Nelson Swearing-In Ceremony Highlights Bipartisanship and Continuity

Nelson Swearing-In Ceremony Highlights Bipartisanship and Continuity

Vice President Kamala Harris officially swore in former Senator Bill Nelson as NASA Administrator this morning.  In attendance not only was Nelson’s wife and children, but his two predecessors in the job who served under Democratic and Republican presidents. Nelson said the point was to demonstrate that continuity and bipartisanship are needed to run the nation’s space program.

Charlie Bolden, who headed NASA for all eight years of the Obama Administration was there in person while Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator for most of the Trump Administration, attended virtually. Neither NASA nor the White House provided live video of the event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, but ABC News tweeted a video.

Participants in the swearing-in ceremony for Bill Nelson as NASA’s new Administrator, May 3, 2021, L-R: Pam Melroy, nominee to be NASA Deputy Administrator; Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator under President Obama; Bill Nelson (the Administrator’s son); Nan Ellen Nelson (daughter); Administrator Bill Nelson; Grace Nelson (wife); Vice President Kamala Harris. Bolden and Nan Ellen Nelson are holding a laptop computer showing Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator under President Trump, who participated virtually.  Snip from ABC News video.

Nelson said that having Bolden and Bridenstine there was to “show the continuity and the bipartisanship with which you run the nation’s space program, particularly NASA.”

Harris replied that she “couldn’t agree more that this has to be about our nation and what is best for our nation, unencumbered by partisan politics but based on what we know is the right thing to do.”

Nelson also praised Melroy’s qualifications to be Deputy Administrator. A former Air Force test pilot and NASA astronaut, she is one of only two women to command Space Shuttle missions.

Bolden also is a former NASA astronaut and Nelson flew into space on a 1986 mission, STS 61-C as a payload specialist, so that photo has three space travelers in it.

Nelson was a member of Congress from Florida and chair of a space subcommittee in the House when he made that spaceflight. Bolden was the pilot of STS 61-C and the two have been close friends since.

Nelson served in the House from 1979-1991 and in the Senate from 2001-2019, including while Bolden was Administrator. Nelson was defeated in his 2018 reelection bid and after leaving the Senate, Bridenstine appointed him to the NASA Advisory Council so he has remained abreast of NASA’s activities in the interim.

Many in the space community worry about disruptions to NASA programs during a presidential transition, but continuity seems to be the watchword this time.  President Biden already has made clear that he supports the Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon, though he has not said if he intends to try and keep the 2024 deadline set by the Trump Administration. Biden also is very enthusiastic about NASA’s robotic Mars exploration program, especially returning samples of Mars to Earth, and climate science research. His support is not just rhetorical — he is requesting a 6.3 percent budget increase for NASA in FY2022.

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