President Trump expected to name new NASA Administrator Nominee

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Our news partners at AL.com report, Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstone will be President Donald Trump's nominee for the role of NASA Administrator.

So WHNT News 19 spoke to a local NASA expert about what that means for one of the leading employers in the Tennessee Valley.

“It’s not unusual at all for this to take this period of time,” says Mark McDaniel.

McDaniel served on the NASA Advisory Committee under two Presidents and two NASA Administrators.

He says, the delay in naming a successor to the Obama-era Director is totally normal.

“When I served on the NASA advisory council under Dan Golden it was over a year before President Bush appointed Sean O’Keefe," says McDaniel.

Numerous reports indicate President Trump has chosen Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

The Republican has served the Sooner State since 2013, is a former Reserve Naval Aviator and previously worked as Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum.

“He’s young, he’s aggressive, he’s a naval aviator, he understands aeronautics, he understands NASA, so he will be an outstanding NASA Administrator," says McDaniel.

His Deputy Administrator is expected to be Aeroject Rocketdyne Vice President John Schumacher.

You may recall, his company announced back in April, they're adding 700 jobs to their Huntsville location to build a new rocket engine.

“He has spent a lot of years in NASA and industry so he understands how things get done too," says McDaniel.

In the interim, NASA has been led by Huntsville's own Robert Lightfoot.

He's NASA's highest civil service employee and the past director of Marshall Space Flight Center.

McDaniel says that means NASA has been in very capable hands.

“He understands NASA as good as anyone in the nation understands NASA. He understands how to get things done, he’s a visionary," explains McDaniel.

He says, assuming Lightfoot stays on in some capacity, all three can lead the space agency to new heights, and that a majority of that effort will happen right here in 'Sweet Home Alabama.'

"We’ve got some of the greatest minds in the entire world right here at MSFC, that can take us to Mars and can take us beyond that, we just have to have the policy, and the funding," he says.

McDaniel says, according to those he's spoken to, Bridenstine should have no problems being confirmed by Congress, if he does end up becoming the nominee.