NASA has welcomed the nomination of former Democratic Senator Bill Nelson as its next administrator, as the US space agency works towards the key Artemis III mission that will launch the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024.
US President Joe Biden on Friday nominated Nelson to serve as the 14th NASA administrator.
While chair of the House space subcommittee, Nelson flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist on the STS-61C mission in 1986. He was appointed to the NASA Advisory Council by former Administrator Jim Bridenstine in May 2019.
Nelson represented Florida in the Senate from 2001-19 where he served as a ranking member on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
"Nelson has a proven history of supporting our work here at NASA, and has helped advance America's position in human exploration, science, aeronautics, and technology," said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk.
"While the Senate must confirm the nomination, I look forward to continuing to work with Bill and the Biden-Harris administration to carry out NASA's many critical missions in the years to come," he added.
NASA has completed a crucial hot fire test of the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket which is designed to power future Moon missions under the agency's Artemis programme.
The successful test is a critical milestone ahead of the agency's Artemis I mission, which will send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a test flight around the Moon and back to Earth, paving the way for future Artemis missions with astronauts.
NASA last month selected Elon Musk's aerospace company SpaceX to provide launch services for two major components of the Gateway that will serve as a way station for future Moon missions.
"As we look to the future - and with Nelson at the helm - we will continue to take on and find solutions to problems once thought unsolvable, and educate and inspire the next generation of American scientists, engineers, and workers," said Jurczyk.