Planetary Defense Officer
Lindley Johnson graduated from the University of Kansas in 1980 with a BA in Astronomy and a commission from Air Force ROTC. He also has an MS degree in Engineering Management from the University of Southern California. He is assigned to NASA Headquarters Science Mission Directorate, Planetary Science Division, as the NASA Planetary Defense Officer and Lead Program Executive for the Planetary Defense Coordination Office, tasked with warning and response to any potential impact of Earth by an asteroid or comet. Prior to NASA he served 23 years of Air Force active duty, obtained the rank of lieutenant colonel and was awarded numerous military honors and decorations while working on a variety of national security space systems.
After joining NASA in 2003, he became the Program Executive for NASA’s Deep Impact mission to comet Tempel 1, launched in January 2005 to deliver an impact probe to the comet’s surface on July 4th, 2005, and explore the composition and interior structure of comets. He then served for eight years as the Lead Program Executive for the Discovery Program with oversight of six smaller-class Solar System exploration missions. NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations program has discovered over 26,000 near-Earth asteroids and comets since Lindley became its manager, about 92% of the total known. He led the establishment of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA in January 2016. Lindley received the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal for his work on comet and asteroid missions. Asteroid 5905 (1989 CJ1) is named “Johnson” to recognize Lindley’s efforts in detecting Near Earth Objects.