from the up-in-the-air dept.
Representative Jim Bridenstine, Republican of Oklahoma, will be nominated by President Trump to serve as NASA's next administrator, the White House said on Friday night.
Mr. Bridenstine, a strong advocate for drawing private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin more deeply into NASA's exploration of space, had been rumored to be the leading candidate for the job, but months passed without an announcement. If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Bridenstine, 42, would be the first elected official to hold that job.
[...] Although NASA has little presence in Oklahoma, Mr. Bridenstine, a former Navy Reserve pilot who is now in his third term in the House [of] Representatives, has long had an interest in space. Before being elected to Congress in 2012, he was executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium from 2008 to 2010.
[...] Mr. Bridenstine has supported a return to the moon, a departure from the Obama administration's focus on sending astronauts to Mars in coming decades.
Florida's Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson blasted the choice. Nelson said that "The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician."
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush announced the Space Exploration Initiative, a long-range commitment toward the human exploration of deep space, beginning with a return to the Moon. "Major parts of that policy went forward, but establishing permanence on the Moon was abandoned," Bridenstine said Tuesday. Then, in 2004, President George W. Bush announced a bold plan to send humans back to the Moon, where they would learn how to operate in deep space and then go on to Mars. This became the Constellation program. Again, major parts of that policy went forward, Bridenstine said. But NASA abandoned the drive back to the Moon.
Before the US Senate confirmed pilot and former congressman Bridenstine, the Trump administration announced a plan to send humans back to the Moon. "To many, this may sound similar to our previous attempts to get to the Moon," Bridenstine said Tuesday. "However, times have changed. This will not be Lucy and the football again."
How have times changed? During his brief address, Bridenstine listed several technologies that he believes have lowered the cost of a lunar return. These include the miniaturization of electronics that will allow for smaller robotic vehicles, the decreasing costs of launch, private investment in spaceflight, commercial interest in lunar resources, and new ways of government contracting. (Bridenstine did not mention the Space Launch System rocket or the Orion spacecraft).
The speech was only a few minutes long, so I wouldn't read too much into the absence of SLS/Orion. But it's no secret that BFR could deliver 150 metric tons to the Moon or Mars by using in-orbit refueling, vs. a lot less when using the expensive SLS.
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President Trump Praises Falcon Heavy, Diminishes NASA's SLS Effort
NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station
NASA Cancels Lunar Rover
[...] In September, President Trump nominated Jim Bridenstine, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, to be the next administrator. But the Senate has yet to vote to confirm Mr. Bridenstine.
All 49 Democrats in the Senate appear unified in opposition, in part because Mr. Bridenstine gave a speech disparaging climate change several years ago. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, has also expressed doubts about Mr. Bridenstine.
The space agency's No. 2 position, deputy administrator, is vacant. The Trump administration has yet to nominate anyone. Steve Jurczyk, formerly the associate administrator for space technology, was named in late February as a temporary fill-in for Mr. Lightfoot's previous job, associate administrator. NASA is also lacking a chief of staff.
[...] Mr. Lightfoot's 406 days as acting administrator is by far the longest NASA has operated without a permanent leader, eclipsing the 176 days that passed at the start of the Obama administration before Mr. Bolden was confirmed.