Bolden and Garver Visit NASA Langley

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver addressed a standing-room-only crowd in Langley's Reid Conference Center on Wednesday, while another group of employees watched from a quarter-mile away at the Pearl Young Theater.

Bolden spoke for 40 minutes about research, aeronautics, education, space and almost anything else anyone wanted to talk about. The people at Langley Research Center listened intently, and many heard the words of support they were waiting for from their new boss and his deputy. Garver noted that she has special affection for Langley because it is the only NASA center with a woman director. The director, Lesa Roe, introduced the two at the event.

Questions from employees elicited thoughtful, sometimes unexpected answers. It was Bolden's first visit as NASA administrator to the place he repeatedly referred to as the "Mother Center." Several old friends Bolden knew from his 14-year career as a shuttle astronaut were present in the audience.

Bolden remarked in response to one question that while any operation "is always at a crossroads . . . NASA is at a critical crossroads."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver are with a group of pre-service teachers at NASA's Langley Research Center. "My vision is that we will find ways to do a little bit of all of the things that we need to do," he said.

With answers come "challenges," which Bolden said he said he doesn't consider a politically correct synonym for "problems." NASA, he said, is about research. He described a third-grader's drawing that soon will be on his office wall in Washington; it says "We'll never know if we don't go."

"That's why we do what we do," he said. "What we do is research and experimentation. We are a research organization, but we don't do enough R and D, basic research. I'll go down on my hands and knees if I need to, but we have got to find more money for you all to do basic research."

Bolden interrupted building applause in the room and told the audience to wait for action instead of words. "It's easy for me to stand up here and say that," he noted. "You've got to back this stuff up." Bolden also asked for employees' assistance.

"I need your help," he said, "because we're going to find ways to get back to basic research as well as applied research."

NASA, he said, is about research, and Bolden harkened to a child's drawing that soon will be on his office wall in Washington. Lettered on that third-grader's art is "We'll never know if we don't go."

After a questioner offered a possible solution to several project issues, Bolden challenged employees to have the courage of their convictions. He encouraged center directors to support and nurture that courage.

In response to a question on the "10 healthy NASA centers philosophy," Bolden said he has spent time working at Langley as well as NASA's Johnson Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center and Goddard Space Flight Center. Visits to other field centers will come soon.

"You never make an assessment or a judgment about how everything is working until you have a chance to see it," he said. "It appears to be working."

In response to a query about the cost of industry's use of NASA facilities, Bolden said he hoped to convene a summit of the major players in the aerospace industry.

"I want to ask, 'Are we of value to you?' " he said. "And I want to ask, 'Do you respect us as a partner in aeronautical research?' " Bolden sees a role of government as fostering aeronautical research.

Bolden took the job, he said, because President Obama asked him to.

"He [Obama] talked of sitting on his grandfather's shoulders in Hawaii, watching the ships come in with astronauts on them and stuff," Bolden said. "He remembers waving, and in his mind, the astronauts could see him. He says he's never forgotten that, and he feels that kids don't feel that way these days."

The challenge is to get that feeling back. Bolden took a step in that direction Wednesday, stopping to talk with students in DEVELOP, a Science Mission Directorate applied sciences training and development program that extends NASA research to local communities. He later walked unannounced into a classroom of children in the Navigation Center. It was the twelfth NASA administrator, doing his job, answering the president's challenge.

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