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MEET: DR. ERIC SMITH - JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE PROGRAM DIRECTOR AND PROGRAM SCIENTIST AT NASA HEADQUARTERS, WASHINGTON, DC.

Eric Smith

Dr. Eric Smith was named the new program director for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (Webb telescope) at NASA Headquarters in Washington, effective March 22, 2015.Since June 2013, Smith has been serving as acting director of the Webb telescope Program and Program Scientist, overseeing a period of significant progress, including the successful completion and delivery of science instruments and their testing as an integrated module.


Smith will continue to be responsible for providing executive leadership, strategic direction and program management for all elements of the Webb telescope Program.

Prior to becoming the acting director, he was chosen to be the deputy program director in 2010 when the Webb telescope Program was restructured at NASA Headquarters. Smith came to NASA Headquarters in 2001 to serve as the Webb telescope program scientist, a role that continues today. As program scientist for Webb telescope, he has been responsible for defining and safeguarding the priority requirements for Webb telescope, in addition to being the voice of the science community within NASA Headquarters.

He ran the selection process for the primary science camera for Webb telescope, as well as the science team that would advise NASA during the development of the mission. In addition to his duties as Webb telescope program scientist, he was the NASA Hubble Space Telescope program scientist during several periods from 2001 to 2010 and last served in that capacity during the final Hubble Servicing Mission. From 2001 to 2010 he also was responsible for overseeing the NASA Astrophysics portfolio for infrared and sub-millimeter research.

Before coming to NASA Headquarters, Smith worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as a member of the science team for the space shuttle borne Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope. He also worked as the project scientist for several Explorer Mission studies, and as a member of the team developing the data archiving and distribution system for Hubble. He has been involved with the Webb telescope project since 1996, serving as the deputy project scientist from 1996-2001. Smith's research interests include active and interacting galaxies and the stellar composition of those systems.

Smith holds a B.A. in physics and astronomy from the University of Virginia and a M.A. and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Maryland, College Park.

The James Webb Space Telescope, successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. It will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the first generation of galaxies and see unexplored planets around distant stars. The Webb telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency.