After the head of NASA Jim Bridenstine resigned yesterday (Jan. 20), President Joe Biden’s administration appointed Steve Jurczyk as interim administrator until the post is permanently filled.
Jurczyk has been the agency’s associate administrator since May 2018, according to his NASA biography; all in all, he’s been with NASA since 1988. Jurczyk is one of 34 interim leaders announced by Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, hours after their inauguration.
In a message to agency staff obtained by SpaceRef, Jurczyk thanked Bridenstine and highlighted the events of the coming months, citing plans for humans to return to the moon, but not naming the Artemis program, a product of President Donald Trump’s administration, explicitly.
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“We also couldn’t be more proud of how every public servant and contractor has stepped up to advance NASA’s mission while ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all. ‘team,’ wrote Bhavya Lal, nominated by Jurczyk and the White House. in the common message. “NASA represents the best of America and the best of American values: hard work, determination and ingenuity. And this agency has proven time and time again that anything is possible when we come together, break down barriers, create opportunity and imagine a new tomorrow. “
Biden has yet to announce a nominee to lead the agency on a permanent basis. Trump appointed Bridenstine to head the agency in September 2017, but the the confirmation process was controversial and the Senate did not approve the appointment until April 2018, leaving NASA in the hands of interim administrator Robert Lightfoot for 15 months. Bridenstine was the 13th administrator of NASA and the first to lead the agency after holding an elected position; he represented the 1st Congressional District of Oklahoma in the House of Representatives.
Leadership change is on the heels of a critical but imperfect test from NASA’s massive moon rocket, the Space launch system. During the hot shot test, the main stage engines fired for only 67 seconds, instead of the targeted 8 minutes. NASA executives will now have to decide whether to repeat the test or push for an unmanned launch slated for later this year.
Additionally, the agency will attempt a difficult feat in just under a month when its March 2020 rover, Perseverance, lands on the red planet on February 18. And the agency, like the rest of the federal government, is facing a dual public health and economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These officials, like so many in the federal government, are dedicated to serving the American people, not a political party or program,” Biden said in a press release announcing the interim leaders of dozens of government agencies. “Their experience in government and their commitment to service will allow this administration to take the reins as we prepare to bring the pandemic under control and move our economy once again. I am grateful for their willingness to take the lead. leading the way in these difficult times and helping us make sure the government continues to function and serve the American people. “
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