Jim Free head shot

Jim Free

Associate Administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, NASA

Jim Free is the associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Free is 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.

Before his appointment to associate administrator in 2021, Free spent several years in various private sector roles. Free began his NASA career in 1990 at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as a propulsion engineer and later as a systems engineer on several spacecraft. He served in numerous engineering positions with increasing responsibility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio, before being selected as Glenn’s deputy director and then serving as Glenn’s center director, where he was responsible for planning, organizing, and directing the activities required in accomplishing the missions assigned to the center. He left NASA in 2017 after serving as the agency’s deputy associate administrator for technical in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

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.

Photo and biographical information credit: NASA.

Latest Planetary Radio Appearances

Humans to Mars by the 2030s? NASA Associate Administrators weigh in

Planetary Radio, Mat Kaplan, senior communications adviser at The Planetary Society, takes us to the 2023 Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C. We'll share his conversation with three NASA Associate Administrators, Nicola Fox, James Free, and James Reuter about the international, commercial, and robotic collaboration it will take to put the first humans on the Red Planet.

Getting Humans to Mars

Three NASA leaders talk with host Mat Kaplan about the progress we're making toward leaving footprints on the Red Planet.