For the first time an Indian-American has been appointed as NASA's acting chief of staff, pending the selection of a new chief soon. Indian American Bhavya Lal, who was a member of the Biden Transition team oversaw the agency's transition. During the campaign, Biden wanted to have a woman chief at the US space agency.

Bhavya Lal has extensive experience in engineering and space technology, and served as a member of the research staff at the Institute for Defence Analyses (IDA) Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) from 2005 to 2020.

Bhavya Lal
Indian-American Bhavya Lal is acting chief of staff for NASANASA

Prior to it, she served as president of C-STPS LLC, a science and technology policy research and consulting firm in Waltham, Massachusetts. She also served as director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Studies at Abt Associates Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Bhavya Lal 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. She was also nominated and selected to be a Corresponding Member of the International Academy of Astronautics.

Bhavya Lal earned 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.

After Bridenstine's term

Prior to her, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine, an appointee of the Trump administration, stepped down from his role as the administrator of the US space agency on Jan 21, as Joe Biden took over the office. It was expected that President Biden would pick a woman to fill the NASA administrator role, which has only been occupied by men since the agency's founding in 1958.

The temporary appointment of Bhavya Lal may fulfil Biden's choice for a woman to head the US space agency but it remains to be seen whether she would eventually be made NASA chief. While Bridenstine spent his final days as administrator making last push for the ambitious Artemis programme, that will land the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024, Bhavya Lal would be seen extending the opportunities for women scientists and astronauts to venture into space exploration.