Who is Jim Bridenstine? NASA chief may quit Biden presidency, says agency will ‘need somebody who is trusted’
According to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, it is in the best interest of the space agency and US’s exploration program that he steps aside after the Biden administration takes over
NASA is likely to get a new leader after president-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. Incumbent space agency administrator Jim Bridenstine, an appointee of President Donald Trump, took office in 2018. Bridenstine said that he plans to leave his position even if he is asked to stay on by the Biden administration as NASA will need a leader “who is trusted by the administration”. Bridenstine, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, however, stressed that his plan to step down is not based on party affiliation. Rather, he said that he would do so to ensure that the next leader of the agency is the right one who connects with the new president.
“The right question here is ‘What’s in the best interest of NASA as an agency, and what’s in the best interest of America’s exploration program?’ For that, what you need is somebody who has a close relationship with the president of the United States. You need somebody who is trusted by the administration….including the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), the National Space Council, and the National Security Council, and I think that I would not be the right person for that in a new administration,” he told Aerospace Daily. “We’ve had a lot of success, but it’s because of relationships. You have to have those relationships. Whoever the president is, they have to have somebody they know and trust and somebody the administration trusts. That person is not going to be me,” he added.
Since Bridenstine’s appointment to NASA’s top position, the agency announced the Artemis program that aims to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. The program also wants to establish a sustainable human presence at the Moon. NASA launched the InSight Mars lander, the Parker Solar Probe mission, and Mars 2020 rover Perseverance during Bridenstine’s tenure. NASA and SpaceX are now planning to launch the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station on November 14 as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
Currently, questions remain about how a Biden administration would oversee NASA. Biden wrote in August, “As president, I look forward to leading a bold space program that will continue to send astronaut heroes to expand our exploration and scientific frontiers through investments in research and technology to help millions of people here on Earth.” However, regardless of how the transition of power plays out, Bridenstine believes that there is strong bipartisan support for Artemis. “We are in a good position as a country. If you look at the bipartisan, apolitical support that we have from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle … there is strong support for Artemis,” stressed Bridenstine.
According to the NASA administrator, there is a “political agreement” that America needs to do big things in space exploration and that the US needs to lead the world. “There have been lessons learned from the past and I think Congress is in a good position to make sure that we have sustainable programs going forward. The thing I think is most important is to have continuity of purpose, and I think right now we have that as much as you possibly can,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bridenstine said he does not know what he will do next. “I haven’t even begun thinking about that. After you’ve run NASA, to go from doing this to whatever I do next is going to be really hard. This has been the greatest experience of my life by far, and I’m so grateful for it. But I am under no illusions. There are a lot of people that can do great work as the NASA administrator,” suggested Bridenstine.