Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a former Navy pilot who is one of Congress’s leading space exploration advocates, has had informal conversations with the Trump campaign about serving as NASA administrator or secretary of the Air Force, according to an official close to the congressman who is not authorized to speak publicly.
“He’s made it clear to the campaign that if asked to serve as NASA Administrator or Air Force secretary, he would be willing,” the official said. The person added that there would likely be “a clearer path to NASA” than the Air Force.
Bridenstine is a member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus that has often clashed with House Republican leaders. He was a strong backer of Trump during the election — so much so, he threatened to withdraw his support from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) after Ryan said he would no longer campaign for or defend Trump.
Other names that have been floated in space circles include Mike Griffin, who served as NASA administrator under George W. Bush, and Eileen Collins, the first female commander of a space shuttle mission who spoke at the Republican National Convention.
Earlier this year, Bridenstine, who endorsed Trump, introduced the American Space Renaissance Act, which touches virtually every aspect of space, including national security, NASA, how to manage space debris and regulate the commercial space industry.