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Indian American Bhavya Lal to Head NASA’s Newly-created Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy

Indian American Bhavya Lal to Head NASA’s Newly-created Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy

  • Earlier in February, she was named as acting chief of staff for the agency.

Bhavya Lal, a Biden political appointee who has held several positions at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA since the inauguration, is taking on a new role as head of the agency’s just-created Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy. NASA says “the reorganization merges two units including the Office of Chief Technologist, and Lal will also serve as Acting Chief Technologist.” In her new role, Lal will report to deputy administrator Pam Melroy.

Earlier in February, NASA named Lal as acting chief of staff for the agency. As the senior White House appointee at NASA, Lal served as a member of the Biden Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for the agency. In that capacity, she oversaw the agency’s transition under the administration of President Joe Biden. 

She has been a prominent public voice of NASA since the beginning of the year, representing the agency at many conferences and webinars. Two weeks ago she testified to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on NASA’s nuclear propulsion program, a particular area of expertise.

Lal has worked as a member of the research staff at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) from 2005 to 2020. There, she led the analysis of space technology, strategy, and policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and National Space Council, as well as federal space-oriented organizations, including NASA, the Department of Defense, and the intelligence community. 

As a space policy expert at STPI, Lal was appointed as a member of a National Academies committee assessing the merits of nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric propulsion for sending humans to Mars. The committee’s report, released earlier this year, was the focus of the hearing. Its co-chair, Roger Myers, represented the Academies’ committee while she was there on behalf of NASA.

Before joining STPI, Lal served as president of C-STPS LLC, a science and technology policy research and consulting firm in Waltham, Massachusetts. Before that, she served as director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Studies at Abt Associates Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

She is an active member of the space technology and policy community, having chaired, co-chaired, or served on five high-impact National Academy of Science (NAS) committees. She served two consecutive terms on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Federal Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES) and was an External Council member of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program and the Technology, Innovation and Engineering Advisory Committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC).

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She also has served on five National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Committees including, most recently, one on Space Nuclear Propulsion Technologies that is set for release in 2021.

She co-founded and is co-chair of the policy track of the American Nuclear Society’s annual conference on Nuclear and Emerging Technologies in Space (NETS) and co-organizes a seminar series on space history and policy with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. For her many contributions to the space sector, she was nominated and selected to be a Corresponding Member of the International Academy of Astronautics

Lal earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in nuclear engineering, as well as a Master of Science degree in technology and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and holds a doctorate in public policy and public administration from George Washington University. She is a member of both the nuclear engineering and public policy honor societies.

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