NASA has a new leader after 15 months of waiting. The position has been vacant since the Trump administration was sworn into office. After Obama’s administration ended, the former NASA head, Charles Bolden stepped down to pave way for a new administrator.
The new administrator is to be nominated by the president and approved by Congress. However, Congress did not seem to agree with president Trump on his choice of a nominee. The votes seemed to go along party lines but finally, Jim Bridenstine was approved as the next NASA administrator. The vote was 49-50 in favor of Jim Bridenstine.
The 15 months wait has been recorded as the longest period the agency has gone without a permanent administrator. During Obama’s administration, it took six months to appoint and approve an administrator. It was same with George W. Bush’s administration. The six months wait was recorded as the longest period that NASA operated without an administrator until Trump’s administration.
Jim Bridenstine is a Republican who beat John Sullivan to emerge as the congressman for Oklahoma in 2012. He has maintained the seat ever since. Bridenstine holds a degree in Psychology, Economics, and Business, from the Rice University. He also pursued an MBA at Cornell University.
Although he was nominated in September last year, his nomination was opposed because he did not have a science experience. They referred to the fact that Bolden was an astronaut. To them, someone who did not have a science background did not qualify to hold such a technical position.
His political comments in the past were also setbacks to his nomination. A few years ago, he questioned the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. He described it as a “disappointment”. He also provoked criticism when he questioned Obama’s order to allow transgenders to use the washroom they deem fit.
Bridenstine also attributed the rise in global temperatures to ocean cycles and activities in the solar system leaving the human factor out of the picture. This statement was also met with massive disagreement. During his hearings for the NASA top position, he reframed his statement and included the human factor in the rise in global temperature, however, he still undermined the role of the human factor in climate change.
Bridenstine takes over from the acting NASA administrator, Robert Lightfoot, who announced that he would vacate the position at the end of April. Bridenstine joins NASA at a time when the agency is pursuing some interesting projects including launching a satellite in search of exoplanets.