At 12 noon ET today, Jim Bridenstein formally resigned from his position as a NASA administrator. During his time at the agency, the former Oklahoma congressman and naval aviator used his political cutoffs to garner bipartisan support for the Trump administration’s Artemis program, the agency’s cornerstone initiative to land humans on the moon by 2024 – a date widely viewed as near impossible. In order to meet.
In anticipation of President Joe Biden taking office and the Senate moving into Democratic control, Bridenstein, the Republican, spent his final days as an administrator in a last-ditch bid for the Artemis program, a decisive attempt to insulate the program from potential repeal. Last week, he met with top Democrats including Senator Patrick Leahy, who is expected to become the second-highest-ranking Senate official once Biden takes office.
“We did everything we could to build the consensus necessary for this program to be sustainable in the long term,” said Bridenstein. the edge In an interview before going out. “I think as much as we’ve worked hard to build consensus over the past three years, I think we’re doing well.”
The Artemis multi-billion dollar program will face a new administration focused on building consensus around other priorities, including combating the coronavirus pandemic and tackling climate change.
Congress has already rejected the idea of setting a 2024 deadline for a human landing on the Moon: Out of the $ 3.3 billion that NASA said it needs next year’s budget to stay on track for 2024, Congress has come to $ 850 million. But Bridenstein still sees it as a triumph: During the pandemic, NASA’s budget is in the billions more than it was when he took office.
The $ 850 million fund to NASA marks the first time Congress has approved funding for a human lunar lander since the Apollo program. “It’s remarkable,” Casey Dreer, senior space policy advisor at The Planetary Society, said in an interview. “It didn’t get that far during the constellation program, the last time we tried to go to the moon.”
But it also shows that NASA “has not been able to successfully bring the issue to Congress about why they need the money now, and why they need it for 2024,” Dreer said.
On Wednesday, Bridenstine tweeted a final message as an official in an emotional three-minute video, emphasizing that “eliminating cleavage” is the key to Artemis’ long-term success and welcoming the next official who will inherit the program.
“With this I say goodbye. And I will tell you, when a new team comes, give them all your support. Because they need it, and they deserve it, and of course what we are trying to do. We are not only crossing multiple departments, but we are crossing several decades and multi-generations.”
Jim Bridenstein (JimBridenstine) January 20, 2021
Steve Jurchick, a former NASA second-in-command under Bridenstein, assumed the role of acting officer at noon once Biden was sworn in.
President Biden is expected to select a woman for a management position at NASA, which has only been held by men since the agency was founded in 1958. His transition team at NASA, led by Director of the National Air and Space Museum, Ellen Stovan, has spent more than a month reviewing the best programs. The agency is conducting interviews with agency employees, but it has not released any hints about where Biden will formally stand regarding space policy issues.
Bridenstein said the edge He plans to take a job in his home state of Oklahoma, but he declined to say what the job would be. When asked if he would run for the presidency again, he said, “Oh, no, no, no. No, I will tell you, I have no desire to run for office.”
“They say don’t say no, but it will take something important to get me back into politics. I’ve never been happy not to get involved in politics.”
In the Twitter video, choking and thanking NASA employees, Bridenstein ended with a simple message: “Go get them. Go to NASA. Ad astra.”