TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Former Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who once flew on the space shuttle, has been confirmed by the US Senate to be the next head of NASA.
Lawmakers agreed to President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the space agency by consensus late Thursday, without a roll call vote.READ MORE: Parkland first responder weighs in on Uvalde massacre: ‘It’s gut wrenching’
“I am honored by the President’s nomination and the Senate vote,” Nelson said in a statement. “I will try to merit that trust. Onward and upward!”
Nelson will become NASA’s 14th administrator, succeeding another former member of Congress, Jim Bridenstine, a Republican from Oklahoma. Nelson currently serves on the NASA Advisory Council.
Nelson promised, when nominated, to “help lead NASA into an exciting future of possibilities.” The space agency is working to send astronauts back to the moon this decade.READ MORE: Residents fed up with Biscayne Bay parties
“Its workforce radiates optimism, ingenuity and a can-do spirit,” Nelson said. “The NASA team continues to achieve the seemingly impossible as we venture into the cosmos.”
Nelson, 78, grew up near Cape Canaveral and was serving as a Democratic congressman when he launched aboard space shuttle Columbia on Jan. 12, 1986. His commander was Charles Bolden Jr., who later served as NASA administrator under President Barack Obama — at Nelson’s urging.
Just 10 days after their flight ended, the space shuttle Challenger failed shortly after liftoff and all seven astronauts were killed.
Nelson, who has a law degree and is a former captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, served six terms in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991. He was elected in 2000 to the Senate, where he served until his defeat in 2018 by former Florida Gov. Rick Scott.MORE NEWS: 'Hidden Worlds': An immersive voyage into deepest oceans & mesmerizing mangroves through state-of-the-art technology
(©2021 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida’s (REPORTER NAME) contributed to this report.)