The Obama administration has nominated former astronaut Charles F Bolden as NASA’s next administrator. If, as expected, the Senate approves his nomination, Bolden will take over from associate administrator Chris Scolese, who has been in charge of NASA since previous boss Michael Griffin resigned in January. Meanwhile, Lori Garver, president of the consulting firm Capital Space, is set to become deputy administrator.

Bolden, a retired general in the US Marine Corps, took part in four shuttle missions. He served as NASA’s assistant deputy administrator from 1992 to 1994. Bolden was also an official adviser for the current maintenance flight to the Hubble Space Telescope, having piloted the space-shuttle flight that put the observatory into orbit in 1990.

“I believe he is a competent and enthusiastic administrator, and NASA needs both of those characteristics,” Gene McCall, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory told physicsworld.com. “Bolden knows NASA well, particularly the manned space programme, but he is less familiar with the scientific programmes.”

Once in office, Bolden will have to manage the transition from the space-shuttle programme to its replacement, the Constellation programme, and to strike a balance between manned and unmanned missions. He will also have to manage relationships with powerful members of Congress who have interests in the agency.

The Obama administration has also started a review into NASA’s human spaceflight programme, which is being headed by Norman Augustine, former chief executive of the technology firm Lockheed Martin. He will report his findings in August to Bolden, who will decide whether or not to accept the recommendations.

“The plan at the time of the inauguration was to name a NASA administrator and have them immediately order the review,” says John Logsdon, a space-policy expert at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. “When the nomination process dragged on, the White House decided it could not wait any longer to start the review.”