Charles Frank Bolden has the ultimate space pedigree. He served as pilot on Space Shuttle flights STS-61C and STS-31 and mission commander on STS-45 and STS-60 before becoming NASA Administrator from July 2009 to January 2017. Today he is a passionate and enthusiastic advocate of space exploration, and a respected advisor and commentator on global space affairs. Here, in conversation with ROOM Editors Clive Simpson and Mark Williamson, he discusses some of the fundamental changes that are affecting the worldwide space industry, including increasing commercialisation and how our goal should always be to deliver benefits to everyday life on Earth.
Since leaving your position as NASA Administrator you’ve become a global advocate for space - how are you supporting the UAE Space Agency?
This is my second year as a member of the UAE Space Agency advisory committee whose job is to advise the Director General and Chairman on issues concerning the development of the UAE Space Agency. It’s been in existence now for five years and we act as a sort of strategic sounding board. One of the things we recommended to them, for the Emirate Mars Mission for example, is that they employ what we call independent review boards - people with expertise in planetary science or planetary flights - to look technically at their mission to make sure they haven’t missed anything.
We’ve also advised that they utilise the programme to facilitate STEM [science, technology, engineering & mathematics] education in the country to promote an interest in exploration among the youth of the nation. Then, in the area of communications, look at how they bring along the public so that they’re excited about each step in the evolutionof the mission, rather than getting somewhere and then finding that they’ve left the public behind. The public needs to know what they’ve been doing and how they spend the money.