Former African-American astronaut to head NASA

May 24th, 2009 - 3:15 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, May 24 (DPA) US President Barack Obama Saturday named Charles Bolden, a black ex-astronaut, to lead the US space agency into its next chapter that could take it back to the moon.
The retired Marine Corps general, 62, flew four times in the space shuttle in the ’80s and ’90s - two times as mission commander. His nomination must be approved by the Senate.

Former NASA head Michael Griffin stepped down in January as Obama was entering office.

The handover of leadership comes at an uneasy time at the space agency as it closes down its quarter-century-old shuttle programme in 2010. The next transporter, called Orion, is not expected to be flight-ready until 2015, leaving travel to and from the nearly completed International Space Station up to the Russian Soyuz programme.

The US space programme is now turning its attention to getting back to the moon and use it as a jumping-off platform for exploring Mars, according to NASA’s long-term objectives set by former president George W Bush.

NASA is preparing to launch two moon probes June 17 to send data back to NASA to help scientists find the best location for a spacecraft landing to bring humans to the moon.

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