Obama Names New NASA Leadership
By Scott Wilson
President Obama yesterday nominated a former Marine aviator and space shuttle astronaut to become the new head of NASA and oversee a broad review of the agency's ambitions for manned and robotic space exploration.
Retired Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. would become the first African American to run the space agency if approved by the Senate.
In addition to his long résumé of military and NASA experience, Bolden served more recently as chief executive of a defense and aerospace consulting firm. He briefly worked as an aerospace lobbyist, until the fall of 2005.
Bolden would take over NASA at a time when it is winding down the decades-old shuttle program and working toward Obama's stated goal of returning a man to the moon by 2020.
Obama has also endorsed the deployment of a climate change research and monitoring system in space. But those ambitions are colliding with fiscal challenges posed by an $18.7 billion budget for the coming year, a modest 5 percent increase from the previous one.
"He's a patriot, a leader, and a visionary," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said of Bolden in a video statement. "He understands the workings of NASA and the importance of America remaining a leader in science and technology through space exploration."
Nelson flew on the space shuttle Columbia with Bolden in 1986. It was the first of Bolden's four shuttle missions.
"He's going to face budgetary constraints, technical issues, remaining shuttle launches and the impending end of the space shuttle," said Nelson, who heads the Commerce subcommittee that oversees NASA operations. "He has to restore that wonder that space exploration provides, and he needs to carry out the president's mission, and that is to have us on the moon by 2020."
Bolden, 62, grew up in segregated South Carolina and won a commission to the U.S. Naval Academy. As a Marine aviator, he flew more than 100 sorties over North and South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Decades later, he served in the Persian Gulf before retiring from the Marine Corps in 2004.
He commanded two shuttle missions, the last in 1994, giving him more than 680 hours in space. He has served in a variety of positions at the space agency, including as an assistant deputy administrator.
Bolden is currently the chief executive officer of JackandPanther LLC, a Houston-based military and aerospace consulting firm.
Obama also nominated Lori Garver yesterday as NASA's deputy administrator.
A former associate administrator of the agency, Garver was Obama's chief adviser for civilian space policy during the 2008 presidential campaign. She is currently president of Capital Space, a Washington consulting firm.
In a statement, Obama said, "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 space program."
Posted at 12:57 PM ET on May 23, 2009
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