Former Senator and astronaut Bill Nelson has taken the reins as the Director of NASA, becoming the 14th head of the space agency, Space.com reports.
Nelson takes over NASA as the US space program enjoys a public relations success with the landing of the Mars rover Perseverance and the first flight in alien skies of the helicopter Ingenuity. The agency also faces questions about the direction of its mission as private companies take the lead in manned space flight.
“To have the president and vice president have this kind of confidence in an old buddy from the Senate is indeed one of the high honors that anyone could have,” Nelson said following being sworn in today. “I am honored by the President’s nomination and the Senate vote … I will try to merit that trust. Onward and upward!” Nelson added.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who became chair of the National Space Council, an ex officio post for the vice president, said at the ceremony, “This has to be about our nation and what is best for our nation, unencumbered by partisan politics but based on what we know is the right thing to do.”
Nelson flew on a six-day mission aboard the space shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist in 1986.