President Obama's nominees for NASA's top two slots will begin the confirmation process tomorrow with a hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Both Charles Bolden [seated at right, meeting with Obama, in top photo], picked for the long-vacant administrator post, and Lori Garver [below], nominated for the number-two deputy administrator role, are expected to be confirmed by the full Senate in the coming days.

The committee's Democratic chair, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, and the ranking Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, have each vowed to speed the nomination through. And one of Bolden's most ardent cheerleaders in Washington, Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida, sits on the committee.

Bolden is a retired Marine Corps general and former astronaut, and Garver is a policy expert and NASA veteran who led the Obama transition team's NASA review group. If confirmed they would take the reins of an agency in limbo, as an independent panel convened by the White House takes a hard look at NASA's blueprint for human space exploration.

Top photo: Pete Souza/White House; bottom photo: NASA