Charles Bolden Remains Silent on NASA Admin Prospects


In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Charles Bolden had no comment concerning the possibility of him becoming the next NASA Administrator. He refused to comment on his meeting with President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

The Sentinel reports on rumors that the meeting did not go well and that Bolden had turned down the job:

Some say Obama mentioned a need for NASA’s budget to come down in the next few years, which Bolden advised against. Others say Obama talked about the possibility that Bolden might have to recuse himself from some decisions because until last year he had a place on the board of directors of NASA contrator Gencorp. Again, Bolden was not believed to be happy.

In a separate story, the Sentinel elaborated on the recusal issue, which resulted from an executive order intended to prevent conflicts of interest:

In 2005, Bolden lobbied for the rocket company ATK, which builds the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters that also are designed to help power Ares 1 rocket, which is part of Constellation. And until March 2008, he served on the board of directors for GenCorp, whose Aerojet subsidiary provides propulsion systems and maneuvering engines for the shuttle and the Orion capsule that will ride atop Ares.

While his time with ATK should not conflict with tough new ethics rules implemented by the Obama administration, Bolden’s board of directors stint could pose a problem.

As noted by Obama’s executive order: “[Appointees shall not] for a period of 2 years from the date of … appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to [a] former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.”

Bolden’s nomination is being pushed by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson:

“Charlie Bolden is the best person in the world to lead NASA at this point,” said Nelson, D-Florida.

And he said not to read anything into the fact that the White House has said little since Obama met with Bolden. “You’re asking the question as if there’s a problem,” said Nelson, who predicted there would be “some kind of announcement soon.”

The Huntsville Times quotes several space experts as saying that Bolden would be an excellent choice for administrator. He understands the system, could balance science and human exploration, and would know how to work with Congress, they say.

Huntsville lawyer and space expert Mark McDaniel:

“The one thing I know about Charles Bolden is that he can work with Congress. He has their respect, and he understands how that process works. He’s got the ear of the president and the respect of Congress. That job is very difficult without those.”

However, Bolden’s previous ties with Ares and Constellation worry some people, NewScientist reports.

Bolden is well connected with the aerospace establishment and has held various posts in industry. Yet these ties might be a hindrance when deciding whether to ditch Ares 1 in favour of privately developed launchers, suggests aerospace analyst Charles Lurio.

This could put Bolden at loggerheads with a blue-ribbon panel headed by Norm Augustine that is reviewing NASA’s Constellation architecture. The panel’s report will be delivered in about three months.