WASHINGTON, D.C.--Wesley Huntress, NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Science, announced yesterday that he will leave the agency before the end of the year. Huntress, who has managed NASA's programs in astrophysics, planetary exploration and space physics for the last 5 years, told his colleagues in a letter "it is just simply time for me to move on."
Huntress, a space scientist, took over the job during a rough time at NASA--the Hubble Space Telescope couldn't focus, cost overruns were routine and NASA as a whole faced shrinking budgets. Since then, the Hubble repairs and on-budget missions to Mars have turned space science "into one of NASA's crown jewels," NASA administrator Dan Goldin said in a statement.
"Wes has done an excellent job [as an advocate] for space science at NASA," says Robert Williams, head of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which runs the Hubble. For example, says Williams, Huntress played a key role in persuading Congress to prohibit NASA from siphoning money from the space science budget to pay for cost overruns on the International Space Station or the Shuttle program.
Huntress, who could not be reached for comment, has told his colleagues that he has no firm plans, but will be job-hunting in the next few months. According to NASA, the search for a replacement will begin immediately.