Uncertain NASA gets familiar former astronaut boss

May 23, 2009 By SETH BORENSTEIN , AP Science Writer
FILE -- This undated file photo released by NASA April 28, 1992 shows Charles Bolden Jr. President Barack Obama on Saturday named the former shuttle commander to lead NASA. If the Senate confirms Bolden, he would be the space agency's first black administrator and the second astronaut to hold the post. (AP Photo/NASA)

(AP) -- The nation's turbulent space program will be run by one of its own, a calming well-liked former space shuttle commander.

President on Saturday chose retired astronaut Gen. Charles Bolden to lead NASA. He also named former NASA associate administrator Lori Garver as the agency's No. 2. If confirmed, Bolden, who has flown in four times and was an assistant deputy administrator at one point, would be the agency's first black administrator.

Bolden would also be only the second astronaut to run NASA in its 50-year history. Adm. Richard Truly was the first. In 2002, then-President George W. Bush unsuccessfully tried to appoint Bolden as the space agency's deputy administrator. The Pentagon said it needed to keep Bolden, who was a Marine general at the time and a pilot who flew more than 100 sorties in Vietnam.

"Charlie knows NASA and the people know Charlie; there's a level of comfort," especially given the uncertainty the space agency faces, said retired astronaut Steve Hawley, who flew twice in space with Bolden.

Bolden likely will bring "more balance" to NASA, increasing spending on aeronautics and environment missions, working more with other nations in space, and emphasizing education, which the president often talks about when it comes to space, said former Johnson Space Center Director George Abbey, a longtime friend.

"He's a real leader," Abbey said Saturday. "NASA has been looking for a leader like this that they could have confidence in."

Bolden's appointment came during the tail end of the Atlantis' mission to repair the one final time. He was the pilot on the flight that sent Hubble into orbit in 1990.

Bolden, 62, would inherit a NASA that doesn't look much like the still-somewhat-fresh-from-the-moon agency he joined as an astronaut in 1980. NASA now "is faced with a lot of uncertainty," Abbey said.

Bush set in motion a plan to retire the space shuttle fleet at the end of next year and return astronauts to the moon and then head out to Mars in a series of rockets and capsules that borrows heavily from the 1960s Apollo program. The shuttle's replacement won't be ready until at least 2015, so for five years the only way Americans will be able to get in space is by hitching a ride on a Russian space capsule. And some of NASA's biggest science programs are over budget.

Earlier this month, the ordered a complete outside examination of the manned space program. The Obama administration hasn't been explicit about its space policy, with White House science adviser John Holdren saying the policy would come after a NASA chief was named.

"These talented individuals will help put NASA on course to boldly push the boundaries of science, aeronautics and exploration in the 21st century and ensure the long-term vibrancy of America's ," Obama said of Bolden and Garver in a statement.

Bolden, a native of Columbia, S.C., and his wife donated $750 to the Obama campaign in 2008.

At NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where Bolden spent about a decade, his impending appointment was quietly cheered on all week long.

The diminutive salt-and-pepper haired Bolden, who lives only a few miles from the space center, on Saturday morning said he couldn't talk until after Senate confirmation. He was busy answering congratulatory e-mails from home. He has his own consulting firm in Houston and sits on corporate boards.

Those who have flown or worked with Bolden can't praise him enough.

Retired astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz interviewed to become an astronaut the same week as Bolden, was picked at the same time, and they flew together on their first flights.

Soon after that much-delayed launch of the space shuttle Columbia in January 1986, Chang-Diaz looked at his friend Bolden and saw that the shuttle pilot had a "big, big smile... we were kind of like kids in a candy store."

Hawley and then-U.S. Rep. Bill Nelson were also aboard that 1986 flight. Nelson, now the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on space that will oversee Bolden's nomination and one of the people pushing Bolden's nomination to the White House, commented: "I trusted Charlie with my life - and would do so again."

Kathryn Sullivan was the payload commander on the 1992 flight of Atlantis, which was Bolden's first of two shuttle commands. She said Bolden has all the aspects of leadership that a good chief requires. That includes experience, wisdom and the ability to listen to all sides. She called him "one of the finest people I've ever known."

"Charlie's a great leader," Chang-Diaz agreed. "He takes care of his team."


On the Net

Bolden's NASA biography: http://tinyurl.com/2eln82

: http://www.nasa.gov

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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5 / 5 (1) May 23, 2009
A minor but fundamental quibble:

There was no need whatsoever to mention that he has black skin. Big freaking deal.

Just say he is the second astronaut.

America obviously isn't 'there' yet. The man for the job - is the man for the job. It should end there.
1 / 5 (1) May 23, 2009
Obviously you are living in a fantasy land if you think qualifications have anything to do with it.

Affirmative action, plain and simple.

The biggest racists of all are the ones who constantly bring it up and never let us move on.
5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2009
Good for him I'm sure he earned it!
not rated yet May 24, 2009

There was no need whatsoever to mention that he has black skin. Big freaking deal.

I agree. Why is the skin colour important for this job ?
1 / 5 (1) May 24, 2009
First of all I'd like to let you know I am not black.

Ok,are all of you people who have already commented American? If so then your comments are what indicates that you're not "there" yet and that you don't even know where "there" is

Why is it a big deal? Probably because the blacks were enslaved in the good ole US for over 250, shall I repeat that? 250 years. If you think letting them ride on the bus with you and eating in the same restaurants for the last 30 years should make everything hunky dorry then you need to pull your heads out before you pass out.

Its important in its cultural significance. It is an indication that if someone is right for the job thats the end of the story. (Oh sorry, I forgot about the gays).

And to KBK: why is the fact that he is the second astronaut a much better qualification to make?

OK so that was a white upper-middle-class students rave about a matter I know little about but nether the less feel strongly about.
3 / 5 (2) May 24, 2009
First of all if he's not talking about making the moon his priority then I don't care what color his skin is he needs to move on.

Secondly we need a lot of shaking up at NASA. I'm not sure it should stop at a new director. If they plan on spending billions on missions to Mars to tell us things we ALREADY KNOW like they have the last few years they need to go too.

Space "exploration" isn't about exploring anymore and hasn't been since the seventies. It's about playing political patty cake in LEO with the Europeans, Japanese, and Russians inside a glorified erector set....*wretch*.
1 / 5 (2) May 24, 2009
Sorry, but nothing that happened hundreds of years ago should have any bearing on what goes on today. Nothing is owed to anyone.

Secondly, the last thing blacks want is to be given a truly equal playing field without quotas and affirmative action. If merit succeeds, blacks will largely fail. Ever hear of a prestigious African University that the world is dying to get into?

You sound like a liberal democrat, full of lots of caring, with no facts and no substance.
not rated yet May 24, 2009
I just think that as a man with about 10 different ethnic/genetic backgrounds (English, French, Sottish, German, Danish, Black, Native American, Russian, Polish, Ashkenazi) that focusing on such things- even in having to mention in passing- is part and parcel of the unconscious unrealized undercurrent of the problem. It's pretty freaking tough for me to be racist if I'm damned near all of them! As well, everyone knows- Mutts are smarter. So much for the true effectiveness of neurotic elitism.

He is the second astronaut to get the job. Good for him!
1 / 5 (1) May 25, 2009
Ok (yes thats my fav word), so whilst I was self deprecating about my knowledge, the little I displayed is a hell of a lot more than 'mystic' who denounces me on the basis that an argument is useless without facts.
Well maybe you should put on your reading glasses and you will see I put at least one fact explicity and implicity refered to the culture that a group of people develop over many years.
I also fail to see these "facts" in your response. Or is your extrapolation that since Africa does not have a Yale or Harvard all people of African decent are inferior one? If so I'd love to debate with you more often, ha.
And as an aside why did you give the Indians reparations if something done long ago has no bearing on today?
2.3 / 5 (3) May 25, 2009

The engineering side of NASA has always been strong.

General Bolden will need to exert firm leadership over science at NASA.

NASA science is exceedingly weak, as evidenced by the inability of NASA to provide useful information on causes of the solar cycles that are empirically linked with changes in Earth's climate.

NASA science has been dishonest, at least since the 1969 Apollo Mission to the Moon, usually trying to bias experimental observations in favor of the favorite opinions of members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

NASA dishonesty became flagrant in 1996, when experimental data from the $1,000,000,000 Galileo Mission to Jupiter was hidden from the public while NASA falsely told the public that Jupiter has only "normal" isotope abundances.

The bias is understandable: Congress decides Funds and projects after receiving recommendations from NAS.

Improvements in NASA science will be difficult, or impossible, if Congress continues to turn its responsibility for the NASA budget over to the National Academy of Sciences.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA PI for Apollo Samples

1 / 5 (2) May 26, 2009

When Nature announced the re-appointment of Dr. Weiler as NASA science mission director last year*, I asked him to use his new position to find out if:

a.) Experimental evidence of an IRON SUN is "crackpot science", as NASA's Dr. David Hathaway told a UPI reporter http://tinyurl.com/qbbafr, or

b.) NASA's insistence on a HYDROGEN-FILLED SUN is evidence of long-standing incompetence at NASA.

Dr. Weiler did not respond, although high profile warnings of global warming by former VP Al Gore and the UN's IPCC had focused new public attention on the Sun - the ultimate heat source for planet Earth.

The need for NASA to address this question directly was explained in a paper that was just published in Energy and Environment 20 (2009) 131-144,
"EARTH'S HEAT SOURCE - THE SUN", http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0704

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA PI for Apollo Samples

*The question asked to Dr. Weiler: http://tinyurl.com/o5vooo

not rated yet May 27, 2009
Yup, he'll add balance to aeronautics and environment, but I don't expect him to be in love with fundamental science. Oh, well, it's good that we live in a competitive world.
But I think he's not a bad choice. He's just too military for my taste. But aeronautics is fine as long as we explore the solar system not only by telescopes.
1 / 5 (1) May 27, 2009
I also fail to see these "facts" in your response. Or is your extrapolation that since Africa does not have a Yale or Harvard all people of African decent are inferior one? If so I'd love to debate with you more often, ha.

Why do you jump to race automatically? You seem to have a bigger hang up than all us horrible Americans do about it. The FACT is that what mystic said is 100% correct, and there must be a reason for it. The most likely reason is that they have a lot of cultural growing to do in Africa, a HELL of a lot more than us ewwwwvvvvilll racist Americans do.

And as an aside why did you give the Indians reparations if something done long ago has no bearing on today?

Because we sometimes do foolish things? There are a thousand reasons why we did that and not one of them means that Indians alive today are entitled to reparations. WOW I mean that's some SOLID logic there...does that mean that because the South African government treated blacks like they were subhumans for decades that they actually ARE subhuman? Pffft...

Ok,are all of you people who have already commented American? If so then your comments are what indicates that you're not "there" yet and that you don't even know where "there" is

Wow, so it's OK to bash Americans as a group, but not Africans right? I guess it's OK to be a selective bigot like that as long as you realize you are one, but apparently you don't. Which makes it blatantly clear that YOU of all people telling Americans that we don't know where "there is" is the epitome of hypocritical bigoted nonsense.

As an aside are you European? If so I'd hardly be bringing up historical maltreatment of people of color around the world. You people started that fire, not us. But don't let me confuse you with something as mundane as facts or consistency...
not rated yet Jun 05, 2009
Why do you jump to race automatically?

Did you actually read his post? Or are you so outraged and indignant that you didn't have time?

And as an aside why did you give the Indians reparations if something done long ago has no bearing on today?

Because we sometimes do foolish things?

How about some in your government realised it was necessary in order to live side by side with some respect, and to recognise wrongs done in the past? Do you even know the history of your national holidays, such as thanksgiving?

Wow, so it's OK to bash Americans as a group, but not Africans right?

No its not okay to bash anyone as a group and if you had read the post I was replying to, what I said would have made sense.

And no I am not European, and yes my country has some bad history in terms of treating minorities badly. The difference between you and me is that I recognise that, and further that I think past actions need to be faced and not swept under the carpet. And I wouldn't be making or defending racist comments under a good news article. I mean to attack me for ridiculing mystics' comment about the African unis?

My last comment is to point out to you all that the article is not a job application and the fact that it mentions he is black does not meant it is implying it was important for the job. They mention it for no different reasons than the talk of Hilary Clinton being a woman and Obama being black which would both have been a first for America. And so we don't get into one of those arguments, I think Obama beat McCain because he wasn't in any way, shape or form a friend of Bush.

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