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Audio: NASA Administrator Talks Mars, SpaceX in Speech at OU

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  1. Charles Bolden visits OU 1:54

When Astronaut Charles Bolden was preparing to complete his first mission to space in 1986, his big worry was keeping his breakfast down on launch day.

“I know it sounds trivial, but it’s not,” said Bolden. “The end of that day, having gotten through it without feeling any stomach awareness or anything else, that was a pretty triumphant moment for me.”

It’s safe to say Bolden has had many “triumphant” moments since then. In his speech on Ohio University’s campus Wednesday night, the NASA Administrator recounted the highs and lows of his 35-year career and discussed the future of space exploration. The talk was part of the ongoing International Space University (ISU) program hosted by OU.

“When you witness Earth from orbit, seeing a sunset or a sunrise every 45 minutes as I’ve had the opportunity to do,” said Bolden. “You get quite a different perspective on things.”

Bolden began his career in the Marine Corps before being trained as an Astronaut in 1980. He took his fourth and final trip into space in 1994.

Bolden’s early years at NASA were not without incident.

“When successive failures of every launch system we had at the time from the shuttle to titan, delta, and atlas rockets nearly completely grounded us, that was a real wake-up call,” said Bolden. “And the changes in policy toward greater commercialization and cooperation are paying off now.”

Since the termination of the space shuttle program in 2011, NASA has relied on partnerships with privately owned space transport companies like SpaceX to complete their missions.

In his speech, Bolden called on Congress to support these alliances.

“I can’t stress this enough. If we don’t get the funding we need, we’ll be delayed in getting astronauts aboard the systems of American companies at a time when our partners are making great strides and innovating to bring those great launches back to this country.”

One great stride he hopes to make soon? A mission to Mars. But, he said, there’s still work to be done. Bolden urged ISU students to continue their research and get others involved.

“You all want to go to Mars. You all want to explore,” said Bolden. “You’ve got to get out and become disciples. You’ve got to go back to your countries, and you’ve got to sear it into everybody’s heart, that’s it’s really important for humanity to get off this doggone planet and find a way to get to another.”