Bolden Surfaces as Possible Griffin Replacement at NASA; Stern, Hubbard and Ride Also Mentioned

NASA: Mike Griffin out, Charlie Bolden in?
Orlando Sentinel

Still, there are several names out there, and one has been getting mentioned in the last few days more than the rest: former astronaut Charlie Bolden.

Maj. Gen. Charles Frank “Charlie” Bolden, Jr. is a 63-year-old retired U.S. Marine Corps officer who served from 1981 to 1994 as an astronaut. A 1968 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he became a Marine aviator and test pilot. After his time with NASA, he became deputy commandant of midshipmen at the naval academy.

An African American, he is perhaps best known by millions as the virtual host of the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction at Kennedy Space Center.

Bolden was asked during an online chat this afternoon organized by the Conrad Foundation about reports that he might be Obama’s pick to head NASA. Bolden replied that while he’s “incredibly honored” that his name has been attached to the reports, he has not been approached by the transition team about the job.

Ex-astronaut emerges as NASA prospect

Bolden is a veteran of four spaceflights, with more than 680 hours in space, and retired from the Marine Corps in 2003 as a major general. A Naval Academy graduate, Bolden would be at the helm of the space agency for the construction and launches of NASA’s new Ares rockets and Orion and Altair spaceships being built to return America to the moon.

Bolden made his first spaceflight as the pilot of the shuttle Columbia, 23 years ago next Monday. His second flight came in 1990, and he led two missions as commander in 1992 and 1994.

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Others often mentioned as possible candidates for the space agency’s top job include Alan Stern, former head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate; Scott Hubbard, former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center; and Sally Ride, America’s first female astronaut.

So far the Obama transition team has been mum about whether Griffin will stay or go, though an announcement is expected around the Jan. 20 inauguration.