Correction: This editorial originally incorrectly identified 5th District Rep. Kendra Horn as former chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. She will continue serving as chairwoman until the end of the year. The editorial has been corrected.
We were sad to see that Jim Bridenstine plans to step down as NASA administrator after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Bridenstine, formerly the 1st District congressman from Oklahoma, genuinely loved the agency and served it well in a nonpartisan fashion.
Under his leadership, NASA completed the Obama-era effort to return the United States to human spaceflight capabilities through the commercial sector. The highlight of the Commercial Crew Program came earlier this year when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft carried two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station and back.
SpaceX launched four more astronauts to the space station over the weekend, a few days after Bridenstine confirmed that the countdown on his NASA service was running.
Beyond his leadership on the day-to-day work of NASA, Bridenstine was an effective cheerleader for the space program. He brought technical expertise, passion and political savvy to space evangelism, and it worked.
If you ever heard him talk of NASA and its mission, it was hard not to catch his enthusiasm for the vision of returning Americans to the moon and on to Mars. We still share that vision, and know he still does.
Love him or hate him, Bridenstine did a good job at NASA, and he deserves the nation’s thanks.
Bridenstine is big boy. He knew when he accepted the NASA job that it was only as solid as Republican control of the White House. That’s the fact of life in Washington: New presidents get to choose their own political appointees.
Interestingly, one of the candidates getting some rumpus as Bridenstine’s replacement is 5th District Rep. Kendra Horn, a Democrat, chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, and, previously in her public service career, a top official with the nonprofit Space Foundation, which advocates for the global space community, advancing civic, commercial and national security space issues.
She’s smart and dedicated to the agency’s mission. We think she’d do a good job there, and wish her well, if she’s interested.
Bridenstine isn’t saying where his next giant leap will take him.
His space expertise would make him a natural candidate for a lot of federal contracting jobs, some of which probably pay a lot better than the NASA position. He could also return to politics in Oklahoma. He never moved his permanent residence from the state, where he has never lost an election.
Wherever he lands, we know he’ll always be an advocate for human exploration of space, as are we.
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