As NASA continues to make strides in human spaceflight, the Biden administration has made the agency an early priority, nominating former Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida to become the agency’s administrator.
“If you ask me what is my vision for the future of NASA, it continues for us to continue to explore the heavens with humans and machines,” Nelson told the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which oversees the agency.
“I think this is an inspired choice,” said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. “I can't think of a better American alive to serve in this role.”
The selection of the one-time astronaut, who as a Democratic congressman flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1986, elicited bipartisan praise from members of the committee.
“There are not many Biden nominees about whom I am enthusiastic, but your nomination is a notable exception to that,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told Nelson.
Before losing reelection in 2018, Nelson served as ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, where he was instrumental in shaping NASA’s future, with the passage of legislation in 2010, which paved the way for NASA’s current dual-track approach; utilizing privatization for trips to the low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station and a NASA-designed Space Launch System to catapult astronauts to the moon and Mars.
If confirmed, Nelson pledged to hold NASA to its current schedule of landing Americans back on the Moon in just three years and on Mars in the 2030s.