Pamela Melroy, a graduate of Bishop Kearney High School in Irondequoit and one of the world’s most renowned astronauts, has a major distinction to add to her long list of accomplishments: deputy administrator for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Melroy was confirmed to the position by the U.S. Senate June 17, three months after being nominated by President Joseph Biden.
“It’s an honor to be confirmed by the Senate to serve as NASA Deputy Administrator, and I am humbled by President Biden and Vice President (Kamala) Harris’ confidence in me,” Melroy said in a statement. “I look forward to returning to the NASA family and working with Administrator (Bill) Nelson to ensure the United States continues to lead in space and beyond — exploring the wonders of the universe, expanding the Earth science research critical to combatting climate change, unlocking scientific discoveries that will change the world as we know it, and inspiring the next generation of discoverers and dreamers.”
Melroy served with NASA from 1995 until retiring in 2009. During her tenure, she piloted two space shuttle missions, STS-92 in 2000 and STS-112 in 2002, and was the mission commander on STS-120 in 2007. All three were assembly missions for the International Space Station.
Melroy is one of only two women to command NASA space shuttle missions, and both happen to be products of Catholic education in the Diocese of Rochester. In 1999, Eileen Collins — an Elmira native who attended the former St. Patrick Elementary School — became the first female astronaut to command a shuttle mission when she led STS-93; she also commanded STS-114 in 2005. In addition, Collins was the first woman to pilot a shuttle mission when she served on STS-63 in 1995 and STS-84 in 1997.
Melroy, who will turn 60 on Sept. 17, graduated from Bishop Kearney in 1979 after having previously attended St. Louis School in Pittsford. A 1975 article in the Catholic Courier (then the Courier-Journal) lists Melroy as one of that year’s incoming Bishop Kearney freshmen to have received a scholarship from the school.
She went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy from Wellesley College in 1983 and a master of science degree in earth and planetary sciences from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1984. Prior to her NASA experience, she served as a longtime test pilot for the U.S. Air Force.
Melroy is due to be inducted in the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in November 2021; the induction had originally been scheduled for 2020 but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Melroy, Michael E. Lopez-Alegria and Scott Kelly will join 99 current Hall of Fame members, including Collins, who was inducted in 2013.