NASA Podcasts

NASA EDGE: Charlie Bolden
› Download Vodcast (329MB)

NASA EDGE: Charlie Bolden

- Charlie Bolden


ANNOUNCER: Want to get to know Charlie Bolden? NASA EDGE heads to Washington to get an in depth look at the NASA Administrator’s life and legacy. Plus, a bold look at how NASA plans to move forward here on Earth and in space. Charlie Bolden is ready. Who will get there first?

[Explosion & music plays]

FRANKLIN:: It is great to be back in the nation’s capital.

CHRIS: Beautiful day out.

BLAIR: Yeah. Nice sites to see.

CHRIS: Make sure you stay focused today.

BLAIR: Oh yeah, of course. That’s the standard.

CHRIS: We’ve got quite a bit of work to do today.

BLAIR: Oh yeah, I’ve got it under wraps. Don’t worry.

CHRIS: No site seeing.


[wheel squeals]

BLAIR: Why do you want to be a spoil sport?

CHRIS: Well, not till after we get the work done.

BLAIR: Oh no. Hang on, you’ve got to stop. I’ve got to get out.

CHRIS: Right here? Oh.

BLAIR: I’ve got some things I’ve got to take care of. All right, I’ll catch up with you guys later.

CHRIS: Can’t open there door there?

BLAIR: Oh yeah, it’s safety first.

CHRIS: Yeah.

[wheel squeals]

CHRIS: You think he’ll make it past the gate?

FRANKLIN:: Nah. I doubt if he’ll get past security.

CHRIS: Yeah.

BLAIR: If I play my cards right, I’ll beat ‘em to the punch.

SECURITY OFFICER: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

BLAIR: I’m sorry. I’m here from NASA EDGE. We have an interview with Charlie Bolden and I really need to get in there quick so I can get that interview.

SECURITY OFFICER: Your name, sir?

BLAIR: Blair.

SECURITY OFFICER: You need to come with me.

BLAIR: Ow, ow. That’s quite a grip you’ve got there. Is that legal?

SECURITY OFFICER: Yes sir. Headquarters special 411, Charlie Bolden is ready for his interview with Chris.

CHRIS: Charlie, I have a few dates from your past that I would like you to reflect upon.


CHRIS: First date I have is January 12, 1986.

CHARLIE: I tell people a lot it was a highlight in my life. Not quite like the birth of my son or daughter’s birth date…

CHRIS: Right.

CHARLIE: Or my marriage date…

[Chris laughing]

CHARLIE: …but a very important date in my life because it was the beginning of a period that was absolutely incredibly high. It was STS-61C. A very exciting day; we had already been to the pad four times prior to that, four scrubs, then finally we went out one beautiful morning, just before dawn, and lifted off. Flew off into the sunrise.

CHRIS: You had been a military pilot before that point, flying A-6’s in Vietnam?

CHARLIE: I flew A-6’s in Vietnam, then went to test pilot school and then flew A-6’s, A-7’s.

CHRIS: What was your experience like getting ready to go launching on the shuttle having your experience flying around, pulling high G turns in a military aircraft, and here for the first time you’re going into space? What was that feeling like compared?

CHARLIE: I think the apprehension was probably as high as it was as say going on a combat mission in Vietnam, although you relaxed very quickly. When the solids ignite and you lift off, all the apprehension is gone. The vehicle is vibrating all over the place, which is somewhat surprising because the simulators we use are very, very good. They don’t adequately simulate the vibration.

CHARLIE: There you saw the solid rocket booster separation. I had planned on doing a lot of reach & visibility checks. Feeling the force on my chest, I said, I’ll forget about that and sit here and enjoy the ride.

CHARLIE: The G-level is very low. It’s about a G and a half at lift off. Nothing anywhere close to what you would experience in a tactical jet, for example. But then, right after liftoff, you sink into this isn’t a simulation but it sure seems like it. You go right into doing what you have been trained to do.

FRANKLIN:: Is he okay in there?


FRANKLIN:: Oh. If he gives you any problems, you let me know.

SECURITY OFFICER: Okay. Thank you. I will.

CHRIS: Now, let’s move a little bit forward in time to 1994, February 11, 1994.

CHARLIE: February 11, 1994 was a date that I knew was coming and in a way I dreaded it. Because, at the time, long before I flew, I had advised my crew that this would be my last flight. My wife, my family and I had talked it over in the course of the training for STS-60. And, we had decided, they had decided that I’d had enough fun and that I should grow up and do something productive.

CHRIS: Right.

CHARLIE: We made the decision after, actually, a serendipitous contact with the super intendant of the Naval Academy, who had called and asked if I would be interested in coming back to my alma mater. So, I knew when I landed at KSC on that flight that would be my last time getting out of a space shuttle coming back from space.

