He’d be the first politician to ever run the agency.
NASA has long enjoyed a prominent spot in the American imagination. It’s probably the only agency that even children can name, and space exploration is one of those romantic national dreams that’s relatively controversy-free. But NASA is also a leading source of climate change research, so it seemed inevitable that Donald Trump, who has waited over 200 days to name a new head for the agency, would find some way to hamstring it.
Enter Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine, who is now poised to become the first politician to ever head NASA. He’s got no science background but has worked in the private sector in defense contracting and aerospace, and he also spent nine years in the Navy prior to his stint in Congress. While in the House, Bridenstine has shown a real interest in space, particularly with getting private companies more involved with NASA.
The more pressing issue is that Bridenstine is a climate change-denier, like pretty much everyone else working in relevant areas of the Trump administration. And he’s critical of how much NASA spends on climate change research. Unlike the EPA and similar agencies (where Trump can order them to stop saying “climate change” altogether), NASA is relatively free of federal interference, making Bridenstine’s appointment a blatant attempt to inject political control into it.
However the position does need Senate approval, and there’s already alot of push back. Even Marco Rubio is critical, telling Politico that he thinks Bridenstine’s “political baggage” would keep him from getting approved even by the Republican-controlled Senate. “I just think it could be devastating for the space program,” he said, “Obviously, being from Florida, I’m very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission.”
MacArthur Fellow and member of the National Academy of Science Peter Gleick agrees:
And here’s Bridenstine in 2013 demanding that then-President Obama apologize for spending money to research climate change, which he says has “stopped” and severe weather is on the decline anyway.
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