Mrs. Sandra Alba Cauffman, Astrophysics Division Deputy Director
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Mrs. Cauffman currently serves as the Deputy Director for the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters as its Deputy Division Director. She helps provide executive leadership, strategic direction, and management for the entire agency’s multi-billion Astrophysics programs and missions necessary to discover how the universe works, to explore how the universe began and developed into its present form, and to search for Earth-like planets. She served as the Deputy Director for the Earth Science Division from May 2016 to October 2021 and during that period she served as the Acting Director of the Earth Science Division from February 2019 until May 2020.
Prior to joining NASA HQ, Mrs. Cauffman worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) for 25 years serving on a variety of roles. She served as the Deputy Systems Program Director for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-R Series, a multi-billion dollar operational geostationary weather satellite program developed in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Before returning to the GOES program for the third time in her career, Mrs. Cauffman was the Deputy Project Manager for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) Mission, a NASA mission to the red planet, which launched on November 18, 2013 and arrived at Mars on September 21, 2014. MAVEN is providing a comprehensive picture of the present state of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere of Mars and the processes controlling them to determine how loss of volatiles to outer space in the present epoch varies with changing solar conditions.
She served as the Project Manager (PM) for the Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer (SMEX) (GEMS). In June 2009, GEMS was one of two missions selected for implementation competing on the 2008 SMEX Announcement of Opportunity (AO). GEMS was an Astrophysics mission using X-Ray polarimetry to probe the structure and effects of the formidable magnetic field around black holes, magnetars, dead stars. Previously, Mrs. Cauffman was the Assistant Director for Flight Projects Directorate since August 2004. As assistant Director, Mrs. Cauffman helped maintain technical and administrative oversight for the Directorate.
Mrs. Cauffman served as the Deputy Project Manager for the GOES-R Series Program. Before becoming the GOES-R Deputy Project Manager, Mrs. Cauffman served as the Instrument Systems Manager for GOES-R, overseeing the research, development and implementation of multi-million dollar instruments directed toward exploration of the earth's environment, weather prediction, charged particle detection, advanced data collection and search and rescue techniques.
Before joining GOES (again), Mrs. Cauffman served as the Project Formulation Office (PFO) Office Chief, where she was responsible for planning, implementing, and coordinating all activities related to the development of feasible mission concepts, requirements generation and formulation of new projects to be implemented such us Global Precipitation Mission (GPM), Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO), Constellation X, and Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA).
Mrs. Cauffman worked on GOES as an Instrument Manager supporting the design, development, fabrication, test and launch and on-orbit checkout of the GOES-I/M and N/P SXI and SEM instruments. Mrs. Cauffman joined NASA in 1991, when she started as the Ground Systems Manager for the Satellite Servicing Project, where she supported missions such as Hubble Space Telescope (HST) First Servicing Mission, Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), and Explorers Platform (EP)/Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE). Before her NASA life, Mrs. Cauffman worked for Engineering and Economics Research (EER).
Mrs. Cauffman has been awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and she is a two-time recipient of the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. She is also a four times recipient of the NASA Acquisition Improvement Award, and numerous GSFC and HQ awards. She is a Senior Fellow on the Council for Excellence in Government. She is an Honorary Member of the National Academy of Sciences, Costa Rica. She is also an Honorary Member of the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos in Costa Rica. Her profile has been highlighted by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women for being a positive example for women, especially, youth and children. Due to her extensive work in outreach and STEM in Costa Rica and Latin America the Government of Costa Rica issued a stamp in her honor in 2017. She received a B.S. in Physics, a B.S in Electrical Engineering and a M.S. in Electrical Engineering, all from George Mason University. GMU honored Ms. Cauffman achievements at their 50th Anniversary in 2018 as one of the 50 “exemplars”, alumni who exemplify the impact of a Mason degree around the world.