Senate confirms former Florida Sen. Bill Nelson to lead NASA

The Senate has confirmed Bill Nelson, a former Florida senator who once flew on the space shuttle, to be the next NASA administrator

“I am honored by the President’s nomination and the Senate vote,” Nelson said in a statement. “I will try to merit that trust. Onward and upward!”

Nelson will become NASA’s 14th administrator, succeeding another former member of Congress, Jim Bridenstine, a Republican from Oklahoma. Nelson currently serves on the NASA Advisory Council.

Nelson promised, when nominated, to “help lead NASA into an exciting future of possibilities.” The space agency is working to send astronauts back to the moon this decade.

“Its workforce radiates optimism, ingenuity and a can-do spirit,” Nelson said. “The NASA team continues to achieve the seemingly impossible as we venture into the cosmos.”

Just 10 days after their flight ended, the space shuttle Challenger failed shortly after liftoff and all seven astronauts were killed.

Nelson, who has a law degree and is a former captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, served six terms in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991. He was elected in 2000 to the Senate, where he served until his defeat in 2018 by former Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

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AP Aerospace Writer Marcia Dunn contributed to this report.

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