Major General Charles Frank Bolden Jr., USMC, Ret.
Honorary Degree: Doctor of Science
A member of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, retired Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. is the 12th administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, Bolden has overseen the safe transition from 30 years of space shuttle missions to a new era of exploration.
He balances NASA’s role in support of U.S. commercial companies’ efforts to launch astronauts for crucial low-earth orbit missions with the need to develop the next generation of rockets and spacecraft that will carry humanity to Mars and other deep-space destinations. Bolden is leading the agency’s development of the innovative technologies that will make those ambitious missions possible.
NASA’s dynamic science activities under Bolden include launch of the Juno spacecraft that will arrive at Jupiter this July 4, planning and development for the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and the extraordinary Mars landing and ongoing mission of the Curiosity rover. In 2012, a linkup with Curiosity made Bolden the first human being to have his voice broadcast on the surface of the red planet.
Bolden’s decades of experience as a Marine officer and an astronaut provided a strong foundation for his leadership of NASA.
He traveled into orbit four times aboard the space shuttle between 1986 and 1994, commanding two of the missions and piloting two others. His flights included two historic assignments: deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission, which featured a cosmonaut as a member of his crew. As Chief of the Safety Division at the Johnson Space Center, Bolden also oversaw efforts to return the shuttle program to flight safely after the 1986 Challenger disaster.
His military career began with an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in electrical science in 1968, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and became a naval aviator.
Bolden flew more than 100 combat missions in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and was awarded numerous military decorations during his career, including the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
While still in the Marine Corps, he earned a master’s degree in systems management from the University of Southern California and then served as a military test pilot until his selection as an astronaut candidate in 1980.
After his final shuttle flight in 1994, Bolden returned to active duty with Marine Corps, serving as the Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy and as Commanding General of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Forward in support of Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait. He was promoted to major general in 1998 and named Deputy Commander of U.S. forces in Japan. He later commanded the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. He retired from the Corps in 2003.