NASA’s New Science Chief: Nicola Fox

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NASA Appoints Nicola Fox as Associate Administrator for Science Mission Directorate

NASA has appointed Nicola Fox as the new associate administrator for its Science Mission Directorate, which is responsible for managing over 100 vital missions and projects. This move comes after Fox’s successful tenure as the head of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, where she was in charge of overseeing various missions, including the Parker Solar Probe. This spacecraft made history by getting closer to the sun than any other previous mission.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson praised Fox’s contributions during her time as director of the Heliophysics Division. He expressed excitement about working with her in her new role and believes that her skills, expertise, and passion will be invaluable to the Science Mission Directorate.

NASA’s New Science Chief: Nicola Fox

Nicola Fox has become the second woman to hold the position of NASA science chief on a non-interim basis, following former astronaut Mary Cleave, who served in the role from 2004 to 2007. Fox’s new responsibilities include overseeing the Science Mission Directorate’s $7 billion portfolio, which consists of more than 100 missions spanning various scientific fields. These missions range from studying the formation of hurricanes on Earth to searching for extraterrestrial life and developing ways to support astronauts living on the moon.

One of Fox’s important duties as science chief will be to ensure that NASA creates an inclusive and welcoming environment for a diverse team of scientists and engineers, regardless of their backgrounds or career stages.

Fox began her career at NASA in 2018 when she joined the Heliophysics Division. In this division, she managed studies focused on the sun and the effects of solar wind on Earth. In addition to overseeing the historic Parker Solar Probe mission, the Heliophysics Division is responsible for managing other missions like the Solar Dynamics Observatory, Solar Orbiter, and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory, which are done in collaboration with the European Space Agency.

Heliophysics Division’s New Mission and Fox’s Accomplishments

The Heliophysics Division, under Fox’s leadership, will oversee the upcoming SunRISE mission. This mission involves a constellation of small satellites or cubesats that will function together as a radio telescope to research how solar energetic particles are released and accelerated into interplanetary space.

Before becoming the head of the Heliophysics Division, Fox worked as the chief scientist for heliophysics at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where she also served as the project scientist for Parker.

Fox is not only an accomplished leader, but she has also authored numerous scientific papers and received numerous awards. Some of these awards include the Carl Sagan Memorial Award from the American Astronautical Society for her exemplary leadership in the field of heliophysics in 2021 and the Outstanding Leadership Medal from NASA, which she received in 2020.

Fox’s Appointment and Acknowledgement of Interim Leadership

On February 27, 2023, NASA announced Fox’s appointment as the new science chief, replacing interim chief Sandra Conelly. Conelly took over the role after Thomas Zurbuchen retired at the end of December 2022. Nelson expressed gratitude for Conelly’s interim leadership and acknowledged her contributions in keeping the agency’s mission moving forward during the transition period.

Nicola Fox’s Contributions to Heliophysics and NASA Missions

Nicola Fox is an accomplished scientist and leader, with a focus on heliophysics. She has overseen a number of important missions and projects during her career at NASA, including the Parker Solar Probe, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Solar Orbiter, and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory. Additionally, she will now be responsible for the upcoming SunRISE mission, which involves a constellation of cubesats studying solar energetic particles. Fox has authored many scientific papers and received numerous awards for her contributions to the field of heliophysics, including the Carl Sagan Memorial Award from the American Astronautical Society and NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal.

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