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Former Rochesterian and now NASA's Deputy Administrator, Pam Melroy makes a stop at the RMSC

Deputy NASA Administrator Pam Melroy, who grew up in the Rochester area, made a stop on Friday, 6/21/24 at the Strasenburgh Planetatrium at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. She also visited L3Harris Technologies.
Randy Gorbman
/
WXXI News
Deputy NASA Administrator Pam Melroy, who grew up in the Rochester area, made a stop on Friday, 6/21/24 at the Strasenburgh Planetatrium at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. She also visited L3Harris Technologies.

A top NASA official who grew up in the Rochester area made a return trip on Friday.

Pam Melroy, who, as Deputy Administrator, is now the #2 official in NASA, stopped by the Strasenburgh Planetarium at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

Melroy has had a long and storied career with NASA, having flown three missions to help with the construction of the International Space Station, and is one of only two women to have commanded a space shuttle.

During a visit to the planetarium, at the invitation of Rep. Joe Morelle (D-25), Melroy, who is a graduate of Bishop Kearney High School, talked about breaking some ground when it came to women being involved in NASA.

“I often joke that people have told me throughout my career, ‘you do not look like a pilot, you don't look like a test pilot, you don't look like an astronaut.’ “And I remind people, it's what's on the inside that matters. And I knew in my heart of hearts, that I was a scientist. I was a pilot, and I was an astronaut.”

Melroy, whose NASA flight suit has been on exhibit at the Strasenburgh, said that she was inspired by her visits to the planetarium and the RMSC when she was a young person in Rochester.

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During her Rochester stop on Friday, Melroy also visited L3Harris Technologies. That company is doing work on the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which will eventually help with the observation of billions of galaxies and other cosmic phenomena. It is expected to launch in 2027.

A flight suit that had been worn by Deputy NASA Administrator Pam Melroy, during her time as an astronaut. It's on display at the Strasenburgh Planetarium in Rochester, where Melroy made a visit on Friday.
Randy Gorbman
/
WXXI News
A flight suit that had been worn by Deputy NASA Administrator Pam Melroy, during her time as an astronaut. It's on display at the Strasenburgh Planetarium in Rochester, where Melroy made a visit on Friday.

“It's exciting,” said Melroy, “It's our next major flagship, and it's going to help us understand the universe in a new way, and be very synergistic with the James Webb Space Telescope.”

Charles Clarkson is Vice President and General Manager, Imaging Systems, L3Harris, and said that Melroy’s visit to the Rochester L3Harris facilities was “incredibly motivational” for their team. He said Melroy not only toured the operation, but also presented several awards to team members.

Morelle was very enthusiastic at Melroy’s news conference Friday at the planetarium, telling those at the event that early in his life he thought he could someday be involved in the space industry until a guidance counselor said to him, “you might be better at social sciences than natural sciences.”

Morelle is a member of the House Committee on Appropriations and has a seat on a subcommittee that considers funding for programs aimed at scientific and innovative advancements.

Melroy also talked about manned space flight, and the goal of one day reaching Mars, which she said potentially could happen sometime in the 2040s. But even with private companies getting more involved now in missions involving spaceflight which is relatively close to Earth, Melroy still sees value for NASA to be a partner in that realm, as well as seek out ways to someday do manned missions further out into the solar system.

“We’re definitely not done with microgravity,” Melroy said, but she added that as commercial industry is capable of taking on more responsibility in certain areas where it can help “create a true space economy,” NASA will “pull out of those areas, we’ll assist, encourage, guide and always support the way we do in the aviation industry today.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.