JACK MANNING: Good evening everyone. Welcome to the Kennedy Library. My name is Jack Manning and I am the Chairman of the Distinguished Visitors Program at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. On behalf of the Foundation's CEO, David McKean, and the Library's Director, Tom Putnam, I want to welcome you all here tonight for a most interesting evening outside of this world. [laughter]
I would also like to express particular thanks to our sponsors and friends and institutions that have supported the Library and the Distinguished Visitors Program. In particular, Bank of America, Boston Capital, of which I'm the CEO, the Lowell Institute, the Boston Foundation, along with our media sponsors, The Boston Globe, WBUR and NECN. Frankly, without this support, it wouldn't be possible to have the forum that we have tonight.
Ladies and gentlemen, 49 years ago this month, following Alan Shepherd's successful solo flight on Freedom 7 as part of the Mercury Program, President Kennedy called for a special session of Congress and in it, he said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
President Kennedy's vision for our country launched one of the greatest challenges of that time. Our country took up that challenge and on July 29th of 1969, as many of us in this room will remember, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon and were returned to Earth. President Kennedy inspired in all Americans a fascination with space, and it has been a challenge of later Presidents and NASA administrators to set the goals to continue to expand the understanding of our nation of the cosmos.
It is my distinct pleasure to introduce two of our most distinguished visitors for our Distinguished Visitors Forum. Last year, Major General Charles Bolden took up President Kennedy's challenge. He was confirmed as the 12th Administrator of NASA. This is the Administrator's second tour of duty in the space agency. From 1986 to 1994, he orbited aboard the space shuttle four times, two of them as Commander. His flights included deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope in the first joint U.S.-Russian mission, which featured a cosmonaut as a member of his crew.
Administrator Bolden began his career in the Marine Corps. After flight training, he became a naval aviator and flew more than 100 combat missions over North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. After returning to the U.S., he earned a degree in science, in systems management, from USC and was then assigned as a naval test pilot.
His NASA astronaut career includes various technical assignments, including overseeing the safety efforts for return of flights after the disastrous 1986 Challenger expedition. He was the lead astronaut for vehicles testing at the Kennedy Space Center, as well as the Assistant Deputy Administrator. His final space shuttle flight was in 1994. He then returned to active duty in the Marine Corps as the Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. In 1998, he was the Commanding General in Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait and was promoted to his final rank of Major General before retiring from the Marine Corps in 2003.
His many military decorations could go on forever, but let me just highlight two extremely illustrious ones: the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Major General Bolden was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in May of 2006.
To moderate tonight's discussion with Major General Charles Bolden, we are honored to have Dr. Edward Crawley, the Ford Professor of Engineering. Dr. Crawley is also the professor of aeronautics and astronautics -- which is something I had never heard of before -- of engineering and systems at MIT. Dr. Crawley has served many roles. He has been Chairman of the NASA Technology and Communications Advisory Committee. He was a member of the NASA Advisory Committee. He holds the NASA Public Service Medal and in 1993 was a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Space Station Redesign.
Dr. Crawley is conversant in Russian. He spent time as a visitor at the Moscow Aviation Institute, the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford University, and Cambridge University. In December of 2008, Dr. Crawley was appointed as a guest professor in Sing Chou University in Beijing. He was a finalist in the NASA Astronaut Selection in 1980, and is an active pilot, very active pilot. He was the 1990, 1995 and 2005 Northeast Regional Soaring Champion. I accused him of being a hang glider earlier, but he told me I was dead wrong. [laughter] Currently, Dr. Crawley is engaged with NASA on the design of its lunar and Earth observation systems. Please join me, ladies and gentlemen, in welcoming Charles Bolden and Ed Crawley, Dr. Crawley. [applause]
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Well, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here this evening among so many old friends and new friends and to have the NASA Administrator here as our guest. I thought I would actually pick up on the comments about the pivotal role that President Kennedy played and a little bit of the background of how the decision was made, because it actually involved a mentor of both of ours, the late Bob Siemens, who many of you might know.
There was actually a lunar program in the Eisenhower administration, a not well understood fact that ten days before the inauguration of President Kennedy in January, 1961, the NASA Lunar Advisory Committee, the NASA Advisory Planning Committee, prepared a set of documents to bring to the new President shortly after his inauguration.
What President Kennedy did was actually not change the dream of going to the moon, he changed the timetable. He understood that in order to be seen as a competitor with the Russians, with the Soviets, that it was necessary to act very quickly and to achieve a milestone in space that was sufficiently far away that we had a good chance of beating the Russians to it, but sufficiently close in that we had a sufficient chance of actually achieving it.
He asked NASA to investigate a space station, a trip to the moon, and a trip to Mars. After an enormous amount of activity in the early spring of 1961, NASA came back and said, “The Soviets can probably beat us to a space station,” which they did. “Mars is probably not achievable with our technology,” an answer which unfortunately is still true. “But the moon is the destination. We can probably beat the Soviets to the moon.” Hence, the announcement in the May, 1961 speech that was quoted, the famous “Man-Moon Decade Formulation.”
Since that time, since early 1970 when President Nixon essentially made the change in the nation's space policy that humans will not leave low Earth orbit -- will go to low Earth orbit, will visit the space station -- no human being has been more than about 380 miles from the surface of the planet, roughly the distance from here to Washington, D.C., the flight Charlie has to make home tonight. We'd been in space, but we'd been in very nearby space.
In 2004, then-President Bush 43 changed this policy again. He said, “It's time for us to explore beyond the Earth, to return to the moon and eventually to go onto Mars.” This formulation was recently reinforced and slightly modified by President Obama in his speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida just a few weeks ago. Charlie, I'd like to pick it up with you there. What is the vision presented by the President's speech of a few weeks ago?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: You‟ve pretty much elaborated it there. Essentially, the vision for us is to venture, eventually, to the planet Mars. That is the ultimate, I think, and the President agrees that that is the ultimate destination in our solar system. Kids think we‟re limiting ourselves in saying Mars but, within reason, in our solar system Mars is the ultimate destination. But there are a number of intermediate places that we have to go in order to be there. And so that means we need to go back to the lunar surface for periodic stays to learn lessons that will enable us to safely go onto Mars. We need to venture to asteroids. And we can do that. The main reason we need to do it, which some people will laugh at, is because we need to be able to protect the planet.
