Senate confirms former Sen. Bill Nelson, of Florida, as new NASA administrator

Pam Melroy expected to be confirmed as deputy administrator

Former Sen. Bill Nelson, nominee to be administrator of NASA, speaks during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation confirmation hearing, Wednesday, April 21, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)
Former Sen. Bill Nelson, nominee to be administrator of NASA, speaks during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation confirmation hearing, Wednesday, April 21, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP) (POOL)

Former Sen. Bill Nelson was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate Thursday to lead NASA during a critical time as the U.S. Space Agency’s new administrator.

Nelson, 78, went before the Senate last week and answered questions about his vision for NASA as it prepares to send astronauts back to the moon. Comments from both sides of the isle were very agreeable and he was expected to be confirmed.

On Thursday, it became official Nelson was confirmed by unanimous consent becoming NASA’s new leader.

It’s been less than two months since President Joe Biden officially nominated the Brevard County native to lead the space agency after weeks of speculation he planned to tap the former Democratic senator for the role.

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Nelson was first elected to U.S. Congress in 1986, and during his time as a representative of Florida, he became the first member of the House to go to space.

Nelson flew onboard Space Shuttle Columbia’s STS-61 mission in 1986. If confirmed he will be the third NASA administrator to have achieved spaceflight.

The Florida Democrat was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 and was defeated in the 2018 election by former Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who holds the seat now.

Nelson will lead the U.S. space agency during a critical time NASA plans to return humans to the moon in the next three years under the Artemis program. The final piece of flight hardware arrived this week in Florida for NASA’s moon rocket, known as the Space Launch System.

Steve Jurczyk has been the acting NASA administrator since Jan. 20. He was previously the associate administrator.

Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stepped down in January, the day Biden was sworn into office. Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard also left NASA on the final day of the Trump administration.

Nelson’s nomination received bipartisan support from his former Senate members and from the most recent NASA administrator. However, some critics said they expected Biden to nominate a woman to lead the agency.

Former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy is Biden’s pick for deputy administrator of NASA and still needs to go through the Senate confirmation process.


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