Bolden Calls for Changing the Mindset About NASA

Bolden Calls for Changing the Mindset About NASA

Invoking the heartwarming — and heartbreaking — story of Nkosi Johnson, a South African boy who was infected with AIDS at birth and died at 12 after traveling the world with an inspiring message, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden today called upon the aerospace community to embrace necessary changes that seem to be on the horizon.

Saying that “we have tough times ahead” and “some of you aren’t going to like me” as NASA adjusts to doing different things in different ways, he asked for support. He recalled Nkosi telling NPR’s Jim Wooten as the end of his life neared to “Do all you can with what you have in the time you have in the place you are.” Nkosi’s story is the subject of a 2007 book by Wooten, We Are All the Same.

Bolden stressed that one of the changes will be increased international cooperation, a goal embraced by President Obama: “He wants it and so do I.” Later, when asked about the impact of ITAR export control regulations on such cooperation, he responded that Secretary of Defense Gates is leading the drive on ITAR reform and NASA’s “persistence” on the issue helped raise awareness of its negative impact. Bolden said he is “encouraged” about ITAR reform.

Speaking to a luncheon meeting of Woman in Aerospace and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the main thrust of Gen. Bolden’s speech was the crucial importance of getting children interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. He said that one promise he made to President Obama was that NASA would again inspire future generations as it did during the Apollo era. “We need to change our mindset” from thinking about NASA as a collection of missions to focusing on its role in innovation that drives the national economy.

He drew a laugh as he opened his talk by saying that he was not going to address anything about the Augustine committee report, so those who had come to hear about it would be disappointed.

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