One of my charges as the NASA Administrator is to identify and characterize … I don't know whether you know what “characterize” means, but it means is it sand? Or is it metal? Is it made of clay? We have to characterize 90% of the near-Earth objects that can threaten Earth, and I have to do that by 2020. That's a charge from the Congress, so we‟re working on it. The best way to characterize something is to get as close to it as you can, either with a robot or with a human. So by 2025, the President has told me to prepare us to be able to take a human or a crewed launch and send it to an asteroid. That is an intermediate destination to get to Mars, and then by the early ' 30s or mid ' 30s we hope to have “boots on Mars,” as I would say as a Marine. But that's a long way off.
The critical thing for all of you to keep in mind is it's too far off for the American public to absorb. We don't do well with long-range plans. So what NASA intends to do, what our team intends to do, is given the President's guidance and his financial support in his proposed budget for 2011, is to begin flying what we call robotic precursors, to begin flying flagship demonstration missions. These are all missions that -- some crewed, some not -- every year or two will go and do something that is a building block on the way to Mars. I probably talk too much.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: That's all right.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: But it is an incremental vision. It's not simplistic. I wish I could tell you that in 2035 I'm going to put a human on Mars. I can't, because there is technology, as Ed said, we don't have. There are threats to the human specie that we can't overcome right now, radiation being the primary one. And we just need time to try to incrementally walk our way there. But in talking to kids at MIT today, I challenged them to give me things that we can do every year or every two years in the fields of aeronautics and space exploration and science, that will help us step our way to the planet Mars where we all want to be. And ' 30, you know, 2030, that's in our lifetime. It's a stretch for me.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: I remember the President mentioned that he plans to be around.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: He plans to be around. And you got to remember, he's a lot younger than I am.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Speak for yourself.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: But, I think we can all potentially be around when humans at least go into Martian orbit. That's my hope, anyway.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: So let's sort of lay out this pathway that the President has talked about. The first step is just simply to leave low Earth orbit, where no human has left since 1972. And where would be the first places we'd go, things like geosynchronous orbit?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: The very first place I want to go is a circumlunar mission. And that just means we want to fly a human around the moon again. That's hard. In case you think it's a piece of cake, Dr. Bob Gilruth, who was the Director of the Johnson Space Center when we ended the Apollo program -- I wasn't there, but I have it on good account and I‟ve checked it with a number of people -- Bob Gilruth said, “People will understand how difficult it was to go to the moon when we try to do it again.” And, let me tell you, it's hard. You know, we would like to be able to say, “Okay, we got it. And we know how to do this stuff.” It is very difficult to leave this gravity well. Earth is a relatively large planet. It's not like the large gaseous planets of Jupiter and Saturn and the like. But it's a huge gravity well, and so it takes a lot of power to leave the surface of Earth.
When we talk about technological innovation and new forms of propulsion, I wish I could tell you that in a few years we‟re going to have a drastically different way to leave the planet. We won't. And I don't want to spend a lot of time trying to go out and fool people that I'm going to find some new propulsion technology that's going to allow us to leave the planet. We‟re still going to be using chemical engines, is my guess. I could be wrong. But I‟ve been around the world, now, and talking to experts everywhere. So we‟re probably going to have to leave the gravity well with what we have today.
What will make the difference, what will be game-changing -- and Ed knows about this a lot -- is how we go from point A to point B once we get to space. It's in-space propulsion. That's where the game-changing technology will be developed. And that's what we need to be able to do, and that's what President Obama in his budget has given us the funding to do, to start developing the in-space propulsion technology that will allow us to … If I can cut the trip to Mars in half, that dramatically reduces the physical risk to an astronaut from radiation. I mean, just cut it in half.
It's an eight-month trip right now. That's a long, long time.
We stay on the International Space Station for six months. That's a long time. How many of you have sons and daughters in the military? Okay. A couple of us do. Unfortunately, the Army spends too long. They stay a year. In the Marine Corps, we stay six to seven months. That's a long, long time in combat. And essentially, going from Earth to Mars is combat. You're fighting the elements. You're fighting radiation. You're fighting everything. And, let me tell you, eight months is a long time. If I can cut that in half, I feel I'm doing something beneficial. I talk too long.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: And the psychological stress.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Psychological stress is incredible. We didn't think about it until we started dealing with the Russians. Now, we could talk for a long time about the importance of international partnerships. The most critical international partnership -- I won't say that -- let me not get in trouble. One of the most important international partnerships we have right now is with the Russians. When Columbia was lost, we did not have to de-man the International Space Station because we had a reliable partner in the Russians, who had a reliable vehicle in Soyuz that could allow us to keep putting astronauts on board the International Space Station every six months, just as we had always planned.
You know, when we started thinking about this partnership, originally we thought we could do everything with shuttle. Then we learned you just can't do that. Shuttle has a very unique capability. It's big. And it can carry incredible payloads to orbit and bring them safely back to Earth intact. No other vehicle can do that. No other vehicle has ever been able to do that. As I shared with the kids at MIT today, I get emotional when I talk about it. And Jeff Hoffman shares this with me. It will be a while before we ever see a spacecraft like the space shuttle. It was just a marvel of aerospace technology, you know, something that could carry two school buses to low Earth orbit, and then, if necessary, bring them back. And oh, by the way, plan it while you're there.
We had one mission that was supposed to go up and retrieve a couple of satellites. Then, we had another one that was supposed to repair a satellite. In almost every case, we had to wing it when we got there, because just like war, no plan survives crossing the line of departure. We had all of these elaborate space missions that we were going to go and retrieve a satellite, and we found that, okay, a design document is not exactly the way we built the satellite. So an elaborate capture mechanism that is supposed to just be able to be put on the end of a satellite and bring it into the payload bay, it didn't work. And so we put three people in the payload bay of the space shuttle, something we had never thought about, never planned for, but it took three people in the payload bay at the same time to physically, with human hands, grasp a satellite and pull it into the payload bay of the shuttle. We won't be able to do that again.
