Bill Nelson is Biden’s choice to lead NASA

Former Florida senator flew aboard the shuttle Columbia in 1986

Former Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is President Joe Biden's pick to lead NASA. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is President Joe Biden's pick to lead NASA. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 19, 2021 at 10:39am

President Joe Biden plans to nominate former Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida to be the next NASA administrator.

Nelson, who served three terms in the Senate before losing his 2018 reelection bid to Republican Rick Scott, was the lead Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. He also has actually traveled to space, taking part in a 1986 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia while serving as a member of the House of Representatives.

That Columbia flight was the last successful shuttle launch before the Challenger explosion.

The president's nomination of Nelson was widely expected, and Nelson spoke regularly about space policy on behalf of the Biden campaign last year. In an announcement of the nomination Friday, the White House cited Nelson's work as chairman of the Space subcommittee in the House, along with his leading role on space policy at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Ahead of the announcement, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Nelson "would be an excellent pick" to lead NASA, which is looking ahead to a return to the moon and beyond.

"Through his committee leadership positions in both the House and Senate, Sen. Nelson has amassed decades of experience in dealing with NASA, Congress, and the space and aviation communities, and I know he will be able to hit the ground running when he becomes Administrator," House Science, Space and Technology Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said Friday. "He shares my love for NASA and the dedicated men and women who work there, and I look forward to working with him to create an exciting future for the agency."

The nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.