White House updates membership of Space Council advisory group

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WASHINGTON — The White House has updated the membership of an advisory group for the National Space Council, replacing four original members of the committee with five people, including a former member of Congress.

In a May 15 statement, Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, announced the revised roster of the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group (UAG). The members serve as what Pence once called the “brain trust” for the council, providing insights and recommendations.

Among the new members is John Culberson, a former member of the House from Texas who lost reelection in 2018. He had been chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that funded NASA, and served as an advocate for many agency initiatives, from exploration programs to a planetary science mission called Europa Clipper that will fly to an icy, potentially habitable moon of Jupiter.

Other new members include Eileen Drake, the president and chief executive of Aerojet Rocketdyne; Bruce Jakosky, a University of Colorado professor who is the principal investigator for NASA’s MAVEN Mars orbiter; Jeanette Nuñez, lieutenant governor of the state of Florida and board chairman for state space development agency Space Florida; and James D. Taiclet, Jr., a member of the board of Lockheed Martin who will become president and chief executive of the company on June 15.

Four members of the original UAG were not nominated for new two-year terms. They include Marillyn Hewson, who is stepping down as Lockheed Martin president and chief executive June 15, and David Thompson, who had been president and chief executive of Orbital ATK prior to its acquisition by Northrop Grumman. Steve Crisafulli, former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, and Eric Schmidt, former chief executive and executive chairman of Google, are also not returning to the UAG.

The UAG has held four public meetings since being established in 2018, most recently in October 2019. The group has dealt with a wide range of issues, but is perhaps best known for its criticism of NASA’s lunar exploration plans at a November 2018 meeting, arguing that the agency’s goal at the time of landing humans on the moon by 2028 was too slow. A little more than four months later, Pence announced the new 2024 goal for a human lunar return.

Some have criticized the UAG, though, for representing companies that produce rockets and satellites rather than actual users of space. “A great group of people, but again, no real commercial operators (i.e., USERS) of space,” tweeted Matt Desch, chief executive of satellite operator Iridium, after the new UAG roster was announced. “It’s focused on SUPPLIERS.”

The White House, in its announcement of the UAG membership, did not mention when the group will next meet. A March 30 meeting that was to take place during the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs was postponed, along with the conference itself, because of the pandemic. While the conference has been rescheduled for the end of October, the administration has not announced a new time or location for the next UAG meeting.

The full membership of the UAG is as follows:

Admiral James Ellis, Jr., USN, Retired (Chair, Users’ Advisory Group)
Former Commander, United States Strategic Command; member of the Space Foundation Board of Directors

Dr. Buzz Aldrin, USAF, Retired
Apollo 11 astronaut

Tory Bruno
President and CEO, United Launch Alliance

David Calhoun
President and CEO, The Boeing Company

Dean Cheng
Scholar at the Heritage Foundation

Colonel Eileen Collins, USAF, Retired
Four-time shuttle astronaut, first female shuttle commander

The Honorable John Culberson
Former U.S. Congressman, Texas

Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar
President and CEO, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

Eileen Drake
President and CEO, Aerojet Rocketdyne

Tim Ellis
CEO, Relativity Space

Homer Hickam
Board Member, U. S. Space & Rocket Center; former NASA Marshall Spacef Flight Center engineer; Author of “Rocket Boys”

The Honorable Kay Ivey
Governor of Alabama

Dr. Bruce Jakosky
Professor of Atmosphere and Space Physics, University of Colorado

Fred Klipsch
Board of Trustees, Marian University; Chairman and CEO, Klipsch Audio Technologies, Retired

General Les Lyles, USAF, Retired
Chairman, NASA Advisory Council

Colonel Pam Melroy, USAF, Retired
Three-time shuttle astronaut, former Deputy Director of the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

The Honorable Jeanette Nuñez
Lieutenant Governor of Florida, Chairman of the Board, Space Florida

Fatih Ozmen
CEO, Sierra Nevada Corporation

The Honorable Harrison H. Schmitt
Former United States Senator, New Mexico; Apollo 17 astronaut

Gwynne Shotwell
President and COO, SpaceX

Dr. Robert H. Smith
CEO, Blue Origin

Eric Stallmer
President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

James D. Taiclet, Jr.
Board member, Lockheed Martin Corporation

Pamela Vaughan
STEM Integration Specialist for the Arkansas Department of Education

Mandy Vaughn
President, VOX Space

Kathy Warden
Chairman, CEO, and President, Northrop Grumman Corporation

Stuart O. Witt
Former Navy pilot; founder, Mojave Air and Spaceport; former chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

David Wolf, M.D.
Four-time shuttle astronaut, Purdue University