Former US Senator Bill Nelson is confirmed as a NASA administrator with a breathing rate (compared to his predecessor).
Nelson’s nomination by President Joe Biden came in March and accepted by acting NASA administrator Steve Jurczyk who said he hopes “to continue working with Bill and the Biden-Harris administration to carry out many of NASA’s critical missions in the coming years.”
NASA released a statement yesterday trumpet what is achieved in the first 100 days of Biden-Harris’s administration and recorded the release of a $ 24.7bn budget request, up 6 per cent up to FY2021. Among the milestones (including SpaceX’s selection for a human moon landing) it again highlighted the nomination of Nelson (and Pam Melroy as deputy administrator).
Hours later, Nelson, who represented Florida in the U.S. Senate from 2001-2019, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as NASA’s 14th administrator.
“I was honored by the President’s nomination and the Senate vote,” Nelson said. “I’ll try to have that confidence. Forward and up!”
The confirmation is consistent with the experience of his predecessor Jim Bridenstine. Bridenstine was tapped by the Donald Trump administration to lead NASA in 2017, a step opposed to Nelson’s time. However, he will not start working until 2018. At the time of his release earlier this year, the U.S. regained domestic human launch capability, although the goal of placing a human on the Moon in 2024 seemed increasingly unsatisfactory.
Bye-bye Bridenstine: The outgoing leader is leaving NASA in good shape, though Boots on Moon’s ’24 goal looks doubtful
Bridenstine’s predecessor was Charlie Bolden, who shared a first spaceflight with Nelson (then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Florida) in 1986, aboard the Columbia and STS-61C. Bolden rode as a pilot while Nelson sat in the middeck of the orbiter for launch and landing. The mission to deploy the Satcom K1 satellite was cut to the four-day mark due to a delay in Columbia’s launch.
The STS-61-C was the 24th mission in the Space Shuttle program and the last before the Challenger disaster, which occurred days after the Columbia landing. Nelson replaced Greg Jarvis with STS-61-C. Jarvis was instead assigned to STS-51-L and Challenger.
Nelson’s confirmation was widely accepted. The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration said: “Nelson’s experience as an astronaut and passion for space has made him a strong advocate for the most important civil space program in the country.” Described Nelson as “a relentless advocate for NASA and the entire galaxy industry,” Coalition president and CEO Andrew Allen said Nelson “is part of every major policy decision in human exploration, science, and space technology for four decades. “
NASA has not yet announced when Nelson will be formally sworn in. Pam Melroy, who was nominated for deputy, is yet to be confirmed. ®