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Pete Worden

Simon Peter ("Pete") Worden
NASA Ames Research Center director
Born 1949
Nationality United States
Occupation astrophysicist, U.S. Air Force General
Known for director of NASA Ames Research Center

Simon P. ("Pete") Worden, Ph.D. (Brig. Gen., USAF, Ret.) (born 1949, in Michigan) is Director of NASA's Ames Research Center (ARC) at Moffett Field, Calif. Before joining NASA, he held several positions in the United States Air Force and was research professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He is a recognized expert on space issues – both civil and military. Dr. Worden has authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific papers in astrophysics, space sciences, and strategic studies. He served as a scientific co-investigator for two NASA space science missions, and received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for the 1994 Clementine mission. He has been named the 2009 Federal Laboratory Consortium Laboratory Director of the Year.[1]


Prior to becoming Director of NASA Ames, Dr. Worden was a Research Professor of Astronomy, Optical Sciences and Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona where his primary research direction was the development of large space optics for national security and scientific purposes and near-earth asteroids. Additionally he worked on topics related to space exploration and solar-type activity in nearby stars.

In addition to his position with the University of Arizona, Dr. Worden served as a consultant to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on space-related issues. During the 2004 Congressional Session he worked as a Congressional Fellow with the Office of Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), where he served as Senator Brownback’s chief advisor on NASA and space issues.

Dr. Worden retired from the United States Air Force in 2004 after 29 years of active service. His final position there was Director of Development and Transformation, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA. In this position he was responsible for developing new directions for Air Force Space Command programs and was instrumental in initiating a major Responsive Space Program designed to produce space systems and launchers capable of tailored military effects on timescales of hours.

Dr. Worden was commissioned in 1971 after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan. He entered the Air Force in 1975 after graduating from the University of Arizona with a doctorate in astronomy. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Dr. Worden served in every phase of development, international negotiations and implementation of the Strategic Defense Initiative. He twice served in the Executive Office of the President. As the staff officer for initiatives in the George Bush administration's National Space Council, Dr. Worden spearheaded efforts to revitalize U.S. civil space exploration and earth monitoring programs.

Dr. Worden commanded the 50th Space Wing that is responsible for more than 60 Department of Defense satellites and more than 6,000 people at 23 worldwide locations. He then served as Deputy Director for Requirements at Headquarters Air Force Space Command, as well as the Deputy Director for Command and Control with the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations at Air Force headquarters. Prior to assuming his current position, Dr. Worden was responsible for policy and direction of five mission areas: force enhancement, space support, space control, force application and computer network defense.


Dr. Worden was a key early innovator and proponent in the area of small satellites.[2] While at BMDO and its predecessor SDIO he played major roles in development of the DC-X and the Clementine mission. Clementine was a relatively small, low-cost, and rapidly-developed satellite ostensibly developed to test sensor and propulsion technology for missile interceptors. Clementine mapped the Moon and travelled on towards the near-Earth asteroid 1620 Geographos (though it did not achieve that final goal). Worden also instituted and championed innovative management and engineering techniques while at BMDO, including rapid prototyping, "build a little test a little", a "badgeless" work environment, and a flat organizational structure.

More recently, since becoming NASA Ames Research Center director, he has actively developed Ames' capability for rapid prototyping of small spacecraft. He has also "engineered" innovative agreements between NASA Ames and a variety of private sector and public sector partners. Recognizing the critical importance of revitalizing NASA (and the whole U.S. aerospace sector), he has consistently and actively recruited and empowered younger workers, as well as workers from other agencies and other countries.

International Space University

Dr. Worden is actively involved in the International Space University (ISU), where he is a welcome guest teacher at the ISU Space Studies Program (formerly Summer Session Program). His continued support led to the selection of NASA Ames as the host for the 2009 ISU SSP program[3] in the months July and August 2009.[4][5]

Support for NEO missions

Pete Worden has long been a proponent of robotic and, more recently, crewed space missions to near-earth objects. This class of mission is thought by a growing number of space enthusiasts and professionals to have scientific, technological, political and sociological merit as an alternate to the lunar component of the vision for space exploration.[6]

NASA criticism

While at the Air Force, Worden was one of NASA's most well-known and credible critics. In one (in)famous essay he compared NASA to a "self-licking ice cream cone".[7] Later, after having worked for U.S. Sen Sam Brownback (R-Kan), Worden said his Capitol Hill experience demonstrated to him that NASA actually stood for "Never A Straight Answer."[8] After accepting his NASA job, he has stated on several occasions: "I learned you have to be careful what you say about an organization, because you could end up working for them."