I want you all to understand what we‟re giving up. It's the right thing to do. Shuttle has had an incredible lifetime. It has probably gone much longer than we should have flown it, to be quite honest. But we still have young people who like to do that.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: So the principal points in the President's policy are that we‟re going to retire the shuttle in a few more flights in the fall, that we‟re going to extend the International Space Station, at least until 2020 is the wording in the President's policy. Do you want to say a few words about that and its importance to our international partnerships?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: The critical importance of extending the International Space Station is that it maintains the international partnerships. For some of you who are not like Ed Crawley and weren't on the Augustine Committee, I am told that their bent, their leaning when they convened, for sometime, was, “Forget about the International Space Station. It is of no value. We don't do good science. We don't do this. We don't do that.” These are very learned people. Then the international partners started coming in, one by one. And they said, “You know, you cannot abandon the International Space Station. We are just about to finish building this thing, and it's going to be an incredible laboratory where we can do incredible work. And besides, it's a mini United Nations.” So Ed and his cohorts on the Augustine Committee were swayed to say, “Okay, here is an option for you, Mr. President. We really think that it's a good idea to extend the International Space Station.” So we‟re greatly indebted to Augustine, but mostly to our international partners who said, “You know, this thing is incredibly valuable. You cannot abandon it.”
EDWARD CRAWLEY: To remind you, the International Space Station was approved by President Reagan in 1982 and reaffirmed by President Clinton in 1993. The first U.S. elements went into space about 2000 -- I think it was 1999 if I remember correctly -- but the last elements, which were some of the international modules, which our international partners had planned for for 20 years, just went up in the last year or two, that is to say in about 2008-2009, and we were already thinking about terminating the life of the International Space Station after five years of operation and 20 years of development.
And both the domestic users -- the National Institutes of Health and others -- and the international users very strongly said, “If the United States will ever have the right to lead an international alliance in space again, that you have to make good on the explicit and implicit promises associated with the Space Station. You have to give us at least a decade to use it.”
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: As Ed said, perhaps the most technologically advanced module on the International Space Station is Kibo. It's the Japanese module which was put up in 2009 last year. Kibo is absolutely mindboggling. It has a porch on the back of it. It has a small airlock that you can put scientific experiments into and then push them out onto the porch, where they're exposed to the vacuum of space. Without having to have an astronaut leave the safe confines of station like we have to do normally, and go do a space walk, you just put it in this airlock, close off the airlock, and push it out on the porch. And it can stay out there for years if it wants to.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: And there's a robotic arm.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: A robotic arm built by the Japanese that can then go and move it around and do whatever you want to do. Astronauts love Kibo. It's not a habitation module. But because it is the most technologically advanced, all the astronauts love to go and sleep out. You know, they like to go camp out in Kibo. Not what it was intended for.
The Europeans have what they call Columbus. The Columbus module is another laboratory module. The Russians and we, the Americans, put the two habitations modules onboard. Ed mentioned the fact that, the International Space Station, when it began, the first two components - you know who put them there, who owned them, who built them? Anybody want to guess? The Russians. The FGB, the Functional Cargo Block, which was a power and propulsion module and then the very first service module.
So once again when I talk about reliable partners, we were not ready. But we committed to the International Space Station and so we flew very rudiment -- I mean, really rudimentary pieces when you stop and think about it. The functional cargo block, which is still the power and propulsion module for the International Space Station and the first service module, were Russian components. We have to nurse them as you would any old house, but we nurse them along, and they're very, very good.
It is an incredible international partnership, and we want to expand the participants, not the partnership. We don't want to open up any treaties or do any of that stuff. But we want to bring more and more countries onboard to utilize the International Space Station because The President thinks that the more we can expand international participation, the better off we‟re going to be. It is much easier to talk to somebody and negotiate with them and do science experiments than to shoot at them.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: There is another aspect of the space station, too, that we examined which is, as we develop a more concrete plan to leave low Earth orbit and go towards Mars, it actually gives a new role to the space station at understanding prolonged physiological and psychological effects on the crew, limited amount of radiation studies that you can do within the Van Allen Belts. But also you can learn to work much as you would near a near Earth object.
The interesting thing about going to near Earth objects, what Charlie called the asteroids which cross the Earth's paths -- very similar to the moons of Mars -- is they're small bodies. They're the size of the MIT dome, for those of you who might think of it, the size of this building. And you don't land on an asteroid. You sort of go next to it, and you work in proximity to it.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Unless you're space cowboys. [laughter]
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Unless you're space cowboys. We‟ve all seen those movies. One of the other things we can do is we can develop operational technologies of how you would encounter an asteroid by practicing on the space station, the technology for handling fuels and storing fuels in space at the International Space Station.
So it's interesting, in this metamorphosis, the space station has gone from being a little bit of a problem to being part of the solution, and I think it bodes well for its future.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Incredible, absolutely.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Let's talk a little bit about the non-space parts of the recent NASA budget. What's happening in aeronautics and in science?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Okay, I appreciate Ed giving me an opportunity to talk about this because I never do. It always goes back to termination of constellation. We are incredibly excited, the NASA family as well as the professional communities in science and aeronautics, because in the President's proposed budget, we get plus ups in both fields.
It is going to allow us to accelerate the work that we‟re doing in Earth science, in climate change studies. We have several satellites that are supposed to do climate change studies that will actually bring forward, by as much as a year or two, in when we fly them. If you look at what's going on in the Gulf today, the Gulf of Mexico with the oil spill, we are utilizing existing assets, existing Earth science assets.
But what it has brought to everybody's mind is how fragile those assets are. They are all long overdue. They were put in space many, many years ago. And as frequently happens with American spacecraft, they have long overlived their design life. So in looking at the oil spills and looking at the devastation from the earthquake in Haiti, in looking at what happened from the volcano in Iceland, all of the instruments that are giving us the necessary data to understand what's going on are living a second life.
What President Obama is going to allow us to do is to bring in current generation or new generation science missions that will help us to understand what's going on on the planet. There is something we call NextGen, Next Generation Air Transport System. It is the system of air transport for the future that will help us get airplanes from point A to point B much more effectively and efficiently, using much less fuel, producing much less pollution. It includes everything from the curbside where you drop off your luggage, to the curbside where you get in the taxi after you‟ve landed. That's NextGen.
The person who is the most energetically engaged in NextGen right now is Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security. She sits on what we call the Executive Committee for NextGen.
And I can tell you, my very first meeting with her, she was just bombarding the FAA administrator and me about, “Okay, can you speed this up? Because I have got to be able to get people through airports much more efficiently than we do today, because a crisis on the horizon.
