WASHINGTON — NASA finally has a new administrator, albeit a controversial one.

  • Rep. Jim Bridenstine confirmed NASA administrator
  • Senate voted 50-49
  • Bridenstine choice criticized for lack of experience

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-OK, is President Trump's pick to lead the space agency.

The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Bridenstine, along party lines, 50-49. He is the first congressman to serve as NASA administrator.

Bridenstine's nomination is controversial because of his limited knowledge of space policy. A congressman from Oklahoma who has served on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, he lacks formal qualifications in the space or science fields, according to critics, which include US Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida. 

Nelson spoke out against Bridenstine's nomination on the Senate floor Wednesday.

"Traditionally the NASA administrator has been well-qualified, is not controversial," Nelson said. "NASA is one of the few remaining areas that has largely avoided the bitter partisanship that has invaded far too many areas of government and our society today. Until now."

"The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional," Nelson added. "That's what this senator wants -- a space professional, not a politician, as the head of NASA. And that space professional ought to be technically and scientifically competent, and a skilled executive."

Nelson says senators from both sides of the aisle had expressed doubts about Bridenstine's qualifications both publicly and privately to him. Florida's Republican senator, Marco Rubio, expressed his own doubts to the media last year. But in the end, all Republican senators present voted to end cloture. 

NASA welcomed Bridenstine in a tweet Thursday.