Bill Nelson Confirmation Hearing Today

Testimony By Bill Nelson Nominee for Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"I also believe NASA plays an important role in inspiring the next generation of inventors and scientists. After the Apollo program, thousands of young people dedicated themselves to studying engineering, science, and computing. Not all of these people joined the space program. Some went into biology or the nascent computer industry. They made this country a technology and economic powerhouse. 60 percent of people alive today weren't alive to see a human walk on the Moon. Imagine who NASA and America inspires when we return to the Moon, and this time include women and people of color.

Finally, the President has highlighted that space investments spur economic growth, improve life on Earth, and keep America competitive. Through all NASA activities, the agency generated more than $64.3 billion in total economic output during fiscal year 2019, supported more than 312,000 jobs nationwide. Every state in the country benefits economically from NASA. Investments in research and technology are our seed corn for future economic growth, and are a key part of the Build Back Better plan."

Keith's note: The hearing got started with a seemingly endless stream of compliments that included the phrase "my good friend Bill Nelson". By the time that ended it was obvious that Nelson was going to be confirmed no matter what he said. Nelson was light on specifics - saying that he was nto allowed to talk to NASA - which is a little strange given how NASA helped him prepare Nelson for this hearing and escorted him around the Hill for office visits.

Sen. Wicker asked a question wherein he stated that NASA was planning a Moon landing on 2024 and a Mars landing in 2029, Nelson did not seek to correct Wicker about the 2029 Mars date. Later in the hearing Sen. Blackburn said that the Mars landing was planned for 2030. Nelson did not correct that. Later he said that the 2024 Lunar landing timetable set by the Trump Administration is still in place and that "space is hard". Nelson later said going to Mars was set to happen in the decade of the 2030s. So it is apparent that Sen. Nelson is somewhat uncertain about exactly what all of NASA's major human spaceflight goals are.

Nelson also tried to pass off some revisionist history wherein he was a staunch supporter of a "dual course" wherein NASA pursued both a government and commercial path do doing things in space. In reality he was a staunch supporter of the government approach (SLS aka "the big rocket") and sought to limit or move funds for commercial space to support SLS. Now he's found religion and claims to be a strong supporter of commercial space. So, stay tuned.

Sen. Cantwell made several comments suggesting that she was not exactly thrilled with the recent decision by NASA to sole source the Human Landing System (HLS) contract to SpaceX. Nelson made several comments saying that he supported competition in such activities but did not go so far as to suggest that he might change the HLS award to SpaceX. Given that the NASA HLS decision was overtly driven by NASA budget shortfalls efforts by Nelson to increase NASA's budget might hint at a revisit to this decision.

As for NASA and China - well, Nelson said that NASA will adhere to the law- specifically that enacted by Rep. Wolf. Regarding the Artemis Accords Nelson said that he hopes to expand the number of signatories to include countries that have yet to sign - with a focus on peaceful uses of space.

When asked what the specific value of the Biden budget for NASA Earth Science and climate change Nelson had no real specific answer other than to support the budget increase and note that NASA observes climate change and that this is (obviously) important.

Nelson was asked about education benefits that can be derived from the space program. He replied that "This is one of the areas I really want to pour the juice to at NASA as requested by the White House." He repeated the 'juice' phrase several more times. One would hope that Nelson is looking to truly overhaul NASA's education office and fix what is broken - and not simply pour money into it.

Again, as far as Nelson's confirmation is concerned, based on the hearing, this is a done deal.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on April 21, 2021 5:33 PM.

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