Profiles in Courage: Sometimes It’s the Last Place You Think

One of the most important factors in working on a doctoral dissertation is to have plenty of distractions. The trick is to find distractions that help with your dissertation rather than help to avoid it. Over the last year I have had the opportunity to conduct research with a colleague focusing on space and GPS-related issues, and I have been fortunate to meet some fascinating and brilliant people. Of these, two I would like to reflect on are NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and former U.S. Air Force Space Command Commander General (Ret.) William Shelton.

Many years ago, when I was helping to staff the Department of Defense with senior political appointees, I was present when Bolden turned down a senior position in the administration. During the early days of the Obama Administration, this was just not done.

Rather than accept the position he was offered, Bolden was hoping to become the next NASA administrator. To be frank, I knew that the competition for the administrator position would be tough, and at the time thought it unlikely that he would be asked. Thankfully, I was wrong. A few years later, in the summer of 2012, I had the privilege of being one of the appointees invited to the White House to hear now-NASA Administrator Charles Bolden talk about his experiences at NASA.

Administrator Bolden spoke about his experiences with the Mars Rover Curiosity and the “seven minutes of terror,” featured here. He spoke of the challenges he had faced with the cancellation of the Space Shuttle program. It was tough to imagine a NASA administrator cancelling a program for manned missions to space in order to free up limited resources to support a manned mission to Mars in the distant future. I was particularly touched as —> Read More