Senate confirms James Bridenstine as next NASA administrator

The confirmation fills the longest vacancy for the top spot in the agency's history.

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Senate Commerce Committee Holds Nomination Hearing For James Bridenstine To Become NASA Administrator

Rep. James Bridenstine

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NASA has a new head.

On Thursday, the US Senate narrowly voted to confirm James Bridenstine, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, to run the space agency. The vote fell closely on party lines with 50 Republicans voting for President Donald Trump's nominee and 47 Democrats and two independents voting against him.

"I am humbled by this opportunity, and I once again thank President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their confidence," Bridenstine said in a post on his House page. "I look forward to working with the outstanding team at NASA to achieve the president's vision for American leadership in space."

The confirmation gives NASA, one of America's most beloved institutions, a permanent chief for the first time since former astronaut Charles Bolden stepped down more than a year ago. It was the longest vacancy at the top of the agency in its roughly six-decade history.

Some of the senators voting against Bridenstine noted past comments he's made about climate change, according to The New York Times. In 2013, the congressman said "global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago," according to The Washington Post.

In a subsequent interview with Aerospace America, Bridenstine said he had "absolutely no problem studying the climate."

Bridenstne couldn't immediately be reached for comment beyond his post. 

NASA conducts research on climate science and maintains a page titled Global Climate Change. "The agency's research encompasses solar activity, sea level rise, the temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans, the state of the ozone layer, air pollution, and changes in sea ice and land ice," the page reads.

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