President Barack Obama was not joking when he noted to midshipmen at the Naval Academy Friday how he relied on its graduates. Within 24 hours, he named Brig. Gen. Charles Bolden as his nominee for administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Bolden is a South Carolina native who adds to the growing list of science and technology role models being empowered by the new administration. As we point out in our new e-book The Black Students Internet Guide, there are a host of career choices for black students who become familiar with the exploits of cutting edge innovators, educators, entrepreneurs and policy makers.
Bolden became an astronaut in 1980, a dozen years after leaving the Academy.
Bolden accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps following graduation from the United States Naval Academy in 1968. He underwent flight training at Pensacola, Florida, Meridian, Mississippi, and Kingsville, Texas, before being designated a naval aviator in May 1970. He flew more than 100 sorties into North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, in the A-6A Intruder while assigned to VMA(AW)-533 at Nam Phong, Thailand, June 1972 to June 1973. Upon returning to the United States, Bolden began a two-year tour as a Marine Corps selection officer and recruiting officer in Los Angeles, California, followed by three years in various assignments at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California. In June 1979, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland, 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 numerous test projects in the A-6E, EA-6B, and A-7C/E airplanes.
He has logged more than 6,000 hours flying time.
Selected by NASA in May 1980, Bolden became an astronaut in August 1981. His technical assignments included: Astronaut Office Safety Officer; Technical Assistant to the Director of Flight Crew Operations; Special Assistant to the Director of the Johnson Space Center; Astronaut Office Liaison to the Safety, Reliability and Quality Assurance Directorates of the Marshall Space Flight Center and the Kennedy Space Center; Chief of the Safety Division at JSC; Lead Astronaut for Vehicle Test and Checkout at the Kennedy Space Center; and Assistant Deputy Administrator, NASA Headquarters. A veteran of four space flights, he has logged over 680 hours in space. Bolden served as pilot on STS-61C (January 12-18, 1986) and STS-31 (April 24-29, 1990), and was the mission commander on STS-45 (March 24-April 2, 1992), and STS-60 (Feb. 3-11, 1994).
Bolden left NASA and returned to active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps as the Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, effective June 27, 1994.
Increasing the technical and science acumen among African-American students is important for the nation and their communities. The presence of standouts like Bolden, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson, Food and Drug Administration administrator Dr. Margaret Hamburg and new appointees to the Presidential science board, Drs. James Gates and Shirley Jackson of the University of Maryland and RPI, respectively, should give black students powerful motivation to pursue math and science careers.
The purpose of the Black Students Internet Guide is to help educators clearly make that point.