NASA is America’s most recognized space authority and is renowned but stateside and abroad. There are several generations of people who learned of space and dreamed of a life beyond the stars due to NASA. The agency started in 1957 and was the leading force in launching satellites, touching down on the moon, and even exploring other worlds. In order to be a part of NASA, you need to have a high level of intelligence, and a certain amount of physical prowess, and you must be able to think outside of the box.

Working With NASA

With so many pre-requisites just to join the organization, it is safe to say that anyone working with or for NASA is the best in their respective field. Those working for NASA are able to create some of the most creative things that allow for space exploration and much more. That being said, even the smartest minds can sometimes run into a wall when it comes to complex gear. That is where our HBCU graduate enters the story.

NASA has hundreds of projects in operation at any given time. Some have small budgets while others have budgets large enough to fund a small country. One such project that was a part of the NASA space program had hit a wall. With a budget of $8 billion, it was too costly to scrap and too complex to keep moving forward. In 2018, Gregory Robinson, A graduate of an HBCU, was asked to take over as director of the project.

Who Is Gregory Robinson?

Gregory Robinson is one of the youngest of 11 children in his family. He was born in Danville, Virginia, as the 9th son of local tobacco sharecroppers. Even as a child he showed promise. He started off at a Black only school in Virginia and then switched schools during the integration period of 1970. Eventually, he gained admission to Virginia Union University via a football scholarship. He secured a bachelor’s in math during his time at Virginia Union. Later, he decided to transfer to Washington, D.C’s HBCU Howard University. Here, he secured his bachelors in electrical engineering. Now, at the age of 62, he is one of the highest-level Black managers employed by NASA.

Gregory Robinson to the Rescue!

While most people would jump at the chance to hold the director’s position of a NASA project, taking over a decade-stalled project was a different story. The Space Program had already paid out $8 billion dollars and the launch was more than 10 years past due. Working for NASA was not new for Gregory Robinson, after all, he was the former deputy associate administrator of programs of the same agency.

During his time with NASA, he assessed upwards of 100 different science missions. When offered the position of director of the James Webb Space Telescope project, he initially declined. NASA offered him the position due to his experience with gaining interpersonal trust and his vast amount of firsthand experience with NASA projects.

The James Webb Space Telescope Project

The JW Telescope project was first launched in 2002 with a maximum expected budget of $3.5 billion dollars. The expected date of completion was set for 2010 but was delayed until 2014, and then again until 2018. The program stalled for various reasons ranging from lack of team cohesion to equipment inoperability. In 2018, after several rounds of setbacks, Zurbuchen was able to convince HBCU alum Gregory Robinson to take over as director of the project.

The goal of the James Webb Space Telescope was to enable scientists to observe and record some of the earliest stars in the universe. Of course, creating a telescope with such immense power and getting into orbit is no easy feat. Through the dedication and guidance of Gregory Robinson, the project was finally seen through to completion.

The Launch of the James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope project was finally completed in 2021. The actual telescope hitched a ride on the Ariane 5 rocket at the end of 2021. Its maiden launch was Christmas Day, 2021, which went off smoothly without a hitch.

Most of the issues that plagued the project boiled down to simple human error. Robinson, in his role as director, was able to assess these problems and create solutions using the knowledge gained through his illustrious career. Once he took over the position, efficiency on the JW Telescope project when up tenfold. Instead of hiding bad news and internal competition, Robinson was able to foster an atmosphere of openness and cooperation. A feat which is by no means easy in an agency filled with highly skilled and highly competitive people. 

Leading The Charge For The Next Generation of Star Gazers

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