Nasa appoints first female head of science

Dr Fox, grew up in Hitchin, Hertfordshire in England. (Picture: Nasa/Aubrey Gemignani)

Last week, Nasa announced that it had picked Nicola Fox, a longtime solar scientist as the US space agency’s science chief, the first woman to have the job.

Dr Fox, who comes from Hertfordshire, has called it ‘the best job on the planet’.

‘I pop out of bed at 04:30 every morning really energised to come to work,’ she told Simon Jack on BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

‘It’s the role of a lifetime, I could not be more excited,’ she added.

She said growing up in Hitchin ‘you don’t really dream of working for Nasa, it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s something that could be a reality.’

Fox is set to lead Nasa’s science directorate, a unit with an annual budget of roughly $7 billion that oversees some of the agency’s best-known programs from the robotic hunts for past life on Mars to exploring distant galaxies with the James Webb Space Telescope.

She said it was a bit of ‘luck’ that got her to Nasa (Picture: Nasa/Mike Brown/File Photo)

She will also oversee a Nasa study group formed in 2022 to help the US military detect and characterize UFOs, or so-called Unidentified Aerial Phenomena – mysterious objects that the White House and Pentagon officials see as threats to US airspace.

Dr Fox started her career with Nasa in 2018, in the Heliophysics division, overseeing the agency’s efforts to study the Sun and how its constant solar wind affects Earth and other planets.

She said it was a bit of ‘luck’ that got her to Nasa.

‘I was at a meeting when I was doing my post graduate work at Imperial College [London] and I went to a meeting in Alaska and I was talking very excitedly about my work and a scientist basically said “could I interest you in a post doc at Nasa?”‘ she told BBC Radio 4.

‘People say you always have these pivotal moments in your life, that was the pivotal moment and I said “yes actually I would”‘.

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