Former astronaut Pam Melroy confirmed as NASA deputy administrator

NASA’s top two jobs are now officially filled.

The U.S. Senate confirmed former astronaut Pam Melroy as NASA deputy administrator on Thursday (June 17), about six weeks after doing the same for space agency chief Bill Nelson.

“It’s an honor to be confirmed by the Senate to serve as NASA deputy administrator, and I am humbled by President Biden and Vice President Harris’ confidence in me,” Melroy said in a statement.

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“I look forward to returning to the NASA family and working with Administrator Nelson to ensure the United States continues to lead in space and beyond — exploring the wonders of the universe, expanding the Earth science research critical to combating climate change, unlocking scientific discoveries that will change the world as we know it and inspiring the next generation of discoverers and dreamers,” she added.

Melroy’s confirmation was never really in doubt. She received broad bipartisan support during her Senate confirmation hearing last month, and her resume is extremely strong. 

Melroy served in the U.S. Air Force before joining NASA. She flew three space shuttle missions, piloting STS-92 in 2000 and STS-112 in 2002 and commanding STS-120 in 2007. She is one of only two women, along with NASA astronaut Eileen Collins, to command a shuttle mission.

After retiring from NASA in 2009, she took several high-profile jobs in the aerospace and defense sectors. She worked at Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for example, and served as deputy director of the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

She also has Nelson’s full support.

“Pam is a pioneer and veteran of NASA, and will be an outstanding leader as we venture farther out to the stars,” Nelson, a former Democratic senator from Florida, said in the same statement. “We certainly are lucky to have her on board, and I look forward to leading NASA with her as a team.”

Melroy wasn’t the only person to get a thumbs-up from the Senate on Thursday. The chamber also confirmed oceanographer Rick Spinrad as chief of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which partners with NASA on some Earth-observing missions.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 


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