Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr.

astronauts, Charlie Bolden, NASA

(August 19, 1946)

Charlie Bolden is a retired US Marine Corps Major General and test pilot, and former Deputy Commander of US Forces in Japan. Born in South Carolina Bolden claims he joined the Marine Corps because he thought the uniform would “help him with the girls.” He flew over 100 combat missions in Vietnam.

Charlie Bolden was encouraged by his commanding officer to apply to NASA in 1980. He did not apply during the previous intake because he believed NASA did not recruit people like him. His future appointment running all of NASA seems particularly ironic as a result.

Bolden completed four flights to space on the Space Shuttle, twice as pilot and twice as commander.

His first mission was aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in January 1986. STS-61-C‘s primary goal was to launch a communications satellite, but was notable for two other reasons. The crew included two future NASA Administrators (Bolden himself and the current Administrator, Bill Nelson), and it was the last successful flight before the Challenger disaster.

Bolden’s second flight was STS-31. Discovery launched in April 1990 with a mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope.

His third mission – and his first in command – was aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-45. The mission lasted nine days and involved a significant array of payload-based scientific experiments, many of which examined the Earth’s atmosphere.

Charlie’s final trip to space was as commander of Discovery on STS-60. The mission was the first of the Shuttle-Mir Program, and carried Sergei Krikalev as part of the crew. This was the first time a Russian cosmonaut flew on the Shuttle.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Charlie Bolden as the 12th NASA Administrator. He held the post until Obama left office. On August 28, 2012 Bolden was the first human being to have their voice broadcast on the surface of Mars.

Photographed at the Royal Aeronautical Society, London. January 2007.