoming him to APL and wishing him well in his new role. He will be at the PLA on January 24 and periodically over the next two months. Mike Ryschkewitsch has graciously agreed to continue as Head of Space Exploration Sector until Bobby’s appointment becomes effective March 28, 2022.

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