WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. space agency says Rick Gilbrech, the associate administrator of its exploration directorate, is leaving NASA for a position in the private sector.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration Administrator Michael Griffin said Doug Cooke, who has been serving as deputy associate administrator for the directorate since its inception in January 2004, will become the associate administrator effective Nov. 24.
"I'm very pleased for Rick that he has been offered such a wonderful opportunity. At the same time, I regret the loss to NASA of such a talented individual," said Griffin. "Rick has served as a deputy center director, a center director and as an associate administrator, all crucial positions. He played a key role in helping the shuttle return to flight. Rick will be missed."
Gilbrech has been with the space agency for 17 years in various positions, including director of NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., and as deputy center director of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
Cooke has 35 years of experience at NASA in the space shuttle, space station and exploration programs.