Charlie Bolden: Moving Forward, Oct. 14, 2010

NASA_Administrator_Charlie_Bolden.pngAmericaSpace Note: We received a copy of Charlie Bolden’s internal email to NASA employees and hope that our readers find it informative.

Over the past two days, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and I were joined by NASA’s senior leadership — the center directors, the heads of our mission directorates, and other members of our management team — at a retreat to plan the agency’s future. With passage of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, we now have a clear direction and can begin making plans for moving the agency forward. All of us engaged in a thoughtful and productive dialogue about the challenges and opportunities we face, and you’ll be hearing more about the outcomes in the near future. We are united in our goals.

First, let me say how proud I am of the agency’s leadership. It has been a challenging and sometimes emotional time for us to witness how the uncertainties about the future have been affecting our workers. Providing meaningful guidance has been difficult. The NASA workforce, both civil service and contractors, has stepped up to the plate and continued to carry on business as usual to the highest standards. Of course, business as usual for NASA means doing what others might think is impossible, and I commend you all for the outstanding accomplishments of the past year across many missions.

But now that we have a roadmap in the form of a bi-partisan Authorization Act, we can start to take action. The Authorization Act that the President signed Monday was the end result of a lot of legwork — a lot of effort, negotiation and debate. We thank the members of Congress for their thoughtful deliberations about NASA’s future over these several past months.

There are still many details that the appropriations process will provide, but our broad guidelines have now been enacted into law. This is a wonderful time for NASA – a time of excellent opportunities to shape a promising future for the nation’s space program. At the same time, an incredible amount of work lies ahead.

As I see it, in the broadest sense, the biggest adjustments are going to be how we pursue our migration to commercial access to low Earth orbit and make the transition away from the Constellation Program.

I am excited by the prospect of developing multiple, redundant access to space and opening up an entirely new segment of the American economy. There are many details to be worked out about our oversight and input in the commercial partnerships we form – and we will work those details out – but I want everyone to understand that we will be making measured progress and not rushing into anything that does not ensure safety and meet our needs.

As we evaluate how to build on the legacy of the Space Shuttle and Constellation Programs, we will be striving to ensure that our skilled workforce has many opportunities to contribute to the future goals of NASA. President Obama has laid out an ambitious plan for NASA that pioneers new frontiers of innovation and discovery. It invests more in NASA; extends the life of the International Space Station; launches a commercial space transportation industry; fosters the development of groundbreaking technologies; and helps create thousands of new jobs. The talented and dedicated workforce that has helped us achieve so much over more than five decades will be crucial to our future as well.

I have asked your leaders when they return to their home bases to begin a process of communicating more about our upcoming goals and keeping you informed about our next steps. They’ll start with all-hands meetings, and there will also be other venues for communication and exchange with you.

My focus as NASA administrator, and that of the agency in the coming year, will be these five goals:

  • Safely fly out the Space Shuttle.
  • Assure that a cohesive senior leadership team is in place to implement my priorities for the agency, while ensuring that the workforce stays engaged and motivated about their work, and to improve NASA’s position as the 5th best place to work in government.
  • Ensure an energized, innovative program of technology development and scientific and aeronautics research to support exploration beyond low Earth orbit and make life better here on Earth.
  • Facilitate the success of a viable commercial space industry to provide assured U.S. access to low Earth orbit for cargo and crew and acquire, mature, and infuse commercial capabilities across all NASA activities.
  • Promote enhanced cooperation with international, industry, other U.S. government agency, and academic partners in the pursuit of our missions.

For further information on agency goals, visit the NASA website at:

These goals should not be a big surprise to anyone, but now that we have the specifics of what we are authorized to do, we will be moving out to ensure that when an appropriation is in place, we are ready to hit the ground running.

NASA’s best days are ahead! With all of the agency’s leaders on the same page, we will be harnessing the agency’s talent and energy in a cohesive and united way. Our message to you, televised just shortly after the conclusion of our retreat, is our first step in communicating our plans and the essential role you will play.

We are at the beginning of a great adventure that will create opportunities and discoveries for generations. Let’s get started!

Charlie B.


  1. I have the impression that Mr. Bolden is still holding on to the ideals of the Obama plan, rather than what Congress and a large part of the NASA community want. He said basically nothing about heavy lift and called “how we make the transition away from the Constellation Program” one of two adjustment priorities. I just hope this is politically correct rhetoric, and that it doesn’t represent what the future will look like (of course, he was vague enough to allow for heavy lift, etc in his speech). I did appreciate his positive reference to the Shuttle and Constellation workforce, but, like Obama, his “vision” still sounds unclear.

  2. After reading “It’s Not Charlie’s Fault this morning, I realized that maybe I’m being a little too hard on the guy. I will always wonder if he would have performed more admirably under a different administration.

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