BLAIR: [grunting] Come up to Headquarters. We’ll get together, have a few laughs.


[noises and loud crash]

BLAIR: Oh, oh, oh, oh. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. I can’t breath. I can’t breath.

FRANKLIN:: Dude! Are you okay? Can you breath?

BLAIR: Yeah, I’m good.

FRANKLIN:: Okay. All right, I’m going to go to this interview with Gerstenmaier. I’ll catch up with you later, okay?

BLAIR: Gerstenmaier?



BLAIR: Tune in next week when

FRANKLIN: interviews Bill Gerstenmaier on NASA EDGE.

CHRIS: July 17, 2009.

CHARLIE: Aah, let me think about that one. July 17, 2000…. Oh! July 17, 2009 was the day I was sworn in as the Administrator of NASA. How soon we forget! You know? Big day to be quite honest. It was a very big day for my family. My mom and dad weren’t here in body but they were here in spirit. We had family from all over the place that had come to DC but it was a big day. We were here right down in the Administrator’s suite. I was sworn in. Lori was sworn in and we took our places as the Administrator and Deputy of NASA; kind of scary too, to be quite honest. I understood the challenges that were to come. I don’t think I had a full grasp on what was to come.

CHRIS: Right.

CHARLIE: I had been following NASA on the periphery and I was also very active as a member of Aero Space Safety Advisory Panel. I was quite aware of the struggles we were having with constellation and struggles we were having with funding and the like. I just didn’t anticipate what would happen within months of becoming the Administrator.

CHRIS: How has being the NASA Administrator been different then being a Major General in the Marine Corp?

CHARLIE: Probably the biggest difference here and being in the Marine Corp; the responsibility, I think, is equivalent almost. Here it is not acknowledged that you are responsible for your people and their families as much as it is in the Marine Corp. In the Marine Corp., it goes without saying that you and your spouse are responsible for the care and feeding of the 17,000 Marines in your command. They’re spread all over the world. It’s much more personal then it is here at Headquarters. Here in NASA, in this sector of the government, it’s actually frowned upon for a spouse to be involved in stuff. So, it was quite an adjustment for my wife, to be quite honest, to come into a leadership role for me and not be a part of it.

CHRIS: Right.

CHARLIE: It definitely doesn’t have to be that way but it’s just kind of the way that this sector of government works.


LELAND:: Come on in.


LELAND:, I’ve got a favor to ask.

LELAND:: Yeah, what’s up?

BLAIR: I’m suppose to interview Charlie Bolden…

LELAND:: Charlie Bolden? Really?

BLAIR: Yeah. And I can’t find him. I was wondering if you could tell me where I could get a hold of him.

LELAND:: Okay. Walk out of this room and follow hall. They’ll be neon signs saying Charlie Bolden’s office.

BLAIR: Oh, perfect! Now is there anything I need to avoid, like taboo subjects?

LELAND:: Hmm, Charlie’s taboos. Don’t touch his boots.

BLAIR: Don’t touch his boots. Okay, great.

LELAND:: Good luck.

BLAIR: Thanks. I appreciate it.

CHRIS: I have one more date, probably the most important for the next generation of explorers, and that would be July 20, 2069.

CHARLIE: Oh, it’s the anniversary, the 100th anniversary, of the landing on the moon. Hopefully, on July 20, 2069, we’ll be looking back at humankind’s first step on Mars. We will be well on our way to places even farther then the solar system. Technologically, I know we won’t be at warp speed yet.

[Chris laughing]

CHRIS: Right.

CHARLIE: I could be surprised.

CHRIS: That’s true.

CHARLIE: You never know. My hope would be that we’re thinking about how would we make that break through to leave the solar system with human beings. I don’t know whether it’s going to be centuries away, or decades away, or years away but I hope by then if we’ve done what we should have done as a stepping-stone to that date, we’ll be really seriously thinking about it. Will there be colonies, places? You would hope so out of necessity for one thing because Earth, by then, will have really been stressed. They’ll be too many people for the planet, so some of us will have to, at least temporarily or periodically, live other places. Hopefully, we will have come to our senses sometime back many decades prior to that. We will have understood the challenges of climate change and we will have identified some of the things that we materially could do as humans to make the planet better. If we didn’t, Earth may not be habitable. The species may be living on other planets out of absolute necessity because Earth is no long habitable.

MAN: Here, take the cup.

WALL-E:: computer noises

MAN: Take the cup. Take the cup! Aaaah!

CHARLIE: I don’t think that’s where we’re going to be. I think we will come to our senses and be smarter than that.

[phone ringing]


[door knob being moved]

[digital beeping]



CHRIS: We rewind back to the present day.


