Bolden, Charles

Charles Bolden is the current Administrator of NASA, a retired United States Marine Corps major general, and former NASA astronaut.. He was born Charles Frank Bolden Jr. on August 19, 1946 in Columbia, South Carolina. During his childhood, his father coached him through football until he graduated from Johnson High School in 1964, where his father was the head football coach. 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.

After he graduated from the Naval Academy, he accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He then went to flight training in Pensacola, Florida, Meridian, Mississippi, and Kingsville, Texas, and in May 1970, Bolden was named a naval aviator. He flew over 100 raids in the A-6A Intruder while assigned at Royal Thai Air Base Nam Phong, Thailand.

When he returned to the United States, Bolden began a two-year tour as a recruiting officer in Los Angeles, California, followed by three years in various assignments at Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, California. In June 1979, he graduated from the United States Naval Test Pilot School 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 frequent test projects in the A-6E, EA-6B, and A-7C/E airplanes.

In 1980, Bolden was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate, and a year later he became official. He received several technical assignments, such as Astronaut Office Safety Officer, Technical Assistant to the Director of Flight Crew Operations, and Assistant Deputy Administrator at NASA Headquarters. His first space flight was aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on STS-61-C. The flight launched on January 12, 1986 from Kennedy Space Center. During the six-day flight, the crew deployed the SATCOM KU satellite and conducted experiments in astrophysics and materials processing. The mission was completed in 96 orbits of Earth and ended by successfully landing at Edwards Air Force Base on January 18, 1986. Bolden was the pilot for his second flight, STS-31 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. They launched on April 24, 1990 from Kennedy Space Center, and the crew spent the five-day mission deploying the Hubble Space Telescope and conducting a variety of experiments. They used multiple cameras to observe the Earth from their record-setting altitude. After 75 orbits of Earth, Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base on April 29, 1990.

His third flight was aboard shuttle Atlantis on STS-45. Bolden commanded a crew of seven and launched on March 24, 1992 from Kennedy Space Center. It was the first Spacelab mission dedicated to NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth. During the mission, the crew operated the twelve experiments that constituted the ATLAS-1 cargo, which obtained many important detailed measurements of atmospheric chemical and physical properties. This, in turn, significantly contributed to improving the understanding of the climate and atmosphere. After 143 orbits of Earth, Atlantis landed on April 2, 1992 at Kennedy Space Center. Bolden commanded the crew of six on STS-60, his fourth spaceflight mission, aboard Discovery. It was the historic first joint Space Shuttle mission involving the participation of a Russian cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalyov, alongside an American crew. The flight launched on February 3, 1994 from Kennedy Space Center, and it carried the Space Habitation Module-2 and the Wake Shield Facility. In addition, the crew conducted several joint American/Russian science activities. After 130 orbits of the Earth, they landed on February 11, 1994 at the Kennedy Space Center.

After STS-60, Bolden left the NASA Astronaut Corps and returned to active duty in the Marine Corps as the Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. 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 in support of Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait. One month later, he was promoted to Major General and assumed his duties as the Deputy Commander in United States Forces Japan. He retired from the military in August 2004.

On May 23, 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Bolden to be administrator of NASA. In June 2010, Bolden said in an interview that his three major goals as Administrator were to help re-inspire children to explore science and math, to expand NASA’s international relationships, and to reach out to the Muslim world. Although there was controversy, Bolden remains the first African American to head the agency on a permanent basis. Bolden is married to Alexis Walker, and together they have two children, Anthony and Kelly. They currently reside in Houston, Texas.