Spinrad and Melroy
Rick Spinrad, nominee to be NOAA administrator, and Pam Melroy, nominee to be NASA deputy administrator, appear at a May 20 confirmation hearing. The Senate confirmed both nominations June 17. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Updated 6 p.m. Eastern with NASA and Coalition for Deep Space Exploration statements.

WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed the nominations June 17 of a former astronaut to be the deputy administrator of NASA and of an ocean scientist to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On voice votes, senators confirmed Pam Melroy as deputy administrator of NASA and Rick Spinrad as NOAA administrator. The votes came a day after the Senate Commerce Committee advanced their nominations to the full Senate on voice votes without debate.

“It’s an honor to be confirmed by the Senate to serve as NASA Deputy Administrator, and I am humbled by President Biden and Vice President Harris’ confidence in me,” Melroy said in a NASA statement after confirmation. “I look forward to returning to the NASA family and working with Administrator Nelson to ensure the United States continues to lead in space and beyond.”

Melroy, a former astronaut who later held positions at the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation and at DARPA, was nominated by the White House to be deputy administrator April 16. Spinrad, who alternated for much of his career between NOAA and Oregon State University, was nominated to be administrator of NOAA and undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere at the Department of Commerce April 22.

Both Melroy and Spinrad sailed through a joint Senate confirmation hearing May 20. “It’s hard to imagine a more qualified person for this role,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said of Melroy at that hearing.

Melroy had widespread support, including an endorsement from former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who said when her nomination was announced that her experience “will serve her well as NASA returns to the Moon under the Artemis program.”

“Deputy Administrator Melroy’s remarkable technical, managerial, and policy backgrounds, and her knowledge of NASA as well as the international space community, will be critical for tackling the agency’s challenges and advancing its goals, especially as Orion, SLS and other systems are being readied to take Americans back to the Moon,” Frank Slazer, president and chief executive of the industry group Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, said in a statement after Melroy was confirmed.

Melroy “is a pioneer and veteran of NASA,” current NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted after the Senate confirmed her. “She will be an outstanding leader as we venture further out to the stars! I look forward to leading NASA with her as a team.”

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...