Opinion: Will Jim Bridenstine be the Next NASA Administrator?

Jaclyn Wiley/Editor-in-Chief

Since Donald Trump was inaugurated as President in January, the question of who will be the NASA administrator has gone unanswered. The previous administrator, Charles Bolden, was appointed by President Obama and resigned on Jan. 20, 2017, the day Obama left office.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is one of the leading candidates for the position of NASA administrator under the Trump administration. Bridenstine has served on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and was the author of the recent American Space Renaissance Act.

The American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA) is comprehensive legislation with the goal of reforming military, civil and commercial space efforts. Bridenstine introduced the ASRA at the 32nd Space Symposium in April 2016.

The ASRA proposes changes to NASA and its missions, as well as the way that NASA gets money from the government, with the goal of increasing the stability of the organization.

Bridenstine also helped to secure funding for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST). The FAA-AST is the office of the FAA responsible for licensing Commercial Space launches and reentries and for “encouraging, facilitating, and promoting,” the commercial space industry.

When naming their five game-changers in the world of space, SpaceNews chose Bridenstine as one of the five. They named his efforts concerning the ASRA and FAA-AST as reasons why he was making a difference.

Bridenstine also wrote a post on his Congressional Blog called, “Why the Moon Matters.”  This entry details why the US needs to return to the Moon and how that return will benefit the United States and its economy.

Bridenstine’s argument centers on the enormous amounts of water ice that are currently resting in craters at the lunar poles. The craters in which the ice resides are always dark, which prevents the ice from melting the wildly fluctuating temperatures of the lunar surface. The ice could potentially serve as fuel for spacecraft since it contains the hydrogen and oxygen that make up
some rocket fuels.

Bridenstine completed a triple major at Rice University and an MBA at Cornell.  He also served in the US Navy and in the Naval Reserve as a Naval Aviator. He flew E-2C Hawkeyes and F-18 hornets while on active duty. He is currently a member of the Naval Reserve and has flown missions in support of the War on Drugs.

The acting NASA Administrator is Robert Lightfoot, Jr., who took power after the departure of Charles Bolden. The former administrator of NASA, Charles Bolden, was a former astronaut who flew on the Space Shuttle four times.

Before being selected for the astronaut corps, Bolden served in the US Navy as a Naval Aviator. He returned to this profession after completing his shuttle missions.  At the time of his retirement from the Navy, Bolden held the rank of Major General.

Bridenstine is a strong candidate for NASA administrator since he has experience crafting commercial space legislation and an understanding of the industry that will be beneficial for entities that partner with NASA in the future, as well as for NASA itself.  Bridenstine could represent a bright future for all aspects of the American space industries, and for the future of space exploration.