The NASA administrator under former president Barack Obama criticized President Joe Biden for nominating a man to lead the space agency.
"I'd still like to see the first woman in the job soon, but it's not going to be right now," Charles Bolden, the first African American to lead NASA, told Politico Friday. "I would have preferred to have seen a woman get the job. I love Bill Nelson and I respect him and think he'll do a great job, it's just my preference."
Biden, who nominated former senator Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) to serve as NASA administrator, has already faced criticism from former Obama space officials for the pick. Last week, former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver said Biden's selection shows "the good-ole-boy network is strong."
Garver and former astronaut Pamela Melroy were two female candidates who appeared as early favorites to lead Biden's space program. The president, however, tapped Nelson, who has faced criticism for eschewing private partnerships as a senator to push a widely criticized and expensive NASA launch program. Melroy and Garver are still floated as potential deputies for Nelson's team and are considered strong picks by space observers for, among other things, their experience in commercial space and public-private partnerships.
Bolden also said Nelson will need bipartisan support from Congress to succeed as NASA administrator. Republicans, however, may press the former senator on his record of championing cooperation with China on space exploration and tech development. Beijing openly rivals the United States' influence in the final frontier and has worked to militarize its space technology.
Some space experts believe NASA must work with innovative private companies on research and satellite launches to confront the threat from China—a position embraced by the Trump administration, which also launched Space Force to help meet the challenge.