NASA chief could come from ranks of astronauts

 - June 3, 2009, 7:35 AM

President Obama reportedly is set to name former astronaut Charles Bolden Jr. the next NASA Administrator. A meeting between the two that was set for May 18 was postponed because of a White House visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A veteran of four space flights with more than 680 hours in orbit, Bolden, if confirmed by the Senate, will be the first African- American to lead the space agency. The retired Marine Corps major general graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and became one of the nation’s outstanding fighter and test pilots, as well as an astronaut.

Bolden made his first space flight as the pilot of the space shuttle Columbia 23 years ago and went on to fly three more space missions, including deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope and the historic first joint U.S. and Russian space shuttle expedition.
When it comes to Senate confirmation, he will have a particularly strong advocate in Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who flew on the shuttle in 1986 under Bolden’s command.