Former Democrat Bill Nelson, who traveled in space aboard a space shuttle, was sworn in Monday at the head of NASA, hailing
"a new space age"
as the United States prepare to return to the moon.
On Monday, his hand on a Bible, he was sworn in in front of US Vice President Kamala Harris.
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Also attending the ceremony at the White House the former administrator of the Space Agency under President Barack Obama, Charles Bolden, as well as that under Donald Trump, Republican Jim Bridenstine, for his part by video broadcast. The symbol was intended
"to show the continuity, off partisan lines, with which you have to lead the nation's space program, especially NASA,"
said Bill Nelson, 78.
"A new space age is opening,"
he added, in front of a piece of moon rock. Bill Nelson will have to maneuver NASA in the face of several major challenges.
The agency is preparing in particular to return to the Moon with its Artemis program.
The ambitious schedule, which calls for the return of Americans to lunar soil in 2024, has so far been maintained by the Biden government.
NASA is also turning more and more towards commercial partnerships, which will have to be nurtured.
President Joe Biden also said he wanted to place research on climate change at the heart of NASA's missions.
In 1986, Bill Nelson had flown aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia for a six-day mission in space. The pilot was none other than ... one of his predecessors as administrator of NASA, Charles Bolden, present on Monday. Elected from Florida to the House of Representatives between 1979 and 1991, then to the Senate between 2001 and 2019, Bill Nelson chaired or was a member of parliamentary subcommittees on space for many years.
"With decades of experience, and as a former astronaut, Bill Nelson will advance NASA's scientific, aeronautical and technological missions,"
Kamala Harris tweeted Monday.
At the time of the confirmation of Republican Jim Bridenstine, Mr. Nelson had considered that the head of NASA should not be a politician, but a space professional. Despite these initial criticisms, Jim Bridenstine's work as head of the agency was later deemed effective, not least thanks to his knowledge of Congress. Bill Nelson's closeness to Joe Biden, who is the same age and was a senator partly at the same time as him, should also allow him to secure the president's ear. US astronaut Pamela Melroy has yet to be confirmed by the US Senate as Deputy Administrator.
A pilot, she is one of two women to have commanded a shuttle to the International Space Station. This weekend, Kamala Harris was also appointed head of the National Space Council, responsible for guiding the space policies of the US government. This body had been revived under Donald Trump, and it was then also entrusted to the vice-president, Mike Pence.
"The vice-president is the ideal person to lead on behalf of the federal government the politics in space, which is more and more complex, with many nations
said Bill Nelson in a statement.