The United States Senate voted Monday to appoint Helena native Dava Newman as deputy administrator of NASA.

“It’s an enormous honor to serve at NASA in times when our country is extending humanity’s reach into space while strengthening American leadership here on Earth, and I look forward to starting this work soon,” Newman said.

Newman was nominated by President Barack Obama last October to fill the NASA position vacated in September 2013 by Lori Garver, who left to become general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association.

In March, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously recommended that the Senate approve Newman’s appointment.

As deputy administrator, Newman will be second in command at NASA. According to NASA’s website, the deputy administrator helps provide leadership, planning and policy direction for the agency. Newman will also work with the administrator to represent NASA to the Executive Office of the President, Congress, heads of government agencies, international organizations and other groups, the website says.

Newman attended C.R. Anderson Middle School and graduated from Capital High School. She has credited her teachers and her family as influential for her life’s work.

Before her appointment, Newman worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a professor of aeronautics and astronautics. In 2007, TIME Magazine awarded Newman for one of the best inventions of the year for a spacesuit she designed. She has developed exhibits for the children’s science museum ExplorationWorks! in recent years.

Newman was appointed with 87 senators voting to confirm her appointment and none voting against. Both Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Steve Daines were present and voted in favor of Newman’s appointment.

Daines, who serves on the Senate committee that recommended Newman’s confirmation, spoke on the Senate floor prior to the vote and called her a “testament to the quality of Montana’s public education.”

“Dr. Newman is an incredibly accomplished Montanan who truly exemplifies our state's legacy of public service,” Daines said.

Sen. Tester said in a statement that “Dava Newman will be a strong leader at NASA and play a major role in the future of engineering in this country. I thank her for her many years in the classroom inspiring young folks to launch a career in STEM. All Montanans can be proud of her great accomplishments.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement that he’s delighted for Newman to join NASA.

“I am personally ecstatic to welcome her aboard at such a busy and exciting time as we continue to make extraordinary strides on our Journey to Mars,” Bolden said.

Newman said she’ll finish her work at MIT while waiting to be officially instated by the president.

She added that as deputy administrator, she’ll be able to make a trip to Helena this summer.

The Senate didn’t vote on Newman’s appointment before the 113 Congress adjourned at the end of 2014, so her initial nomination was returned to the White House. Obama re-nominated Newman in January.

Alexander Deedy can be reached at 447-4081 or alexander.deedy@helenair.com

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