CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida. April 15th, 2010. PICTURED: then-U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) gives introductory remarks during an Obama-era space event. Photo credit: NASA Bill Ingalls.
More than 100 days after being named the president-elect, Joe Biden has finally named who will lead NASA, and it’s 18-year Florida Senator and former space shuttle crew member Bill Nelson.
Before he was a senator, Nelson occupied the House of Representatives, and stood as chair of the House space subcommittee when he flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist on the STS-61C mission in 1986.
“Most every piece of space and science law has had his imprint…In the Senate he was known as the go-to senator for our nation’s space program,” the statement from the White House read.
Analysists speaking with Space News, suggested that it’s Nelson’s personal friendship with Biden that is the principle point of interest in the appointment, since he’ll be able to bend Biden’s old ears to space policy in ways past Administrators haven’t been able to.
“Former Senator Nelson knows space policy inside and out as a leader on the Senate Commerce Committee, and as someone who has been to space,” said Rep. Don Beyer, (D – VA), who holds the chair of the space subcommittee position as Nelson once did.
“The men and women at NASA are an incredible national asset and will continue to take on the most pressing issues facing our country. As we look to the future – and with Bill at the helm – we will continue to take on and find solutions to problems once thought unsolvable, and educate and inspire the next generation of American scientists, engineers, and workers,” said Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk.
“Bill Nelson will have the influence to deliver strong budgets for NASA and, when necessary, he will be able to enlist the help of his friend, President Joe Biden,” Jim Bridenstine, the NASA Administrator under Trump, said in a statement supporting his successor. “The Senate should confirm Bill Nelson without delay”.
It’s ironic that Bridenstine should support Nelson, after the latter denounced his nomination to the position under Trump, and perhaps some small measure of proof of the gravitas Nelson brings to the job.
The Commercial Space Federation, consisting of 85 varied private space companies, such as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, as well as Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and Spaceport America, also supported Nelson’s nomination, rounding off the list of allies.
“America’s commercial space industry looks forward to working with Senator Nelson to continue providing NASA with the world’s most innovative and affordable technologies and solutions to achieve its ambitious missions above the Earth and across the solar system”.
Barring cooperation with the heads of other international space agencies, and the new military branch, the Space Force, Nelson seems to have nothing but support, and be a unifying force among the varied American interests in our solar system, suggesting the next four years will be an exciting period at NASA.