Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. The space shuttle will stay in orbit at least one more day. The Florida weather was too murky for Atlantis to land this morning. Meanwhile, a former shuttle commander got the nod today for the top job at NASA. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE: Last Wednesday, President Obama spoke to the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis as they orbited Earth. He told them he was impressed with all their work to repair the Hubble Space Telescope and that NASA's future was important to him.

President BARACK OBAMA: We are soon going to have a new NASA administrator. I can't disclose it to you because I've got to have some hoopla on the announcement back here on Earth, but I can assure you that it's a high priority of mine.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Commander Scott Altman thanked him and said:

Commander SCOTT ALTMAN (NASA): Just so we're sure, the new administrator's not any of us on the flight deck right now, is it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

President OBAMA: You know, I'm not going to give you any hints.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Well, President Obama's pick wasn't one of the astronauts on Atlantis, but the White House says he does intend to nominate a former astronaut, Charles Bolden, a retired Marine Corps major general and four-time space flyer, who has piloted and commanded the space shuttle. He flew on the mission that put the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit 19 years ago. John Logsdon is professor emeritus at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

Mr. JOHN LOGSDON (Professor Emeritus, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University): Charlie Bolden is well-known to everybody in the space community, from the human-space-flight side of the house where he's had extensive shuttle experience, to the science people he worked with as he was part of the crew that launched the Hubble Telescope.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Logsdon says people not only know Bolden, they like him.

Mr. LOGSDON: And he has, I think, universal respect. He is a really good guy, outgoing, friendly, even-temperament sort of individual.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: If confirmed by the Senate, Bolden would become the first African American to be the administrator of NASA and only the second former astronaut to hold the job. He would take charge of an agency that is at a crossroads. NASA is supposed to retire its aging fleet of space shuttles next year. The current plan is to build new capsules and rockets that can take astronauts back to the moon, but that might change. Howard McCurdy is a space policy expert with American University.

Mr. HOWARD McCURDY (Space Policy Expert, American University): NASA is in a period of transition. It's not clear that the vision of space exploration that was announced in 2004 is going to be the future direction of the space agency.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: He knows that the White House is already convening a blue-ribbon panel of experts to do an independent review of the entire human space flight program. That panel will make recommendations about the future of NASA later this summer.

Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from