President Joe Biden’s pick for the head of NASA is former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), one of his longtime allies, according to multiple reports. Nelson, who flew to space in 1986 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, would be the second former congressman in a row to become the NASA administrator. Biden is expected to announce his choice as soon as Friday, potentially disappointing some who hoped he’d nominate a woman. “It’s time for a female administrator,” Wayne Hale, former NASA space shuttle program manager, wrote on Twitter. “Plenty of qualified candidates.” Nelson has long advocated for the agency and space exploration during his time in Congress. But he’s faced criticism for backing NASA’s Space Launch System, a heavy-lift rocket that’s at least two years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
During a confirmation hearing for former President Trump’s choice for NASA chief, Jim Bridenstine, Nelson railed against his political ties. “The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional, who is technically and scientifically competent, and is a skilled executive,” he said. “This committee has heard me say many times: NASA is not political. The leader of NASA should not be political. The leader of NASA should not be bipartisan.”