Bolden preps for NASA confirmation hearing

July 8, 2009 8:03:45 AM PDT
Retired Major General Charles Bolden will sit today before the U.S. Senate commerce committee. [FULL COVERAGE: NASA and space shuttle coverage]
[WATCH: ABC13's 'Moon, Mars and Beyond' primetime special]

Gen. Bolden will sit before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee at 1pm (Houston time) Wednesday.

This will be the first time he has spoken publicly about his vision for the future of NASA since being nominated by President Barack Obama in May. Key lawmakers on the committee say his confirmation is likely and without controversy. Bolden is a four time shuttle astronaut. He commanded two space missions.

Gen. Bolden is expected to win swift confirmation as the new administrator of NASA. He has the support of key senators. KTRK Political Analyst Dr. Richard Murray calls confirmation all but a done deal.

"This is not a controversial confirmation, so we expect that this will go fairly quickly," said Dr. Murray.

If confirmed, Bolden would be the first African-American and only the second former astronaut to lead the space agency. He's flown in space four times, twice as shuttle commander, not to mention his extensive military experience. He flew more than 100 combat missions in Vietnam and retired in 2003 as a Two Star Marine Corps General.

In recent years, he has also been KTRK's space consultant, making even the most technical discussion, easily understood.

"General Bolden will get questions on where NASA should go, what his vision is, and how he will implement it," said Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

Gen. Bolden's nomination comes at a critical time in NASA's history with the shuttle being retired next year and the next vehicle to fly still being designed and produced. Bolden is expected to be a strong advocate for the $8 billion a year human space flight program, which is currently under review by a presidential panel of experts.

Sen. Hutchinson, who plans to introduce Bolden to the Senate committee Wednesday, says the space program needs a leader who can figure out a way to get the United States back into space as quickly as possible once the shuttle is shelved.

Sen. Hutchinson tells us she expects some discussion over Gen. Bolden's affiliation with NASA contractors. He worked briefly with two companies, one contracted for and another vying for the contract of building the next space vehicle.

Lawmakers said a final vote on Gen. Bolden's confirmation may not take place for as much as two weeks.

Gen. Bolden told us he will speak with Eyewitness News after his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

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