CHRIS: We’re looking at this really bold, new direction that we’re going. Take us on a top level. What do you expect to see in the next 15 to 20 years in human space flight?

CHARLIE: I wouldn’t even say human space flight. People magically think of human space flight when they think of NASA. I think some of our most important advances are going to be in the field of aeronautics and science. I think in aeronautics in the next 20 years, you’re going to see that we’ll probably have helped blaze the trail towards the next generation of air travel. Supersonic air travel will have come back. We’ll have gotten over the fear of supersonic travel. We will have understood what caused the downfall in supersonic travel in the days of the Concord. And humans will be traveling at supersonic speeds. Hypersonics will be what we’ll be talking about. You’ll be looking at a totally different design of airframe. If you look at what industry and NASA are doing right now with blended body configurations, we’ll be there. Next generation air traffic management system will be fully in effect. Pilots and controllers will no longer be intimately involved in every decision route. Air traffic controllers on the ground will be monitoring the system because airplanes will be talking to themselves through a system called ADS-B. They’ll be maneuvering themselves into position to land at big airports. Fuel efficiency will be the way of life then. Then, science discoveries, I can’t even imagine. In terms of human experience, human space flight, the commercial side will have taken off. NASA will have very little to do with commercial spaceflight other than buying a service. We will have done our part in facilitating success in the commercial industry. More and more people will be taking advantage of the capability to travel into space or low-Earth orbit. I think people will actually be starting to talk about commercial travel to the moon, commercial travel to other places. We won’t be there yet. I could be surprised but there are commercial entities right now who have designs on colonization of the moon. That’s not NASA’s to do. We don’t have a reason to do it. We have a reason to facilitate it but if there is a commercial need that could very well happen. You could take some of the commercial, orbiting space stations that have developed in Earth-orbit. They’ll migrate over to the lunar orbit. And when we’re happy, when we’re comfortable, we’ll just take them down and put them on the surface of the moon. There are companies that I have visited now that have that concept in mind. I think they’ll see it through.

CHRIS: Maybe NASA Headquarters will be positioned in low-Earth orbit in the future.

CHARLIE: NASA Headquarters could be in low-Earth orbit. NASA Headquarters could be on the surface of Mars. Not twenty years from now but…

CHRIS: Right… in the future.

CHARLIE: In the future. NASA could be gone and the concept of human space flight, if I use the term “the federation.”

CHRIS: Right.

CHARLIE: As science fiction tells us. Because I am a big believer that one of our things that we do in NASA and I say it all the time, “We take science fiction and make it science fact.” If that’s true, thirty, forty, fifty years from now NASA, as we know it today, won’t exist. NASA will be an international organization and it may be called the International Federation of Space Exploration or something like that.


BLAIR: Oh hey, Al.

AL: Hey, good to see you Blair.

BLAIR: Good to see you. I’m kind of in a tight spot. I was wondering if you could help me out. I’m suppose to interview Charlie Bolden and I need help finding his office.

[Al laughing]

AL: You and Charlie?

BLAIR: Yeah.

AL: Okay.

BLAIR: I’m suppose to…

AL: Yeah, he…. Yeah.

[laughing hysterically]

CHRIS: If you had a choice, would you rather be in an A-6 flying around or landing the space shuttle?

CHARLIE: Whew, boy! If I had a choice, I wouldn’t choose. I would choose to have lived my life the way I have lived it to this point…

CHRIS: Very good.

CHARLIE: And enjoy it, and savor it, and not try to go back. I’d screw something up if I tried to go back. I have three, incredibly beautiful granddaughters. They’re 5, 9, & 11 and to satisfy something I didn’t do, I would not put my family that exists today at risk to do that.

CHRIS: Very good. Thank you so much, sir.

CHARLIE: No, thank you. Thanks for what your doing. This is really exciting. Thank you.

CHRIS: Thank you.

CHARLIE: Oh my goodness, how are you doing?

BLAIR: Ah, all right. I mean, sorry, just kind of bummed out.

CHARLIE: You look like you’re having a downer day.

BLAIR: I am. I’m trying to interview Charlie Bolden, the NASA Administrator. My buddies are trying to interview him. I’m trying to get in there first. I’m talking to people trying to get some background information and everybody’s quiet. I called Lori Garver. She won’t return my phone calls. But you know what? I am not going to leave without an interview. I’m just convinced.

CHARLIE: Well, I’ve heard they’re pretty accessible. I tell you what, good luck. I hope you have a lot of luck.

BLAIR: I appreciate that. Appreciate the positive words. That’s great. Take care. You have a good day.

CHARLIE: Stop in and let me know how it went.

BLAIR: I’ll do that.

CHARLIE: All right. Thanks a lot.

BLAIR: Appreciate it.


› Download Vodcast (329MB)