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Rumors: Biden considering former Senator Bill Nelson for NASA administrator

According to leaks to the press yesterday, the Biden administration is considering hiring former Florida senator Bill Nelson to become NASA’s administrator.

That the DC rumor mill is abuzz with this story suggests that the White House is putting out a trial balloon to see the reaction to such a choice. At first glance Nelson appears a good pick. Before he was defeated in his last election by Republican Rick Scott (R-Florida), he had been one of Congress’s biggest advocates for space exploration and NASA. He had even flown as an astronaut on the shuttle back in 1986, just weeks before Challenger broke up during launch.

However, there are several issues that would make this a very poor choice. First, Nelson’s advocacy for NASA was centered on funding big space, not private enterprise. Nelson was one of those legislators who mandated the construction of SLS, and resisted for years NASA’s new commercial space effort.

Second, Nelson’s last years in Congress revealed that he had lost touch with some of the basic concepts of freedom and property rights that founded the United States. For example, he was one of a group of bi-partisan senators that in 2018 proposed a law that would have denied Americans their second, fifth, sixth, and seventh amendment rights by proactively forbidding them the right to buy firearms merely because a Washington bureaucrat decided to put them on a no-fly list. The law was a mindless emotional response to a terrible school shooting that killed a lot of children, and its proposal illustrated that its sponsors were no longer thinking, but emoting blindly.

That Nelson joined in and was willing to give the government so much power does not make him the best choice to lead NASA as it tries to become just another customer being served by an independent robust and free market of space companies.

Finally, and maybe most important, Nelson is 78 years old. In his last years in office he showed his age. I watched him struggle as both a speaker and legislator during hearings in 2017. His enthusiasm for space was unchecked, but his sharpness was gone.

If chosen to run NASA he will make a good bookend for his president, who has also shown clear signs of failing mental health. Under such weak leadership, it will be the bureaucracy that will rule, and the track record of NASA’s bureaucracy has not been good. It resisted for decades ceding power to the private sector, wanting instead to maintain control over all rocket and spacecraft development, including what those rockets and spacecraft would do. Only in the past decade has that power been wrested from its grasp.

Given power again I expect it to use that power to return to its old ways and squelch the emerging free and competitive aerospace market. This will not be good for either the exploration of space, or for America itself.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Cotour

    At what point might Biden’s choice to lead NASA require both NASA and SpaceX to openly share their technology with the Communist Chinese?

    You know, in the interests of openness and international relations.

  • jburn

    “it will be the bureaucracy that will rule” … Bingo, and well stated. The Bureaucracy is clearly selecting wooden headed puppets.

  • Jeff Wright

    Nelson is as good as you can expect. So a word of advice to all the would be SLS killers: Nelson won’t get get in Musk’s way-he is a centrist, after all. Block him-and the Pres’ might just put Jackson-Lee in. Remember, a lot of SLS bits do get made in Blue-State California. Musk is in a Red State. So, would you rather have the Bob Dole of NASA putter around harmlessly amidst the status quo? Or do you want to make a scene, and risk a firebrand who thinks NASA should only launch climate-sats.
    But don’t let me stop you. Keep up your Ayn Rand nonsense-and it will be Texas that loses both space and oil jobs. You won’t be hurting me-you will hurt SpaceX.

    Best to embrace the kindly old man, and avoid a firestorm where Mommy Dearest Harris takes away all the toys because Millicent New Space and John-John Old Space couldn’t play nice.

    Your move.

  • Max

    “he was one of a group of bi-partisan senators that in 2018 proposed a law that would have denied Americans their second, fifth, sixth, and seventh amendment rights”

    A “do not fly list” has been allowed to bypass due process. A kangaroo Courts punishment list for deplorable’s. The list of reasons to place people on such a list is growing, including not having proof of vaccinations with your visa, that is acceptable worldwide.
    No wonder the Airline industry is getting such a huge bail out, they are now an extension of the federal government. Only the blue states that borrowed billions from their teachers retirement funds, are getting a bigger bail out. (only then will the unions allow the teachers to pretend to teach again)

    Another name that’s being kicked around if there’s another opening on the Supreme Court, or may not wait for an opening, that the legal scholar Barack Obama be nominated to the position. Will they finally release his top secret school records? (There is no physical evidence that he went to Harvard or was on the law review)(A background check performed on his name and many aliases from Hawaii to Chicago, has uncovered over 20 different Social Security numbers at different locations he has lived…)

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