KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. - Former U.S. Senator Bill Nelson grew up in Brevard County near Cape Canaveral. His grandparents were homesteaders on what is now Kennedy Space Center property.
Now, he is spearheading our nation's race to the stars in his new role as NASA’s administrator. He said space is not only in his genes but part of his heritage.
"I did not seek this. In fact, on January the 3rd, I got a call from the [Bide] transition team, and they said, ‘He wants you to take NASA,’" Nelson explained.
Needless to say, Nelson jumped at the opportunity.
"I’m like a kid in a candy shop. This is not only hard work, but this is fun! I have had the opportunity to get back over to the senate and see a lot of my old friends over there and at the same time try to get into their pockets to get their funds that we need for NASA," he added.
He points to the painting behind him. It’s a snapshot of his launch to space over 35 years ago. In 1986, he became the first sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives to go to space.
"Well, I have been fortunate. Over the years I went to the House of Representatives as a young congressman, put on the science committee, and was then elected as the chairman of the Space Subcommittee," he said, "and then in that capacity, NASA chose me to join with the crew of the 24th flight of the space shuttle. Six days in space, 98 days in orbit of the earth, and over the years that I have continued my public service," Nelson said.
His vision is to explore the cosmos with people and machines. He said one of his goals is to have astronauts return to the moon, hopefully in 2024. But his biggest priority is safety.
"Space is hard and space is expensive. If we get adequate funding it is going to be an extraordinary decade at NASA, exploring the cosmos, developing an electric airplane to lessen pollution, developing a supersonic jet where the boom doesn’t disturb everybody, and opening up all-new discoveries in the cosmos."
Even though Nelson has served three terms in the Senate, he said he wants to keep politics out of this role.
"NASA is a non-partisan agency. It has always been that way and that is the way that I am going to run NASA," he said. "Everybody loves NASA. They knew they had the confidence that I was going to treat it in a bipartisan way."
As for the legacy he wants to leave behind, he says he wants to keep it simple."I’m just a Central Florida native who is looking to continue to service my country."
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