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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

China launches Tianhe module of new space station

People watch the Long March-5B Y2 rocket carrying the core module of China's space station, Tianhe, blasting off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang, Hainan Province, on Thursday. Photo: Wang Longhua/VCG via Getty Images

Officials in China launched the core element of a new permanent space station into orbit on a Long March-5B Y2 rocket from Wenchang in Hainan Province, Thursday, per the BBC.

Why it matters: The launch from Wenchang Space Launch Center marks a significant step in the space program drive of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, seen as a rival to the U.S. in space.

17 mins ago - World

Israel's "change bloc" collapses, leaving Netanyahu in charge

Bennett (L) with Netanyahu in 2015. Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images

In a dramatic shift that comes amid fighting in the Gaza strip and clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel, right-wing kingmaker Naftali Bennett has announced he will no longer seek an alternative government to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why it matters: Bennett had been on the verge of a power-sharing deal with centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid that would have made him prime minister for two years until Lapid rotated into the job. Without Bennett, Lapid has no path to a majority, and Israel will almost certainly head for its fifth election since 2019 with Netanyahu still in his post.

CDC says fully vaccinated people don't have to wear masks indoors

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The CDC announced in new guidance Thursday that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, regardless of crowd size.

What they're saying: "If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will say at a White House press briefing.