Biden Taps Former NASA Chief Scientist to Lead NASA Review Team
Ellen Stofan of the Smithsonian Institution will lead the NASA review team for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the transition team announced Tuesday.
Stofan is the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. She was chief scientist at NASA from 2013 to 2016 and served as the principal advisor to former Administrator Charles Bolden on NASA’s strategic planning and programs and worked on strategies for NASA to support commercial activity in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), according to her Smithsonian bio.
Stofan is joined by seven other members on the review team: Waleed Abdalati of the University of Colorado Boulder; Jedidah Isler of Dartmouth College; Bhavya Lal of the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute; former astronaut Pam Melroy; Dave Noble of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan; Shannon Valley of the Georgia Institute of Technology; and David Weaver of the Air Line Pilots Association. All members of the NASA team are working on a volunteer basis.
Additionally, the Office of Science and Technology Policy review team will be led by Cristin Dorgelo of Association of Science and Technology Centers, formerly chief of staff to the president’s science advisor and the U.S. chief technology officer. The team has eight members total.
The 2020 Democratic Platform and Biden’s agenda are light on space policy. Biden’s platform lists support for NASA as a priority, specifically a continued presence on the International Space Station (ISS), and NASA’s work to return to the Moon and reach Mars. The platform also outlines strengthening NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth observation missions to understand how climate change is impacting Earth.
In an interview with Via Satellite ahead of the 2020 election, Lori Garver, former NASA deputy administration, who led the NASA review team during the transition after the 2008 election, said while Biden’s platform didn’t indicate if he would keep the National Space Council, or adjust NASA’s priorities, the transition period is when a newly elected administration really finds out how things are running, and whether a project is on schedule or on budget. Garver also said that Biden was a “full participant” in space policy decisions during her tenure at NASA, and pointed to Biden’s emphasis on science, and that climate change was a cornerstone issue of his campaign.
“The policy related to climate change in this administration is quite different than it would be in a Biden administration. NASA, and other government agencies, international, and private sector all [have] data that can be better utilized for a combination of adaptation, resilience, and even some mitigation [of climate change],” she said.