In its new promotion rounds, American government-funded space agency, NASA has now appointed popular physicist Nicola Fox as is new associate administrator for its Science Mission Directorate which will be tasked with overseeing over 100 important scientific missions and projects.
Preiously, Fox headed NASA’s Heliophysics Division where she oversaw the Parker Solar Probe, which was built to probe the Sun.
“As the director of our Heliophysics Division, Nicky was instrumental in expanding the impacts and awareness of NASA’s solar exploration missions, and I look forward to working with her as she brings her talents, expertise and passion to her new role,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
Apart from Fox, another female science chief in the agency on a non-interim basis was astronaut Mary Cleave who held the position from 2004 to 2007.
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Fox now oversees the Science Mission Directorate whose portfolio of projects is estimated t be around US$7 billion among which are over 100 missions including number of scientific fields from the investigation of how hurricanes form on the planet, to the search for alien life, as well s how to better support future astronauts living on the lunar surface.
Part of her responsibilities will include ensuring that the space agency fosters an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for a diverse team of scientists nd engineers fro across the United States and at various career stages.
She stated working at NASA about 5 years ago, 2018, when she joined its Helioysics Division which led he to overseeing studies of the sun and the solar wind’s effect on Earth.
Other missions handled by the division included the famous Parker solar probe which is a solar orbiter, then the Solar Heliospheric Observatory both of which required collaborations with the European Space Agency.
The Heliophysics Division is also in charge of the forthcoming SunRISE mission, a constellation of tiny satellites or cubesats that will act together as a radio telescope to study how solar energetic particles are accelerated and released into interplanetary space.
She was also the chief scientist for heliohyscs at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where she worked as project scientist for the Parker project.
She also authored a number of science papers, she was a recipient of a number of awards including the American Astronautical Society’s Carl Sagan Memorial Award for her demonstrated leadership in the field of heliophysics in 2021 and NASA’s Outstanding Leaership Medal which she got in 2020.
Fox takes over from NASA’s interim science chief, Sandra Conelly, who assumed the role after Thomas Zurbuchen retired at the end of December 2022. Fox’s appointment was announced by NASA on Feb. 27, 2023.
“1l grateful for the interim leadership of Sandra Connelly, who has done an incredible job keeping the mission moving forward over the last couple of months,” Nelson said.