Two new names have rocketed to the top of the list of people being considered for the post of NASA administrator in the Trump administration. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma is now considered the front-runner for the job. Bridenstine, a warm advocate for Space exploration and commercial space partnerships, is the author of the American Space Renaissance, an attempt to reform every aspect of American space activity, NASA, military, and commercial.

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Bridenstine is an early supporter of Donald Trump and is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Another new name is Eileen Collins, the first woman shuttle commander. Collins famously made an impassioned speech at the Republican National Convention decrying President Barack Obama’s space policy and calling for more focus on space exploration at NASA. She would be the first female NASA administrator if selected.

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Collins came under harsh criticism from former NASA Administrator Lori Garver, a partisan Democrat, for being both a woman and a Trump supporter.

That the post of NASA administrator is being considered so early in the transition is a testament to how high a priority space will serve during a Trump presidency. Team Trump has already indicated that massive changes are in store at the space agency, with a goal of sending human explorers across the solar system by the end of the century.

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The Trump administration will also revive the National Space Council, to be headed by Vice President Mike Pence, a man who is increasingly becoming Trump’s closest advisor due to the depth of his experience both as governor of Indiana and a member of Congress. The reestablishment of the council, defunct since the administration of President George H W Bush, is also indicative of the importance of space in the new presidency.

Usually, a new president does not appoint a new NASA administrator until well into his administration. Charles Bolden, the current space agency chief, did not assume that office until July 2009. It looks like Trump plans to pick his NASA head earlier and have him or her in place much sooner to help implement his new space policy.

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