Jim Bridenstine officially assumed office as the new NASA head, becoming its 13th administrator, after he was given the oath of office by Vice-President Mike Pence at the agency’s headquarters in Washington on April 23.

“It is a great privilege for me to be here today, to be able to usher in on behalf of the President of the United States what we believe is a new chapter of renewed American leadership in space with the swearing-in of the newest Administrator of NASA, Jim Bridenstine,” said Pence. “Under Space Policy Directive 1, we will send American astronauts back to the Moon, and after that we will establish the capacity, with international and commercial partners, to send Americans to Mars. And NASA will lead the way.”

Bridenstine was confirmed by the US Senate on April 19 to serve as the agency’s administrator.

“NASA represents the best of the United States of America,” said Bridenstine, adding: “We lead, we discover, we pioneer, and we inspire. I look forward to our journey together.”

The ceremony was attended by Bridenstine’s family, employees and media.

Pence and the new NASA head spoke live with astronauts Scott Tingle, Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, who are currently living and working aboard the International Space Station 250 miles above Earth, at the ceremony. Congratulating the new administrator, the astronauts shared stories of their experiences on the orbiting laboratory.

The Vice President and new administrator held a meeting with senior leadership at the NASA headquarters and its centres via video teleconference.

“The appropriations bill that is now law renews focus on human spaceflight activities and expands our commercial and international partnerships. It also continues our pursuit of cutting-edge science and aeronautics breakthroughs,” Bridenstine told the agency leadership.

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Bridenstine is said to be the first elected official to lead NASA. Prior to this position, he served in the US House of Representatives for Oklahoma where he held positions on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Bridenstine also is a pilot in the US Navy Reserve and the former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium.