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Bill Nelson. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

Former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) was unanimously confirmed by Senate on Thursday to serve as head of NASA.

The big picture: As NASA administrator, Nelson will lead the agency as it works to send astronauts back to the Moon, which would pave the way for an eventual Mars mission.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Miriam Kramer: Nelson has long been a major supporter of NASA, but his nomination was somewhat controversial within the space industry, with some suggesting that his past critical comments about commercial spaceflight are worrying.

  • During his confirmation hearing, however, Nelson made clear that he wants to support NASA’s relationship with the industry.
  • Nelson will be responsible for working with the agency's commercial partners to fly astronauts to the International Space Station.

The big picture: The NASA administrator position has historically been filled by scientists, former astronauts and business people, but the role has increasingly become more political.

  • "Nelson and President Biden have worked together in the Senate and reportedly have a close relationship, meaning Nelson may be able to make sure the agency gets Biden's attention," Miriam Kramer writes.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Aug 3, 2021 - Science

Why the space race is worth running

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Billionaires, not governments, are the contestants in the new space race. Their competition is drawing criticism and eye rolling — and sparking debate about whether it actually benefits the rest of us.

The big picture: International and corporate competition have been a part of the space industry since the launch of Sputnik nearly 65 years ago.

Biden says he'll make Supreme Court pick by end of February

President Biden speaks on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday said he will announce the nominee for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's replacement by the end of February.

Driving the news: Biden also affirmed that he will nominate a Black woman to replace Breyer, saying "it's long overdue."

Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement from Supreme Court

Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Justice Stephen Breyer on Thursday sent a letter to President Biden formally announcing his retirement from the Supreme Court.

State of play: Breyer said his retirement will take effect when the court "rises for the summer recess (typically late June or early July) assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed."