Trump’s pick for NASA lays out agenda, and answers critics

Enlarge / Jim Bridentstine, left, in the halls of Congress. (credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine, who was nominated to become NASA's next administrator by the Trump administration on Sept. 1, may get a Senate confirmation hearing as early as next week. The choice of the 42-year-old Republican pilot has raised objections among some of his fellow members of Congress, because Bridenstine does not have a technical background, as well as from environmentalists, due to his views on climate change.

However, a pre-hearing questionnaire submitted by Bridenstine addresses some of these criticisms and also offers some important clues about where he would like to see the space agency go. "With NASA's global leadership, we will pioneer the Solar System, send humans back to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond. This requires a consistent, sustainable strategy for deep space exploration." Bridenstine supports human missions to the Moon before going to Mars.

Florida senators

Among the first critics of Bridenstine's nomination on Sept. 1 were Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio. Nelson told Politico that the head of NASA should have a professional background, rather than a political one. Rubio echoed Nelson's sentiments, saying, “I just think it could be devastating for the space program. Obviously, being from Florida, I’m very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission." He added that NASA's administrator should have a scientific perspective.

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