James Frederick “Jim” Bridenstine was nominated by President Donald Trump, confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and sworn in as NASA’s 13th administrator on April 23, 2018. He resigned as NASA's administrator on Jan. 20, 2021.
Under Bridenstine’s leadership, NASA launched its new human lunar exploration mission, the Artemis program. As announced by Vice President Mike Pence in March 2019, the Artemis program will land the first woman and the next man on the surface of the Moon by 2024, the first human landing since the end of NASA’s Apollo missions in 1972.
Through the Artemis program, NASA is developing the Orion crew capsule and the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever built. These state-of-the-art systems will help build the Gateway, a lunar orbiting space station that will give American astronauts more access to the surface of the Moon than ever before. All lunar exploration efforts under Artemis are designed to prove the technology and capabilities to live and work on a different world in preparation for a future crewed mission to Mars.
Bridenstine managed the continued commercial resupply of the International Space Station and led agency efforts to partner with American businesses on the Commercial Crew Program.
The Commercial Crew Program once again launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, something not done since the end of the Shuttle program in 2011. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft launched from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Pad 39A at 3:22 p.m. EDT on May 30, 2020.
“What a great day for NASA, what a great day for SpaceX, and what a great day for the United States of America,” Bridenstine said on launch day. “It’s been nine years since we’ve launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and now we have done it again.”
Additionally, Bridenstine established the Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program to partner with private enterprise in landing rovers on the lunar surface. These rovers will contain tools and science experiments in preparation for the arrival of American astronauts.
During Bridenstine’s tenure, NASA reinforced aeronautic development of the X-59, a quiet supersonic aircraft, and the X-57, the agency’s first all-electric airplane. He also backed NASA’s aeronautical innovators to develop the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management to facilitate the safe use of drones for commercial enterprise and in everyday life.
The agency's dynamic science portfolio under Bridenstine included the launch of NASA's Perseverance rover on July 30, 2020. The rover landed on Feb. 18, 2021.
Prior to serving at NASA, Bridenstine was elected in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served on the Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
Bridenstine’s career in federal service began in 1998 as a pilot in the U.S. Navy, flying the E-2C Hawkeye off the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. It was there that he flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and accrued most of his 1,900 flight hours and 333 arrested landings on an aircraft carrier. He later moved to the F-18 Hornet and flew at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, the parent command to TOPGUN.
After transitioning from active duty to the U.S. Navy Reserve, Bridenstine returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to be the executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium.
Bridenstine completed a triple major at Rice University and earned his MBA at Cornell University. He and his wife, Michelle, have three children.