Space

The White House has no plans to name a NASA administrator in the immediate future

Summary

As a new set of speculation swirls over who could be chosen to lead NASA, the White House stated on February 23 that it has no plans to appoint a new administrator. The subject came up during a media briefing when a […]

As a new set of speculation swirls over who could be chosen to lead NASA, the White House stated on February 23 that it has no plans to appoint a new administrator. The subject came up during a media briefing when a reporter inquired about reports that the Biden admin was contemplating Bill Nelson, a retired Florida senator, for the job. Breaking Defense first mentioned the rumors on February 22.

Psaki replied, “I don’t even have any staff updates for you, nor do I have any idea of when we’ll have an update on a NASA administrator, nor do I have a list of possible people.” She seemed to be referring to Nelson when she said, “But that’s an odd one.” Nelson is a fascinating nominee. From 1978 to 1990, he was a member of the House of Representatives for six terms. At that time, he worked as a payload expert on the STS-61C flight of space shuttle Columbia in 1986 January. Nelson was re-elected to Congress in 2000 and served 3-terms in the Senate.

Due to various his interest in space strategy and status as being one of the leading Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee, Nelson performed a key role in the appointment of two former administrators in the Senate. In 2009, he campaigned hard for ex-astronaut Charles Bolden, who traveled with him on the STS-61C, to be named NASA administrator, amid the Obama administration’s consideration of other applicants. Bolden was appointed by President Obama and approved by Senate in July 2009, serving until the conclusion of the Obama admin in 2017 January.

Nelson, on the other hand, was outraged when Trump nominated Jim Bridenstine, who is a Republican congressman hailing from Oklahoma, to be NASA administrator in September 2017. At Bridenstine’s approval hearing, he stated, “The chief of NASA should never be partisan.” “The NASA administrator should be a highly accomplished space professional with technological and scientific experience as well as executive skills.”

Bridenstine was confirmed in April 2018 on a razor-thin party-line poll. Months later, Nelson thanked Bridenstine for maintaining NASA politically neutral. Bridenstine retaliated by nominating Nelson to the NASA Advisory Council in 2019 May, after Nelson lost his bid for a fourth tenure in 2018. In the 2020 election, Nelson acted as a spokesman for Biden’s bid, such as a media interview in May 2020 where he as well as Bolden supported Biden’s low-key involvement in space policy throughout his eight years as President Obama’s vice president.

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