Robert “Bob” Cabana could be described as a pragmatic optimist. He once said, “I am the type of person who not only embraces change, but wants to drive change, once the case for and the advantages of the change are clearly presented.” These are qualities that served him well as he evolved from a U.S. Naval Academy Cadet, to a Marine fighter and test pilot, to NASA shuttle astronaut and then the director of Kennedy Space Center.
Not since the Space Race of the 1960s has the pace of change and transition been more visionary and robust, than under Cabana’s tenure, since taking the helm as the tenth center director in 2008. He has facilitated moving America’s most famous launch facility into a multi-user spaceport, where government-sponsored research and exploratory projects are developed side by side with privately funded space utilization ventures.
At the core of his leadership is a vibrant and inclusive team approach based on one key component. “I truly believe in servant leadership and this is probably the number one attribute I learned in the Marine Corp,” he said. “If you put the welfare of the team above your own, you will be successful. In other words, if you take care of your people, your people will take care of you.”
A seasoned, yet enthusiastic ambassador and evangelist of space exploration, Cabana sees man’s future in not only exploring, but in colonizing the yet uncharted regions of space. “Unmanned probes are valuable, but our destiny, our inner calling, is in humans exploring the unknown,” he said. When asked about the idea of a “Space Force” he commented, “It is a logical next step, just like the Air Force evolved out of the Army Air Corp. Space is where our future lies and frankly, I would like my next job to be running the equivalent of Star Fleet Academy.”