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Jim Bridenstine. Photo: Science Friday

Who is Jim Bridenstine?

Jim Bridenstine is a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Oklahoma. Bridenstine was first elected to Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District in 2012.

On April 23, 2018, Bridenstine resigned from Congress and was sworn in as NASA's 13th administrator, according to Ballot Pedia.

What are his qualifications to run NASA?

As a politician, Bridenstine has hedged on climate change, an issue NASA scientists study and track in many different ways. During his confirmation hearing in November, Bridenstine agreed that humans are the driving force behind climate change, but he would not agree with the assertion that human activity is the primary cause of it. It’s an odd position to hold as the leader of an agency that provides some of the most comprehensive data on climate change in the world, as said by Vox.

NASA has a staff of 17,000 and a budget of nearly $19 billion (not to mention the numerous contractors it works with). Bridenstine’s experience of managing a museum in Tulsa pales in comparison to the enormous complexity of NASA. Plus, there are new questions, raised by reporting from the Daily Beast, about whether Bridenstine used funds from the Tulsa Air and Space Museum to prop up a private venture. He reportedly ran the museum into a financial loss.

Immediately after becoming Administrator in January 2018, Bridenstine sought to soothe some of the concerns about his tenure, Forbes cites.

First, in May 2018, he changed course on climate change. “I don’t deny the consensus," he told a NASA Town Hall meeting. “I believe fully in climate change and that we human beings are contributing to it in a major way.”

Then, he set about giving NASA a firm overriding goal to aim for – a mission to the Moon, ultimately leading to missions to Mars. The goal remains, for now, to land both a man and woman on the Moon by 2024, not too subtly the end of a presumptive second Trump term, and Bridenstine gave it a name: Artemis.

Bridenstine's Career

Below is an abbreviated outline of Bridenstine's academic, professional, and political career:

2018: NASA Administrator

2013-2018: U.S. Representative from Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District

2008-2010: Director, Tulsa Air, and Space Museum

2009: Attended Cornell University, MBA

2007-2008: Defense consultant, Wyle Laboratories

1998-2007: U.S. Navy Pilot

1994-1998: Attended Rice University, B.S.

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