Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Having a politician in the top spot at NASA signals the agency will be a priority for the Biden administration, some space industry experts tell Axios.

Why it matters: Bill Nelson, a former senator with President Biden's ear, is the administration's nominee to lead the space agency and could help make NASA a priority for the president if he's confirmed.

  • NASA is often seen as an agency that cuts across partisan lines, inspiring children and helping everyone look to the future, but it's also a political tool with major geopolitical weight.
  • The agency doles out billions in industry contracts and employs about 17,000 people across the country.

Catch up quick: Nelson's nomination was announced last week and has already won support from both sides of the aisle, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R- Fla.) already backing him.

  • Nelson also has the support of former President Donald Trump's NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine.
  • A former senator from Florida, Nelson flew aboard the space shuttle in 1986 and has long advocated for NASA and its spaceflight goals.
  • "I am honored to be nominated by Joe Biden and, if confirmed, to help lead NASA into an exciting future of possibilities," Nelson said in a statement. "Its workforce radiates optimism, ingenuity and a can-do spirit. The NASA team continues to achieve the seemingly impossible as we venture into the cosmos."

The big picture: For the most part, NASA's top job has been filled by former astronauts, scientists and business people, not political figures.

  • Nelson and 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.
  • "This is a very personal relationship with the President, and that's pretty special for NASA. It's the kind of pick that I think you more typically think about with a high level cabinet official versus historically with NASA," Mike French of the Aerospace Industries Association, told me.

Flashback: Bridenstine, who ran NASA under Trump, is largely considered to have been an effective agency leader even though many were against his nomination at the start, saying the Republican congressman from Oklahoma was too partisan of a choice.

  • He had the administration's ear, helping to raise NASA's budget, and he largely put partisan politics aside.
  • "I think Jim Bridenstine really ... proved to people that maybe it's not the worst idea to have an experienced politician running the space agency," Casey Dreier of the Planetary Society told me.

Yes, but: There is potential baggage that comes along with a political NASA administrator.

  • Some have questioned how strongly Nelson supports commercial spaceflight and the agency's current approach to developing space through public/private partnerships.
  • As a senator in 2010, Nelson suggested that money for the Commercial Crew program — which recently saw SpaceX send a astronauts to the International Space Station — would be better spent on the long-delayed, government-developed Space Launch System.
  • But his job as a senator from Florida was very different from what it will be as NASA administrator, according to Dreier.
  • "His job was to represent Florida and to make sure jobs were maintained in Florida; that infrastructure was maintained in Florida," Dreier said. "That ... no longer would be his job as the NASA administrator."

The bottom line: If confirmed, Nelson won't be the first politically-minded administrator of NASA, but if he's successful it could set the stage for more politicians to lead the agency.

Go deeper

Updated 30 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutor to seek hate crime charges, death penalty in Atlanta shootings

In Hopkinton, Mass., the Rally & Run To Stop Asian Hate is held to show solidarity in the wake of deadly Atlanta shootings and to mourn the loss of eight lives including six Asian women. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Prosecutors unveiled murder charges against the white man accused of shooting and killing eight people, six of whom were Asian women, at Atlanta-area spas, AP reports.

Driving the news: A prosecutor filed notice that she plans to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty in the case. Two separate grand juries have now indicted the suspect on murder charges.

America's pandemic coin crunch returns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An early pandemic problem that plagued businesses is back: not enough change to go around.

Why it matters: The pandemic broke America's coin flow. It has repercussions for millions that rely on it for daily transactions.