Obama Picks Ex-Astronaut as NASA Chief

Bolden would be first African-American to lead agency
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2009 4:59 AM CDT
Charles Bolden prepares to ride the new Space Shuttle Experience launch simulator at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.   (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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(Newser) – President Obama will name former astronaut Charles Bolden Jr. as his NASA administrator soon after the Atlantis shuttle returns to Earth this weekend, sources tell the Los Angeles Times. Bolden, a military aviator who flew four shuttle missions, will be the first African-American to lead NASA if he is confirmed by the Senate. Obama's campaign space adviser, Lori Garver, is expected to be his deputy.

Bolden met Obama last week to discuss his ties to NASA contractors and possible budget cuts at the agency. Obama's first choice to lead NASA, retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration, was rejected by opposition in Washington. "Bolden does not have the relations with the president that Gration has," said a curator at the National Air and Space Museum. "What Bolden has is a very strong understanding of NASA culture."