As expected, the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives has appointed Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced Nov. 28.

Smith replaces Ralph Hall (R-Texas), who must step down because of the six-year term limit House Republicans impose on committee chairs.

Smith has been a member of the Science Committee since he was first elected in 1986.

In the new chairman’s immediate orbit is Christopher Shank, Smith’s deputy chief of staff since 2011. Shank was a top aide to Mike Griffin when Griffin was serving as NASA administrator from 2005 to 2009. In that role, Shank led coordination of NASA’s Exploration Systems Architecture Study, which hatched the now-defunct Constellation Moon exploration program.

When he joined Smith’s staff in 2011, Shank said in an email to colleagues that he would mostly be assisting Smith with the congressman’s work on the Science Committee.