Prior to becoming Director of NASA Ames, Worden was a Research Professor of Astronomy, Optical Sciences and Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona where his primary research direction was the development of large space optics for national security and scientific purposes and near-earth asteroids. Additionally he worked on topics related to space exploration and solar-type activity in nearby stars.
In addition to his position with the University of Arizona, Worden served as a consultant to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on space-related issues. During the 2004 Congressional Session he worked as a Congressional Fellow with the Office of Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), where he served as Senator Brownback's chief advisor on NASA and space issues.
Worden retired from the United States Air Force in 2004 after 29 years of active service. His final position there was Director of Development and Transformation, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA. In this position he was responsible for developing new directions for Air Force Space Command programs and was instrumental in initiating a major Responsive Space Program designed to produce space systems and launchers capable of tailored military effects on timescales of hours.
Worden was commissioned in 1971 after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan. He entered the Air Force in 1975 after graduating from the University of Arizona with a doctorate in astronomy. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Worden served in every phase of development, international negotiations and implementation of the Strategic Defense Initiative. He twice served in the Executive Office of the President. As the staff officer for initiatives in the George Bush administration's National Space Council, Worden spearheaded efforts to revitalize U.S. civil space exploration and earth monitoring programs.
Worden commanded the 50th Space Wing that is responsible for more than 60 Department of Defense satellites and more than 6,000 people at 23 worldwide locations. He then served as Deputy Director for Requirements at Headquarters Air Force Space Command, as well as the Deputy Director for Command and Control with the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations at Air Force headquarters. Prior to assuming his current position, Worden was responsible for policy and direction of five mission areas: force enhancement, space support, space control, force application and computer network defense.
Worden was a key early innovator and proponent in the area of small satellites.
While at BMDO and its predecessor SDIO he played major roles in development of the DC-X and the Clementine mission. Clementine was a relatively small, low-cost, and rapidly developed satellite ostensibly developed to test sensor and propulsion technology for missile interceptors. Clementine mapped the Moon and travelled on towards the near-Earth asteroid1620 Geographos (though it did not achieve that final goal). Worden also instituted and championed innovative management and engineering techniques while at BMDO, including rapid prototyping, "build a little test a little", a "badgeless" work environment, and a flat organizational structure.
More recently, after becoming NASA Ames Research Center director, he actively developed Ames' capability for rapid prototyping of small spacecraft. He also "engineered" innovative agreements between NASA Ames and a variety of private sector and public sector partners. Recognizing the critical importance of revitalizing NASA (and the whole U.S. aerospace sector), he consistently and actively recruited and empowered younger workers, as well as workers from other agencies and other countries.
International Space University
Worden is actively involved in the International Space University (ISU), where, as of 2009, he was a guest teacher in the ISU Space Studies Program (formerly Summer Session Program). His support led to the selection of NASA Ames as the host for the 2009 ISU SSP program in the months July and August 2009.
Support for NEO missions
Pete Worden has long been a proponent of robotic and, more recently, crewed space missions to near-Earth objects. This class of mission is thought by a growing number of space enthusiasts and professionals to have scientific, technological, political and sociological merit as an alternate to the lunar component of the vision for space exploration.
Pete Worden was sighted herding goats near the airfield at NASA Ames around the time of Yuri's Night 2007
While at the Air Force, Worden was one of NASA's most well-known and credible critics. In one (in)famous essay he compared NASA to a "self-licking ice cream cone".
Later, after having worked for U.S. Sen Sam Brownback (R-Kan), Worden said his Capitol Hill experience demonstrated to him that NASA actually stood for "Never A Straight Answer."
Worden also has a reputation as being something of a "character." For instance, he supported and presided over "Yuri's Night Bay Area", held at NASA Ames Research Center in 2007. He is also known occasionally to costume, usually dressing as either Darth Vader, a wizard, or after arriving at Ames, as a goat herder. In April 2007, Pete Worden became the first NASA Center Director to address an audience at a space conference (ISDC07) through the virtual world of Second Life.
His propensity for costume sparked an inquiry from Senator Chuck Grassley that led to an investigation by the NASA inspector general's office into a private project to photograph a group of Viking re-enactors calling themselves "The Vikings of Bjornstad." Although concluding that no government money had been spent on the Viking re-enactment, the investigation itself was estimated to have cost between $40,000 and $600,000.
Tagliaferri, E., Spalding, R., Jacobs, C., Worden, S.P., and Erlich, A., 1994, Hazards due to Comets and Asteroids, Space Science Series, Tucson, AZ: Edited by Tom Gehrels, M.S. Matthews, and A. Schumann, Published by University of Arizona Press, p.199, “Detection of Meteoroid Impacts by Optical Sensors in Earth Orbit.”
Worden, Col. S. P., "The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization CLEMENTINE Mission," Proceedings of the Near-Earth-Object Interception Workshop, January 14–16, 1992.
Treu, Marvin H., Worden, Simon P., Bedard, Michael G., Bartlett, Randall, K., 1998, Earth, Moon, and Planets, 82/83, 27, “USAF Perspectives on Leonid Threat and Data Gathering Campaigns.”
Worden, S.P., 1998, Proceedings of the Marshall Institute (Washington, DC: Marshall Institute), “Why We Need the Airborne Laser.”
