Bolden answers questions on Capitol Hill

July 8, 2009 9:17:35 PM PDT
Confirmation hearings for the man the president picked to head up NASA got underway Wednesday afternoon. That man is Retired Major General Charles Bolden, who knows a thing or two about the space agency. [FULL COVERAGE: NASA and space shuttle coverage]
[WATCH: ABC13's 'Moon, Mars and Beyond' primetime special]

While insiders believe that Gen. Bolden's confirmation is all but a done deal, he did face some tough questions on Capitol Hill. The Senate Commerce Committee wasted no time in pushing Gen. Bolden on his vision for NASA's future.

"I need bolstering on NASA. Personally, I need bolstering," said Chairman John D. Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Senator John D. Rockefeller says NASA has lost its relevance among the American people.

"It's drifted. I think that's indisputable. So what do you plan to do to change this posture?" asked Sen. Rockefeller.

Gen. Bolden testified in agreement that the space agency needs a more focused vision.

"Today we have to choose. Either we can invest upon building upon our hard-earned world technological leadership or we abandon this commitment ceding it to other nations who are working diligently to push the frontiers of space," said Gen. Bolden.

He specified four goals he believes NASA must achieve in the 21st century:

  • To build upon and use the international space station to its fullest potential
  • With the shuttle being retired next year, to accelerate design of the next space vehicle
  • To commit to research, which helps us better understand our environment here on earth
  • To inspire youth and to again get kids interested in science, engineering and exploration.

"We have a very talented group of people, but they are aging. We have an aging work force so we will have to inspire young men and women, boys and girls, to want to come to work with NASA," said Gen. Bolden.

In addition to being a retired Marine Corps two star general, Bolden is a four-time astronaut. He served twice as commander. He once flew with Florida's senior Senator, Democrat Bill Nelson who's been one of his greatest supporters.

"NASA is at a crossroads and needs a strong leader who knows what he's doing and Charlie Bolden is that person," said Sen. Nelson.

After the hearing, Gen. Bolden refused to talk about how it went.

"I can't say. I'll get in trouble if I tell," said Gen. Bolden.

However, his wife summed it up.

"He just said, 'Whew.' He was sort of glad it was over," said Jackie Bolden.

The committee can come back and ask Bolden to respond to further questions or it can vote as soon as Thursday on the confirmation.

A full Senate vote likely won't happen in the next 7-10 days, possibly in time for the 40th anniversary of man's landing on the moon on July 20.

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