Obama discusses top NASA job with ex-astronaut today

Washington, DC – A former astronaut is to meet Barack Obama today, and is being tipped for the top job at NASA.

Charles Bolden, 62, is a retired Marine Corps major general, who was selected by NASA in May 1980 and became an astronaut in August 1981. He flew on the shuttle four times in the 1980s and 90s, twice as commander, and has clocked up over 680 hours in space.

He has since worked as a lobbyist for the aerospace industry, however, and may experience some conflict of interest over the planned shuttle replacement, Ares I.

After retiring from the military in 2004, Bolden worked as a lobbyist for ATK, which manufactures the solid rocket boosters for the space shuttle and the first stage of the Ares I. More recently, he was on the board of directors of Gencorp, parent company of Aerojet, which has a contract to build engines for the Orion capsule that is to ride on top of the Ares I rocket.

While Bolden stepped down from the Gencorp board last March, an executive order from the White House states that appointees cannot take part in matters “directly and substantially related to their former employers for two years.”

Bolden is also owner and CEO of JackandPanther LLC, a privately held military and aerospace consulting firm.

The position has been vacant since February. Acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese replaced Michael Griffin back in January. The appointee will need to be approved by the Senate, but Bolden already has the support of Bill Nelson – himself an ex-astronaut who has flown with Bolden –  who heads the Senate panel that oversees NASA.

Bolden would be the first African-American to head the agency.