U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine

On November 1, there was a “contentious” nomination hearing for Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be NASA Administrator, split along partisan lines.

Bridenstine answered questions for most of the two-and-a-half hour hearing.

Democratic Senators questioned his credentials and viewpoints about climate change, sexual harassment and other issues that could affect how he runs the agency and its personnel. Republicans defended him and chafed at the tenor of the hearing. The committee will vote on the nomination on November 8.

That’s part of the appraisal by Marcia Smith, editor of SpacePolicyOnline.com.

Democrat, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).
Credit: Hearing screen capture/Inside Outer Space

Technical qualifications

In Smith’s posting, she explains:

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), has made no secret of his disapproval from the beginning. The Senator laid out his case that Bridenstine is not the person for the job, questions Bridenstine’s technical qualifications to run the agency and be the final arbiter on safety decisions regarding the three new human spacecraft that will debut in the next two years. Nelson also thinks that it is inappropriate for a politician to run an agency that should be apolitical.

Change of climate

Two of the more substantive issues were Bridenstine’s views on climate change considering that NASA spends almost $2 billion a year on earth science research and whether he has the technical qualifications to lead the agency at a time when three new vehicles — the commercial crew systems Crew Dragon and Starliner plus NASA’s own Orion — will be making their maiden flights.

DSCOVR spacecraft view of the entire sunlit side of Earth.
Credit: NASA


“In the past, Bridenstine had indicated that he did not accept the scientific consensus that the climate is changing because of human activity,” Smith notes. At the nomination hearing, he said that he accepts that humans are a cause of climate change, but would not go as far as to say that it is the primary cause. He went on to say that NASA is the only agency in the world that can do the kind of science needed to answer questions like that, Smith reports.





Bridenstine views

On other issues, Smith posts a number of Bridenstine opening statements or in answer to questions, such as:

— NASA needs a consensus-driven agenda based on the national interest;

— If confirmed, he will build on the work accomplished by NASA under the previous administration, and follow the NASA Transition Authorization Act, appropriations bills, and the Decadal Surveys produced by the National Academies;

— He agrees with the Trump Administration’s goal of sending humans to Mars with the Moon as a proving ground;

Credit: ESA/NASA

— He will work to promote a NASA culture where safety, transparency, and independent oversight are celebrated;

— He wants to drive the commercial space economy further out beyond Earth;

— He will lead a space technology program to develop solar electric propulsion, in-space robotic assembly, and closed-loop environmental control and life support systems to form the foundation of a future expansion of economic activity in low Earth orbit and beyond;

— Bridenstine wants to leverage everything the United States and its international partners have to offer so NASA can carry out not only exploration missions back to the Moon and on to Mars, but Earth Science, Planetary Science, Heliophysics, Astrophysics and Aeronautics Research;

— He supports the Orion program 100%; and

— His “highest ambition is for NASA to remain apolitical.”

The committee announced that it would mark up Bridenstine’s nomination next week, on November 8, at 9:45 am ET.

To read Marcia Smith’s full posting on the nomination hearing, go to:

Contentious Bridenstine Nomination Hearing Splits Along Party Lines – UPDATE

For more detail on the hearing’s give and take, check out SpacePolicyOnline live tweets (@SpcPlcyOnline).

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