Space Commander

I had the privilege today of attending a brief talk and question-and-answer session by Charlie Bolden, who last month became the latest NASA administrator.

I’d been particularly looking forward to the visit, since it marks the fourth time that I’ve had the opportunity to see a sitting NASA administrator in person. Prior to today, I’d attended all-hands meetings by the two previous administrators I’ve worked under, Sean O’Keefe and Michael Griffin.

Before that, in a rather neat bit of coincidence, the administrator before O’Keefe, Dan Goldin, was the keynote speaker at my college commencement at Ole Miss. Making it a bit more unlikely is the fact that I graduated after a summer term, and so attended the August commencement, which Ole Miss no longer holds.

I wish I could go back now and hear again what Goldin said that day, filtering it through my experience with the agency. I remember at the time being extremely underwhelmed by him. His vision for NASA, and his seeming lack of excitement about its mission, failed to impress me as a 20-year-old liberal arts major, but I’m very open to the possibility that was because he didn’t come to Ole Miss to announce plans to send humans to Mars that year, or something equally cool and impossible.

On the other hand, I’ve been very impressed with the two administrators during the time I’ve been here. O’Keefe was cool and personable, and clearly wanted to see the agency move forward. Griffin, toward whom I was biased because he was a friend of a friend, was brilliant and brought incredible technical expertise to the position.

Bolden is still very new to the job, but I’m excited about his tenure. Again, people I know and trust who know him speak highly of him, and that goes a long way for me. He also seems to be a real people-person, and I have hopes that will serve the agency well during this period.

And this IS an interesting period. Bolden assumes the position at a time when the entire future of human spaceflight is under review, when nothing is off the table. Nothing is sacred, but nothing is impossible. It’s frightening and exciting at the same time, and there’s nothing we can do but sit back, hope and have faith.

The next adventure is just beginning …