President Trump’s announcement that he would be nominating an Oklahoma congressman as the next administrator of NASA has been criticized by both the Republican and Democratic senators from Florida.
Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who currently serves on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, famously called for former President Barack Obama to apologize for allocating funding to climate change research.
“I just think it could be devastating for the space program. Obviously, being from Florida, I’m very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told PoLitico on Friday.
“It’s the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics and it’s at a critical juncture in its history.
“I would hate to see an administrator held up — on (grounds of) partisanship, political arguments, past votes, or statements made in the past — because the agency can’t afford it and it can’t afford the controversy,” he added.
“The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), echoing his Republican counterpart.
It remains unclear whether the two senators will vote for or against Bridenstine.
Bridenstine, who was elected to Congress in 2012, is a pilot in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium.
If confirmed by the Senate, Bridenstine would play a key role in Trump’s plans to add human exploration of Mars to NASA’s mission.
NASA is aiming to get astronauts to Mars sometime in the 2030s.