President Donald Trump announced today that he intends to nominate Oklahoma Representative Jim Bridenstine as NASA’s next Administrator. If confirmed by by the Senate, he will replace acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who has run the agency since Trump took office in January.
In a statement, Lightfoot reaffirmed that Bridenstine needs senate confirmation, but that he looks forward to “ensuring a smooth transition and sharing the great work the NASA team is doing.” Bridenstine is a proponent of the commercial space industry, introducing the Space Renaissance Act earlier this year. He’s also been a vocal advocate for opening up the Moon for commercial activity and establishing a permanent settlement on its surface.
Trump’s pick is already running into some opposition from the Senate: Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, the ranking member on the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation told Politico that “the head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” while his Republican counterpart Marco Rubio says that Bridenstine would be “devastating for the space program,” and that his “political baggage” could hold NASA back.
Bridenstine represents Oklahoma’s First Congressional District, where he was first elected in 2012. He currently serves on the House Armed Services and Science, Space, and Technology Committees. He served in the US Navy flying E-2C Hawkeyes and F-18 Hornets. After leaving active duty, he became the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium.