Jim Bridenstine Talks NASA, Artemis, and Commercial Space 


In Pathfinder #0031, we welcome Jim Bridenstine on to the show. Jim was the 13th administrator of NASA, and under his leadership, the US launched the Artemis program, our new human lunar exploration mission.


Jim served as the 13th administrator of NASA and spearheaded the launch of the Artemis program. During Jim’s watch, the US also returned to launching its own astronauts to orbit from US soil (with SpaceX). Jim’s bio will be familiar to most space buffs in Payload and Pathfinder’s audience, so in our convo, we dig a bit deeper on his backstory, get a status report on Artemis, and take a closer look at his current roles in the commercial space ecosystem.

Today’s episode is brought to you by Altek Space, a custom manufacturer of essential parts and components for rockets and satellites.


  • Serving as a US Navy aviator; landing on aircraft carriers; and TOP GUN…real life vs. the movie
  • Jim’s involvement in the Rocket Racing League and his time at the helm of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium
  • Serving in the US House as a representative of the 1st District of Oklahoma (and his HASC and SST committee membership)
  • Working with an office of “space knuckleheads”—Jim uses that term endearingly—and honing his aerospace policy chops while on Capitol Hill
  • Why going to the Moon vs. going to Mars was once an either-or, partisan debate on the Hill
  • Jim’s time leading NASA, architecting the Artemis program, and
  • His post-NASA space involvement (which includes advisory or trustee roles with Voyager, Viasat, Phase Four, The Aerospace Corporation, Firefly, and Acorn Growth Companies)

This is our longest show to date and for good reason. We had a lot of ground to cover, and yet we still didn’t get to Pathfinder’s planned segment about boots on Mars. Check out the episode and let us know what you’d want to hear in a Part 2.


02:54 Guest intro
03:11 Jim’s office photos
03:37 Top Gun inspiration
04:50 Does it surprise you the Navy wouldn’t let Tom Cruise fly a jet?
06:29 Journey into aviation, experience in the military, and using space assets in combat
13:41 Rocket Racing League
22:07 Trying to bring one of the Space Shuttles to Tulsa
24:55 Time as an elected official
31:51 American Space Renaissance Act
37:05 Difference between approving NASA funding and running it
42:48 Moon vs. Mars – why was it either-or and at times partisan?
45:23 Why we should outsource some space functions to the private sector
48:26 Artemis vs. Apollo
54:32 Artemis I splashdown
56:29 Advising space companies and organizations
1:06:00 2022’s biggest space story
1:09:36 Worried about a shakeout in space markets?