Sunday, 24 May 2009

NASA makes historic choice to lead space agency

Img: Gen. Charles Bolden. Credit: US Marine Corps

Img: Gen. Charles Bolden. Credit: US Marine Corps

Former astronaut and ex Marine Corps commander Gen. Charles Bolden Jr. has been nominated by the Obama administration as their candidate to lead NASA.

Bolden, 62, commander of two shuttle missions, will be the first African American to lead the space agency should the US Senate approve his nomination.

"He's a patriot, a leader and a visionary," Sen Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) was reported as saying by the Washington Post. "He understands the workings of NASA and the importance of America remaining a leader in science and technology through space exploration."

However the head of the Commerce subcommittee that oversees NASA operations was straightforward over the challenges Bolden will face.

"He's going to face budgetary constraints, technical issues, remaining shuttle launches and the impending end of the space shuttle," said Nelson. "He has to restore that wonder that space exploration

provides, and he needs to carry out the president's mission."

Nelson has some inkling of Bolden's leadership qualities having served on the space shuttle Columbia with Bolden in 1986 - the first of Bolden's four shuttle missions.

However some commentators have questioned the choice of Bolden saying he was unsuitable to manage the space agency's changing focus and budgetary constraints. They have pointed out that said that Bolden may be too linked to previous NASA programs to carry out the necessary changes.

The Obama administration has said the agency will begin winding down its shuttle program under the new head to concentrate more on the setting up of a Moon base by 2020.

Bolden though spoke earlier this week with President Obama of his "vision for NASA's future" and he has the president's confidence. Prior to the press conference Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters president "hopes that [Gen. Bolden] is the right person to lead NASA in the coming years and through its evolving role," reported the Wall Street Journal.

Gen. Bolden served as NASA's assistant deputy administrator during the 1990s and currently acts as chief executive of the Houston-based aerospace consulting company JackandPanther.

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