I mean, as air traffic picks up, we just can't get people through airports.” So NextGen is allowing us to design systems that will have a commercial airplane take off from Boston Logan, climb directly to its cruise altitude without doing intermediate stops, wasting gas, creating more pollution. Because every time you go back and forth on the throttle, you're pumping bad stuff out of the back end. If we can go directly to our cruise altitude and then go about what we call free- flight -- Joe Dyer, Admiral Dyer, right there, raise your hand, Admiral Dyer. I want you to call on Admiral Dyer. He's going to answer some of these questions, too. He's my mentor, but he's also my senior advisor on the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, the Congressionally-mandated Safety Advisory Panel for me.
When we get to altitude, if we can exercise free-flight, which is, “I want to go from Boston to San Francisco. I don't want to talk to a flight controller. I don't want to have to zigzag. I don't want to have to go to Houston and then up to San Francisco. I want to go on a straight line.”
With NextGen, we'll be able to do that, because we have a system called -- I won't tell you what the name of it is. But it's computers where the airplanes know where they are. They know where their friends are, and they talk to each other, the airplanes do. The airplane says, “Okay, I'm going from Boston Logan to San Francisco. I'm two minutes ahead of you. If you'll slow down for 30 seconds and get in line, we'll get there.” By the time 16 airplanes get to San Francisco International, without a pilot doing a thing or an air controller saying a word, they have put themselves in a line to land at San Francisco International. They get cleared to land. And they come from 37,000 feet to the runway without diverting or doing anything, and you all are very happy passengers. So that's NextGen in a nutshell.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Yes, and making less airport noise.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: And making less airport noise, exactly.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Many people don't realize, Charlie, the important role that NASA plays in cooperation with other federal agencies. You‟ve just mentioned the tight integration of the FAA and NASA on one side. You have NASA and NOAA on the other side, where NOAA has the responsibility for the operational satellites in space that monitor the Earth, the meteorological satellites, which are also getting old.
I recently heard someone inside the beltway -- and you have to live in the beltway to understand a statement like this -- “We don't need weather satellites. We have the weather channel.” [laughter] So we still need weather satellites because they provide all that stuff to the weather channel, but, in fact, one of the most significant increases that occurred in the NASA budget and in the most recently Obama budget that came out in February was the plus-up in Earth science observation. Nearly a 50% increase over the next few years to allow the backlog of Earth observing and climate monitoring satellites to start being accelerated towards flight. I'm sure that's going to help a lot.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: That's going to help an awful lot. You know, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, administrator of NOAA, Jane Lubchenco, she and I have a very good, close working relationship. We have deployed assets, both space-borne and even airplanes to the Gulf of Mexico to help in monitoring what's going on with the oil spill. The partnership is just incredible. What we want to do is to be able to bring forward some of the Earth science satellites that need to be launched.
One is called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, OCO. We had an unfortunate launch accident where the shroud, the cover on the satellite at the very top, didn't open completely, and the satellite was lost in the ocean. The President has agreed that we should re-fly that satellite, so we‟re producing a second OCO right now. We‟re hoping to launch it in 2012. But that will help to bring things up to speed as far as carbon monitoring and CO2 monitoring and the like.
And they have multiple applications across agencies, as Ed mentioned, whether it's the intelligence community or the State Department, the Department of Defense, NOAA, NASA, we all are starting to work together because President Obama has insisted that we do what? An interesting concept, collaboration.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Within the government?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Within the government. He's incredible when it comes to this kind of stuff because he's passionate about it. So we are now starting to talk with each other. I have meetings, periodically, with my counterparts in the DOD and in the intelligence community and in NOAA, and everywhere, because anything that any agency does affects the others. So that's one of the things that President Obama has really encouraged us to do: to talk more.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Are we moving, Charlie, towards any closer collaboration with international partners on climate monitoring?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Yes, we are. In fact, among the chief partners on climate monitoring are the members of the European Space Agency; that's 15 European nations that come under one umbrella, but also the Indians. I know when people want to scare you, they will talk about the “threat from India.” And they will talk about the “threat from China.” India is going to end up being an absolutely incredible partner. We partnered with India on our exploration of the moon. The Indians had Chandrayaan-2, which was a lunar orbiting satellite that had a few American payloads on it. We have the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and we had LCROSS. I can never remember what the acronym LCROSS stands for, so I won't even try it.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: The “L” is “Lunar.”
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: The “L” is “Lunar,” I can tell you that. But LCROSS, if you remember, was the one that we plunged into the surface of the South Pole of the moon to try to kick up some water ice if it were there, and it turned out it was. But we have had cooperations and collaborations with the Indians for a number of years.
I'm on my way, as a matter of fact, to Kenya beginning of next month to talk there about expanding some cooperation that we do with them in providing 30 years worth of Earth science data to that country, so that they can do disaster monitoring, they can look at water resource management, at crop management and the like. Then from there to Saudi Arabia, where we‟re going to renew some of the agreements we have with the Saudis on science collaboration as well as STEM education initiatives. You know, we talk about STEM education. Let me just diverge here.
Every single nation in the world with whom we talk has the same problem we do. They are having a difficult time -- including China, by the way, okay, so don't fool yourselves that most nations do it much better than we do. Every nation in the world today is suffering from the inability to get their young people interested in science and engineering and math and STEM- related courses.
So we talk a lot, when I go to international forums, about how do we better attract our kids? How do we get them back into it? We do stuff like Joe does with robots -- competition like the First Robotics, different competitions like that -- and those are things that NASA is really supporting. We have 312 teams that we mentor in the First Robotics competition. That's more than any other agency or any other organization anywhere. That's more than Boeing, Lockheed Martin, anywhere. But that's because we have engineers and scientists who are passionate about mentoring kids, and they go out and spend their extra time with something like First Robotics.
