The NASA Administrator is the agency's leader, and (along with the Deputy Administrator) is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. It has been common for each President to choose a new Administrator; in the meantime, an Acting administrator fills the role until the Senate approves a replacement. Wikipedia has a nice explanation for the line of succession that chooses the Acting Administrator.

Former Administrator Jim Bridenstein retired on inauguration day; since then, Steve Jurcyk serves as the Acting Administrator. Today, former U.S. Senator (from Florida) and STS-61-C astronaut Bill Nelson was nominated to be the next NASA Administrator.

What has typically happened to the Acting Administrator once a new Administrator takes office? Do they return to their old job? Retire?

Related: What role does the NASA deputy administrator play?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Somebody walks into their office and shouts "Stop acting!" $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 20, 2021 at 10:05

1 Answer 1


Do they return to their old job? Retire?

The answer is "yes".

Some return to their old job and stay with NASA for years. For example, Dr. Christopher J. Scolese returned to his former job of Associate Administrator and then went on the become the Director of the Goddard Space Flight Center. Others retire immediately or nearly immediately. For example, Robert M. Lightfoot Jr. announced his retirement before Jim Bridenstine was confirmed by the Senate. He left NASA a week after Bridenstine was finally confirmed. Yet others do both, return to their old job only to retire a few months later. For example, Frederick Drew Gregory returned to his post as Deputy Administrator, only to retire about five months later.


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