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NASA Gets First "Landing Party" Member -- Chris Shank

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 29-Nov-2016
Updated: 29-Nov-2016 02:04 PM

The Trump transition team named the first member of its "landing party" for NASA today -- Chris Shank. Shank was part of the leadership team at NASA while Mike Griffin was Administrator and is currently on the staff of the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee.   Mark Albrecht, who had been rumored as a candidate for the NASA landing party, instead has been assigned to DOD's transition team.

Transition teams or "landing parties" typically are named for each federal department and agency by incoming presidential administrations to do an initial review of an agency's portfolio and identify pressing issues that the new administration will have to address quickly. 

Shank is an experienced space policy professional.  From 2001-2005, he served on what was then the House Science Committee staff specializing in human spaceflight and Earth science issues.  After joining NASA as a special assistant to Griffin in 2005, he was appointed NASA's chief of strategic communications in 2008.  He left NASA in January 2009 at the end of the Bush Administration and worked first at the Applied Physics Lab and later Honeywell Aerospace.  He returned to Capitol Hill in 2011 as Deputy Chief of Staff to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who is now chairman of House SS&T, and in 2013 was appointed policy and coalitions director for the full committee.


Chris Shank.  Photo Credit:  NASA/Bill Ingalls

He has a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado and a bachelor's in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame.  Before his first stint on the committee, he served in the Air Force for 11 years, working at the Pentagon, National Reconnaissance Office and Air Force Space Command.

Landing teams usually have several  members, so additional appointments are expected.  Transition teams exist only until the inauguration, but it is not uncommon for many of their members to join the respective agency's staff thereafter.

Albrecht is another veteran member of the space policy community.  He was Executive Director of the White House National Space Council during the George H.W. Bush Administration and later was President of Lockheed Martin's International Launch Services (ILS), which at the time (1999-2006) marketed launch services on Lockheed Martin's Atlas and Russia's Proton rockets.  He currently is Chairman of the Board of U.S. Space LLC.  Prior to his tenure in the George H.W. Bush White House, he was a legislative assistant for national security affairs for then-Senator Pete Wilson (R-CA).  He has bachelor's and master's degrees from UCLA and a doctorate in public policy analysis from the Rand Graduate School.  Albrecht wrote a book, Falling Back to Earth, about his experiences on the National Space Council and at ILS, including relationships with Russia.


Mark Albrecht.  Photo Credit:  U.S. Space, LLC

He was appointed to the DOD transition team, which already has quite a few members.  Albrecht appears to be the only one so far with a space background, although another member, Trae Stephens, is a principal at Founders Fund which has investments in SpaceX according to Space News.


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