NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced a leadership change today for the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Ellen Ochoa will succeed Michael Coats as Johnson's center director when Coats retires at the end of the year. Ochoa has served as Johnson's deputy director since September 2007.
"I want to thank Mike for his years of leadership and dedicated service at NASA, most recently while guiding Johnson through pivotal times for the center," said Bolden. "I am especially sad to see Mike leave, as he and I have been close friends and allies since coming together in the summer of 1964 as new plebes in the great Naval Academy Class of 1968."
"He is a true patriot and an American hero, and we wish him and his lovely wife, Diane, the very best. His expertise and dedication will be sorely missed, not only at JSC, but across the entire agency," Bolden said.
Coats, a former astronaut, became JSC's 10th director in November 2005. He is concluding a 44-year career that includes 20 years with NASA, including seven as center director. He is a retired U.S. Navy captain.
Coats' NASA career began in 1978 when he earned a spot in the first astronaut class specifically selected to fly the space shuttle. He flew three shuttle missions, the first as pilot for the maiden flight of Discovery in 1984. He commanded two subsequent shuttle missions, logging more than 463 hours in space.