Robert Lightfoot Jr. began his career with NASA in 1989 as a test engineer and program manager for the space shuttle engine technology testbed program and the Russian RD-180 engine testing program. In 2002 he was named director of the Propulsion Test Directorate at Stennis Space Center, and from 2003 to 2005 he played a key role in the space shuttle's return to flight effort as assistant administrator for the Space Shuttle Program in the Office of Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. In August 2009 he was named director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

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