Sen Bill Nelson, D-Florida, who is in a tough reelection fight for his Senate seat against Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has released his first digital ad for the campaign, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The ad touts his adventure in the mid-1980s as a space shuttle astronaut, which he arranged to have as a House member.

The ad is already facing pushback from the right-leaning Sunshine State News. The history behind Nelson’s space shuttle ride and his record concerning NASA may cause the ad to backfire on the senator.

How Bill Nelson got to fly in space

As NASA Watch pointed out, Nelson got his space shuttle ride on the Columbia STS-61C mission in January 1986 not because of any flight experience or scientific expertise, but because he was an influential member of Congress with control over NASA spending. Nelson took advantage of NASA’s initiative to fly non-astronauts, starting with the first teacher in space Christa McAuliffe, who ironically died on the next shuttle mission when the Challenger was destroyed on launch. Nelson, a lawyer, was nicknamed “ballast” by his fellow astronauts.

Nelson as a guardian of the space coast.

The Sunshine Space News points out that Nelson’s self-appointed role as the guardian of space spending for Florida has often been more rhetorical than successful.

When President Barack Obama canceled the Constellation space exploration program at the same time that the space shuttle program was winding down, the Kennedy Space Center was stricken economically. Nelson was mostly ineffective in stopping the end of the Bush era space exploration program and did little to advance the commercial crew program that is due to replace the space shuttle.

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KSC is only now beginning to recover, mainly thanks to commercial launches being conducted by companies such as SpaceX.

The Bridenstine affair

The ad does not mention Nelson’s attempt to stop the confirmation of Jim Bridenstine as administrator of NASA. Nelson and his Democratic allies accused Bridenstine of being a “climate change denier,” and a “homophobe” because of his opposition to same-sex marriage and, most laughably, a politician.

Nelson managed to delay Bridenstine’s confirmation for months, throwing NASA into a leadership crisis when then acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, decided to resign earlier this past spring. Nelson’s fellow senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, a Republican, saved the situation when he threw his support behind Bridenstine, assuring his confirmation. By all accounts, Bridenstine is doing a spectacular job, even winning over former Democratic opponents.

The bottom line

By trying to tout his ultimate space junket, taken at taxpayer expense, Nelson has opened himself up to attacks by his opponent Rick Scott, should he choose to take the opportunity. In any case, the matter may well backfire.