So you asked me what time it was, I built a watch. Forget it. [laughter]
EDWARD CRAWLEY: One of the things that weighed very heavily on us in the Augustine deliberations was, in fact, that if as it is one of the primary rationale for having a human space flight program is the inspiration of you to youth and the engagement of America. We actually have to have a program that does that, that we have to have a program that does new things, this cadence of successes and new ventures and ways that we can engage this generation of students and young people through tutoring and tweeting. Do you tweet, by the way?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: No I don‟t.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Oh man.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: That's a sore point with my communications department over there.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Yeah, you should have hundreds of kids follow you.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: I don't tweet and toot and do all that other stuff, but my deputy does.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Well, we'll leave it at tweeting.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: We do it out of the headquarters.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Let's just talk about one or two more things that we‟ve managed to leave towards the end. Not everybody is happy with the President's plan. You get lots of help from the Congress in encouraging you to rethink about it and rethink it, and much of that actually has to do with the rockets, ironically.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Right.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Say a few words about commercial crew, for example.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Anything that has the title “commercial” in it causes people to get nervous when you talk about humans, and it's because most people fail to recognize the fact that we have always launched human beings on commercial rockets. The space shuttle is a commercial rocket. It's just we bought it. Most people are comfortable when the government buys something and has total control of it and oversight. That's incredibly expensive, incredibly inefficient and it causes us not to be able to explore. Ed mentioned the fact that when Gene Cernan left the surface of the moon in 1972, we have not been beyond low Earth orbit … Well, that's not true. No, that's right.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: No, that is true.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: We have not been beyond low Earth orbit since Gene Cernan left the surface of the moon in 1972, and there's a very simple explanation. Space exploration is expensive. Space flight is expensive. NASA can either buy rockets, launch them, operate them in orbit with a fully up, you know, we do everything and let the rest of the world go their merry way and having nothing left for exploration and science or aeronautics. Or we can do, as President Obama has charged me to do, focus on exploration beyond low Earth orbit and find a partner who can help us get humans, keep humans in low Earth orbit, get humans to the International Space Station. That's what I'm going to facilitate the success of the commercial entities in doing, and it makes no difference whether you're talking about a SpaceX or an Orbital or a Boeing or a Lockheed. Those are people who make spacecraft. They always have made spacecraft. They make very good spacecraft. You know, with some exceptions of the entrepreneurs that we just don't know yet, but we know how to judge them. Joe Dyer will tell you. He beats on me all the time because he wants to make sure that I exercise all the knowledge that we have gained over the years, and that we don't just throw it away and say, “Okay, these guys are okay. We‟re going to let them go do that.” That's a discussion for another day. But we are going to put great demands on the commercial entities, and we will lease a spacecraft from them, or we will rent a spacecraft from them, whatever it is. We'll utilize the spacecraft for as long as we need to get NASA astronauts to the International Space Station or other place in low Earth orbit if some of these other guys can produce these inflatable laboratories and other kinds of things.
It's up to them to develop the market. I will facilitate their success, NASA will. We have no question that we can make them successful in terms of leaving the planet and getting to low Earth orbit. You know, the issue of market is theirs so people need to separate the two.
Understand, I'm going to get astronauts safely to orbit on commercial vehicles while I go explore. I'm not going to pay to operate in low Earth orbit anymore, so that's the concept, if you will.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: So it's sort of a hybrid of a partnership.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Oh yeah.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: That you are going to provide some market. You're going to provide some initial funding, and most critically, I think, you're going to provide some safety and quality oversight.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: We provide a stable market, a stable nucleus, if you will, okay. Don't let me fool you, here. I can't provide the market. I'm going to provide the stable foundation for a commercial market if one is there, because I have to fly X number of times a year to get to the International Space Station with people. Then, I have to fly an X number of times a year to get supplies to the International Space Station so that gives them the basic building block on which to go.
There are other things that people are going to want to go to low Earth orbit for. I'm interested in it, but I'm not the person who's supposed to go out there and generate it. But we will make it successful, and we will make it safe. So I am very encouraged and I'm very optimistic about what utilizing commercial entities to get us to low Earth orbit is going to free me up to do, in terms of exploration, going beyond low Earth orbit, getting us back to the lunar surface, on to asteroids, onto LaGrange points, and eventually onto the place where I want to go, which is Mars. I want my granddaughters to walk on the planet. [laughter]
EDWARD CRAWLEY: There is also good historical precedent to this. Most Americans don't remember that at the end of World War One, America lagged as an aeronautics power, that the aeronautics technology was in France and Germany and Britain. It was through two steps that the government took at that time: one, the investment in your precursor agency, the NACA, in the development of technology; and the creation of a partial subsidy of a market through the Air Mail Act of 1924 that created some demand.
The combination of those things really built the American air transportation industry as we see it, and we looked forward to that opportunity, again, in the American space -- the commercial space industry -- that the combination of some market guarantee from NASA as an anchor customer and the reinvestment in space technology that is also part of the President's budget. I wonder if you could say just a few things about that because this is big news, especially in a university town like Boston.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Well, the most important thing is the reinvestment in space technology. I get excited when I have an opportunity to talk to students on a college campus or an elementary school campus. To watch the young men and women over on the campus at MIT earlier today who are excited about spheres -- they are these little balls that were flying around inside the International Space Station that I didn't even know about -- but they‟ve been doing it since 2006. They're programmed by university students, university researchers, and through the summer of innovation and the partnership with the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium, we‟re going to enable junior high school students to program these things to fly around the International Space Station.
So I am incredibly excited about the opportunities that are going to be presented by reliance on the commercial entities to get us there, while we go explore and do other things. Can any of you imagine? I mean, other than the young people over here, can anybody imagine being a seventh grade student programming a ball that is essentially a satellite, that is going to fly around inside an orbiting laboratory called the International Space Station and watch it on TV? I mean, just think about it. To me, that's mindboggling. That's what's going to happen in this coming year because college students and graduate students and their professors have been doing it since 2006 now. Due to the summer of innovation and Jeff Hoffman's leadership here with the Space Grant Consortium, we‟re going to enable middle school students to do that. You got to remember, I got a ten year old, seven year old, three year old, soon to be four year old, granddaughter. They get excited about this stuff so that's why I do it. I don't do it for any of these other outré -- whatever you want to call it -- motives. I'm looking out for my granddaughters, and that's what's important.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: And that's an experiment by Dr. David Miller, Professor Miller, over here at the corner, the one who's turning red. [laughter]
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: He's helping my granddaughters.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Well, I think it's a good time to open the discussion up to questions from the floor. There are two microphones up here. I would encourage people to ask a question, a brief question of the administrator, rather than making statements, and I will provide an alternative pathway for participation, which is you can send me a text and I'll work those questions into the administrator. So here is my number. Ready? 617-230-6604. Text that, and I'll ask your questions to the administrator in between the microphone questions. So let's start over here.
