Remembering the Past Year as a New Season Begins

It happened again this past weekend. I was excited about my refreshing spring run, the bird songs, the beautiful flowers, and I remembered how much she loves spring. I wanted to tell her I am thinking of her. I was reaching for the phone. And then I suddenly remembered that my mother is no longer with us.

I still read her loving messages she sent me from her iPad – a skill she insisted she would never learn, then struggled with, and eventually mastered. This is how she watched me when I was on TV. This is how she read most news about me and the whole word.

She had a whole book of clippings of news articles about me – I never knew that until the very end. And it surprised me because I had sensed little interest in my work before. Obviously, I had been wrong.

I have been thinking a lot about the 500,000+ US families and millions worldwide and the tens of millions of children and friends whose lives will not be the same anymore, changed by COVID. I think about the grandparent who left prematurely, the mothers who will never be grandmothers, the Holocaust survivors whose stories died with them, those who were freedom fighters, the courageous immigrants who were finally brought down.

I received my second vaccine a few days ago. I am deeply grateful for the scientists and those who helped produce this vaccine in record time. I am happy and hopeful that we can soon wake up from this nightmare we have been in for over a year.

And when this is part of the past, let’s not forget that the scars from this will be a reality for millions of families for years. They too will have gaping holes in their lives they struggle with. And they too will need time to heal and learn what it means to have fewer people on Earth who truly love them. They too will need help.

My condolences and thoughts to all of you who lost loved ones this past year! May you feel the love and friendship in your lives and may you have the courage to ask for help when needed!

P.S.: Check out this 80s song I re-discovered recently. I really needed help when it came out in as I feared I had lost my family forever, and it therefore spoke to me then. It again speaks to me today as we all need to learn to ask for help and learn to listen to others when they need help. Most don’t do it as beautifully as Tina Turner: https://youtu.be/4cro7kZKG2c

Meet NASA’s Next Earth Science Division Director

It was my great pleasure today to welcome to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate our new Earth Science Division director, Dr. Karen St. Germain. She will join our team June 8. Her enthusiasm and the experience she has gained throughout her distinguished career will bring great value and perspective to our critical work to learn more about our home planet, to apply our capabilities to improve products and services to all the worlds’ citizens, and to help lead the implementation of the future Earth Science mission portfolio integrated with missions from our commercial, interagency, and international partners.

I want to thank Sandra Cauffman for her leadership during the leadership transition period which lasted some sixteen months. She took on a challenging role and successfully kept our Earth Science work on track — cultivating our international partnerships, stewarding new and existing missions, and raising the profile of this important work. She has my deepest gratitude. Dr. Paula Bontempi served as deputy director (acting) and similarly made important contributions. Gratitude also goes to her. Finally, I also want to thank everyone who took the time to apply for this position and for the many thoughtful interviews we had during the process. We have a great pool of talent in this community, and it was a testament to ESD that there was so much interest in this position.  I look forward to building on that interest with Dr. St. Germain in the coming months.

Dr. St. Germain is no stranger to space and holds a senior position at one of NASA’s biggest partners on orbit, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is currently the deputy assistant administrator, systems, for NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDID). In that role, she guides the ongoing development and deployment of NOAA’s two major satellite programs – the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environment Satellite – R series, as well as the COSMIC-2 mission and Space Weather Follow-On.

She also leads the development of the next generation capabilities to replenish and augment these systems in the future. Prior to becoming deputy associate administrator, she served as the director of the Office of Systems Architecture and Advanced Planning, where she led enterprise-level mission architecture development and systems engineering to enable NESDIS to become a flexible, stable and responsive civil space agency in support of NOAA’s mission. Dr. St. Germain is an expert in major systems acquisition, with particular proficiency in transitioning new technology into operational systems and was NOAA’s lead for all aspects of performance during the development of the joint NASA-NOAA-DOD Suomi-NPP system from 2006 to 2011.

In 2011, Dr. St. Germain began work in the Space, Strategic and Intelligence Systems Office (SSI), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. At SSI, she led the Department of Defense’s 2014 Strategic Portfolio Review for Space and helped develop a strategy and implementation plan for adapting to evolving challenges in the space domain. She also led the Remote Sensing and Prompt Strike Division within SSI, where she was responsible for shaping acquisition and oversight of DoD’s strategic missile warning and space-based environmental monitoring portfolio and was also program director of the Conventional Prompt Global Strike Program.

Dr. St. Germain has had a successful research career at the University of Massachusetts, the University of Nebraska, and the Naval Research Laboratory. She has performed research aboard ice-breakers in the Arctic and Antarctic, flown through hurricanes and tropical storms on NOAA’s P-3 airplanes and measured glacial ice on a snowmobile traverse of the Greenland ice sheet. She also led the modeling and calibration of the WindSat Coriolis mission, launched in 2003 as the first spaceborne radiometer to measure ocean surface wind direction.

Dr. St. Germain holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Union College (1987) and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts (1993). She is also a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College, National Defense University where she earned a Master of Science degree in National Security Strategy in 2013.

We look forward to Dr. St. Germain’s leadership of Earth Science, a critical part of NASA’s portfolio that today is more important than ever.