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Senate confirms Bill Nelson as NASA administrator

Senate confirms Bill Nelson as NASA administrator
Bill Nelson will serve as the 14th administrator of NASA. Pool photo by Saul Loeb/UPI | License Photo

April 29 (UPI) -- The Senate on Thursday unanimously voted to confirm former Sen. Bill Nelson, who once spent several days in space, to lead NASA.

Nelson, who represented Florida in the Senate for 18 years as a Democrat, will replace acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk to become the 14th head of the space agency.

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President Joe Biden nominated the 78-year-old in March.

During his confirmation hearing last week, Nelson told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, that he believes NASA still has a shot at landing astronauts on the moon by 2024.

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Nelson served three terms in the Senate and lost his race for a fourth term to Rick Scott, a Republican, in 2018. Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine -- a pick of former President Donald Trump -- appointed Nelson to NASA's Advisory Council in 2019.

Nelson was the second sitting member of Congress to go into space, traveling on the space shuttle Columbia to orbit the earth for six days in 1986. The then-representative served as a payload specialist on the flight.

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"I wish I could learn everything about the space transportation system and about NASA," he told UPI at the time. "I came into this with seven years experience on the space subcommittee so I didn't start on ground zero.

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"But I never had an opportunity to have two months of intense preparation getting to know about the system as well as getting to know the professionals who run the system, both in space and on the ground."

He later wrote a book about his experience titled Mission: An American Congressman's Voyage to Space.

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