Enlarge / Astronaut Charles Bolden served as NASA’s administrator for more than seven years. (credit: NASA)
More than a year has now passed since four-time astronaut Charles Bolden resigned as NASA administrator on January 20, 2017, after seven years on the job. NASA has been led by an acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, ever since.
It is unprecedented for NASA to go without formal leadership for this long.
Five months ago, the Trump administration finally put forward a nominee for the post of administrator, Oklahoma Congressman and pilot James Bridenstine.
Although he was confirmed along a party-line vote twice during Senate confirmation hearings, he has yet to receive a vote before the full Senate.
Increasingly, it is obvious that the White House does not have the votes to confirm Bridenstine in a Senate where Republicans hold only a narrow margin.
Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, has led opposition to Bridenstine, saying he is too politically polarizing a figure to lead NASA. Nelson has convinced his fellow Floridian Senator, Republican Marco Rubio, to oppose Bridenstine as well. However, Nelson’s motivations may not be just the sanctity of NASA’s bipartisanship, as Bridenstine may not be pliable enough for the Florida Senator who is looking out for the interests of Kennedy Space Center. Nelson may be more interested in someone like Kennedy’s director, Bob Cabana, as a potential Bridenstine replacement.
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