Memorial Day Message

On Memorial Day, we remember and honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. And we also look to the future. To the ways we can honor their legacies and to the ways they have given us strength and help propel us into that future even as we cherish their memories.

NASA is in the future business. For more than 50 years, we’ve helped to bring things into reality that were just dreams. It’s a dangerous business we do – this exploring space – it always has been and always will be. Each time men and women board a spacecraft, their actions carry great risk along with the opportunity for great discoveries and the chance to push the envelope of our human achievement.

We will always honor the Apollo 1, STS-51L Challenger and STS-107 Columbia crews, as well as other members of the NASA family who lost their lives supporting NASA’s mission of exploration. We thank them and their families for their extraordinary sacrifices in the service of our nation.

The Marine Corps was my life for 34 years. It will always be a part of me. Along the way I served with and commanded many fine Marines and sailors, some of whom lost their lives serving this nation. I remember them all and ask that you remember and honor all our military members on this occasion of Memorial Day.

I joined the military to follow in the footsteps of my father and uncles, who had served in World War II, and to be part of something larger – to do something for my country and be involved on a national scale.

I am privileged to have served with so many fine men and women, who took their military training and applied it to NASA and other agencies and organizations to help create a future that was not only free, but expanded horizons for people across the globe.

To friends and family of service members lost in combat, we honor your great sacrifice. To those of you still serving or who have served, I know you carry with you the same large debt I do to our colleagues who have made the ultimate sacrifice and enriched our lives through their work.

It’s my honor as NASA administrator to help our nation maintain its leadership in space and to push the limits of human experience. National service is about serving that ideal of our nation — that we do big things – things that benefit the whole world. The highest compliment we can pay those who have died for our country is to take action today to keep unfolding the future for which they fought and died.

As we gather with family and friends on Memorial Day, we celebrate the blessings of our hard-won freedom and remember those who made it possible. I wish you a safe and enjoyable holiday.

Reaching for New Heights

It is hard to imagine that just 50 years ago, a young and vibrant President challenged a worried nation to reach for the seemingly impossible goal of landing humans on the moon and returning them safely to Earth. I was a teenager when President John F. Kennedy delivered his charge to Congress and the American people, but those words sparked my imagination, as they did for the millions of others who watched.

We recently completed the construction of the International Space Station and today we stand at the door to closing the incredible 30 year Space Shuttle Era – a great adventure of unprecedented international cooperation in low Earth orbit. The words of President John Kennedy 50 years ago today are at this time so appropriate: “…the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take.”

He added, “Now it is time to take longer strides–time for a great new American enterprise–time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth.”

And a NEW ERA began.

His inspiring words, calling on us to pursue exploration as a unified nation, to think beyond the moon and also envision the benefits of exploration for Earth, were part of a speech on “Urgent National Needs.”

Today, we have another young and vibrant President who has outlined an urgent national need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our competitors and create new capabilities that will take us farther into the solar system, and help us learn even more about our place in the universe.

President Barack Obama not only honors the Kennedy space legacy, but advances it for this new century with his vision for the next era of exploration and discovery. We stand at a moon shot moment once again, where we have a chance to make great leaps forward to new destinations, develop new vehicles and technologies, and new ways of exploring.

Our advantage now is that we have five decades of accomplishment and world leadership in space on which to build. The dreams President Kennedy helped make real for our world, and the dreams we still hold, may appear to be just out of reach but they are not out of our grasp.

Today, we pause to remember the speech that launched that first moon shot moment, but we should not focus on the past. Later today, we’ll announce an exciting new mission that represents an important down payment on President Obama’s exploration objectives. We’re making incredible progress in our goal to hand over low Earth orbit transportation services to our commercial partners, and yesterday, we announced an important next step in developing a successor to the space shuttle – a spacecraft that will carry our astronauts to new destinations away from the gravity of our home planet.

We are moving into a bright new future that builds on a challenge presented to us 50 years ago. It is important that we remember our history but we must always look forward toward a brighter future.

We want to express our thanks and appreciation to the entire Kennedy family for sharing this day with us, and I want to thank each of you who work every hour of every day to make NASA the world’s preeminent space program. What began 50 years ago as a desperate race to space is now an ongoing journey to reach for new heights and new knowledge in the stars.

Recognizing Excellence in STEM Education

It was my pleasure today to meet the 85 winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. It was an honor to host them at NASA Headquarters, since these educators are critical to our nation’s future in space and the scientific and technological breakthroughs of tomorrow.