Dr. Worden also has a reputation as being something of a "character." For instance, he supported and presided over "Yuri's Night Bay Area",[9] held at NASA Ames Research Center in 2007.[10] He is also known occasionally to costume, usually dressing as either Darth Vader, a wizard, or after arriving at Ames, as a goat herder. In April 2007, Pete Worden became the first NASA Center Director to address an audience at a space conference (ISDC07) through the virtual world of Second Life.[11]

His propensity for costume sparked an inquiry from Senator

Career timeline

Job assignments

  • May 2006 – present, Director, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA.
  • April 2005-April 2006, Research Professor of Planetary Sciences and Research Professor of Optical Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.
  • March 2004- April 2005, Research Professor of Astronomy, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.
  • March 2004 – December 2004, Congressional Fellow assigned to the office of Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) on detail as a Research Professor of Astronomy from the University of Arizona, Washington, DC.
  • October 2002 – February 2004, Director of Development and Transformation, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, Los Angeles AFB, California.
  • November 2000 - October 2002, Vice Director of Operations, Headquarters U.S. Space Command, Peterson AFB, Colorado.
  • January 2000 - November 2000, Deputy Director for Command and Control, Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  • September 1998 - December 1999, Deputy Director for Operational Requirements, Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  • July 1997 - September 1998, Deputy for Battlespace Dominance, Directorate of Operational Requirements, Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  • March 1996 - June 1997, Deputy Director of Requirements, Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, Colorado.
  • November 1994 - March 1996, Commander, 50th Space Wing, Air Force Space Command, Falcon AFB, Colorado.
  • August 1994 - November 1994, Director of Analysis and Engineering, Space Warfare Center, Air Force Space Command, Falcon AFB, Colorado.
  • December 1993 - July 1994, technical adviser to the special assistant for theater air defense, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  • October 1991 - November 1993, Deputy for Technology, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, Washington, D.C.
  • September 1989 - September 1991, Director, Advanced Concepts, Science and Technology, National Space Council, Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C.
  • August 1987 - August 1989, Crew Commander, Space Defense Operations Center, later, Chief, Special Operations Branch, U.S. Space Command, Cheyenne Mountain AFB, Colorado.
  • June 1986 - July 1987, senior policy analyst, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, and senior research fellow, National Defense University, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
  • October 1983 - May 1986, Special Assistant to the director, Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, Department of Defense, and adviser, delegation to the negotiations on nuclear and space arms with the Soviet Union, Geneva, Switzerland
  • November 1979 - September 1983, Chief, Advanced Technology Division, Air Force Space Systems Division, Los Angeles AFB, California.
  • May 1975 - October 1979, astrophysicist, Air Force Geophysics Laboratory, National Solar Observatory, Sunspot, New Mexico.


  • Retired from Active Duty, May 1, 2004
  • Brigadier General September 1, 2000
  • Colonel October 1, 1989
  • Lieutenant Colonel April 1, 1986
  • Major November 1, 1982
  • Captain May 1, 1977
  • First Lieutenant May 1, 1974
  • Second Lieutenant May 1, 1971


