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Biden Appoints Ellen Stofan to Lead NASA Agency Review Team

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
November 11, 2020
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Ellen Stofan (Credit: Smithsonian Institution)
  • Former astronaut Pam Melroy and Kathryn Sullivan also named to review teams
  • Former XPRIZE vice president leads OSTP team

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

President-elect Joe Biden has appointed former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan to lead the review team assigned to the space agency.

Stofan, a planetary scientist who became the first female director of the National Air and Space Museum in 2018, leads an eight-member team that includes former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy and former NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati.

Biden has also appointed Kathryn Sullivan, who was part of the first group of women recruited as NASA astronauts, to serve on the agency review team for the Department of Commerce.

Cristin Dorgelo, a former XPRIZE vice president who helped to managed the Google Lunar XPRIZE lunar lander competition, is leading the agency review team for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

“Agency review teams are responsible for understanding the operations of each agency, ensuring a smooth transfer of power, and preparing for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect [Kamala] Harris and their cabinet to hit the ground running on Day One,” the Biden-Harris transition website said.

“These teams are composed of highly experienced and talented professionals with deep backgrounds in crucial policy areas across the federal government. The teams have been crafted to ensure they not only reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration, but reflect the diversity of perspectives crucial for addressing America’s most urgent and complex challenges,” the website added.

NASA Agency Review Team

NameMost Recent EmploymentSource of Funding
Ellen Stofan, Team LeadThe Smithsonian InstitutionVolunteer
Waleed AbdalatiUniversity of Colorado BoulderVolunteer
Jedidah IslerDartmouth CollegeVolunteer
Bhavya LalIDA Science and Technology Policy InstituteVolunteer
Pam MelroySelf-employedVolunteer
Dave NobleAmerican Civil Liberties Union of MichiganVolunteer
Shannon ValleyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyVolunteer
David WeaverAir Line Pilots AssociationVolunteer

Stofan served as NASA chief scientist from 2013 to 2016 after a successful career in planetary science where she held senior positions at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Stofan was “the principal advisor to former Administrator Charles Bolden on NASA’s strategic planning and programs,” according to biography on the Smithsonian Institution website. “She helped guide the development of a long-range plan to get humans to Mars, and worked on strategies for NASA to support commercial activity in low Earth orbit as it transitions from the International Space Station (ISS) to sending humans to the moon and Mars in the mid-2020s.

“She supported NASA’s overall science programs in heliophysics, Earth science, planetary science and astrophysics. While at NASA, she worked with President Barack Obama’s science advisor and the National Science and Technology Council on science policy,” the biography said.

Melroy is a retired United States Air Force officer who flew as the pilot of the STS-92 and STS-112 space shuttle missions and commanded the STS-120 flight.

After leaving NASA, Melroy served as a senior advisor and director of field operations for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation from 2011 to 2013.

Melroy served as deputy director of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Tactical Technology Office from 2013 to 2017.

Abdalati currently serves as director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, an environmental research institute supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Abdalati served as NASA’s chief scientist from January 2011 until December 2012. He had previously served as head of cryospheric sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Former NASA astronaut Sullivan is one of 21 individuals assigned to the Commerce agency review team. A veteran of the STS-41-G, STS-31 and STS-45 space shuttle missions, she became the first American woman to walk in space in 1984.

Commerce Department Agency Review Team

The Department of Commerce team will also review the Export-Import Bank.

NameMost Recent EmploymentSource of Funding
Geovette Washington, Team LeadUniversity of PittsburghVolunteer
Joshua BermanClifford Chance US, LLPVolunteer
Colleen ChienSanta Clara UniversityVolunteer
Tene DolphinGreater Washington Black Chamber of CommerceVolunteer
Michelle DuBoisValues PartnershipsVolunteer
Anna GomezWiley Rein, LLPVolunteer
Ellen Hughes-CromwickThird WayVolunteer
Karen HyunNational Audubon SocietyVolunteer
Charmion KinderCNKinder, Inc.Volunteer
Paul A. LaudicinaGlobal Counsel, LLCVolunteer
Nancy PotokSelf-employedVolunteer
Pravina RaghavanEmpire State DevelopmentVolunteer
Denice RossNational Conference on CitizenshipVolunteer
Kris SarriNational Marine Sanctuary FoundationVolunteer
Mary SaundersAmerican National Standards InstituteVolunteer
Patrick SchaeferState of New MexicoVolunteer
Kathryn SullivanNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Retired)Volunteer
Atman TrivediHills & CompanyVolunteer
Todd TuckerThe Roosevelt InstituteVolunteer
Arun VenkataramanVisa, Inc.Volunteer
Kathryn de WitThe Pew Charitable TrustsVolunteer

Sullivan served as the administrator of NOAA from 2014 until 2017. NOAA is part of the Commerce Department.

The Commerce Department review team is led by Geovette Washington, who is the vice chancellor and chief legal officer at the University of Pittsburgh.

OSTP Agency Review Team

NameMost Recent EmploymentSource of Funding
Cristin Dorgelo, Team LeadAssociation of Science and Technology CentersVolunteer
Andrew HebbelerNuclear Threat InitiativeVolunteer
Kei KoizumiThe American Association for the Advancement of ScienceVolunteer
Mahlet MesfinUniversity of PennsylvaniaVolunteer
Dave ReidmillerGulf of Maine Research InstituteVolunteer
Pav SinghSelf-employedVolunteer
Erin SzulmanEVgoVolunteer
Nicole WongSelf-employedVolunteer

Dorgelo is leading an eight-person team reviewing OSTP, which is a White House office that oversees science and technology policy.

Dorgelo is president emeritus at the Association of Science and Technology Centers. The association’s mission is the increased understanding of—and engagement with—science and technology among all people.

Dorgelo served as OSTP chief of staff during the Obama Administration. She was assistant Director for the White House’s Grand Challenges initiative before becoming chief of staff.

Dorgelo came to OSTP after a six-year stint as the XPrize’s vice president of prize operations. She helped to manage the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE for the first private mission to reach the lunar surface. (The prize was ended with no winner.)

Dorgelo also oversaw the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE, which involved privately built landing vehicles. The competition was won by Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace.

2 responses to “Biden Appoints Ellen Stofan to Lead NASA Agency Review Team”

  1. Eric R. says:

    President elect?

  2. therealdmt says:

    I’m all for planetary science, and per the article she “…helped guide the development of a long-range plan to get humans to Mars, and worked on strategies for NASA to support commercial activity in low Earth orbit as it transitions from the International Space Station (ISS) to sending humans to the moon and Mars in the mid-2020s.”

    Sounds good, though i wonder if she’s onboard with commercial space being involved in (and eventually taking over) Moon/Mars. Hopefully she’s well aware of the progress being made at SpaceX over the last 4 years.

    Cool plane for a backdrop, btw. I guess that’s Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega.

    Actually, just reading more on Stofan right now, it sounds like her pet project (within her main project of a major renovation of the museum) was setting up something to include commercial space (“It’s a huge emphasis of mine.”). Regarding this, she said, ““We’re obviously going into a different era where you have companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX, where you have these individuals who are so passionate about space exploration and who are willing to put their own dollars on the line”.

    She also said that she thinks Venus needs attention, regarding which I fully agree.

    So far, I like her. And, as head of a museum, she should already be well-versed in begging for money 😀

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