And the New NASA Administrator is Probably….Wait for it….

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

This guy.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

That’s what a couple of websites (here and here) are reporting this evening, with the caveat that — this being “Trump world” — anything could happen between now and the formal announcement planned for September or perhaps earlier.

Surprised?

You shouldn’t be.

During his three terms Congress, Bridenstine has made himself an expert in space policy, with a particular focus on promoting commercial space. He’s also been campaigning for the job since Trump was elected (and probably before). Bridenstine will also be in need of a new job soon. He promised voters he would serve a maximum of six years in the House, which means he won’t be standing for re-election next November.

The Trump Administration has also settled on a deputy administrator. That guy’s name is…

John Schumacher.

John who? Yeah, that’s what I asked, too.

Schumacher has been vice president of Washington, DC operations for Aerojet Rocketdyne since 2006.

So, what exactly does this all mean? Assuming the reports are accurate and Donald Trump doesn’t change his mind.

Bridenstine has been very supportive of commercial space activities. He’s also a moon guy. He wants to see Americans return to the moon. So look for NASA to be innovative in returning to the moon while incorporating as much commercial activities as possible.

This position fits in well with what appears to be an emerging consensus to put the effort to send humans to Mars on hold of revisiting our closest celestial neighbor.

Schumacher is a top official of a company that can be described, for lack of a better phrase, as Old Space. The company’s been around since the beginning. And it has a large stake in the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft that are designed to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since 1972.

With this leadership, NASA could build upon a consensus forged during the Obama Administration that supports commercial programs and the SLS and Orion efforts. However, instead of sending astronauts to visit an asteroid as a precursor to Mars missions, the target will be the moon.

This approach will disappoint critics of SLS and Orion, who feel the program is too expensive and could be done with less expensive boosters and spacecraft. However, support for these programs is very strong in Congress.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    No one, and I mean no one saw this coming.

    “Schumacher is a top official of a company that can be described, for lack of a better phrase, as Old Space. The company’s been around since the beginning. And it has a large stake in the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft that are designed to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since 1972.”

    Smart rats jump off ships before they sink.

  • therealdmt

    Oh well

  • I’m bet he’ll do a good job. He has a rational vision and knows how to make the majority of congress happy. So I’m happy too.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Looks like Elon Misk is going to pay for his resigning as advisor over climate. No NASA missions to Mars for him, and probably nothing beyond CCP. Hope he will be able to adapt to a hostile NASA.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Doubt it Bridenstine isn’t hostile. There was very little chance of Congress funding Mars mission anyway (Musk knew this going in). SpaceX is building its business around commercial operations outside NASA to fund long term Mars project. More on that in Sep. Already more launches per year are Commercial+Civil Non-Human+DoD.

    SLS costs too much to even do anything interesting on the Moon alone. Over time Congress will be forced to admit the SLS/Orion emperor has no cloths and SpaceX, Blue and (Possibly ULA) will benefit.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Never underestimate the power of pork. Why do you think Blue Origins is building its engine in Alabama?

    If Elon Musk is serious about wanting to go to Mars he would build all his rockets in Huntsville and the dollars would flow…

  • Tom Billings

    “If Elon Musk is serious about wanting to go to Mars he would build all his rockets in Huntsville and the dollars would flow…”

    The dollars might flow *through* SpaceX, but by congressional will, they would still be flowing to people who will agree the sitting pols are the best guys there, and won’t be donating to primary the incumbents out. The costs won’t drop, and the Solar System won’t be settled. SpaceX would be folded back into the Old Space cost+ contractor’s club in a few years. SpaceX wouldn’t be going to Mars then, …either.

    The ultimate game is to *replace* Congress as the primary funder of civilian space activity, because the goals of Congress have far more to do with keeping their power than with allowing the freedoms needed to settle the Solar System. That is why Congress is opposed to private spaceflight. Unlike the rest of Civil Society spaceflight activities were governmental from day one, and creating a dominant private spaceflight industry reduces their economic leverage in their districts, reducing their power.

    Even the “public/private partnerships” like Commercial Crew are dangerous. The agency costs exhibited by members of Congress are still high enough that their indirect pressures can cause safety requirements to shift inside NASA, causing things like the dropping of propulsive landings for Dragon. I still think that’s the deal that NASA made with the funding committees in Congress to get CC fully funded the last year.

  • mike_shupp

    But when California secedes from the Union, we’ll want a few aerospace firms of our own, SpaceX is in the right place.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    I know why Bezos caved to port and ITSy will be built in California or eventually near launch site but not Huntsville. Plan for next generation launch vehicle is commercially derived.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, and things were very promising before COTS/CCP. Elon Musk had planned to offer Dragon Lab to tech firms for routine microgravity research. Robert Bigelow had also offered the America Prize for providing access to his private commercial habitats, something SpaceX was focusing on before NASA offered far more money for an easier goal with COTS and commercial cargo supply.

    That is why I always saw COTS and CCP as merely a way for NASA to turn New Space firms into New Space NASA Contractors. And both programs have succeeded in that goal by assimilating SpaceX, Bigelow and probably Blue Origin. The Borg have shown “Resistence is Futile”

  • windbourne

    https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/jim_bridenstine/412567
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Bridenstine

    Sorry Jeff, but I do not think so.
    He shows ZERO leadership in CONgress.
    After 20 years of service, he is a major.
    He is just a far right guy that follows whoever is in office.
    And he is simply another guy in there to rip us off.

  • windbourne

    ??
    only 1/4 of SX’s flights come from US gov.
    And I doubt that NASA and DOD can really justify going with massively expensive launch systems such as ULA and OTK.

  • windbourne

    In fact, I would not be surprised to see Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Bigelow Aero form up on a team and shoot for the moon and offer up multiple nations to be on private space base, all by 2022.

  • windbourne

    yeah. No.

  • duheagle

    I’m going to have to continue my longstanding disagreement with you on this point.

    Neither DragonLab nor Bigelow’s prize promised sufficient revenue to do what SpaceX had in mind to do on the timescale it intended. Also, as I shouldn’t have to point out, absent COTS, there would have been no Dragon from which to make DragonLabs anyway. Elon took the fastest path forward even though it was certain to include some bumps.

    As a percent of revenue, NASA is less important to SpaceX with every passing year. That’s not a characteristic of those assimilated into the Borg Collective.

    As things stand, SpaceX has won some and lost some anent NASA. I think it has won far more than it has lost. Not too much further down the road, SpaceX should be well beyond NASA’s power to significantly curb.

    You see what has gone on as NASA “assimilating” SpaceX. That assumes NASA is irresistibly powerful. It isn’t. I think a better analogy would be to revolutionaries who derive early funds for the revolution by signing on with the regime’s secret police as paid informants.

  • duheagle

    You’re letting your reflexive prog hatreds run your mouth again.

    Bridenstine has shown a lot of leadership in Congress on space matters. As the saying goes, “you could look it up.” You might start right here on Space News.

    That 20 years of service includes 10 years in the reserves. He made it to Lt. Col. in 10 years of active service.

    He is just a far right guy that follows whoever is in office.

    I have no real idea what you mean by this. His Congressional career only goes back to 2013. Was he “following” Obama most of that time? I don’t think so.

    And he is simply another guy in there to rip us off.

    Unlike, say, the entire Democratic Caucus whose fiscal rectitude is legendary.

    Bridenstine is in favor of more use of commercial space services by government, both by NASA and the DoD. That’s not exactly my definition of “rip off.”