Q&A: NASA chief says space agency ‘at crossroads’

Former astronaut Charles F. Bolden is the first African-American to be appointed director of the National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA). On 17 July, 2009, Bolden became the space agency’s 12th director.

During his recent visit to Cairo, Bolden sat down with Al-Masry Al-Youm to discuss his appointment and the future of NASA.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: What is the purpose of your visit to Cairo, which comes one year after President Barack Obama’s inauguration as US president?

Charles Bolden: This is the first time that I have visited Cairo since I was appointed. I met with with the US ambassador in Cairo and with staff members and students of Cairo University and the American University in Cairo to talk about possible scientific cooperation.

We already have a program called “Globe,” which allows students to contact scientists all over the world through the Internet. And there are many other opportunities that we can provide for Egyptian students.

Al-Masry: Why did you advise Egyptian students and scientists to stay in Egypt?

Bolden: What I meant was that students wishing to study science in the US should return to their homeland to assist it with their knowledge. Perhaps Egypt could take part in the International Space Station.

Al-Masry: Do you think Egypt, or any other Islamic country, could ever have a space program?

Bolden: Any country wishing to have a space program will get help from the US.

Al-Masry: Do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life?

Bolden: There is a possibility of the existence of some form of life, in light of the fact that we found ice on the moon and on Mars. Also, it is believed that the Europa moon, which orbits Jupiter, has a huge ocean.

Al-Masry: What is the latest development in in the field of space research?

Bolden: We will soon have the James Webb space telescope, which is even bigger than the Hubble. And we are working on changing air navigation to safer and faster routes, by way of quieter and less polluting aircraft engines. Also, we are improving navigational systems whereby a plane will require only one pilot to land.

Al-Masry: Word has it that NASA is facing serious financial problems.

Bolden: NASA is now at a crossroads, as federal spending on scientific and technological research has been reduced. We will therefore have to find less expensive ways of sending spaceships to Mars.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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