The reported nomination of the former Florida senator. Bill nelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson NIGHT ENERGY: Obama’s NOAA Leader Joins Biden’s White House on Climate Role | Study: Climate Change Could Lower Credit Ratings In More Than 60 Countries | NASA Climate Official Says Agency Has ‘Renewed Emphasis’ On Practical Science Applications NASA Climate Official Says Agency Has ‘Renewed Emphasis’ On Practical Science Applications Hill’s Report 12:30 – Presented by Facebook – CDC Updates Guidelines for Students MORE (D) being the next NASA administrator shows, if you do anything, that it is a changing world.
In November 2017, when Nelson was the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, during confirmation hearings he glared at the then representative. Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineBiden to Nominate Bill Nelson to Head NASA: Reports Biden Administration Endorses NASA’s Artemis, Space Force Will Biden Continue NASA’s Artemis Program to Return to the Moon? PLUS (R-Okla.) And he declared that a politician had no calling to become the head of the United States space agency. An aerospace profession, that is, an engineer, a manager, or an astronaut would be a better fit for the job.
Probably because, despite Nelson’s best efforts, Bridenstine won confirmation anyway and later became the most celebrated NASA administrator since James Webb, the former Florida senator, who tweaked that assessment. After all, a politician can do a good job running America’s space program. Indeed, on that basis, Bridenstine has endorsed Nelson’s nomination, setting aside obvious personal considerations about what he sees as the good of NASA. Still, the matter should come up during Nelson’s confirmation hearings just to see how he will respond.
Bridenstine put her political skills to good use by running NASA and promoting the Artemis moon return program. He left partisanship behind and sold the program to members of Congress, foreign leaders, business moguls, and the general public. As a result, when Bridenstine resigned from NASA, the incoming administration endorsed the Artemis program. It showed that a politician could run NASA and do it well. People of all political persuasions lamented when Bridenstine went into the private sector.
However, the assumption that Nelson is suitable for the job just because he is also a politician becomes dubious when one examines his background. If Bridenstine could be considered a Jedi Master of politics when it comes to space, Nelson looks more like a Sith lord.
In addition to submitting Bridenstine to a confirmation hearing in the Star Chamber, Nelson has played politics in several other cases for dubious reasons.
When Nelson was still a member of the House, he used his position to obtain a position on a space shuttle mission. He had no qualifications other than the fact that he controlled a large amount of NASA funds. The astronauts were so resentful of his presence on the shuttle that they nicknamed him “ballast.”
Nelson is also one of the fathers of the super-heavy, super-expensive, and long-delayed space launch system (SLS), which some pranksters have dubbed the “Senate launch system.” Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver described how funding the SLS was the price Nelson and others demanded for approving the commercial crew program in what she called a “Faustian deal.” Congress went on to underfund the program to send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Despite that fact, the Crew Dragon is now flying and the SLS has yet to take off. Many regard the SLS as an albatross stopping Artemis, suggesting that NASA should use commercial launchers to fly astronauts to the Moon and Mars.
On the other hand, the SLS recently passed its hot litmus test as the last step of the Green Run. Their engines ran for eight minutes, the time they must fire during a successful launch.
Nelson will almost certainly be confirmed. Many of the members of the Senate Commerce Committee have served with him and most are his friends. Senator Marco RubioMarco Antonio Rubio A New Era for American Children? Biden Nominates Former Florida Senator Bill Nelson to Lead NASA Border Surge Stirs Senate Immigration Debate MORE (R-Fla.), Who also opposed Bridenstine, has endorsed his former fellow senator. Still, hearings shouldn’t be a rubber stamp. Nelson should be thoroughly questioned about his current positions on space policy. For example:
What are Nelson’s feelings regarding commercial space flight? Do you support obtaining the Human Landing System that will bring Americans to the lunar surface commercially, in the same way as the Commercial Crew program?
Does Nelson support the establishment of a permanent international moon base? Do you support the human presence on the moon for scientific exploration and commercial development, as well as preparing for expeditions to Mars? Does Nelson support the development of lunar resources to sustain astronauts on the Moon and to help the Mars program?
What does Nelson think about space cooperation with China? One element that could trip the former senator is his investment in a Chinese telecommunications company that the Pentagon has blacklisted.
Nelson has the potential to crown his career by promoting the expansion of the United States and its allies in space. If (when) Nelson is confirmed, you might want to call his former antagonist Bridenstine for advice. That way, Nelson could turn away from the dark side and do something good for his country and his civilization.
Mark Whittington, who writes frequently on space and politics, has published a political study on space exploration entitled Why is it so difficult to return to the Moon? as well as “The Moon, Mars and Beyond”. Write on the Curmudgeons Corner blog. It has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Hill, USA Today, the LA Times, and the Washington Post, among other places.