Military Wiki

Charles Bolden
Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Assumed office
July 17, 2009
President Barack Obama
Deputy Lori Garver
Preceded by Christopher Scolese (Acting)
Personal details
Born Charles Frank Bolden, Jr.
August 19, 1946(1946-08-19) (age 76)
Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.
Alma mater United States Naval Academy
University of Southern California
United States Naval Test Pilot School
Military service
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch USMC logo.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1968–2004
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Commands I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Operation Desert Thunder
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross

Charles Frank Bolden, Jr. (born August 19, 1946)[1] is the current Administrator of NASA, a retired United States Marine Corps Major General, and former NASA astronaut.

A 1968 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he became a Marine Aviator and test pilot. After his service as an astronaut, he became Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. On May 23, 2009, President Barack Obama announced the nomination of Bolden as NASA Administrator and Lori Garver as Deputy NASA Administrator.[2] Bolden was confirmed by the Senate on July 15, 2009.[3] He is the first African American to head the agency on a permanent basis.[2]

Bolden is also the virtual host of the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction at Kennedy Space Center[4] and serves on the board of directors for the Military Child Education Coalition.


Bolden graduated from C. A. Johnson High School in Columbia, South Carolina in 1964. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical science from the United States Naval Academy in 1968, and a Master of Science in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1977. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

Military career

Bolden speaking at a USMC recruiting event in 1982

Bolden accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps following graduation from the United States Naval Academy in 1968. He was president of his class. He underwent flight training at Pensacola, Florida, Meridian, Mississippi, and Kingsville, Texas, before being designated a Naval Aviator in May 1970. He flew more than 100 sorties into North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the A-6A Intruder while assigned to VMA(AW)-533 at Royal Thai Air Base Nam Phong, Thailand, from June 1972 to June 1973.

Upon returning to the United States, Bolden began a two-year tour as a Marine Corps selection officer and recruiting officer in Los Angeles, California, followed by three years in various assignments at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California. In June 1979, he graduated from the United States Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland and was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center's Systems Engineering and Strike Aircraft Test Directorates. While there, he served as an ordnance test pilot and flew numerous test projects in the A-6E, EA-6B, and A-7C/E airplanes.

He has logged more than 6,000 hours flying time.

Bolden was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1980. He was a member of the NASA Astronaut Corps until 1994 when he returned to assignments in the Marine Corps, first as the Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy, effective June 27, 1994. In July 1997, he was assigned as the Deputy Commanding General of I Marine Expeditionary Force. From February to June 1998, he served as Commanding General, I MEF (Forward) in support of Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait. In July 1998, he was promoted to his final rank of major general and assumed his duties as the Deputy Commander, United States Forces Japan. He then served as the Commanding General, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, from August 9, 2000, until August 2002. He retired from the military in August 2004.

NASA career

Charles Frank "Charlie" Bolden, Jr.

Selected by NASA in May 1980, Bolden became an astronaut in August 1981. His technical assignments included: Astronaut Office Safety Officer; Technical Assistant to the Director of Flight Crew Operations; Special Assistant to the Director of the Johnson Space Center; Astronaut Office Liaison to the Safety, Reliability and Quality Assurance Directorates of the Marshall Space Flight Center and the Kennedy Space Center; Chief of the Safety Division at JSC; Lead Astronaut for Vehicle Test and Checkout at the Kennedy Space Center; and Assistant Deputy Administrator, NASA Headquarters. A veteran of four space flights, he has logged over 680 hours in space. Bolden served as pilot on STS-61-C (January 12–18, 1986) and STS-31 (April 24–29, 1990), and was the mission commander on STS-45 (March 24, 1992 – April 2, 1992), and STS-60 (February 3–11, 1994).

Bolden was the first person to ride the Launch Complex 39 slidewire baskets which enable rapid escape from a Space Shuttle on the launch pad. The need for a human test was determined following a launch abort on STS-41-D where controllers were afraid to order the crew to use the untested escape system.[5]

A few years before his appointment by President Barack Obama to be administrator of NASA, Bolden auditioned, along with professional actors, for the role of virtual host for NASA's "Shuttle Launch Experience" educational attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida. Aside from his experience with NASA, Bolden won the role on performance ability. The attraction, designed by award-winning experience designer Bob Rogers (designer) and the design team BRC Imagination Arts, is one of the most popular attractions at the Space Center visitor complex, which educates visitors about the preparation, production and provides the visitors with a first-hand simulation experience of ascent into space upon a NASA space shuttle vehicle.


Bolden on the flight deck of Columbia during STS-61-C.

On STS-61-C, Bolden piloted Space Shuttle Columbia. During the six-day flight, crew members deployed the SATCOM KU band satellite, and conducted experiments in astrophysics and materials processing. STS-61-C launched from Kennedy Space Center on January 12, 1986. The mission was accomplished in 96 orbits of Earth, ending with a successful night landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California on January 18, 1986.

