Keynote Speaker

James Free

Jim Free

Associate Administrator

Jim Free is NASA’s associate administrator, its third highest-ranking executive and highest-ranking civil servant. He is the senior advisor to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. In his role, Free leads the agency’s 10 center directors as well as the mission directorate associate administrators at NASA Headquarters in Washington. He acts as the agency’s chief operating officer for more than 18,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $25 billion.

Previously, Free was associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. In that role, Free was responsible for the development of NASA’s Moon to Mars architecture, defining and managing the systems development for NASA’s Artemis missions and planning for NASA’s integrated deep space exploration approach.

Prior to his selection as head of Exploration Systems Development, Free spent several years in various private sector roles after he left NASA in 2017. In his previous role at NASA, he served as the agency’s deputy associate administrator for technical in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

Prior to joining NASA Headquarters, he worked his way up to center director at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, where he was responsible for planning, organizing, and directing the activities required to accomplish the missions assigned to the center.  Free has served a variety of roles at NASA centers since beginning his career in 1990 at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

A native of Northeast Ohio, Free earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautics from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and his master’s degree in space systems engineering from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Free is the recipient of the Presidential Rank Award, NASA Distinguished Service Medal, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, NASA Significant Achievement Medal, and numerous other awards.