HOUSTON — The nation's turbulent space program will be run by one of its own, a calming well-liked former space shuttle commander.
President Barack Obama 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 space 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.
Just to be clear I don't want to give the impression that I believe Charles Bolden got the call because he is black, nor do I think identity politics like that is appropriate. However, keeping it real for you one of my major experiences in life was when, as a teenager in high school, I was able to meet the first black pilot in the "Top Gun" program. It wasn't major because I wanted to be a pilot, it was major because it was more proof that black folks could do anything in this country. And it wasn't like I was living in the ghetto either. But I can't even imagine the effect its going to have on minority youths who look up and see someone like them not only leading the country but also leading NASA and our space program. So good on Mr Bolden and good on President Obama for picking him.