By David Shepardson and Jarrett Renshaw
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden has tapped former Democratic senator and astronaut Bill Nelson to run the U.S. space agency NASA, according to two people familiar with the decision.
Nelson, a former congressman and three-term U.S. senator from Florida, would take control of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as it seeks to return humans to the moon for the first time since the 1970s and expands its reliance on a commercial space industry.
Biden has agreed to continue a program, known as Artemis, that began under former President Donald Trump and aims to put astronauts on the moon by 2024, intended as a prelude to an even more ambitious human Mars landing in the future.
Nelson would succeed Jim Bridenstine, appointed by Trump, as NASA administrator.
A moderate Democrat, Nelson represented the home of Florida's space industry as a state legislator in the 1970s. He became the second sitting member of Congress to fly to space in 1986 aboard the space shuttle Columbia.
Nelson served three terms in the Senate until losing his bid for re-election in 2018 to former Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican.
Nelson nomination would be subject to Senate confirmation.
(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw and David Shepardson; Editing by Heather Timmons and Will Dunham)