Mashable has discovered that Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, President Trump’s pick for NASA Administrator, used to be an investor in a scheme called the Rocket Racing League which wanted to set up NASCAR-style races using rocket planes. The idea never got off the ground, but the revelation has won praise for the space agency chief nominee from an unusual source, NASA Watch’s Keith Cowing.

What was the Rocket Racing League?

The Rocket Racing League was created in 2005 to start a new sport that would have involved racing rocket planes along a virtual 3D track 1,500 feet in the air and two miles long.

Each race would be against the clock and would last for an hour. Race fans would be able to follow the action through multiple camera views.

Even though some rocket planes were built and demonstrated at air shows, the races never came to pass, the reason being lack of sufficient investment. By 2014 the Rocket Racing League had become defunct.

Bridenstine, a naval aviator as well as a member of Congress, invested some of his own money in the scheme as a way to help develop reusable rocket planes that might be useful for space travel. He also imagined that some of the rocket races would take place in Oklahoma, thus contributing to the state’s economy.

Bridenstine praised as a real life Luke Skywalker

Bridenstine likely did not bull's-eye whomp rats in his T-16 back home, but that fact has not stopped NASA Watch’s Keith Cowing from praising him as a real life Luke Skywalker. The left leaning space blogger, who might have been expected to oppose Bridenstine for his stance on climate change, suggested that the Oklahoma lawmaker possesses that spirit of risk taking that NASA sorely needs at the moment.

The Washington Post is also reporting that despite the reservations toward Bridenstine expressed by Sen. Bill Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio, that support for his nomination for NASA administrator has started to solidify. The hysteria being shown on social media over his climate change skepticism does not seem to be having an effect.

However, as of this writing, President Trump has not made an official announcement for Bridenstine’s nomination. As a result, hearings have not been scheduled. Congress has been unusually slow in confirming many of Trump’s nominees. It would be best for Bridenstine to be approved quickly so that he can take charge of NASA as it develops its budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year and begin the course change back to the moon and away from the Journey to Mars. In any case, the task ahead for Bridenstine, navigating the political hazards and technical challenges of a change in space policy, may make taking out the Death Star easy by comparison.