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He now serves on the House Armed Services and Science, Space, and Technology Committees. "I don't think it speaks to a person's ability to work at NASA".

Rubio said he and Nelson "share the same concerns" and worry Bridenstine's "political baggage" would weigh him down in a GOP-led Senate that has grown increasingly resistant to Trump. "Our history is fantastic, and our future is even brighter, as we continue to build on this nation's incredible global leadership in human exploration, science, aeronautics and technology".

Bridenstine has spoken at the organization's annual conference, the Space Symposium, in recent years, including using the 2016 conference to introduce his American Space Renaissance Act, a wide-ranging space policy bill.

Instead, he's nominating Oklahoma GOP Congressman Jim Bridenstine, who's appointment needs approval by the Senate. His predecessor, Michael Griffin, was an engineer and manager with extensive experience in civil, commercial and national security space. He has also been an advocate of a permanent robotic presence on the Moon to harvest its resources (which could further the White House's goals) and help drive down the costs of space flight. "I am pleased to have Rep. Bridenstine nominated to lead our team", he said in a NASA statement late September 1.

Florida's Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who has a home on the state's Space Coast and in 1986 flew on a Space Shuttle Columbia mission as a member of Congress, said in a brief statement to Politico that the "head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician".

However, other senators weren't on board with Trump's pick, including Republican Sen.

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. "Obviously, being from Florida, I'm very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission".

"I would hate to see an administrator held up - on (grounds of) partisanship, political arguments, past votes, or statements made in the past - because the agency can't afford it and it can't afford the controversy", he added.