Dava Newman
Dava Newman, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, was nominated to the post of NASA deputy administrator in October. Credit: MIT/Patrick Gillooly

WASHINGTON — The Senate Commerce Committee advanced the nomination of Dava Newman to become NASA deputy administrator on March 25, bringing the university professor one step closer to taking over the second highest ranking position at the space agency.

The committee, meeting in a brief executive session, voted to favorably report the nomination to the full Senate. There was no discussion of Newman’s nomination during the session, and her nomination was one of three the committee approved on a voice vote. No date for a Senate vote on the nomination was announced.

The Obama Administration nominated Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to the position of deputy administrator Oct. 16. The administration refiled the nomination Jan. 8 after the new Congress convened.

“It’s very exciting, and an enormous honor,” Newman said in an MIT press release Oct. 17 about her nomination. “I look forward to doing the best work I can, to applying myself 100 percent, to learning a lot, and to advancing our national aerospace goals.”

Newman has kept a low public profile since her nomination, but did attend a March 12 hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee about NASA’s fiscal year 2016 budget request. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, testifying before the committee, referred to her briefly at one point in the hearing.

“One of these days you all, hopefully, if this committee seeks to support her, will have someone who can come before this committee and speak very authoritatively,” Bolden said when asked a question about aeronautics technology.

The position of NASA deputy administrator has been vacant since Lori Garver stepped down in September 2013 to become general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...