Brown, P., Campbell, M.D., Ellis, K.J., Hawkes, R.L., Jones, J., Gural, P., Babcock, D., Barnbaum, C., Bartlett, R.K., Bedard, M., Bedient, J., Beech, M., Brosch, N., Clifton, S., Connors, M., Cooke, B., Goetz, P., Gaines, J.K., Gramer, L., Gray, J., Hildebrand, A.R., Jewell, D., Jones, A., Leake, M., LeBlanc, A.G., Looper. J.K., McIntosch, B.A., Montague, T., Morrow, M.J., Murray, I.S., Nikolova, S., Robichaud, J., Sponder, R., Talarico, J., Theismeijer, C., Tilton, B., Treu, M., Vachon, C., Webster, A.R., Weryk, R., Worden, S.P., 1998, Earth, Moon, and Planets, 82/83, 167, “Global Ground-Based Electro-Optical and Radar Observations of the 1999 Leonid Shower: First Results.”
LeBlanc, A.G., Murray, I.S., Hawkes, R.L., Worden, P., Campbell, M.D., Brown, P., Jenniskens, P., Correll, R.R., Montague, T., and Babcock, D.D., 2000, Mon. Not. Roy. Ast. Soc., “Evidence for Transverse Spread in Leonid Meteors”
Hildebrand, A.R., Carroll, K.A., Balam, D.D., Cardinal, R.D., Matthews, J.M., Kuschnig, R., Walker, G.A.H., Brown, P.G., Tedesco, E.F., Worden, S.P., Burrell, D.A., Chodas, P.W., Larson, S.M., Spahr, T.B., and Wallace, B.J., 2001, 32nd Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Houston, TX, #1790., “The Near-Earth Space Surveillance (NESS) Mission: Discovery, Tracking, and Characterization of Asteroids, Comets, and Artificial Satellites with a Microsatellite.”[permanent dead link]
Worden, S.P., and France, Martin, E.B., Comparative Strategy, 20, No 1, (October-December 2001), 32, “Towards an Evolving Deterrence Strategy: Space and Information Dominance.”
Worden, S.P., 2001, Aerospace Power Journal, Vol XV, No. 1 (Spring 2001): 50-57, “The Air Force and Future Space Directions: Are We Good Stewards?”
Worden, S.P., 2002, United States Space Command Press Release, July 15, 2002, “Military Perspectives on the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Threat.”
Worden, Simon P., and Shaw, John E., September 2002, Whither Space Power? Forging a Strategy for the New Century (Maxwell AFB, AL: Fairchild Paper)(large file)
Hawkes, R.I., Campbell, M.D., LeBlanc, A.G., Parker, L., Brown, P., Jones, J., Worden, S.P., Correll, R.R., Woodworth, S.C., Fisher, A.A., Gural, P., Murray, I.S., Connors, M., Montague, T., Jewell, D., and Babcock, D.D., 2002, Dust in the Solar System and Other Planetary Systems, Proceedings of the IAU Colloquium 181, Edited by S.F. Green, I.P. Williams, J.A.M. McDonnell and N. McBride (Oxford: Pergamum), COSPAR Colloquia series, Vol 15., "The Size of Meteoroid Constituent Grains: Implications for Interstellar Meteoroids."
Brown, P., Spaulding, R.E., ReVelle, D.O., Tagliaferri, E., and Worden, S.P., 2002, Nature, 420, 294, “The Flux of Small Near-Earth Objects Colliding with the Earth.”
Worden, S.P., 2002, Statement Before the House Science Committee, Space and Aeronautics SubCommittee, U.S. House of Representatives, October 3, 2002, "Near Earth Object Threat."
Worden, Simon.P. and Correll, Randall R., 2004, Defense Horizons, number 40, “Responsive Space and Strategic Information,” (Washington, DC: National Defense University)
Worden, Simon.P. and Johnson-Freese, Joan, 2004, Joint Forces Quarterly, Number 33, “Globalizing Space Security.”
Ermanno F. Borra, Omar Seddiki, Roger Angel, Daniel Eisenstein, Paul Hickson, Kenneth R. Seddon, and Simon P. Worden, Nature, 2007, "Deposition of metal films on an ionic liquid as a basis for a lunar telescope" 447, 979.
^"NASA Ames Director Named Federal Laboratory Director of 2009". NASA Ames Research Center. February 17, 2009. Archived from the original on April 20, 2009. Retrieved February 17, 2009.
Berger, Brian; Leone, Dan (26 February 2015). "Pete Worden Leaving NASA To Pursue Private Sector Dreams". Space News. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-10-11. Retrieved 2017-07-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
^"NASA Ames to Host International Space University Summer Session". NASA HQ. March 7, 2007. Archived from the original on July 14, 2007. Retrieved March 10, 2008.
^"NASA Ames blogposts tagged with 'International Space University'". NASA ARC.[permanent dead link]
^"Space Leaders Work To Replace Lunar Base With Manned Asteroid Missions". Aviation Week. January 18, 2008. Retrieved March 11, 2008.
^Worden, S. P. (1992). "On Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones". Cool Stars. Cool stars, stellar systems, and the sun, Proceedings of the 7th Cambridge Workshop, ASP Conference Series (ASP: San Francisco),vol. 26, p. 599. 26: 599. Bibcode:1992ASPC...26..599W.
^"Experts Say Path Beyond Earth Orbit Has Its Challenges". Space News. November 29, 2004. Archived from the original on April 21, 2008. Retrieved March 10, 2008.