Both Republican senator Marco Rubio and Democrat senator Bill Nelson have jointly criticized the Bridenstine pick as needlessly injecting politics into NASA, which is supposed to be devoted to the pursuit of science. "Obviously, being from Florida, I'm very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission", Rubio told POLITICO.
Bridenstine, who was elected to represent Oklahoma's First Congressional District in 2012, is a fan of the commercial space industry.
While in the House, Bridenstine has shown a real interest in space, particularly with getting private companies more involved with NASA.
Since the end of NASA's space shuttle program in 2011, the United States has had to rely on Russian Federation to ferry their astronauts to the International Space Station. Nelson's office did not respond to a request for comment September 2 about the nomination. The agency's previous administrator, Charles Bolden, was a former astronaut who flew on four shuttle missions as well as a Marine Corps pilot who retired at the rank of major general.
Rubio, though, said he does not hold the comments against Bridenstine a former Navy pilot who has served as director of Tulsa's Air and Space Museum.
If confirmed by the Senate, Bridenstine would play a key role in Trump's plans to add human exploration of Mars to NASA's mission.
"There's a couple people in the executive branch who didn't always say nice things about me in a political campaign", said Rubio.
It remains unclear whether the two senators will vote for or against Bridenstine.
"I believe that the congressman will be able to unite the disparate parts of the space industry, leveraging existing programs and opportunities as well as growing new capabilities", said Mike Gold, chairman of the Federal Aviation Administration's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee and a vice president at Space Systems Loral, Sept. 1 prior to the announcement of Bridenstine's nomination. "I look forward to working with my fellow Oklahoman in this new capacity".