Bio for James W. Kennedy


The son of a true space pioneer, Jim Kennedy and family moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida in 1953.  He graduated from Cocoa Beach High School in 1967 and went on to graduate from Auburn University in 1972 in Mechanical Engineering.  He worked as a cooperative education student at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) from 1968-1969, and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) from 1969-1972.  These formative years on the Space Coast created in him a passion for Space Exploration.  He then pursued a career path that would begin with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Programs and continue on to the Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) Programs.


After graduating from Auburn University, Kennedy served in the U.S. Air Force (1972-1976) and earned a Masters of Business Administration at Georgia Southern University in 1977.  After three years of design engineering work with Emerson Electric Company, he accepted a permanent job with NASA at MSFC in 1980, working on the Space Shuttle, Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) project.  The succeeding 22 years at MSFC would see him grow as an engineer and leader in key positions including; SRB Project Manager, DC-XA Project Manager, Director of Engineering and Deputy Center Director.


In 2002, NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, asked Kennedy to relocate to KSC as the Deputy Center Director, soon to be promoted to be the Director in 2003.  The four years as Director following the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia saw the shuttle safely return to flight and continue the assembly of the ISS.  Under Kennedy’s leadership, KSC successfully completed 15 launches of satellites and robots currently exploring our universe with high profile missions such as Spirit and Opportunity to Mars and Pluto New Horizons. 


Mr. Kennedy retired from NASA in 2007 having served 36 years with the U.S. Government.  He is the recipient of numerous awards and decorations, including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, Presidential Rank Awards of both Meritorious and Distinguished Service, and many more.  Retirement has seen many opportunities for the Kennedys to promote public awareness and advocacy for space exploration as a guest lecturer in the cruise ship industry, touring with Mannheim Steamroller’s space concert entitled, “Music of the Spheres”, guest speaker on space exploration to numerous schools and Universities as well as other interested groups.  He also serves as a consultant to the aerospace industry and Board Member to several space related Boards. 


Mr. Kennedy resides in Cocoa Beach, Florida in a condo overlooking both Cape Canaveral and KSC.  He and his lovely wife, Bernie, enjoy traveling and spending time with their family including his mother, Bonnie, son Jeff and daughter Jamie and their spouses and grandchildren Hayes, Becca and Gracen.