On Monday, a rumor that has been circulating in Washington for several weeks surfaced – that former US Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, is a leading contender to become the next NASA administrator.
Breaking Defense publicly shared the rumors on Twitter, noting that Nelson has a “strong” relationship with President Biden and understands how Congress works. Nelson, 78, lost his candidacy for re-election to the Senate in 2018. He served six terms as a member of the House of Representatives and three terms in the upper house.
Two sources told Ars that Nelson was pushing hard to become an administrator and was using his friendship with Biden to do so. “It’s more than a rumor,” said one source. However, this is also not a deal, because after the rumor broke, there was repulsion in the space community for Nelson’s appointment to this position, which has a long and sometimes controversial history in the space community.
Simon Porter, a New Horizons astrophysicist who is candid on Twitter, perhaps best summarizes some of these concerns by writing, “It’s literal.” Trump puts oil executives responsible for EPA levels, bad and corrupt . to be pushed by lobbyists for SLS performers, and if Biden even considers it, he listens to lobbyists, not professionals. “
Nelson the astronaut
Nelson would certainly bring a lot of experience and knowledge about the role of NASA administrator. In addition to representing the Kennedy Space Center in Congress for decades, he flew as a payload specialist on the space shuttle. Colombia in January 1986
Much of the space industry, however, saw Nelson’s mission as an influential politician who was heavily armed to the space shuttle for self-aggrandizement. In his book Rocket riding, former NASA astronaut Mike Mulane vividly recounts the antics of Nelson, whom Mullen said wanted any attempt to get a favorable advertisement.
“He wanted to be a member of the crew and do something really important,” Mulan wrote. “There was only one problem. None of the principal investigators in any of the experiments demonstrated on the mission wanted Nelson to be close to their equipment. They were given a chance to conduct their experiments, worked with astronauts for months on how to operate the equipment, and did not he wanted a non-technical politician to intervene at the last minute and confuse things. “
Nelson eventually earned a derogatory nickname from his teammates for the role he eventually played in the shuttle mission –Ballast.
Space launch system
Most recently, Nelson played a key role in the development of NASA’s expensive Space Launch System rocket. Early in his presidency, Barack Obama sought to undo NASA’s efforts to build a large Ares V rocket and see if the private sector could produce launch vehicles more efficiently. This will free up NASA’s budget for technological development and other purposes as companies like SpaceX start making promises.
Nelson joined key Republicans in opposing the plan and voted against it. As a result, NASA was directed to build another large rocket, the Space Launch System, as a replacement for the Ares V. (More than a decade and $ 20 billion later, the SLS rocket has not yet been launched). Nelson also topped the accusation of cutting funding for the commercial crew, an initiative by NASA companies such as SpaceX and Boeing to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station after the space shuttle retires.
Working with Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, Nelson saw that the commercial crew program received less than half of the money the White House was looking for for commercial crew from 2011 to 2014. Instead, Congress put that money into the SLS rocket.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Nelson continued to lamb NASA for its support of commercial companies, especially SpaceX. After the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, announced the development of the Falcon Heavy rocket – a cheap competitor to SLS – Nelson arrested NASA employees for their support for the company. Keep “your boy” in line, he told them, according to two sources.
He is not a politician
In 2017, Nelson also announced opposition Jim Braidstein to become a NASA administrator. Then, as a member of the Senate Committee on Trade, Science and Transportation, which controls NASA, Nelson said that Bridenstein was too biased and political to lead NASA. He also accused Bridenstine of not having experience with it.
“The head of NASA should be a space professional, not a politician,” Nelson told Bridenstein, then a two-seat congressman from Oklahoma.
Bridenstine will continue to be a respected administrator of the space agency, rarely showing anything but bilateralism as she advances in the space agency’s human and research efforts.
There are now concerns among scientists that Nelson does not share Bridenstein’s enthusiasm for the agency’s progress as a whole or for research. This is because, as a congressman from Florida, Nelson usually sought funding only for the Kennedy Space Center and programs such as the SLS rocket, which used technology from the space shuttle era and supported local jobs.
Asked about her thoughts on Nelson as a potential NASA administrator, Lori Garver, who was deputy administrator of the space agency during the Obama administration, is less fascinated. “Now is not the time to return the watch to NASA,” she said.