NASA’s newly appointed acting Chief of Staff is Indian-American scientist Bhavya Lal. She will be responsible for the day to day operations at the US space agency headquarters and will work towards shaping its strategic direction.
The new appointee, Lal has served as a member of Biden Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for NASA and oversaw its transition under the administration of President Joe Biden.
Before joining as the Chief of Staff, Bhavya Lal has served as a member of the research unit at the Institute of Defense Analyses and Science and Technology Policy Institute in the last 15 years of her career. She was also leading teams in National Space Council, White House’s House of Science and Technology Policy (OSTO), federal space organizations and the Department of Defence for its analysis of space technology, strategy,
Who is Bhavya Lal?
Bhavna Lal had studied nuclear engineering for graduation and masters and then went on to earn another master’s degree in technology and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She later earned a doctorate degree in public policy and administration at George Washington University, where she is a member of its public policy and nuclear engineering societies.
Having majored in two diverse streams, Lal had written extensively on how private space technology firms like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic are making progress in making space tourism a thing. In 2016 in a science and technology journal, she wrote about how space innovation will take such momentum in coming times that the US will no longer be the principal hub and government not the sole owner of the space community. She also wrote about how countries like India, Israel will come to the forefront in space innovation.
After SpaceX’s Demo-2 flight took off in May last year, Lal wrote how private companies are making a point for solution-based contracts and how they can add value to both government and broader space enterprise. But the government needs to find out how thee private plays can get a bigger role through data and analysis and not dogma.
The Demo-2 mission was started to facilitate the development of IS spaceflight systems that can guarantee reliable and cost-effective access to the Internal Space Station so that NASA can focus on deep space exploration missions. The mission was a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Programme that has been working with several US aerospace firms since 2010.
Lal estimated the size of the space economy to be at $170 billion in a report published by IDA in March 2021, Her estimate along with other authors of the report was half of what other space agencies have estimated to be. The report divided the space economy to four sections, space services (expenditure on services generated in space like broadband), government expenditure (military space program, human space exploration etc), space serve user support (sale of consumer satellite, navigation system hardware etc) and space supplier industry (sale of satellites or space launches to carry space missions).