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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was at Cornell Engineering on Wednesday, October 22 to deliver the 2014 William R. Sears Lecture at the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Bolden, who is a retired United States Marine Corps Major General and a former NASA astronaut, was nominated by President Barack Obama to lead NASA in May 2009. He was confirmed by the Senate on July 15, 2009 and has been the head of NASA ever since.

In addition to delivering the Sears Lecture, Bolden had a full day of activities on campus. He started by speaking to Professor Mason Peck’s MAE 3060 Spacecraft Engineering class. Peck knows Administrator Bolden well from his two-year stint as NASA’s Chief Technologist in 2012 and 2013.

Later in the day, Bolden went to lunch at Banfi’s in the Statler Hotel with Professor Peck and ten Cornell Engineering undergraduates and graduate students from several different engineering disciplines. At lunch they discussed Bolden’s experiences as an astronaut, his efforts to build up NASA in the face of a difficult political environment, and some of the new missions NASA is now working on. Student questions ranged from “Why explore space with humans—why not use robots?” to “What does it take to join the astronaut corps?” Students also discussed their enthusiasm for Cornell’s growing success in spacecraft engineering, including its expanded curriculum in this area.

While at Banfi’s, Bolden also had a chance to chat with Ithaca’s Mayor, Cornell  graduate Svante Myrick ’09, who happened to be there for lunch.

In the afternoon, Bolden delivered the 2014 William R. Sears Lecture to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 250 people. The title of his talk was "NASA's Roadmap to Tomorrow's Missions" and it took place in Phillips Hall. Bolden spent some time describing NASA’s plan to capture an asteroid and redirect it into orbit around Earth’s moon. He also talked about the Space Launch System and the Orion Crew vehicle and how they may be used to take astronauts to and from the captured asteroid and to and from Mars.

“It’s a real honor for the NASA Administrator to take the time to visit Cornell, to meet with students and faculty, and to discuss space-technology research and education,” said Professor Mason Peck, who worked with Bolden as NASA’s Chief Technologist in 2012 and 2013. “I’m sure the students will remember the spacecraft-design class in which he gave a lecture for the rest of their lives. And imagine being one of the freshmen who had lunch with him—what a great way to start your undergraduate studies.” 

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