WASHINGTON ? U.S. President Barack Obama?s science advisertold Congress May 14 a NASA administrator will be announced ?very shortly,? andgovernment and industry sources said the top choice for the job is retired MarineCorps Maj. Gen. Charlie Bolden, a former astronaut who served as a NASAassistant deputy administrator in the early 1990s.
?I am hearing the rumors, and as far as I know there is notruth in the rumors,? Bolden said. ?You can?t say ?yes? or ?no? when youhaven?t had a conversation. I haven?t had that conversation and I don?t haveone scheduled.?
NASA has been without an administrator since Obamatook office Jan. 20. The vacancy has been a source of frustration for somemembers of Congress as NASA faces critical decisions about retiring the spaceshuttle and its future in human spaceflight.
John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Scienceand Technology Policy, tried to reassure lawmakers during a House Science andTechnology Committee hearing that Obama recognizes the need to select a NASAchief.
?I have reason for optimism that the president will benaming an administrator for NASA very shortly and that will put at least thatconcern to rest, because I think it will be an outstanding person,? Holdrensaid. ?The concern has been to get the right person for the job, and the factthat we don?t have one now is not for lack of effort.?
Bolden?s name first surfaced as a candidate for NASAadministrator in January, along with retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration,a decorated fighter pilot and close adviser to Obama during his campaign whowas later appointed special envoy to Sudan. At the time, Sen. Bill Nelson(D-Fla.) urged Obama to select someone with NASA experience and endorsedBolden. Nelson flew on a 1986 space shuttle mission piloted by Bolden.
During his 13 years as a NASA astronaut, Bolden logged morethan 680 hours in space during four space shuttle missions, including the 1990Space Shuttle Discovery mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope. Beforeretiring from the Marine Corps in 2003, Bolden was commanding general of the3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. He also served as deputy commander of U.S. Forces inJapan.
John Logsdon, a space policy expert at the SmithsonianInstitution in Washington, said Bolden would be a good fit at NASA, especiallyas an expert panel led by former Lockheed Martin chief Norm Augustine begins athree-month review of the agency?s human spaceflight plans.
?Charlie Bolden is a first-rate person who knows the issue,so there?s a very short learning curve,? Logsdon said.
Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) said while he had only heardrumors of Bolden?s possible appointment, called the former astronaut an?inspiring choice? to head NASA.
?Gen. Bolden?s career of history-making achievements isimpressive,? Olson said in a written statement. ?NASA needs someone who canmaster the management, technical and budgetary challenges the agency is facing,and be a strong advocate for a vibrant American space program. I have no doubtCharlie Bolden can do those things. As the Augustine panel reviews our humanspaceflight program, it is critical that a man of integrity and accomplishmentbe at the helm of NASA.?
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