Space Foundation CEO Resigns Amid Criticism

Elliot Pulham, CEO of the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo., speaks at the United Nations/China Workshop on Human Space Technology workshop in Beijing in September 2013.
Elliot Pulham, CEO of the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo., speaks at the United Nations/China Workshop on Human Space Technology workshop in Beijing in September 2013. (Image credit: China Manned Space Engineering (CMSE))

WASHINGTON — Elliot Pulham, the longtime chief executive of the Space Foundation, has resigned effective immediately, the organization announced Oct. 24.

In a brief statement, the Space Foundation said that Pulham was stepping down and that a search for a permanent replacement was underway. The statement gave no reason for his resignation, and Space Foundation spokeswoman Carol Hively said the organization was not disclosing additional details.

"We want to thank Elliot for his many years of service to the Space Foundation, and wish him well as he pursues new opportunities," said Adm. James O. Ellis Jr., chairman of the board of the organization, in the statement. "We are committed to an open and competitive process to select the Foundation's next leader, and are grateful for the continued support of the space community."

Pulham's name and biography had already been removed from the Space Foundation's website at the time his resignation was announced. Shelli Brunswick, the organization's chief operating officer, will serve as acting chief executive until a permanent replacement is hired.

Pulham had been the chief executive of the Space Foundation since 2001. The organization, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is best known for its annual conference, the Space Symposium, that attracts thousands of space professionals. The organization also organizes smaller events and supports educational activities, including its Discovery Center in Colorado Springs.

The controversial Facebook post that NASA Watch helped publicize earlier this year.

In a speech Oct. 13 at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Pulham gave no indication he was planning to leave the organization, at least of his own volition. He primarily discussed the culture he helped create at the organization that, in recent years, led it to be ranked among the best nonprofit organizations to work for in the United States.

Pulham, though, was facing criticism after the website NASA Watch published in early October a number of Facebook posts from him. Several of the Facebook posts described his travel experiences flying first class — a job perk Space Foundation provided Pulham in addition to his $275,000 salary, according to the tax return the nonprofit filed last year. Another post, from early this year, was crudely critical of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

A link to Pulham's Facebook page, listed on his personal website, returned a "page not found" error message.

SpaceNews editor in chief Brian Berger contributed to this report.

This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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Jeff Foust
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer

Jeff Foust is a Senior Staff Writer at SpaceNews, a space industry news magazine and website, where he writes about space policy, commercial spaceflight and other aerospace industry topics. Jeff has a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a bachelor's degree in geophysics and planetary science from the California Institute of Technology. You can see Jeff's latest projects by following him on Twitter.