Selected publications

  1. Tagliaferri, E., Spalding, R., Jacobs, C., Worden, S.P., and Erlich, A., 1994, Hazards due to Comets and Asteroids, Space Science Series, Tucson, AZ: Edited by Tom Gehrels, M.S. Matthews, and A. Schumann, Published by University of Arizona Press, p.199, “Detection of Meteoroid Impacts by Optical Sensors in Earth Orbit.”
  2. Worden, Col. S. P., “The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization CLEMENTINE Mission,” Proceedings of the Near-Earth-Object Interception Workshop, January 14–16, 1992.
  3. Treu, Marvin H., Worden, Simon P., Bedard, Michael G., Bartlett, Randall, K., 1998, Earth, Moon and Planets, 82/83, 27, “USAF Perspectives on Leonid Threat and Data Gathering Campaigns.”
  4. Worden, S.P., 1998, Proceedings of the Marshall Institute (Washington, DC: Marshall Institute), “Why We Need the Airborne Laser.”
  5. Brown, P., Campbell, M.D., Ellis, K.J., Hawkes, R.L., Jones, J., Gural, P., Babcock, D., Barnbaum, C., Bartlett, R.K., Bedard, M., Bedient, J., Beech, M., Brosch, N., Clifton, S., Connors, M., Cooke, B., Goetz, P., Gaines, J.K., Gramer, L., Gray, J., Hildebrand, A.R., Jewell, D., Jones, A., Leake, M., LeBlanc, A.G., Looper. J.K., McIntosch, B.A., Montague, T., Morrow, M.J., Murray, I.S., Nikolova, S., Robichaud, J., Sponder, R., Talarico, J., Theismeijer, C., Tilton, B., Treu, M., Vachon, C., Webster, A.R., Weryk, R., Worden, S.P., 1998, Earth, Moon and Planets, 82/83, 167, “Global Ground-Based Electro-Optical and Radar Observations of the 1999 Leonid Shower: First Results.”
  6. LeBlanc, A.G., Murray, I.S., Hawkes, R.L., Worden, P., Campbell, M.D., Brown, P., Jenniskens, P., Correll, R.R., Montague, T., and Babcock, D.D., 2000, Mon. Not. Roy. Ast. Soc., “Evidence for Transverse Spread in Leonid Meteors”
  7. Hildebrand, A.R., Carroll, K.A., Balam, D.D., Cardinal, R.D., Matthews, J.M., Kuschnig, R., Walker, G.A.H., Brown, P.G., Tedesco, E.F., Worden, S.P., Burrell, D.A., Chodas, P.W., Larson, S.M., Spahr, T.B., and Wallace, B.J., 2001, 32nd Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Houston, TX, #1790., “The Near-Earth Space Surveillance (NESS) Mission: Discovery, Tracking, and Characterization of Asteroids, Comets, and Artificial Satellites with a Microsatellite.”
  8. Worden, S.P., and France, Martin, E.B., Comparative Strategy, 20, No 1, (October-December 2001), 32, “Towards an Evolving Deterrence Strategy: Space and Information Dominance.”
  9. Worden, S.P., 2001, Aerospace Power Journal, Vol XV, No. 1 (Spring 2001): 50-57, “The Air Force and Future Space Directions: Are We Good Stewards?”
  10. Worden, S.P., 2002, United States Space Command Press Release, July 15, 2002, “Military Perspectives on the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Threat.”
  11. Worden, Simon P., and Shaw, John E., September 2002, Whither Space Power? Forging a Strategy for the New Century (Maxwell AFB, AL: Fairchild Paper)(large file)
  12. Hawkes, R.I., Campbell, M.D., LeBlanc, A.G., Parker, L., Brown, P., Jones, J., Worden, S.P., Correll, R.R., Woodworth, S.C., Fisher, A.A., Gural, P., Murray, I.S., Connors, M., Montague, T., Jewell, D., and Babcock, D.D., 2002, Dust in the Solar System and Other Planetary Systems, Proceedings of the IAU Colloquium 181, Edited by S.F. Green, I.P. Williams, J.A.M. McDonnell and N. McBride (Oxford: Pergamum), COSPAR Colloquia series, Vol 15., “The Size of Meteoroid Constituent Grains: Implications for Interstellar Meteoroids.”
  13. Brown, P., Spaulding, R.E., ReVelle, D.O., Tagliaferri, E., and Worden, S.P., 2002, Nature, 420, 294, “The Flux of Small Near-Earth Objects Colliding with the Earth.”
  14. Worden, S.P., 2002, Statement Before the House Science Committee, Space and Aeronautics SubCommittee, U.S. House of Representatives, October 3, 2002, “Near Earth Object Threat.”
  15. Worden, Simon.P. and Correll, Randall R., 2004, Defense Horizons, number 40, “Responsive Space and Strategic Information,” (Washington, DC: National Defense University)
  16. Worden, Simon.P. and Johnson-Freese, Joan, 2004, Joint Forces Quarterly, Number 33, “Globalizing Space Security.”
  17. Ermanno F. Borra, Omar Seddiki, Roger Angel, Daniel Eisenstein, Paul Hickson, Kenneth R. Seddon, and Simon P. Worden, Nature, 2007, “Deposition of metal films on an ionic liquid as a basis for a lunar telescope” 447, 979.


External links

  • US Air Force
  • NASA Ames Research Center homepage
  • Pete Worden's speech @ the ISDC 2007
  • Video of SimonPete Raymaker's (aka Pete Worden) speech through Second Life @ ISDC 2007
  • article NASA Ames' 'Second Life' Blends Cyberspace with Outer Space
  • Wired interview (May 21, 2007) with NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale and Pete Worden
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