Bolden Optimistic About Country's Future in Space; Kelly Says He Won't Run for Office

Bolden Optimistic About Country's Future in Space; Kelly Says He Won't Run for Office

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden shared the podium with astronaut Mark Kelly at the National Press Club this afternoon. Both were upbeat about the future of the U.S. human spaceflight program and Kelly humorously refuted speculation that he might run for political office.

For space aficionados, there was nothing new in Bolden’s speech. Bolden insisted that the end of the shuttle program is not the end of U.S. preeminence in human spaceflight. Reiterating themes he has used many times, he emphasized the need for new ways of doing business, especially turning crew transportation to low Earth orbit over to the commercial sector. He repeatedly praised the commercial companies.

Questions had to be submitted in advance and were asked by the moderator. One asked about the safety of the commercial crew systems and whether Bolden himself would ride on one. Bolden replied that many of his former astronaut colleagues now work for the companies building the commercial systems so he is confident about their safety. As to whether he would fly on one – “in a heartbeat,” he said, adding jokingly “don’t tell my wife.” He also said that he would not be standing there promoting a system that he did not personally believe would be safe.

He imparted no news on the most controversial issue at NASA today – choosing the design of the new Space Launch System. — saying only that they were “nearing a decision” and “will announce it soon.” On June 16, quoted from a memo that was said to reflect decisions made by Bolden about the design, but no official announcement has been forthcoming.

Bolden also touched on NASA’s other mission areas, science and aeronautics, and focused on the need to get kids interested in science and math.

It is the human spaceflight program that is on everyone’s mind, however, as the final space shuttle launch draws near. Bolden vowed that “I’m not about to let human spaceflight go away on my watch” or “let it flounder” because the program is unsustainable.

Astronaut Mark Kelly also spoke briefly, admitting that he will be sad after the last shuttle flight lands. A new chapter is opening up, however, and the space program will continue to be “a great investment for the American people,” he said. Thanking everyone for the “outpouring of support” for his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who is recovering from an assassination attempt in January, Kelly responded to rumors that he might be considering a run for office himself. Some of the speculation, fueled by his decision to retire from NASA, is that if Giffords is not able to run, he would take her place. Kelly joked that it must be a “slow summer” for the press to be speculating about that and he has no such plans. His wife “is the politician in the family; I’m the space guy, and I see no reason to change that.”

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