NASA Podcasts

In Their Own Words: Charles Bolden
10.20.11
 
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SLATE:
In Their Own Words
Charlie Bolden,
Astronaut, NASA Administrator

SLATE:
What made you want to become an astronaut?

Bolden:
Mine is an interesting story. Ron McNair, the late, great Dr. Ron McNair who became a friend of mine many years ago and unfortunately was killed on the Challenger accident, was my inspiration for becoming an astronaut. I never dreamed of being one until I met him while I was a test pilot and he challenged me to apply for the shuttle program and that's how I applied and that's how I happened to be here.

SLATE:
How did flying in space change your life?

Bolden:
I think if anything, flying in space changed my perspective on our planet. I was always one that had been raised in a family that was relatively religious and studious, if you will, but just having the opportunity to view the planet from the perspective of space really changed the way I looked at the planet on which we live.

SLATE:
What was your best time in space?

Bolden:
You always remember your last flight and you always remember your first flight. I would have to go back to main engine cutoff on my very first flight on STS-61C aboard Columbia. When we, back then you didn't roll upright, you were still upside down when you got to orbit and I remember raising my seat, looking out and seeing the British Isles go by and then this huge island that turned out to be the continent of Africa. I had done a lot of study on the geography of Africa to try to prepare myself because I knew my folks had come from that continent, from some countries down there. So I knew where all the countries were and I looked out and it was just huge Sahara desert and then the midland part, the equatorial region of Africa. No lines down there at all, no countries, no anything. I was just wiped out. I was just overcome with emotion, one looking at Africa, you know, my home country or my home continent if you will, just overcome with emotion. I just remember tears coming down my face.

SLATE:
What lessons from spaceflight do you use as NASA administrator?

Bolden:
I think among the lessons that I try to employ are those that have to do with people. I talk to people quite a bit about one of my most memorable experiences in my time in the astronaut office being the two year period of time in which I was involved in training for my last flight, STS-60, when I actually had an opportunity to meet and serve with Sergei Krikalev and Vladimir Titov, two Russian cosmonauts, former Soviet cosmonauts who came to the United States with their families and lived in Houston with us for a little bit more than two years and it was during that period of time that we got to know each other and our families got to know each other very, very well. What I always knew, an appreciation for the human spirit, the fact that though we may be different for a lot of different reasons, whether it is national origin or ethnicity or whatever, that essentially we're all the same when we focus on a similar mission.

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