New NASA chief makes calm debut on Capitol Hill

New NASA chief makes calm debut on Capitol Hill 

Posted: 4:06 pm Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

By Jamie Dupree

After a lengthy confirmation battle that turned heated and political, former Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine testified for the first time before lawmakers as the head of NASA on Wednesday – with almost no hint of any of the controversy that led to an extended delay in the Senate’s approval of his nomination by President Donald Trump.

“It’s an honor, I’m thrilled to be here,” Bridenstine said at a hearing of a Senate spending panel which has jurisdiction over the NASA budget.

In his testimony, Bridenstine reiterated his support for Trump Administration plans to send astronauts back to the surface of the moon, and then use that experience as a way to spur missions to Mars.

“I also want to be really clear that we are still going to Mars as well,” Bridenstine said.

Bridenstine also heard praise from Democrats, as they noted recent comments where the ex-GOP Congressman supported NASA work on climate change research, and seemed to moderate his own public views on the matter.

“It is extremely likely that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming, and I have no reason to doubt the science that comes from that,” said Bridenstine, as he said NASA work on climate change research would continue.

“I want to thank you for the tone you have taken ever since you were sworn in,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), as Democrats noted recent comments by Bridenstine supporting NASA work on climate change research.

“I appreciate your enthusiasm and energy about the NASA mission,” Van Hollen added.

Bridenstine’s maiden hearing showed off some of the parochial ways of NASA, as lawmakers asked about space agency projects and facilities in their home states, and how they fit into the NASA budget of the future.

As the hearing wrapped up early due to a series of Senate votes, the furor over his nomination as NASA chief seemed to be light years behind him.

“I’ve been charged with leading one of the most storied agencies in the United States government,” the ex-Republican Congressman said. “It’s the honor of a lifetime.”

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