There may be no better way to appreciate the earth than to leave it, to look back on the beauty and fragility of our planet from the vantage point of space. Only a tiny fraction of humanity gets that opportunity, so when someone does — and also happens to be one of the smartest people around when it comes to earth sciences — it’s good to have her on our side, especially in challenging times. That’s what makes us all lucky that Kathryn Sullivan was just confirmed as administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Kathy is not just an ivory-tower scientist. She was part of NASA’s first class of female astronauts, selected in 1978, and went on to fly three shuttle missions. She is the first American woman to walk in space and served aboard the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. That role in helping humanity look outward has not prevented her from looking homeward. The planet is suffering increasingly severe upheavals, at least partly a result of climate change — droughts, floods, typhoons, tornadoes. I believe my good friend Kathy is the right person for the right job at the right time.
Glenn, a former astronaut and U.S. Senator, was the first American to orbit earth