President-elect Trump has named one of the members of his NASA transition team — and it’s someone who will find the space agency a familiar place. The team will include Christopher Shank, a former top aide and communications official for NASA, as well as a recurring staff member of the House Science Committee.
Also a former member of the US Air Force, Shank has played important roles at NASA in the past — most notably as the special assistant to NASA Administrator Mike Griffin under the George W. Bush administration. After that, he became the director of strategic investments for the agency, and helped to come up with the budgets of NASA’s various programs for the White House and Congress. He also served briefly as NASA’s chief of strategic communications, overseeing public and legislative affairs, as well as education.
Shank’s time at NASA has also been bookended by time spent on Capitol Hill. Before going to the space agency, Shank was a staff member on the House Science Committee from 2001 to 2005, where he specialized in human spaceflight and Earth science, according to NASA. He then returned in 2011 to serve as the deputy chief of staff for Rep. Lamar Smith, who has been chairman of the Science Committee for the past three years.
Shank’s selection comes as a bit of a surprise, since some space policy experts suspected that Mark Albrecht — George H. W. Bush’s former space policy advisor — would be the one to head NASA’s transition. However, it looks like Albrecht will be involved with the transition for the Department of Defense instead, so it’s doubtful he’ll be formally involved with how NASA moves forward in the coming months.