Former Florida senator, astronaut Bill Nelson tapped to head NASA by Biden administration

click to enlarge Former Florida senator, astronaut Bill Nelson tapped to head NASA by Biden administration
Photo by Meredith Hill,

Former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who orbited the earth 98 times over six days aboard the space shuttle Columbia, was formally announced Friday as President Joe Biden’s pick to lead NASA.

“Most every piece of space and science law has had his imprint, including passing the landmark NASA bill of 2010 along with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson,” the White House said in a news release. “That law set NASA on its present dual course of both government and commercial missions.”

The selection drew quick support from Space Florida, the state’s aerospace arm.

“Space Florida is excited to see @SenBillNelson nominated as the next NASA administrator. Nelson has been working with Space Florida longer than anyone else in advocating Florida’s role in the future of U.S. space endeavors,” Space Florida tweeted. “He is a longtime advocate of our nation’s space program, having flown in space himself. And with that expertise, the former senator brings to the agency an intimate understanding of both its strengths, and its weaknesses, which will help him hit the ground running on day one.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted Thursday that Nelson “would be an excellent pick to lead NASA.”

While in Congress Nelson chaired the Space Subcommittee in the U.S. House and was the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Space and Science Subcommittee and ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Nelson served in the Senate from 2001 to 2019, when he exited after losing a re-election bid to Republican Rick Scott.

In 1986 Nelson flew on the seventh flight of Columbia. Nelson’s flight was piloted by Charles Bolden, who served as NASA administrator under former President Barack Obama. If confirmed by the Senate, Nelson would succeed Jim Bridenstine, a former Oklahoma Republican congressman.

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