Bolden piloted Space Shuttle Discovery during STS-31. Launched on April 24, 1990, from Kennedy Space Center, the crew spent the five-day mission deploying the Hubble Space Telescope and conducting a variety of middeck experiments. They also used a variety of cameras, including both the IMAX in cabin and cargo bay cameras, for Earth observations from their record-setting altitude of over 400 miles. Following 75 orbits of Earth in 121 hours, Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base on April 29, 1990.

On STS-45, Bolden commanded a crew of seven aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis, launched on March 24, 1992, from Kennedy Space Center. STS-45 was the first Spacelab mission dedicated to NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. During the nine-day mission, the crew operated the twelve experiments that constituted the ATLAS-1 (Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science) cargo. ATLAS-1 obtained a vast array of detailed measurements of atmospheric chemical and physical properties, which contribute significantly to improving our understanding of our climate and atmosphere. In addition, this was the first time an artificial beam of electrons was used to stimulate a man-made auroral discharge. Following 143 orbits of Earth, Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center on April 2, 1992.

Bolden on the flight deck of Discovery during STS-60.

Bolden commanded STS-60's crew of six aboard Discovery. This was the historic first joint-American/Russian Space Shuttle mission involving the participation of a Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev as a mission specialist crew member. The flight launched on February 3, 1994, from Kennedy Space Center, and carried the Space Habitation Module-2 (SPACEHAB), and the Wake Shield Facility. Additionally, the crew conducted a series of joint U.S./Russian science activities. The mission achieved 130 orbits of the Earth, ending with a landing on February 11, 1994, at the Kennedy Space Center.

Administrator of NASA

Bolden speaks after landing of the last Space Shuttle mission, STS-135.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Bolden to be administrator of NASA.[6]

In a NASA video published April 28, 2010, titled "NASA's New Era of Innovation and Discovery", Bolden said: "We're gonna turn science fiction into science fact."[7] In a June 2010 interview with Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera, Bolden said that the top three goals he was tasked with by President Obama were to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, to expand NASA's international relationships, and, "perhaps foremost", "to reach out to the Muslim world... to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science... and math and engineering".[8][9]

Bolden said his agency's long-term ambition is landing astronauts on Mars.[10] However, he has cited spending cuts as a concern for major NASA projects.[11]

On August 28, 2012, he was the first human being to have his voice broadcast on the surface of Mars. Although the rover has no speakers, it received the transmission of his voice and then beamed it back to Earth.[12][13]

Hello. This is Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator, speaking to you via the broadcast capabilities of the Curiosity Rover, which is now on the surface of Mars.

Since the beginning of time, humankind’s curiosity has led us to constantly seek new life…new possibilities just beyond the horizon. I want to congratulate the men and women of our NASA family as well as our commercial and government partners around the world, for taking us a step beyond to Mars.

This is an extraordinary achievement. Landing a rover on Mars is not easy – others have tried – only America has fully succeeded. The investment we are making…the knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater, will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet. Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not too distant future.

Thank you.

—12th United States NASA Administrator Charles Bolden[14]

Awards and honors

Bolden's military awards include:

Gold star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy Astronaut Badge
Defense Distinguished Service Medal Defense Superior Service Medal Legion of Merit w/ 1 award star
Distinguished Flying Cross Defense Meritorious Service Medal w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Air Medal w/ 1 award star & Strike/Flight numeral 8 NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal
NASA Exceptional Service Medal w/ 2 award stars NASA Space Flight Medal w/ 3 award stars Navy Unit Commendation National Defense Service Medal w/ 1 service star
Vietnam Service Medal w/ 2 service stars Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon Vietnam Gallantry Cross unit citation Vietnam Campaign Medal

He has received an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from the University of South Carolina (1984), and Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Winthrop College (1986), the University of Southern California Alumni Award of Merit (1989), an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Johnson C. Smith University (1990), an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Monmouth University (2011), and an Honorary Doctor of Public Service from the University of Maryland University College (2012).

See also


  1. "Bolden, Charles F. Jr.". Current Biography Yearbook 2010. Ipswich, MA: H.W. Wilson. 2010. pp. 50–53. ISBN 9780824211134. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Retired General Picked to Lead NASA", by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, May 24, 2009
  3. "Bolden and Garver Confirmed by U.S. Senate". NASA. July 15, 2009. 
  4. KSC's Shuttle Launch Experience : Kennedy Space Center
  5. "LBJ Space Center Roundup" (PDF). National Aeronautics and Space Administration. June 2007. Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  6. Ex-astronaut Bolden to lead Nasa, BBC, July 19, 2009
  7. NASA Video:
  8. "Charles Bolden: The Nasa administrator and astronaut in conversation with Al Jazeera's Imran Garda". Al Jazeera English. June 30, 2010. Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  9. "NASA Chief: Next Frontier Better Relations With Muslim World". Fox News. July 5, 2010. 
  10. Zobel, Jen (July 10, 2011). "NASA Administrator: President Obama Wants Americans On Mars". Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  11. O'Neill, Ian (July 13, 2011). "James Webb Space Telescope Closer to the Axe". Discovery News. Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  12. Human voice makes giant leap in space thanks to Curiosity:
  13. NASA's Curiosity rover to beam new song from Mars:
  14. First Recorded Voice from Mars

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Christopher Scolese
Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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