Media Production Editors
NASA recently underwent many personnel changes upon Trump taking office in January. Among these changes the most crucial was the resignation of NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden and Trump’s ensuing nomination of Jim Bridenstine.
Former administrator of NASA Charles F. Bolden Jr. has a strong scientific background. He earned his master’s degree in scientific system management from the University of Southern California which propelled him into the naval air services. Bolden went on to work in the Naval Air Test Center’s Systems Engineering and Strike Aircraft Test Directorates. While working among the brightest individuals in the aerospace business, Bolden was noticed for his exemplary skills and selected as an astronaut candidate in 1980. After working in the space industry for over 25 years, President Barack Obama nominates Bolden to be the administrator of NASA. After eight years there, Bolden resigned on January 20, 2017, President Trump’s first day in office.
Unlike Bolden, nominee Jim Bridenstine has no educational background in science, although he did work for several years as the executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, exposing him to the aerospace field. Bridenstine was an Oklahoma Congressman, and if his nomination makes it through the senate, he will be the first politician to assume the position.
Bridenstine has many goals for NASA, which he made explicit, such as his advocation for drawing private aerospace companies like SpaceX into NASA’s space exploration. He aims to organize a permanent colonization and refueling station on the moon, and he also hopes to commercialize space travel. Acting administrator Robert Lightfoot Jr. is ready for the changes a new administrator brings; Lightfoot told the press, “I am pleased to have Rep. Bridenstine nominated to lead our team.”
However, some criticize Bridenstine’s scientific views, particularly those on climate change. NASA conducts millions of dollars worth of climate research, and many value an administrator’s views on the topic. Bridenstine was specifically outspoken with his climate views during a 2013 congressional debate where he stated “global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago.” This comment led to outrage among environmentalists like Columbia University environmental law professor, Michael Gerrard, calling Bridenstine a “climate denier”. These conflicting views may create disharmony in NASA’s ensuing years.
Trump’s nomination of Bridenstine, for the most part, receives commendation by NASA’s employees, space enthusiasts, and the acting administrator Lightfoot. With the approval of the Senate, Bridenstine will be NASA’s next leader, and his goals, if realized, will begin a new age of space travel and colonization.
(Sources: Rep. Jim Bridenstine, NY Times, USA Today, NASA)