TheGrio’s 100: Charles F. Bolden, Administrator of NASA, astronaut

TheGrio's 100 - Charles Bolden is the first African-American head of NASA...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Charles Bolden is the first African-American head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Bolden’s appointment from President Barack Obama and confirmation by the Senate went rather smoothly compared to his post-high school aspirations to join the Naval Academy. Back then, Congress refused to appoint African-Americans to the prestigious military school in Annapolis.

He eventually won an appointment from Rep. William Dawson, a black Congress member from Illinois. Bolden is not shy about this racial history. In a July 8 testimony before the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, he informed those who held his confirmation in their balance about his parents, “public school teachers who, despite very long hours and lower wages than their white counterparts, loved every day of their work … [inspiring] thousands of black students to take their places in national, state and local leadership.”

Today, the former NASA astronaut who’s made four space shuttle voyages, is tasked with pushing space exploration beyond lower Earth orbit, leading NASA into greater involvement in critical environmental issues, and helping the U.S. establish itself as a world leader in science and technology.

There will be many challenges for Bolden’s administration. He has said that he would like to enhance NASA’s capabilities for climate change monitoring, but right now there is staunch opposition from Republican members of Congress for any financial support for any climate change initiatives. NASA has also suffered budget constraints that have kept them from reaching their goals.

It will be up to Bolden to convince Congress that science, technology and space exploration are worthy investments for the nation. Sending humans to moons and planets is still the concentration of NASA activities, but under Bolden, it could also help unlock solutions to climate change problems that will keep humans safe on Earth.

Click here to check out the other Grio 100 history-makers in science.