NASA administrator says Trump watching new vehicle launch in person was 'a big risk' politically

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Trump watches Saturday's NASA and SpaceX launch of the Falcon 9 rocket - SCREENSHOT VIA NASA/YOUTUBE
  • Screenshot via NASA/YouTube
  • Trump watches Saturday's NASA and SpaceX launch of the Falcon 9 rocket

In an interview on NASA's "Launch America" approximately 18 minutes after the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he watched the launch with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and that Trump's attendance at Wednesday's earlier launch attempt was "a big risk."

Interviewer Derrol Nail of NASA communications introduced Bridenstine, his boss, saying, "America's back, launching human astronauts again." He asked Bridenstine for his feelings about "President Trump becoming the third sitting president to watch a launch live from the Kennedy Space Center."

"To be clear," said Bridenstine, "I think he's the only sitting president to watch American astronauts launch on a brand-new rocket that has never launched before, and that's a big risk, you know."

Bridenstine continued describing Trump's history with the space program.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, speaking after the launch - SCREENSHOT VIA NASA/YOUTUBE
  • Screenshot via NASA/YouTube
  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, speaking after the launch


"He also said were going to go to the moon by 2024," Bridenstine said. "That means he's putting himself at risk to say, 'look, I'm going to be accountable, potentially, I'm going to be accountable to the initiatives that I put forward,' and I think that's, we have not had that kind of leadership for space in a long, long time and I'm so grateful for it."

When Nail asked Bridenstine what was it like watching the launch with the president, and how Trump reacted, Bridenstine said, "it's obviously something that is near and dear to him."

"He said it a year and a half ago, he put it in the state of the union speech," said Bridenstine. "He said 'we're going to launch American astronauts on an American rocket from American soil,' and of course I was like, in my head, I'm thinking, 'we better get after this.'"
Trump, founding president of the U.S. Space Force, had intended to deliver remarks following the scheduled Wednesday launch, which coincided with the date of U.S. reaching a grim milestone of 100,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus.

Trump brought most of his family with him to Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, including first lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as son Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, other son Eric and Lara Trump, and several grandchildren. After the launch was delayed Wednesday, the first family quickly boarded Air Force One to return to Washington D.C.

On Saturday, Trump once again schlepped out to the Cape, this time bringing only Melania, Vice President Pence and second lady Karen Pence. There were no announced remarks scheduled after the launch. As of an hour following the launch of the Falcon 9, the president has so far remained uncharacteristically silent on Twitter.
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