New Fact Sheet on Backgrounds of NASA Administrators Now Available

New Fact Sheet on Backgrounds of NASA Administrators Now Available

President Trump’s nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be the next NASA Administrator has raised questions about what qualifications are needed to serve in that position. has created a new fact sheet summarizing the educational background and professional experience of previous NASA Administrators.

Eleven men have served as Administrator of NASA since the agency was created in 1958.   Some media sources are reporting that all of them had degrees in science or engineering or had served as an astronaut.

That is not correct.   James Webb, who is often cited as the most effective administrator in the agency’s history, was a lawyer.  He led NASA from 1961-1968, through the early days of robotic and human space flight, including Mercury, Gemini and the first Apollo missions (including the 1967 Apollo 1 tragedy).   Sean O’Keefe was a public administrator.  He led NASA from 2001-2005 (including the 2003 space shuttle Columbia tragedy).

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK)

Bridenstine would be, however, the first politician to be NASA Administrator.  He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 1st district of Oklahoma in 2012 and is now in his third term.   He holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Cornell University and was a naval aviator and Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium before his election.  He currently serves in the Oklahoma Air National Guard as well as being a Member of Congress.’s fact sheet, NASA Administrators and Their Professional Backgrounds, provides a table briefly summarizing the educational and professional backgrounds of previous NASA Administrators.

If confirmed by the Senate, Bridenstine would be the 13th NASA Administrator.  One, Jim Fletcher, served in the position twice and thus was both the fourth and the seventh administrator.

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