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Millions of people around the world have seen the first images from the world’s largest and most powerful space telescope. But not many of us know that Gregory L. Robinson, the director of the James Webb Space Telescope Program in the NASA Science Mission Directorate, is a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduate from two historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

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Born the son of sharecroppers in Danville, Virginia, Robinson went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in math from Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA, before heading to Washington D.C. for a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Howard University. He also earned an M.B.A. from Averett College.

Later in his career, he attended Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government. He is a fellow of the Senior Executive Fellows Program and the Federal Executive Institute (Leadership for a Democratic Society).

Last week, Director of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Program Gregory Robinson joined host Trevor Noah on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Robinson discussed the advancements the Webb telescope has compared to the Hubble, and how space missions reveal important information about our earth, the sun, and the galaxies around us. (Photo Credit: Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah).

Prior to Robinson’s reassignment to NASA Headquarters in 1999, he spent 11 years in various leadership positions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

He served as NASA deputy chief engineer (2005-2013) and had primary responsibility and authority for oversight of agency engineering work, including the design, manufacture, testing, operation, training, and maintenance practices and products. Additionally, he provided oversight of the readiness and execution of all NASA programs to ensure development efforts and mission operations were planned and conducted with sound engineering and proper programmatic controls.

At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), he served as the acting deputy assistant administrator at the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) (2011-2012). He also led the acquisition and management of all NOAA satellite flight and ground acquisitions.

Robinson served as deputy center director at NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center (GRC), where he was responsible for planning, organizing, and controlling the effective accomplishment of all missions assigned to the center.

GRC is engaged in a diverse program of research, technology advancement, and project management related to aeronautical propulsion, space power propulsion, cryogenic fluids, microgravity science, expendable launch vehicles, space communications, and materials, structures, instrumentation and controls, computational fluid dynamics, and electronics.

Previously, he was the deputy associate administrator for programs, responsible for assessing NASA programs as the projects and institutions for technical and cost-effectiveness, quality, and performance. He also coordinates program and project content with the other NASA mission directorates and federal agencies in which SMD has partnerships.

During his time with NASA, Robinson has received numerous individual and group performance awards, including the Presidential Rank, Distinguished Executive; and Meritorious Senior Professionals and Executives Award.

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