Dr. Joel Kearns, Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration

Dr. Joel Kearns

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Dr. Joel Kearns is the Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. He leads the Exploration Science Strategy and Integration Office and the Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program, including the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative.  Kearns leads science planning associated with human exploration beyond low Earth Orbit, and integration with NASA’s exploration systems development, space technology and space operations mission directorates.

Prior to this assignment, Dr. Kearns served as Director for Facilities, Test and Manufacturing at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio; earlier he was Deputy Director of Glenn’s Space Flight Systems Directorate and Manager of the Orion Program’s European Service Module Integration Office. He was Space Shuttle Transition and Retirement Manager at NASA Headquarters, Director of Project Management and Engineering at Ames Research Center, Program Manager of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy at Ames, Program Manager of Microgravity Research during the Space Shuttle Spacelab and Mir era, at Marshall Space Flight Center, and Program Manager for Microgravity Materials Science and Biotechnology at NASA Headquarters.

A materials scientist, his research interests include phase transformations, solidification, single crystal growth, defects in semiconductor silicon, electron microscopy and spectroscopy and x-ray diffraction. His work focused on growth and defect engineering of dislocation free bulk silicon optimized for power semiconductor or photovoltaic devices.

Dr. Kearns was born in Massachusetts. He graduated with a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering, and a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering, from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Kearns earned a graduate certificate in Advanced Materials Characterization from University of Connecticut’s Institute of Materials Science, and a graduate certificate in Nanoscale Materials Science from Stanford University. He also completed a professional certificate in Energy Innovation and Emerging Technologies from Stanford University. He was Director of Crystal Technology and Vice President for Engineering and Technology at SUMCO USA and Vice President for Solar R&D at MEMC Electronic Materials. He worked at Grumman Aerospace and the Mitre Corporation. Dr. Kearns is an associate fellow of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. Kearns was awarded the U.S. Government’s Presidential Rank of Meritorious Senior Executive in 2009.  He is an inventor on four patents for single crystal growth technology.