After sending rovers to Mars and diving deep in the ocean with astronauts, Prof. Steven Squyres '78 Ph.D. '81, astronomy, was appointed chair of the NASA Advisory Council on Oct. 31.
As chairman, Squyres will serve as an outside advisor to NASA for two years while keeping his post at Cornell.
The NASA Advisory Council is responsible for advising all the projects involved with NASA, according to Squyres. The NAC is divided into nine committees, each with a specific focus.
“Like many government agencies, NASA relies on outside groups of advisers to provide them with advice on how to handle the various challenges they face,” Squyres said. “It is a rather expensive and large advisory structure that I’ll be chairing.”
Squyres has previous experience with NAC, serving both as a member and as chair of the now-defunct NASA Space Science Advisory Committee.
Squyres said he is familiar with NASA’s work through his research. He is the lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Rover Project — which has sent two rovers to Mars — a project he calls his “main professional passion.” More recently, he participated in a simulation program for asteroid exploration with NASA’s NEEMO underwater mission in Florida.
Charles Bolden, an administrator for NASA, said in a press release that he sought out Squyres to fill the post.
“I am extremely excited that Steve has accepted the NAC chairmanship,” Bolden said. “His experience as a planetary science researcher with many NASA robotic missions will be of great value to the council. The knowledge and experience of the council’s members, such as Steve’s, is a vital component of the group. They will be of tremendous value as we go forward.”
Squyres said he is looking forward to his new position, but said he recognizes that he is taking on the role at a challenging time.
“Budgets are very tight, and NASA is in a period of transition right now,” Squyres said. “New priorities are being established, new launch vehicles are being designed, and it’s a time of considerable change at NASA, which is going to make advising NASA during this time an interesting challenge.”
Prof. Yervant Terzian, astronomy, a colleague of Squyres for 25 years, said Squyres was well qualified for his new role.
“He is superbly prepared for guiding NASA, together with his team, for the future,” Terzian said. “He loves challenging adventures, and chairmanship of this committee is really a challenge, but a good challenge, for the future of space adventures for the United States and the world.”
Terzian said he is confident that Squyres will succeed as chair.
“I am very happy that we will have Steve to advise NASA at the highest level,” Terzian said. “He really is a great leader.”