Retired astronaut and Marines general Charles Bolden, 62, was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday as the administrator of NASA as the space agency celebrates the anniversary of when man first stepped on the moon. This will also mark the first time that an African American was chief of the U.S. space agency.
He will be the 12th NASA administrator since the agency was initially established in 1958 and will take the position that was held by engineer and scientist Michael Griffin prior to Bolden.
Veteran aerospace businesswoman Lori Garver will assume the role as deputy administrator. Garver, 48, was the lead civil space policy advisor to President Obama’s presidential campaign. Prior to this she served as associate administrator from 1998 to 2001.
News of the confirmation of Bolden was announced shortly after the launch of space shuttle Endeavour after five prior attempts that had failed this month. The shuttle will be spending 16 days on a mission towards the international space station.
July, 20 will be the 40 year anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and will now mark the day that Bolden is sworn into his new position.
Bolden has had his own history in space as he has flown out on four occasions and had previously held the position of being an assistant deputy administrator. His previous experience also shows that he commanded two of the missions out to space and had served for 14 years as a member of the NASA’s astronaut office. In 1990, he was the pilot of the Discovery shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope in Earth orbit.
In an attempt to enhance NASA’s ability and expertise in understanding Earth’s environment, Bolden told the Senate last week that it must commit to inspiring the rising generation of children to contribute in the fields of science and engineering if the U.S. makes the decision to lead the way in technology.
In 1994, Bolden left NASA to return to the Marines and rose in rank to major general and deputy commander of U.S. forces in Japan. He would retire from the Marines in 2003.
George Bush had made an attempt, in 2002, to appoint Bolden as the space agency’s deputy administrator but the Pentagon turned down the idea stating that he was more crucial to them as he was a Marine major general at that particular point.
As a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps, he flew combat missions over North and South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War.