Former Senator Bill Nelson is Joe Biden’s pick to lead NASA and he doesn’t appear to be cut out for the job.
According to The Washington Free Beacon:
The rumored nomination of former senator Bill Nelson for the top job at NASA is drawing criticism from space industry insiders who view the Florida Democrat as a dinosaur and question his commitment to moving the agency forward.
Nelson is “pushing hard” to become NASA administrator by leveraging his personal relationship with Biden, according to Ars Technica. But critics are pushing back, describing the 78-year-old ex-senator as a relic of the old guard whose track record supporting major in-house projects spells danger for the burgeoning commercial space industry.
Nelson is also closely linked to the Space Launch System (SLS), an expendable launch vehicle widely seen as a major NASA failure. The program was established in 2011 after congressional leaders including Nelson demanded a NASA program to build its own large rocket in exchange for an Obama administration push to open contracts to private companies, the Commercial Crew Program. As part of the deal, Congress required the SLS rocket to be largely built out of old Space Shuttle parts, which protected manufacturing jobs in Nelson’s home state.
More than a decade and $20 billion later, the SLS has yet to launch. A NASA inspector general report in 2019 found rampant cost overruns, performance issues, and “challenges with program management.” A December 2020 report from the GAO found NASA’s planned flight Artemis I, which would use the SLS system, was three years behind the schedule set by NASA in 2014 to measure performance. The Artemis program will purportedly land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.
Nelson seems to want more government largess at NASA and the private sector that is driving our space exploration wants none of it.