Q: Thank you for visiting us here in Boston, General Bolden, and for your exciting comments and the energy you bring to this subject that brought us a lot of optimism back in the ' 60s. My concern and my question is not very exciting, so I apologize in advance, but on this planet we have a need for energy. In the ' 70s, Dr. Peter Glazer, a man from Lexington, a local man, came up with the idea of getting energy from space, and I always wondered why NASA didn't set that as another goal, not one instead of Mars, but maybe an additional goal. It just mystifies me that they wouldn't get excited about this idea.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Well, quite the contrary. We are excited about it. And we still have ongoing research. Whether you're talking about what we call laser communications, laser energy transfer, the like, there are different things that NASA continues to research that may one day turn out to be beneficial in that regard.
We don't look as much at energy from space to Earth as we do from, say, the lunar surface to something that's in orbit. Then, maybe it is transferrable, later, to energy from space to Earth. But laser communications, energy transfer, those types of things are issues that are ongoing research at NASA.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: One of the key enabling technologies for that is in your plan. It's in Bobby's plan, which is the laser power.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Laser power, yes.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Transfer of power by laser. As it turns out, one of the weaknesses of that scheme is actually transmitting radio frequencies a significant amount of power. You need very large footprints. If you can turn it into a transmission at optical wavelengths, like light, it becomes much more practical and that's in the new NASA technology plan. Thank you for that.
Q: Thank you.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Over here.
Q: Thank you for coming. My name is Jack Simons. I retired ten years ago, and I can remember when Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic. Most of my professional career has a core, high- vacuum science and technologies so when the Russians invented space with the launch of Sputnik, I found out that I was already six years into the space business and that led to numerous contracts with NASA and other people.
Since then, I have had the privilege of providing components for the Mars Lander, the Jupiter Orbiter, and finally the Hubble Telescope. Since my retirement, I have sort of turned off on the space programs because what I get is from the media, and it didn't seem exciting to me.
Particularly, Mars I didn't think was a good idea because it cost too much, especially in the present environment. And secondly, I'm not going to see it. But listening to you guys today, I have gotten very excited about what you are doing, particularly with respect to sending satellites around the Earth for our benefit, for what it's going to do for making our lives better in the years ahead. That inspires me, and I'm going to keep much better tabs on what you guys are doing.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Thank you very much. If you will allow me, you know what you are talking about, the International Space Station is just a phenomenal facility. It's a national laboratory. We do things in space for a primary reason of making life on Earth better. NASA is frequently accused by NASA-bashers of being about doing things that are for NASA, and that's not true. Our focus is on making life better on Earth.
We produced a salmonella vaccine on a sequence of flights on the space shuttle and then took it to the International Space Station. We‟re about to begin human trials on a salmonella vaccine.
That's not for space flight, that's for life on Earth. But when you get in the micro-gravity environment of space, things are different. You would enjoy it. You would love it because aches and pains and stuff, to a certain extent, kind of go away. You know, you float. The body ages quicker, granted. But still, if you exercise, things are okay. We can make all kinds of advances.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Time goes more slowly because you're going faster. [laughter] So speaking of going fast, one of the texters has asked Charlie -- Thank you very much.
Q: I would only say one more thing. If I'm one point of the curve, maybe you could do a better job of publicizing all this good stuff you're doing.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: We are trying, and Mike Cabbage, who's sitting over here on the extreme right hand side, he is beating me up about being slow to turn them loose and do stuff. We have an incredible communications department and I tell them all the time when I go in and talk to them, it's not their fault that we don't tell our stories better. It's me. The responsibility to get the story out is the NASA administrator. So I take the hit, and I'm trying to do a little bit better than we have been doing so, hopefully, tonight will help.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: And I don't usually make overtly political comments, but since we are at a Presidential Library, if you're interested and inspired by tonight, it would help Charlie if you sent a note to your congressman or Senator, because he needs some help up there on the Hill.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: He can say that. I can't.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: That's right. Precisely.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: But he's right. [laughter]
EDWARD CRAWLEY: We had a note from a texter, Charlie, asking, what are the biggest challenges of sending a human to Mars?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Challenges of sending humans to Mars: number one is radiation, as I mentioned earlier. It's arguable; we‟re developing data as we spend longer and longer times on the International Space Station. We may find that we‟re wrong, that life on the International Space Station is just as threatening as an eight-month trip to Mars. I doubt it, but we‟re trying to find out. But radiation, right now, is the biggest challenge.
The second biggest challenge is speed. It's propulsion, as I said, in-space propulsion, because eight months to get to the planet is far too much. Because what it does is it makes a mission that you would like to do in a year turn into a three-year mission. Because if it takes me eight months to get to Mars, remember what happens in the solar system? The planets are different distances away from the sun so Mars and Earth get aligned a certain time of the year. They stay okay.
Eventually, they start drifting apart. and when they start drifting apart, I can't get back so I have to wait for a year for them to get aligned again. So speed is the second big challenge.
The third big challenge is how do I survive once I get there? What technologies do I need to survive on the planet? We think Mars has some methane. We now know it has tons of water. So maybe my thought about needing methane engines goes away because I can do locks(?) hydrogen, if there is a lot of water on the planet. So we‟re changing our minds, even as we speak, about the technologies that we need on Mars. Those are probably the top three right now.
Q: My name is Joe Parish. I'm an aerospace engineer here in Boston. My dream of dreams has always been to pilot an aircraft in the atmosphere of Mars. I recognize that it's probably a dream that's going to have to remain a dream, in thinking about it in practical terms. But the reason that I bring this up is to ask you to talk a little bit about risk and about our society's tolerance of risk. I've been thinking a lot about this in the context of human space exploration and thinking back on times that we have made tremendous progress. So, for instance, the ' 50s and ' 60s with all of the x-planes and tremendous advances in aeronautics, those came at the expense of lives of brave people, but people who also were objective and understood what they were getting themselves into.
