Did You Know Astronaut Charles Bolden Jr. Was Born on This Day?

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This Day In History: August 19th

Veteran and astronaut, Charles F. Bolden Jr., made history after being appointed as NASA’s first Black administrator in 2009. Bolden became an astronaut in 1981 and has logged more than 600 hours in space, making him a respected figure amongst his peers. 

He was born on August 19, 1946, in Columbia, South Carolina. After graduating from high school, Bolden earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical science from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968. The Naval Academy propelled him to the Marine Corps where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Bolden also decided to attend the University of Southern California in 1977, where he earned a master’s degree in systems management.

As a member of the Marine Corps, Bolden flew more than 100 combat missions in North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia before being assigned to the Naval Test Pilot School. He completed his training in 1979 and was selected to be an astronaut candidate in 1980. While working as an astronaut, Bolden served on four space flights where he was in command for two of the missions and the pilot for the other two.

His missions include the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, the first joint American-Russian shuttle mission, and commanding the first Spacelab  “mission to planet Earth” which was dedicated to studying the atmosphere. In addition to being an astronaut, Bolden also worked in clerical roles such as a Technical Assistant to the Director of Flight Crew Operations, Special Assistant to the Director of the Johnson Space Center, and Assistant Deputy Administrator at NASA Headquarters.

Bolden departed from NASA in 1994 and returned to the Marine Corps as the Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at his alma mater, the Naval Academy. He retired from the Marine Corps in 2003 but would make his return to the workforce in 2009. Bolden was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate to become the 12th Administrator of NASA. He served in the role until 2017.

As NASA’s administrator, Bolden became the first human to have his voice broadcast on the surface of Mars or any other planet. He has been awarded nearly a dozen honorary degrees and received a lifetime achievement award from the National Air and Space Museum in 2019.

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