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Former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson Joins NASA's Advisory Council

Sen. Bill Nelson. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE
Sen. Bill Nelson. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is joining NASA’s Advisory Council, giving the agency a much-needed ally as it pursues Congressional support for a budget increase.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Nelson’s appointment on Tuesday.

As a Congressman, Nelson flew to space in 1986 on the Space Shuttle Columbia, on a six-day mission to deploy the Satcom K1 communications satellite.

Nelson will be a member-at-large of the Council, where he will advise on all major program and policy issues before the agency, not just the moon and Mars missions.

As a senator, Nelson opposed President Donald Trump’s selection of Bridenstine as NASA administrator, saying in 2017 that the Oklahoma Republican did not have the science and space credentials needed for the job.

NASA is asking for an additional $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2020, in addition to the $21 billion it had already requested, to help fund a mission to the moon.

Vice President Mike Pence has charged the agency with returning humans to the moon by 2024.

In an earlier version of the story we reported  erroneously that  former senator Nelson flew on a shuttle mission to the International Space Station. The first components for the space station were not launched until 1998.