• Mon. May 16th, 2022

Bridenstine, a former NASA administrator, has endorsed a candidate in the Virginia congressional contest

ByRoman Frąckiewicz

Jan 23, 2022

Jim Bridenstine, the former NASA administrator, is getting involved in a congressional election in Virginia, endorsing a Republican candidate with experience in national security space. Bridenstine told SpaceNews that because of his space and national security knowledge, he opted to support John Henley, a former US Air Force legislative liaison. John worked on the formation of the US Space Force. Henley launched his candidacy for the House seat in Virginia’s 10th district, which is presently held by Jennifer Wexton (D), a two-term incumbent.

Bridenstine, who left NASA’s top job a year ago, said the country’s space concerns are becoming more complex. “More lawmakers with national security plus space policy knowledge would assist Congress and the space community,” he said. Bridenstine worked with Henley, the Air Force’s legislative liaison when he was a congressperson from Oklahoma, he added. Bridenstine explained that he sees “space as an industry, from national security space to the commercial space to civil space.” “It’s a different insight that I believe Congress should have.”

Henley worked as an adviser to the Voyager Space firm and worked on secret space procurement initiatives at the Space Rapid Capabilities Office after retiring from the military in 2019. It’s still too early to tell what will happen in the battle for Virginia’s 10th congressional district, which borders the Washington, D.C. area, according to Jo-Anne Sears. Jo-Anne is a partner at the Velocity Government Relations firm in Arlington, Virginia. Before challenging Wexton in the November mid-term election, Henley must first win the Republican primary in June.

“There is always a need for additional advocacy and awareness of space problems in Congress given the increasingly changing policy and national security environment,” said Sears, who works with space and defense companies.

There was outrage when Trump’s selection for NASA Administrator, James Frederick Bridenstine, was unveiled in September 2017. Bridenstine’s apparent lack of qualifications and experience, combined with his erroneous beliefs on climate change, made him an unusual and divisive choice for a science-focused organization.

At the time, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said, “The head of NASA should really be a space expert, not a politician,” while Republican Senator Marco Rubio informed Politico, “I just think that could be terrible for the space program.”

Despite the concerns, Bridenstine was approved as NASA Administrator by a slim 50-49 margin in the Senate in January 2018 — a year after his predecessor Charlie Bolden stepped down and the longest period in NASA’s history without a complete Administrator between two administrations.

Following that, he had a very successful tenure as NASA Administrator. He enjoyed bipartisan support for steering NASA in a bold new direction, and he is a popular figure among space enthusiasts in the United States and around the world.

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