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NASA chief explores top space issues

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 10:54 AM MST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - As scientists venture deeper into the mysteries of space, new NASA chief Bill Nelson weighs in on what it’s like being at the center of these breakthroughs.

From traveling into space as a congressman in the 1980s, to serving in the U.S. Senate with a focus on space issues, now he gushes about this latest journey, putting political life aside to lead NASA through the next chapter of celestial exploration.

“Well, I feel like a kid in a candy store, and I shouldn’t be having this much fun,” joked NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Recently-sworn in NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is over the moon with his new job. While he’s not a formal scientist, he’s closely followed issues surrounding the cosmos for decades. Nelson served as the ranking member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

“Most people really support NASA, so for me to be in the middle of this and try to offer some little leadership to our space program as we venture out into the stars is a great privilege for me,” said Nelson.

NASA is reaching new heights - launching a telescope that will trace light emitted billions of years ago. And it is harnessing advanced technology to uncover whether there’s any signs of life on Mars, Venus, and beyond.

“This is going to enable us to further our trying to find other planets like earth that have a habitable atmosphere,” said Nelson.

As NASA plans a return to the moon, and teams up with the private sector on human flights, Nelson applauds the space exploration efforts of entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.

“I say the more we have the participation of these folks like these billionaires, that’s to the betterment of mankind,” said Nelson.

As the US collaborates with other nations, including Russia, on testing the limits of space, Nelson says China operates independently of the international community.

“We don’t want China to be an adversary, but they’ve got to start opening up and stop being so secretive,” said Nelson.

As NASA searches deeper into hidden stars and solar systems, Nelson tells me they are also investigating UFOs. The federal government recently acknowledged 144 reports of strange sightings in the skies, picked up all over the world by Navy pilots.

“What we see is there’s a phenomenon that we don’t know what it is. Now NASA is looking for life out in the universe,” said Nelson.

Coming back down to earth, NASA scientists also recently issued a report, highlighting the urgency of sea level rise based on predictions about warmer temperatures and lunar activity.

“That’s where we’re going to see in the next decade a lot of coastal flooding,” said Nelson.

While in the Senate, Nelson, a Democrat, worked alongside Republican members to help shape the agenda for NASA on the projects it is now carrying out today. He and then-Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas), led the way on a key piece of legislation that paved the way for commercial space ventures, NASA exploratory missions and resources for the Kennedy Space Center and Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Nelson served in the U.S. Senate until narrowly losing to then-Republican Governor Rick Scott in the 2018 midterm elections. After leaving office, he remained involved in space issues, serving on the NASA advisory council.

Photojournalist/Editor Tyler Smith contributed to this report.

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