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April 16, 2015

Head of NASA to address Pitt commencement

Charles Bolden

Charles Bolden

The head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will address Pitt’s commencement convocation April 26.

Charles F. Bolden Jr., who also is a retired major general of the U.S. Marine Corps, took over as NASA administrator in 2009.

At NASA, Bolden has overseen the safe transition from 30 years of space shuttle missions to a new era of exploration focused on full utilization of the International Space Station and space and aeronautics technology development. He has led the agency in developing a space launch system rocket and Orion spacecraft that will carry astronauts to deep space

destinations, such as an asteroid and Mars. He also established a new Space Technology Mission Directorate to develop cutting-edge technologies.

During Bolden’s tenure, the agency’s support of commercial space transportation systems for reaching low-Earth orbit has enabled successful commercial cargo resupply of the space station and significant progress toward enabling American companies to launch astronauts from American soil by 2017. The agency’s science activities under Bolden include a landing on Mars with the Curiosity rover, launch of a spacecraft to Jupiter, enhancing the nation’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites and continued progress toward the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Bolden received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned a BS degree in electrical science in 1968 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. After completing flight training in 1970, he became a naval aviator. He flew more than 100 combat missions in North and South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, while stationed in Namphong, Thailand, 1972-73.

He earned a Master of Science degree in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1977. In 1978, he was assigned to the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland, and completed his training in 1979. While working at the Naval Air Test Center’s Systems Engineering and Strike Aircraft Test Directorates, he tested a variety of ground attack aircraft until his selection as an astronaut candidate in 1980.

Bolden’s NASA astronaut career included technical assignments as the astronaut office safety officer; technical assistant to the director of flight crew operations; special assistant to the director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston; chief of the safety division at Johnson (where he oversaw efforts to return a shuttle to flight safely after the 1986 Challenger accident); lead astronaut for vehicle test and checkout at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and assistant deputy administrator at NASA headquarters. He traveled to orbit four times aboard the space shuttle, 1986-94, commanding two missions and piloting two others. His flights included deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission, which featured a cosmonaut as a crew member.

In 1994 Bolden returned to active duty with Marine Corps operating forces as the deputy commandant of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. In 1997, he was assigned as the deputy commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the Pacific. During the first half of 1998, he served as commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Forward in support of Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait. He was promoted to major general in 1998 and named deputy commander of U.S. forces in Japan. He later served as the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, 2000-02. He retired from the Marine Corps in 2003.

The commencement ceremony, which will include the presentation of an honorary doctoral degree in public service to Bolden, will begin at 1 p.m. in the Petersen Events Center.