Lightfoot has held various roles of increasing responsibility at NASA such as associate administrator; director of the Marshall Space Flight Center; manager of MSFC's space shuttle propulsion office; and assistant associate administrator for the agency's space shuttle program.
Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator who has led the space agency since the beginning of the Trump Administration, has announced that he will be resigning from his post at the end of April.
The delay is infuriating some Republican House colleagues of Bridenstine, not only because he's a political ally but also out of concern that NASA can not fully handle its complex charge without a permanent administrator at the helm.
He began his career at the agency in 1989 as an MSFC engineer and program manager. I will work with the White House on a smooth transition to the new administrator. "I leave NASA blessed with a career full of memories of stunning missions, cherished friendships, and an incredible hope for what is yet to come", Lightfoot said in the memo.
The lack of a permanent administrator comes at a pivotal point for NASA.
He served as NASA's associate administrator since 2012 before his appointment as acting administrator.
Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) to be the agency's next administrator in September, but the full Senate has yet to vote on his nomination. The grit and determination you all demonstrate every day in achieving our missions of discovery and exploration are simply awe inspiring.
He held the acting director post for nearly 14 months, longer than anyone in NASA's history. After a nomination hearing previous year, his appointment was stalled after opposition from two Florida Senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, who both opted for a "space professional" to lead NASA.
The White House re-submitted the nomination in January, but the Senate still has to vote on his confirmation, yet again.
Lightfoot's retirement is expected to put pressure on the Senate to appoint a new and deserving NASA head.
"From my perspective, as the one sitting in that chair, it is always of value to have the person the president wants in this position", says Lightfoot in a hearing of the Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space.