Leading the Moon to Mars Program: James Bridenstine as NASA administrator 2018–2021

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large-scale, long-term scientific and technological programs face many hurdles and barriers on the way from initiation to completion. This is especially true for huge-multi-billion space endeavors, such as Artemis, NASA's Moon to Mars venture. Such programs traverse a number of presidencies and congresses. Among the most critical factors in program success or failure is the performance of NASA Administrators. While typically in office only part of the time the program endures, their tenures can be pivotal. Consider the case of James Bridenstine who served in the tumultuous time of Donald Trump. His record illuminates how a NASA Administrator with a political style can maneuver to a program's advantage, often in spite of environmental turmoil. While the full story of Artemis is yet to be written, it seems clear that Bridenstine, overall, left the program with a more secure political momentum than when he arrived. While he could not achieve all he wished, especially internally, he set Artemis on a sufficiently sound trajectory that his successor, under a different president of the opposite party, could maintain and build on Bridenstine's legacy. This positive hand-off was largely unanticipated since Bridenstine came to office with low expectations. His actions to secure the Moon to Mars program thus merits reflection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101634
JournalSpace Policy
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Law


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