William and Mary alumna becomes first woman director of National Air and Space Museum

Former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan has been named the first woman director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., effective April 30.

Stofan, a William and Mary graduate, succeeds J.R. “Jack” Dailey as the director of the Air and Space Museum. Dailey retired in January.

A consulting senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Stofan has more than 25 years experience in space-related organizations as well as a deep research background in planetary geology, according to a news release. She also was chief scientist at NASA from 2013–2016, serving as the principal adviser to former administrator Charles Bolden on NASA’s strategic planning and programs.

“It is an incredible honor to join the National Air and Space Museum family at this important point in the museum’s history,” Stofan said. “Space and aviation inspire our next generation of explorers, and there is no better place to experience this than at our museums on the Mall and at the Udvar-Hazy Center.”

Stofan helped with the development of a long-range plan to get humans to Mars, and worked on strategies for NASA to support commercial activity from the International Space Station to sending humans to the moon and Mars in the mid-2020s, according to the news release.

Stofan, who grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio, is the daughter of a NASA rocket scientist and a science teacher. She attended her first rocket launch at Cape Canaveral, Fla. at 4, and by 11, she was tagging along on her mother’s geology-class field trips, according to the news release.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in geology at William and Mary and her master’s and doctoral degrees in geological sciences at Brown University. While finishing her doctoral degree, Stofan joined the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab as a post-doctoral fellow and became the deputy project scientist for the Magellan Mission to Venus, according to the news release.

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