Charles F. Bolden Jr.

NASA Administrator (since July 2009)

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Why He Matters

A retired Marine general, Bolden has witnessed an image of earth with his own two eyes that most of us have only seen in pictures. As an astronaut for eight years, he rode the shuttle into space four times, feeling the weightlessness of zero gravity as he viewed the geographical markers that distinguish the earth's surface.

Fifteen years after he retired as an astronaut, Bolden got the chance to return to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). But as head of the space agency, he could see the organization change considerably as President Obama seeks to shift the focus of space exploration from the public sector to private industry.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (2000 to 2002); Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Japan (1998 to 2000); Deputy Commanding General of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the Pacific (1997 to 1998)
  • Birthday: Aug. 19, 1946
  • Hometown: Columbia, S.C
  • Alma Mater: U.S Naval Academy, B.S. (electrical science), 1968; University of Southern California, MA (science and system's management), 1977
  • Spouse: Alexis
  • DC Office: NASA Headquarters Suite 5K39, Washington, DC 20546
  • Web site

Path to Power

Bolden grew up in racially- divided Columbia, S.C., where both his parents worked in the public-school system as teachers. Bolden's father, a World War II veteran, also became a successful high-school football coach.

Naval Academy Admission

For college, Bolden wanted to attend the Naval Academy but couldn't find a congressman in the South to write him a letter of recommendation.

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The Issues

Bolden took the reigns of NASA in July 2009, where he now heads an organization that's spread across the country and manages a budget that surpasses $18.6 billion.

NASA Redesign

Bolden arrived at NASA during a time of transition. Since its creation, NASA has focused on pioneering space exploration, while assuring the U.S. is at the forefront of aeronautical research and scientific research. And since its inception, this mission has included flying manned space flights into earth's orbit.

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The Network

Among those reporting to Bolden arre Deputy NASA Administrator Lori B. Garver.

He commanded a 1986 space mission joined by then-astronaut and now-Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).


Campaign Contributions

Bolden has donated $1,250 to two political campaigns since 2006. In 2008, Bolden donated $250 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign.


Additional Resources

  2. Center for Responsive Politics
  3. Charles F. Bolden bio accessed on the NASA website on April 19, 2010
  4. Carreau, Mark and Roth, Bennett, "Nomination is withdrawn for deputy's post at NASA," Houston Chronicle, March 14, 2002
  5. "Statement of Charles Bolden Before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation," SpaceRef.com, July 8, 2009
  6. Chang, Kenneth, "Obama Vows Renewed Space Program," The New York Times, April 15, 2010