By: NyJohn Washington, Politics Reporter
The White House announced Jim Bridenstine as the president’s choice for the 13th NASA administrator. Bridenstine is a politician currently serving as the U.S. representative for Oklahoma’s first congressional district. Trump’s nomination is sparking debate due to Bridenstine’s lack of space exploration credentials.
On the first day of Donald Trump’s presidency, NASA president, Charles F. Bolden, stepped down as administrator. In his vacancy, Robert M. Lightfoot Jr., the associate administrator, served as the acting administrator. Lightfoot held the position for 227 days, which the New York Times says is a record for NASA’s longest period without permanent leadership.
Bridenstine studied economics and psychology at Rice University and received an MBA from Cornell. Despite his educational background, he has always had an interest in space. In addition to being the former director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium, Bridenstine sits on the Committee on Armed Services and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.
He also proposed the American Space Renaissance Act, which sought to permanently secure the United States of America as the preeminent spacefaring station. This bill included a 20-year plan for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Regardless of the breadth of committees he serves on, it still reigns true that Bridenstine has no expertise on outer space.
Many politicians have the same worries as Florida’s democratic senator, Bill Nelson, who told Politico that “the head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician.”
Republican Marco Rubio, agreed with Nelson sharing his concerns of an administration that is caught up on “partisanship, political arguments, past votes, or statements made in the past.”
Beyond the drawback of his qualifications, many are worried for his plans. He has written about the profitable potential of using lunar materials which ScienceMag believes could shift the organization’s attention to the moon.
John Logsdon, the founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute, says “If he pivots towards the moon, he may pivot away from Mars science as some of his colleagues in Congress has sought to do.”
Bridenstine will also face pushback from the Democrats in Senate for his comments in 2013 accusing former President Barack Obama of a “gross misallocation” of funds.
While seeking support for weather research, his credibility was in question when he said, “Global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago.”
Despite the arguments against Jim Bridenstine as NASA administrator, some believe that his political knowledge could assist the agency in logistics. The formal nomination is expected to occur this week followed by Senate hearings to confirm his new title. Despite any partisan resistance, Jim Bridenstine will likely hold the title of the 13th administrator of NASA.