NASA science chief Nicky Fox speaks at the university

Staff Reporter

NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Nicky Fox visited the university April 18 for a presentation on the NASA administration’s current projects and a tour of the university’s facilities that contribute to NASA’s space research. 

Although many of their missions are taking place in space, Fox made one thing clear throughout the presentation: NASA is not on the hunt for a new home. 

“The most interesting planet should be Earth, because that’s where we live, and we should be taking care of it,” she said in the presentation.  

Although missions such as OSIRIS-REx are searching for the conditions on other planets that could signify the presence of life or the building blocks needed to create life, NASA’s main priority will always lie with keeping the Earth healthy. 

Fox explained that many of NASA’s current projects are consistently monitoring Earth’s conditions to offer insights about our own atmosphere. NASA is also looking under the oceans to monitor the planet’s seas and are ensuring the health of the air we breathe by monitoring pollution levels over time. 

Fox’s speciality resides in heliophysics, which describes the physics of the sun and the dynamic environment around it, for which it was a “big year,” according to Fox. With two solar eclipses within the span of 15 months, NASA has had multiple opportunities to study the sun. 

“There are active spots within the sun that have the capacity to react and send debris from cosmic space toward our solar system, so it’s extremely important to understand how our star works,” Fox said during her presentation.

Ethan Grandin/THE REVIEW

In addition to studying the sun and the environment around it, Fox also touched on the 143 other active missions that NASA is currently undertaking. 

One mission is studying the hydrologic cycle of methane on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, while others are researching how different human cell types react to various environmental factors in space or how plants grow in microgravity. 

“The thing that’s really cool for me is that all of our science is interconnected,” Fox said at the event. “The most exciting things and the most interesting things happen on the boundaries. We have this interconnected feeling, and all the science, all the missions we do, build off of each other.”

NASA does not stand alone when it comes to large contributions to exploring the science of space. Fox highlighted Citizen Science Month, which encourages people of all ages to get involved with space-related research, no matter where their passions lie or what they are trained in. 

“If you like fashion, well, the sun has flair,” Fox said. “It’s hard to look at a James Webb image and not see beauty and art in those images, so finding ways to really connect with people and embrace the boundaries of where science connects with art is important.” 

At the end of the presentation, Fox was presented with the university’s Medal of Distinction, an award presented to those who have made a significant contribution to society, achieved success in their professional careers or given notable service to the community. 

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