I worry a little bit that society, particularly in recent times, has become so risk-intolerant, that it is causing us to not be able to achieve some of the great dreams that we have at reasonable cost and on reasonable timetables. I wonder if you could comment a little bit about the possibility for objective, sane, rational people to talk about risk acceptance and what the effect that might have on the pace of innovation and exploration.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: We need to have the national dialogue on exploration, which will include the dialogue about risk. We don't do anything that's not risky. No one does. When you get in your car to go back home tonight, you're probably taking a bigger risk than somebody who's climbing in the shuttle into Atlantis on Friday going to orbit. Depends on where you live.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: In Boston.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: In Boston, that may be true. [laughter]
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Certain intersections, in particular.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: But risk, you know, we always tell kids -- or I do -- if you want to do something that's worthwhile, you have to be willing to accept a risk for that. What do football players tell kids in high school or in junior high school, now? No pain, no gain. If we as a nation are not willing to accept the risk, then we need to just say, “Okay, we‟re not going to do that.” And then knowingly step aside and let some other nation that is willing to accept the risk take the lead. So far, we have not been willing to do that. You know, we don't like talking about risk. We don't like the probability -- the probability, not possibility -- the probability that one of these times things is not going to go right. We‟ve had it happen twice in the space shuttle program. I still contend it is the most incredible program that we have ever put together.
Would I do it again? You bet I would if I had an opportunity, because the gain is worth every bit of the risk in doing that. And as you pointed out, we have incredible Americans who, (1) they want to give something back; (2) they think it's important to explore; (3) they just like doing risky things. And I have 18,000 employees at NASA. Dovi, am I right? Dovi is a project manager and an educator.
We have 18,000 employees who are all risk-takers. They come to work at NASA because they want to do exciting things, and they want to do risky things and they don't want to put anybody unduly at risk. But they realize that on any given day, what we do can result in the loss of a friend or a coworker. But we think it's worth it. And do we agonize in pain when it happens? You bet we do. But it's necessary. So I try to share with people the importance of being risk- takers, and we need to be risk-takers as a nation.
I think the President understands that. I'm not sure a lot of other people do. You know, turning low Earth orbit over to commercial ventures is risky. We‟re at an organization less than NASA that's responsible for facilitating that success. I'd say, “I'm not sure I'd take that risk.” But knowing the people who work for NASA, I'd say, “That's a risk you ought to put your money on.” Because we generally do not undertake things and take them lightly. We thrive on risk, but we demand incredible success in what we do. And when the President says he wants us to put commercial entities in the lead for going to low Earth orbit, we‟re going to make that happen, and we‟re going to do it safely.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Charlie, there have been a couple of text questions around the area of commercial crew. What are we going to do in the interim when the shuttle retires? How long are we going to use the Soyuz? When might an American system be flying again? How is it going to be regulated? You want to say a little more about that?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Let me try to answer them really quickly in succession. What are we going to do when the shuttle retires? Same thing we had planned to do since 2004 when President Bush announced the vision for space exploration after the Columbia accident and said, “We are going to phase out the shuttle by 2010.” We knew at that time, even when the Constellation program was instituted, that there was going to be a finite period of time when we were going to have to rely on our good ol‟ reliable partners, the Russians, to get us to low Earth orbit. We knew that. We have known that since 2004.
So anybody who pretends to be surprised, who believes that President Obama has created this crisis, you're smoking dope. [laughter] Okay, to put it mildly. We have known since 2004 that we were going to have a defined gap. We didn't know how long it was going to be, and we still don't know how long it's going to be. But we knew we were going to have a gap. But we knew we had a reliable partner in the Russians, who could get us to the International Space Station on Soyuz, and that still exists today. That's what carried us for two years after Columbia.
We also know that we could not afford to press on with the Constellation program the way that it was laid out. It had gone from being a mission to Mars or a program with its ultimate destination of Mars to a program that, well, we have to go to the moon because we can't afford to go to Mars. Well, this costs a lot more than we thought, and this is not the NASA people. This is just our industry.
Okay, so understand as we learn more and more about what we wanted to do, we took the Lander off. We took the surface systems off. And so when I became the NASA administrator -- and I think Joe Dyer will even admit this -- we were down to hoping that we could develop an Aries One vehicle that would get us into low Earth orbit so that we could rendezvous with something to get us to lunar orbit -- you know, marry up with an Aries Five heavy lift vehicle that we could then land on the moon. But we didn't have any lander. We didn't have surface vehicles. So we were going to have to hope that all that would come about. When President Obama and I took a look, we said, “Hey. We really do want to do some of this stuff. So maybe if we step back for a moment, regroup, come up with something that we think we can sustain, then maybe we can really get beyond low Earth orbit.” And I think that's where we are, to be quite honest.
Is it risky? You bet it is. Are the commercial entities going to be challenged? You bet they are, and they know they are. The reason they're going to be challenged is that they have never had to invest all of their own assets the way they're having to do now. We‟re putting up some seed money, but we have a defined amount. They know what they're getting from us; right now, they're getting $250 million a piece. And then, the rest of it -- shareholders, investors, whatever it takes. And if they can't make it, guess what? They go the way of many of them who have already gone out of the competition.
That's what we‟re all about. You know, we are supposedly the most fruitful, productive, whatever you want to call it, capitalist society in the world. We know how to do this stuff. That's what you all tell me, right? Isn't that what Bill O‟Reilly tells me every night, the three minutes I can listen to him? [laughter] You know, “Turn industry loose. Turn the commercial entities loose, and we can do everything.” Guess what? I'm getting ready to turn them loose, okay.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Norm Augustine mentioned to me recently that when he was last giving testimony about this, he found himself explaining “private enterprise” to the Congress. [laughter]
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: It's who we are, you know. It's what built this nation. Now, space exploration is difficult, and getting humans off the planet is difficult so they can't do it completely by themselves. That's where NASA comes in, and what we‟re doing right now is we have folks who are trying to determine what's the proper level of oversight for us. How much do we need to be involved?
I can tell you where we are right now is way too much, way too much. We stifle innovation because we specify what we want. We tell them what color we want. We tell them what shape we want. We tell them everything. Then, when it doesn't work we say, “Well, why did you screw up?” And they say, “We gave you what you asked for.”
Well, I don't want to do that. I want to say, “Look. I want a rocket that will get me to 250 nautical miles above Earth, and it will rendezvous with the International Space Station. It will be able to station keep, and I will be able to grab it and pull it in and birth it and it will hold pressure. When we open the hatches, it won't destroy my International Space Station. I can take the supplies out of it. I can put stuff back in. Then, you can go away and you can deorbit.
Eventually, I want you to be able to deorbit intact so that I can put a human being in there, and they can come back to Earth the way the Russians do.” That's what I want them to do.
