According to Space.com, Nelson had a great influence on the U.S. space program. In addition to his six-day mission on the Columbia space shuttle in 1986, he served in the Senate from 2001 to 2019 and played an important role in determining NASA's budget and priorities.
"It is a great honor for me to nominate my candidacy as president and vote in the Senate. I will try to justify that trust. Forward and up!" NASA quoted the agency's elected head as saying.
Changes at NASA
When former U.S. President Donald Trump left office and then-NASA Administrator Jim Brydenstein resigned, Deputy Administrator Steve Yurchik took over as interim administrator.
Biden insisted on Nelson's candidacy for NASA head, arguing that he had spent many years working for the agency.
"In the Senate, he was known as a senator on our nation's space program," the White House said in a March statement announcing Nelson's nomination as NASA administrator.
In 2017, Nelson criticized Brydenstein's candidacy because he believed that "the head of NASA should be a space professional, not a politician."
This argument seemed highly hypocritical, especially given that Nelson's shuttle flight was more of political posturing than a tangible contribution to the mission. Unsurprisingly, the crew gave him the nickname "Ballast."
Also of alarm is Nelson's obsession with the agency's self-sufficiency. He is interested in unconditional support for programs such as space Launch System (a super-heavy launch vehicle developed by NASA for manned missions beyond Earth orbit) and shows little interest in the agency's fast-paced partnership with SpaceX.