Bill Nelson Confirmed by Senate to Lead NASA

The U.S. Senate confirmed former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to be the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Thursday.

The Senate approved President Joe Biden’s nomination of Nelson to lead NASA without opposition.

“I am honored by the president’s nomination and the Senate vote,” Nelson said. “I will try to merit that trust. Onward and upward!”

Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk also weighed in on Thursday.

“I’m happy to welcome Bill to the NASA family,” said Jurczyk. “It’s been an amazing year for NASA and our commercial and international partners, and I look forward to working with Bill and the Biden-Harris administration to build on the incredible momentum we’ve built so far. It has been an honor to serve as acting administrator, but it’s the NASA workforce that makes the agency one-of-a-kind. Thank you for all you do to advance NASA’s critical missions.”

When Biden nominated Nelson at the end of March, the Florida delegation cheered the decision.

The White House noted Nelson “served in public office over four decades, first in the state Legislature and U. S. Congress, then as state treasurer” before his three terms in the Senate. Nelson was first elected in 2000 when he defeated then U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla. After three terms, Nelson lost a close race to then Gov. Rick Scott in 2018.

The White House stressed Nelson’s qualifications to lead NASA.

“Nelson chaired the Space Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives for six years and in the Senate was the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Space and Science Subcommittee and ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation,” the White House noted.. “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. That law set NASA on its present dual course of both government and commercial missions. In 1986 he flew on the 24th flight of the Space Shuttle. The mission on Columbia, orbited the earth 98 times during six days. Nelson conducted 12 medical experiments including the first American stress test in space and a cancer research experiment sponsored by university researchers. In the Senate, he was known as the go-to senator for our nation’s space program. He now serves on the NASA Advisory Council.”

The nomination drew praise from members of the Florida delegation.

“I cannot think of anyone better to lead NASA than Bill Nelson,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “There has been no greater champion, not just for Florida’s space industry, but for the space program as a whole than Bill. His nomination gives me confidence that the Biden administration finally understands the importance of the Artemis program, and the necessity of winning the 21st-century space race. I look forward to supporting Bill’s swift confirmation, and working with him in the years to come.”

“Few are as qualified to lead NASA as Bill Nelson. I had the pleasure to work with him for years and I’m eager to collaborate to keep Florida the center of America’s space program,” noted U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.

U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., praised Nelson as a “great choice to lead NASA” at the end of March.

“I look forward to working with him,” Posey added.

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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