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Bill Nelson being considered as President Biden's NASA administrator nominee, reports say

The former Florida senator has championed the nation's space program over the years.
Credit: Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Sen. Bill Nelson speaks during a campaign rally on Aug. 31, 2018, at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades in Orlando.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Former Florida Sen. Bill Nelson could see his political comeback in 2021.

According to multiple reports, the "leading space program advocate in Congress" could sit at the helm of an organization he has lauded over the years, NASA. 

Breaking Defense Magazine on Twitter reported, "Former Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.) is said to be Biden admin pick for NASA administrator, killing several birds with one stone: strong relationship with POTUS, congressional savvy. "

Pam Melroy would be his deputy, according to the outlet. 

Ars Technica says sources have told the outlet that Nelson is "pushing hard" to become administrator, calling the idea he could be tapped for the role more than a rumor.

When asked about the president looking at Nelson for the role during a White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki did not elaborate much on the idea.

"I don’t have any personnel announcements for you or any expectation of when we will have an announcement on a NASA Administrator or a list of potential people. But that’s an interesting — interesting one," Psaki said.

Jim Bridenstine was NASA's Administration under former President Donald Trump but stepped down from his role in an effort to make way for an agency leader "who has a close relationship with the president of the United States." 

Florida Politics, shortly after Biden's election, said Nelson was on the list of names under consideration for roles in the new administration.

Whoever Biden nominates for the position will still need Senate confirmation.

So, who is Bill Nelson? With the chance of the fifth-generation Floridian becoming the 14th Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, let's take a look back at his history.

Career politician

Nelson, 78, began his career in politics after serving in the U.S. Army Reserve when he landed the role of legislative assistant to former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew in 1971. One year later, Nelson was elected to the Florida State House of Representatives where the Democrat would go on to serve three terms. 

He also spent six terms in Congress and was twice elected Florida's insurance commissioner. Nelson also ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1990. 

But Nelson did not stop there. In 2000, he began his tenure in the U.S. Senate until now-Florida Sen. Rick Scott took over the seat in 2018 after a contentious race.

Connection to space

Outside of being a champion of our nation's space program, Nelson actually took part in it. 

In 1986, Nelson became the second sitting member of Congress to travel into space as a crewmember on the 24th flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

The experience led him to give an impassioned speech on the Senate floor in 2018 where he used space as a message for unity.

"Looking back at Earth from the window of a spacecraft you don't see political divisions, you don't see racial divisions and you don't see religious differences, he said, in part. "Instead, you quickly realize that we on this planet, our planet Earth, are all in this together."

According to NASA, Nelson along with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) passed "the landmark NASA legislation that remade the future of the civilian space program." Under the bill, the Space Shuttle was extended for two flights and "reinvigorated" the Kennedy Space Center and now Cape Canaveral Space Force Station into a multi-use spaceport.

In 2018, Nelson also had legislation passed in the Senate to extend the International Space Station to 2030, among other things.

He was also added to the NASA Advisory Committee in 2019 with then-Administrator Jim Bridenstine calling him a "true champion for human spaceflight and will add tremendous value as we go to the Moon and on to Mars."

Relationship with President Joe Biden

The two who occupy the same political party have shared a friendly relationship over the years.

Biden has taken up for Nelson on the campaign trail in the past, while the former Florida senator recently backed Biden in his push to become the 46th President of the United States.

In a February 2020 interview with CBS News, Nelson said he was supporting Biden as the Democratic party's candidate because he felt he could beat Trump.

"That's when I'm going to step in and see if I can talk about my friend Joe and what he would do for this country," Nelson said, at the time, would be his push for the now-president during the Iowa caucus. 

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