James W. Kennedy, the eighth director in the history of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, today announced his intention to retire in January 2007 after 35 years of government service. Kennedy spent 31 of those years with NASA and four with the U.S. Air Force. Kennedy's successor will be announced at a later date.
"Serving as the director of the historic Kennedy Space Center where the U.S. space program was born is an opportunity of a lifetime," Kennedy said. "While I have treasured every minute of every day, now is the time to announce I'm stepping aside to allow someone else the opportunity to lead this great center and its incredible work force."
In his position, Kennedy oversees nearly 15,000 government and contractor employees at KSC. The center's primary mission is the processing of space shuttle, International Space Station and expendable launch vehicle space flight hardware for launch.
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, after accepting Kennedy's retirement letter, stated: "I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with Jim Kennedy for 10 years. He has offered a sure and steady hand at the Kennedy Space Center in the difficult period following the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and will be sorely missed. And while he can retire from NASA, he cannot retire from the NASA family. He will always be one of our own."
Prior to serving as director, Kennedy served as the center's deputy director beginning in October 2002. Prior to coming to KSC, he served for 25 years at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., rising to the position of deputy center director.
Kennedy began his career with NASA in 1968 in the Aerospace Engineering Cooperative Education Program, first at KSC and then at Marshall. After earning his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Auburn University in 1972, he was called to active duty with the U.S. Air Force. In 1977, he received his master's in business administration from Georgia Southern University and returned to NASA in 1980.
Kennedy's work experience includes serving as project manager for major projects, such as the X-34, DC-XA and Solid Rocket Booster Projects. He served as Marshall's director of engineering.
He has received numerous awards, including the National Space Club's Astronautics Engineer of the Year Award, the Silver Snoopy Award, NASA's Distinguished Service Medal, and the Presidential Rank of Meritorious and Distinguished Service Awards. Most recently, he received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal and was named the Florida Chapter of the National Space Club's Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award winner for 2006.
Kennedy was born in Riverdale, Md., and currently resides in Cocoa Beach, Fla., with his wife, Bernadette. He's has two grown children, Jeff and Jamie, and is the proud grandfather of Hayes.