Melanie Saunders has been acting as NASA’s deputy associate administrator since June 2018. In this position, she assists the NASA administrator and senior managers in implementing all aspects of the agency’s functions, policy, and integration of programs. She chairs the NASA Mission Support Council (MSC), which serves as the Agency’s senior decision-making body regarding the integrated Agency mission support portfolio.
Saunders had been the acting deputy director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, since February 2018 and the associate director since 2009, managing one of NASA’s largest installations, with nearly 11,000 civil service and contractor employees – including those at White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico – and an annual budget of approximately $5 billion. She oversaw a broad range of human spaceflight activities.
Prior to being named associate center director, Saunders served as Associate Manager of the International Space Station (ISS) Program from 2005 to 2009 during the most intensive phases of ISS assembly. From 2003 to 2005, she was Deputy Manager of the ISS External Relations Office. Saunders joined NASA in 1994, negotiating international agreements and managing export control for the International Space Station Program.
Saunders has received the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award, two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, a Silver Snoopy, and numerous other individual and group achievement awards. She holds a bachelor’s degree in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Davis. She is a member of the California and Florida Bars (inactive status).
Saunders and her husband, Chris, have teenage triplets.