You don't think we can do that? That's a question. You don't think we can do that? If you don't think that the United States can do that, if you don't think that the United States commercial entities can do what Energia does every single year for us, then I think you're in the wrong country. I mean, seriously. You don't have any faith in our industry to do what the Russians do for us every year.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Question over here.
Q: My name is Dr. Joe Dorsey. I'm just a longtime fan of NASA. You asked the question about how to interest high school students in the kind of scientific work that NASA will need. I have a recommendation for you, and that is to get the DVD of the history of NASA that was presented at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory a couple of months ago called Forged in the Stars. It is inspirational. It would motivate kids to want to find ways to get attached to NASA.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Thank you. Thank you for reminding me of that. Forged in the Stars, remember that. I got to go get it. Thank you.
Q: General, I suggest you get a tape of this program from the Library and play it before the House Appropriations Committee. You‟ve done a good job of selling your program. My comment, first, is I see a bit of the Everest syndrome in this whole activity. Mars is there. You have an idea of putting somebody on it. Why don't you do it with a mass spectrometer? You are maintaining the space station which, as far as I know, has produced no good for the average American, or at least in terms of his or her understanding. If you can make salmonella products at the space station, can you do it someplace else? Thank you.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Well, in response to your question, we actually will not produce the salmonella in space. It's going to be done here. As you said, we had a program back in the '80s that was called electrophoresis operations in space, where we thought we were going to produce incredibly good drugs in space. We found out it wasn't cost-effective. But the processes were modified. We learned how to change the process such that it became much more efficient here on Earth, and we were only able to determine that by running it through in a micro-gravity environment, where you can do things free of gravity.
So you're right in one regard: a lot of the things that we do in space, we don't do them to continually do it there. We do it so to make the processes better here on Earth. The big difference, why do I want to send humans? Because to date, robots do not have the capability of going to anywhere and carrying out the mission that they're assigned to do and stop in the middle of that operation and say, “Oh. That rock over there is the one I was sent to get, not the one I was programmed to get.”
People give me the example of the six moon landings we did, and lunar scientists tell me that a number of the samples that were brought back by the astronauts, they would have never picked, they were never told to get. But they looked like something that the geologists who taught them lunar geology said, “You know, if you ever see one of these, grab it.” Robots don't do that. So that's why it's really important for us to have a partnership of robots and humans. I don't argue with your point about robots being able to do lots of things and mass spectrometers and the like, and that's what we‟re going to do with the Mars Science Lab that's coming up. Huge thing and it's going to have a scooper and all that stuff and do exactly what you're talking about.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: I want to warn the audience that the administrator is going to leave a few minutes before seven. We do not yet have next generation air transportation, [laughter] and we have to get him to Logan the good old fashioned way. So we‟re going to take one more question from each side, and Charlie is going to give short answers.
Q: Thank you, General, and thank you, Ed Crawley. I am Camila Chavez-Cortez, an artist, photographer and videographer, and I'd like to know, has China joined the international space station? And if not, when is China going to be going? And also, will you give us more detail about your next trip to the Middle East, to Malaysia and Indonesia?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: I don't have a trip scheduled yet to Malaysia and Indonesia. My chief of external relations has already gone there to lay the groundwork. My next trip is going to be to Saudi Arabia. But hopefully I'll get to Indonesia and Malaysia, primarily because the President has asked us to put some effort on trying to bring into the partnership dominantly Muslim nations, because of the richness of the culture and their leadership in the world in advancing math and science and engineering and the like, things that we have forgotten.
In terms of China, they have an incredibly rich space program. They are really good at what they do. I have had the privilege of visiting China twice before becoming the NASA administrator and being exposed to their program. They are potentially a great partner. However, I think we all know that there are significant problems in dealing with China, problems of transparency. I was talking to somebody here earlier about just a basic problem of trust.
It took us a long time to trust the Soviets, who then became the Russians. If you do it the right way, anything is possible. But China is just problematic right now, just because of a number of different things. But they are a potential partner sometime in the future.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Great. Last question.
Q: Hi. My name is Billy Tolheimer. And my question is for a hypothetical student just starting college who has always wanted to go to space and be one of those people who are making the first steps on Mars, what are the opportunities available? What should that person be doing to maximize the probability of being selected by an administration like NASA?
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: There are incredible hypothetical opportunities for the hypothetical student. [laughter] If I were the hypothetical student -- and I'm going to imagine the hypothetical student is either a high school senior getting ready to go to college or a college freshman -- I would take every math and science course I could take. I would major in some technical area because right now that's a requirement. I'm not sure that that's a necessary requirement to be an astronaut, but that's just the way it is right now.
I would make myself incredibly rich in history and language arts and definitely a foreign language. If you asked me which ones, I'd say Chinese or Arabic if I were the hypothetical student. [laughter] And then, if I were the hypothetical student, I'd make sure that I did a lot of stuff to take care of my body, like athletics or whatever it is that makes me very fit. Then, I would also get actively involved in my community serving other people.
I would forget about being an astronaut if I were the hypothetical student until I graduated from college and decided whether I wanted to go to grad school or join the military and become a pilot in the military. Then, I think you're on your way, hypothetical student. [laughter] [applause]
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Thanks a lot for the question.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: And you left out the part about becoming a glider pilot.
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Oh, that's right. Man, let me tell you, that's awesome. I'm not as good as Ed, but a part of being a test pilot -- Joe will tell you this-- you got to start with the little gliders. The shuttle is the biggest glider in the world and you won't have it. When you become an astronaut, we'll have gone away from the big glider. You know, you'll be on a capsule or something because you'll be coming back from Mars. And gliders don't work very well in withstanding the re-entry heating and all that stuff when you're coming back that fast. So not yet.
EDWARD CRAWLEY: Before we wrap up here, I want to give an answer that only Neil Armstrong could have given. The occasion was the 30th anniversary of the Apollo landing, when he was speaking at MIT, and some student in the audience said, “Mr. Armstrong, do you think, in my lifetime, we'll go to Mars?” And Neil thought about this for a second and he said, “I don't know. But I can tell you, when I was your age I was certain that, in my lifetime, we would not have gone to the moon.” So there is always hope for things in the future, and there's a bright future for human space flight, especially if people like General Bolden are running the program.
Thank you very much, Charlie. [applause]
CHARLES BOLDEN, JR.: Thank you very much. [applause]