Bolden may take NASA's top job

WASHINGTON [FULL COVERAGE: NASA and space shuttle coverage]

You've seen Major General Charles Bolden, Jr. here on ABC13 numerous times and now his expertise may soon be called on by the commander in chief.

An Obama administration official confirms that Bolden will be meeting with the president on Monday and that he will "likely be appointed." However, that source said it's not a done deal yet.

Bolden is a veteran of four space fights, including two as shuttle commander. He's logged more than 680 hours in orbit, some of which included the mission that deployed the Hubble telescope which is right now being repaired.

Bolden would be the first African-American appointed to NASA's top post. He retired in 2003 from the Marine Corps as a major general.

"If it works out that Charlie will become the next NASA administrator, I think it would be good for NASA. I think it'd be good for the country and for the space program," said former astronaut Dr. Leroy Chiao.

Dr. Chiao said he has great respect for Bolden, not only because Bolden was among those who first selected him as an astronaut, but because of Bolden's experience. He's been there and knows what it takes to successfully complete a mission to space.

He said Bolden's strengths also include his ability to think globally, an important skill he notes in developing further multi-national missions like the space station.

Bolden is a man of notable charisma, said Dr. Chiao. He's a man who is not afraid to speak publicly as he's done so many times as KTRK's space analyst. Having that skill, combined with an ability to listen, to really listen to his advisors, Chaio said could make for Bolden a very strong leader in a time of transition for the space agency.

"You've got to be able to work with people. Charlie's a very likable guy. He can get to the very core of a problem diplomatically, and I think it's a combination of those people skills that will enable him to get things done," said Dr. Chiao.

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed that President Obama will meet with Bolden on Monday, saying Obama "wants to meet with somebody about filling the important role of future NASA administrator. He will meet with him (Bolden) on Monday, and we'll see how that goes."

Many of you may remember Bolden as the expert we turned to during a heartbreaking time for NASA and he's been our NASA expert over the years.

In February of 2003, we relied on Bolden for a lot of answers during the Columbia disaster. The day of the accident, Bolden used a replica of the shuttle to explain what could have gone wrong. In the days and months that followed, he also provided us with valuable insight into the investigation.

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