Updated: Monday, April 24
An Oklahoman is now in charge of the nation’s space program.
Former U.S. Representative Jim Bridenstine was sworn in as NASA administrator Monday, Bridenstine was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on a party-line 50–49 vote last week.
He had represented Oklahoma’s first congressional district since 2012 before being nominated to lead the space agency by President Donald Trump.
"In these last few days I’ve heard numerous times, quote, welcome to the NASA family. I will tell you, it truly does feel like a family here and I am very humbled to be a part of it."
Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C..
Before being elected to congress, Bridenstine served in the Navy and directed the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium.
ORIGINAL POST - Thursday, April 19
Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s nomination was confirmed in Thursday’s Senate session. His confirmation came with with a stark party line vote of 50 to 49.
The Tulsa lawmaker’s confirmation ends the longest span of time that NASA has operated without a permanent leader. Bridenstine was first nominated in September and again by President Donald Trump in January.
During the Thursday's session, the confirmation vote lasted shy of an hour as Republican senators waited on Arizona lawmaker Jeff Flake to vote.
Some concerns from those against his nomination included Bridenstine's ideas on climate change and past partisan behavior. There was also concern that a politician might make the space agency more partisan than what it ought to be if he or she became the leader.
Despite the opposition, Bridenstine's supporters have cited James Webb's leadership in the role, the second administrator of NASA under President John F. Kennedy, who was also a government official.
Bridenstine was first nominated to the U.S. Congress in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s First Congressional District, a position for which he previously announced he would not be seeking reelection.
In 2016, the former Navy pilot sponsored the American Space Renaissance Act, which did not get the votes it needed to pass, but had some of the ideas were incorporated in other legislation. In Tulsa, he was also the executive director of the Air and Space Museum & Planetarium.
NASA's acting adminstrator, Robert Lightfoot, said in a statement about Bridenstine's nomination that the lawmaker is joining the agency at a time where historic milestones could be met.
"I'm looking forward to him building on our great momentum and sharing our many strengths to help us make the next giants leaps on behalf of humanity," Lightfoot said.
Bridenstine's swearing in is likely to take place before Lightfoot retires on April 30.