Trump Finally Announces His Nomination For New NASA Chief

Better late than never, eh Jim? Tom Williams/Getty Images

As for Bridenstine, he does have a keen interest in space. In particular, he is interested in monitoring weather from space, something relevant to Oklahoma as it is hit by frequent tornadoes. He's also in favor of the commercialization of space, which has been taking place rapidly over the last few years.

Measures put in place by Bolden and the Obama Administration have helped commercialization ramp up. Next year will see the inaugural launch of two private spacecraft developed with NASA's help, SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner. Bridenstine seems like a decent pick to continue that progress.

And he's also in favor of NASA's upcoming Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft, both of which are ticking along well enough. Orion has flown once already in 2014. The SLS, meanwhile, is expected to fly for the first time in 2019 with Orion on top – while Trump is still (probably) President.

Perhaps the biggest shift between Bridenstine and his predecessor is his preference for going back to the Moon, rather than sending humans to Mars. For almost the last decade NASA has been focused on getting humans to Mars by the 2030s, with the Moon seen as a stopping point rather than a desirable area of exploration.

Bridenstine, on the other hand, seems to favor going back to the Moon first. He sees it as a key ground for both government and private exploration, and in particular seems to favor studying the Moon's icy poles. However, he doesn't seem to think a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s is feasible.

“Water ice on the Moon could be used to refuel satellites in orbit,” he said in a blog post in December 2016. “The Moon, with its three-day emergency journey back to Earth, represents the best place to learn, train, and develop the necessary technologies and techniques for in situ resource utilization and an eventual long term human presence on Mars.”

Quite what NASA under Bridenstine will look like remains to be seen. In our interview with Bolden back in December 2015, he said giving up on Mars would be “disastrous”. He, and the rest of the world, will surely be watching with bated breath to see what the fate of his legacy will be.

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