President-elect Biden names 8-person NASA transition team

Pam Melroy, commander of the space shuttle's STS-120 mission, floats into the Unity node of the International Space Station in 2007. Melroy will serve on the eight-person NASA "agency review team" that will help President-elect Joe Biden get up to speed for his January 2021 inauguration.
Pam Melroy, commander of the space shuttle's STS-120 mission, floats into the Unity node of the International Space Station in 2007. Melroy will serve on the eight-person NASA "agency review team" that will help President-elect Joe Biden get up to speed for his January 2021 inauguration. (Image credit: NASA)

President-elect Joe Biden has announced the team that will bring him up to speed on all things NASA ahead of his January 2021 inauguration.

The NASA "agency review team" consists of five women and three men, and it includes two former NASA chief scientists and a former astronaut among its diverse ranks. All are serving on a volunteer basis, according to the review team website, which you can find here.

That website also states the purpose of the various teams: "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 Harris and their cabinet to hit the ground running on Day One."

Related: Presidential visions for space: From Ike to Trump

The NASA review team members are:

Ellen Stofan (team leader): Stofan is a planetary geologist who currently directs the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, the first woman ever to do so. She served as NASA Chief Scientist from August 2013 to December 2016. 

Waleed Abdalati: Abdalati heads the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a joint effort of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado, Boulder. He was NASA Chief Scientist from January 2011 to December 2012.

Jedidah Isler: Isler is an assistant professor of astrophysics at Dartmouth College who in 2014 became the first African-American woman ever to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Yale University. Isler studies how black holes serve as particle accelerators and is "very interested in and active about creating more equitable STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] spaces for scholars of color broadly, and particularly, for women of color," according to her Dartmouth faculty page.

Bhavya Lal: Lal is a scientist at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute, a federally funded organization that supports the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and other agencies. "At STPI, Dr. Lal leads analysis of space technology, strategy, and policy for OSTP, the National Space Council, NASA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Federal Aviation Administration and other space-oriented federal agencies and departments," according to a biography posted along with her testimony for a House of Representatives hearing in 2018.

Pam Melroy: Melroy is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a former NASA astronaut who flew on three space shuttle missions. She was a pilot on the STS-92 and STS-112 flights in 2000 and 2002, respectively, and commanded the STS-120 mission in 2007. After leaving NASA in 2009, Melroy worked at the Federal Aviation Administration and then the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where she served as deputy director of the Tactical Technology Office. She left DARPA in 2017.

Dave Noble: Noble is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan. He previously spent eight years in the Obama administration, serving as deputy director and acting director of the Presidential Personnel Office, "where among other responsibilities he oversaw teams building pipelines of diverse candidates for political appointments and teams creating leadership development programming for all 3,500 administration appointees," his ACLU Michigan biography reads. He also worked as White House liaison and deputy chief of staff at NASA during this stretch, the biography adds.

Shannon Valley: Valley is a postdoctoral fellow in the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, where she studies our planet's climate history. During the first five years of President Barack Obama's administration (before she entered grad school), Valley worked at the White House and at NASA headquarters as a liaison between Congress and the space agency's science programs, according to this recent profile.

David Weaver: Weaver is director of communications for the Air Line Pilots Association. He served as associate administrator for NASA's Office of Communications from 2010 to 2016, so he covers NASA's altitude range well. (Reminder: The first "A" in NASA stands for "Aeronautics.") Just before joining NASA, Weaver served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md, according to Weaver's NASA biography.

One of the other newly announced agency review teams has a NASA connection, by the way: Former astronaut Kathryn Sullivan will serve on the Department of Commerce team. Sullivan, a geologist who flew on three space shuttle missions between 1984 and 1992, also led NOAA from March 2014 to January 2017.

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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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.