Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has named Joel Montalbano as manager of the International Space Station Program. The appointment was effective June 29 following the June 26 retirement of Kirk Shireman, who held the position since 2015.
“Joel has the experience and leadership we need to guide the station program during this exciting and dynamic time of human spaceflight,” said Lueders. “We look forward to seeing Joel continue to make great contributions to the International Space Station and know he’ll do a great job leading the program.”
Montalbano had served as deputy program manager for NASA’s space station program since 2012, a role in which he shared responsibility with the program manager for day-to-day management, working across organizations and with NASA centers, other government agencies, and partners to ensure seamless and efficient space station integration. He led integration and definition of projects to use the unique microgravity laboratory in space to lay the groundwork for future explorers, such as the Artemis program astronauts who will include the first woman and next man to land on the Moon in 2024.
His efforts also helped expand scientific research, engineering technology development, and human mission operations. He has fostered the use of the station as a National Laboratory with projects that support national, agency, and program goals for scientific, technological, diplomatic, and educational purposes and which are enabling commercial activities in low-Earth orbit.
“The International Space Station has allowed us to accelerate the power of a space economy in low-Earth orbit throughout the past 20 years,” said Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which is home to the space station program office. “Joel brings a wealth of knowledge to this new role, and I know the program will continue to thrive under his leadership.”
Prior to becoming deputy program manager, Montalbano was the director of NASA’s Human Space Flight Program in Russia from 2008 to 2012. He was a NASA flight director from 2000 to 2008. Montalbano began his career at Rockwell in June 1988 and became a NASA civil servant in August 1998. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Iowa State University, in Ames, Iowa.
“It is an honor to be named as the International Space Station Program Manager,” Montalbano said. “I’m looking forward to continuing our work with our domestic and international partners on this world-class laboratory. We are approaching the anniversary of 20 years of a continuous U.S. presence on the station, and it is clear to me that even greater accomplishments lie ahead in this global effort for the benefit of all humanity and the pathway to future human exploration.”
Throughout his career, Montalbano has earned multiple NASA awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal in 2018. He received NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal in 2003 and 2007, Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2004, and the Superior Accomplishment Award in 2007. He also was awarded the Astronauts’ Silver Snoopy Award and the American Astronomical Society’s Advancement of International Cooperation Award. In 2012, he was awarded Rank of Meritorious Executive, conferred by the president of the United States. Montalbano also was an Eagle Scout.
For almost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. Under this unique international partnership, 239 people from 19 countries have visited the station, which has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.