NASA boss Michael Griffin has announced that Edward Weiler will remain the agency’s chief executive of science after almost six weeks as an interim replacement.

Weiler stepped in as science chief on 26 March when Alan Stern, who had occupied the post for a little over a year, resigned following a disagreement with Griffin over budget cuts to the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission. In a statement issued yesterday, Griffin said that he is pleased Weiler decided to accept the position on a permanent basis. “His leadership style and 26 years of headquarters experience will be vital to the success of upcoming science activities and missions,” he added.

Since 2004 Weiler has been director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, and prior to that he was associate administrator for the agency’s Space Science Enterprise. In the past he has also been director of NASA’s Astronomical Search for Origins Programme and between 1979 and 1998 was chief scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Scientists at NASA will be eager to see how Weiler fares managing project overruns amid the US government’s tight-fisted approach to science budgets. The agency’s budget for 2008 remained flat at $4.7bn, and for 2009 the Bush Administration requested that it drop by $265m. Stern refused to cut budgets from healthy projects and instead opted to make cuts to popular programmes such as the MER’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers — a move that was overturned by Griffin and which ultimately led Stern to quit.

From an interview last month on the website Space News, Weiler implied he also would not be a pushover. “If programs get out of control and I suspect they weren’t going to be able to get back within control, I have a clear record as the associate administrator for six years,” he said. “I cancelled five programs. I’m capable of doing that again. On the other hand I’m also going to make sure that programs aren’t nickel-and-dimed just to save a few cents, because I have direct personal experience where cost was the only concern.”