ORLANDO, Fla. – It's been more than six months since Florida residents have heard from former Sen. Bill Nelson, but he's back. On Tuesday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tapped Nelson to serve on the advisory committee to help oversee NASA's return to the moon by 2024.
Nelson lost his fourth term Senate bid to former Florida Gov. Rick Scott in a close election last year that required a recount. Nelson held one of Florida's seats in the U.S. Senate since 2000 and was previously elected to the House of Representatives.
While serving in the House, representing Orlando and parts of the Space Coast, Nelson earned his astronaut wings by joining the crew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986.
"Proud to announce that Sen. Bill Nelson, an astronaut, will be joining us next week as one of the newest members of the NASA Advisory Committee," Bridenstine said in a tweet Tuesday. "He is a true champion for human spaceflight and will add tremendous value as we go to the Moon and on to Mars."
The space agency plans to return humans to the lunar surface in five years but still needs Congress to approve an additional $1.6 billion in funding for NASA in order to kick start the new timeline.
In 1986, Nelson and the other six crew members on mission STS-61 spent six days in space.
Nelson, a congressman at the time, was required to undergo astronaut training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and served as a payload specialist on the 1986 mission. Former Sen. Jake Garn, of Utah, trained at NASA with Nelson and flew on the space shuttle in 1985.
Nelson was a ranking member on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.