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New director Pelfrey introduced at Marshall Space Flight Center

HUNTSVILLE – Joseph Pelfrey has spent nearly a quarter of a century as an employee at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, rising through the years and into the top position at the space agency’s field center on Redstone Arsenal.

He’s certainly earned the right to speak about what to expect in the future for the Huntsville icon and will lead the ambitious “Moon to Mars” endeavor.

“Marshall’s really focused on how we go further out in deep space in developing the technologies we need to carry our astronauts further than we’ve ever been before,” Pelfrey said Thursday as he was introduced as the center’s director. “We’re gonna start that on Artemis II where we’re gonna return humans to the moon for the first time in 50 years.”

While other projects certainly draw some attention from the NASA crowd, it’s the Artemis program that is the centerpiece for the organization.

“Our teams are laser focused on that mission and making sure those four astronauts – Reid (Wiseman), Victor (Glover), Christina (Koch) and Jeremy (Hansen) – can accomplish their mission and come home safely,” Pelfrey said.

Glover and Koch will become the first Black and female astronauts to set foot on the moon during the Artemis III mission. The Artemis II launch, the first manned crew mission in the program that will carry astronauts further into space than ever before, is expected in September 2025 with Artemis III’s lunar landing a year later.

Artemis IV is scheduled to deliver a core part of a lunar space station, Gateway, into orbit around the moon and land two more astronauts on its surface. Artemis V involves adding a module to Gateway and a third crew lunar landing.

The Artemis II launch was originally planned for this year but was pushed back a year. The unmanned Artemis I’s trip around the moon was completed successfully.

“That was a decision based on crew safety,” Pelfrey, Marshall’s acting director since last July, said. “We wanted to give the teams the opportunity to make sure that we learn everything we can from Artemis I, and that we listen to the hardware and make sure that it tells us when we’re safe to fly. And so this extra time will give our teams really the chance to ensure that everything is in order and we have the best chance for mission success for those four crew members that we’re launching. Artemis II is down at Michoud Assembly Facility, which is a component facility of Marshall outside of New Orleans. 

“We have hardware for Artemis II, III, IV and V that are going through the factory in some phase. And later this summer, we’re excited to roll out the core stage for Artemis II to get it ready to ship to Kennedy Space Center to begin stacking for that mission. So, we have a lot of exciting work going on for Artemis and a lot of big milestones we’re focused on.”

The ultimate goal for Artemis is to land astronauts on Mars.

“We have many new firsts that are coming in front of us,” Pelfrey said, “and that’s what we’re focused on to ensure that we can really advance our exploration goals as a nation.”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson named Pelfrey director of Marshall on Feb. 5. Pelfrey had been acting center director since July 2023; before that, he was Marshall’s deputy center director. In his career, Pelfrey served as the associate director for operations in Engineering, later becoming deputy manager and subsequently manager for Marshall’s Human Exploration Development and Operations Office.


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