NASA Administrator Charles Bolden today enthralled astronomers gathered at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., by telling them exactly what they wanted to hear, without providing an iota of information about the agency's future plans, or the fate of the human space flight program.
Bolden didn't provide any direct answers to whether the agency would continue to send humans into space in the coming decade, as recommended by a report from a blue-ribbon panel last October. However, Bolden promised that the program would not be paid for through cuts to the agency's science budget, which has been cannibalized in recent years to support space flights. The auditorium erupted in applause. Bolden avoided getting into any specifics on the next generation of NASA manned spacecraft, a topic of hot debate.
In response to a question, the NASA administrator expressed optimism that President Barack Obama would support the development of new human missions in space within the next 10 years. "I don't think this president wants to be the president who presided over the end of (American) space flight," he said.
Bolden emphasized the need for greater collaboration with international partners both for financial and diplomatic reasons. The first ever African American to become NASA Administrator, Bolden also made an impassioned plea to astronomers to get involved in science education, with a focus on improving science and math learning among minority students. Let's shed our "fear of places like Anacostia," he said jokingly, referring to a part of Washington, D.C., that is predominantly black and overwhelmingly poor.