This year’s award recognized teachers at the Kindergarten to 6th grade level, and that’s really where young minds start to grasp the important concepts of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and turn their sense of wonder into a sense of purpose.

STEM teachers bear a special responsibility, because it is so essential that we develop more technology leaders for tomorrow to out-innovate and out-build our competitors and maintain U.S. leadership in space. I remember the many teachers who were instrumental in my life as I grew up – not least my parents, who were lifelong educators. These dedicated public servants are on the front lines of tomorrow with the young people who are going to be carrying out our missions to new destinations in the solar system and creating the technologies we’ll need to live and work in space for long periods of time.

President Obama has committed to strengthen STEM education and prepare 100,000 effective science and mathematics teachers over the next decade. These commitments build on the President’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign to help bolster science and technology education in the classroom.

The President said, “America’s competitiveness rests on the excellence of our citizens in technical fields, and we owe these teachers a debt of gratitude for strengthening America’s prosperity.”

Congratulations to all the winners. Keep going!

To find out more about the awards and see a list of winners, visit:

Administrator Bolden speaks at NASA Headquarters to winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. (Photo credit: NASA/Paul Alers)

Thoughts On Today's Final Launch of Endeavour

Today’s final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour is a testament to American ingenuity and leadership in human spaceflight. As we look toward a bright future with the International Space Station as our anchor and new destinations in deep space on the horizon, we salute the astronauts and ground crews who have ensured the orbiter’s successful missions. The presence of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at the launch inspired us all, just as America’s space program has done for the past 50 years.

For more information about the shuttle program, visit:


NASA officials view space shuttle Endeavour (STS-134) as it launches skyward through the windows of Firing Room 4, Monday, May 16, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. During the 16-day mission, Endeavour, with Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson, Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Robert Vittori will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank and additional spare parts for Dextre. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

50th Anniversary of US Human Spaceflight

Fifty years ago today, Alan Shepard rocketed into space on America’s first manned space mission. That flight set our nation on a path of exploration and discovery that continues to this day.

May 5, 1961 was a good day. When Alan Shepard launched toward the stars that day, no American had ever done so, and the world waited on pins and needles praying for a good outcome. The flight was a great success, and on the strength of Shepard’s accomplishment, NASA built the leadership role in human spaceflight that we have held ever since.

I was a teenager at the time and just sorting out the field of study I wanted to pursue. Though I never dared dream it growing up in segregated South Carolina, I was proud to follow in Alan’s footsteps several years later and become a test pilot myself. The experiences I’ve had would not have been possible without Alan’s pioneering efforts. The inspiration that has created generations of leaders to enlarge our understanding of our universe and to strive toward the highest in human potential was sparked by those early achievements of our space program. They began with Freedom 7 and a daring test pilot who flew the ultimate experimental vehicle that May day 50 years ago.

Today we celebrate a first – and we celebrate the future. Project Mercury gave our country something new, including an astronaut corps and the space vehicles that began our human exploration efforts.

I encourage everyone to not only remember that remarkable achievement, but to be reminded that we are still driven to reach for new heights in human exploration.

At NASA, each first is grown and expanded until we make the next breakthrough. 50 years ago, we sent the first American into space. Today we have a space station flying 250 miles overhead right now on which men and women have lived continuously for more than 10 years.

With the same spirit of innovation and grit of those early days of space flight, we now move out on an exciting path forward where we will develop the capabilities to take humans to even more destinations in the solar system. With our support and assistance, commercial companies will expand access to that rarefied area Alan Shepard first trod for America, allowing NASA to focus on those bigger, more challenging destinations and to enable our science missions to peer farther and farther beyond our solar system.

We are just getting started. Our future, as an agency and as a country, holds many more firsts. We know the next 50 years will be just as exciting as the last – filled with discovery, innovation and inspiration.

NASA Family Affected by Storms

The severe weather that devastated parts of the country last week has hit close to home for the NASA family. Madison County, home to Huntsville and the Marshall Space Flight Center, was in the path of the storm. Many of our coworkers and friends are dealing with property damage and power outages and Robert Lightfoot and his leadership team at Marshall continue their efforts to account for all our NASA and contractor employees.

Although the damage in Alabama to homes and businesses is unimaginable, we can at least take solace in the fact that property can be replaced. Lives, however, cannot and the toll in human life is even more tragic. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who lost loved ones or friends.

We often talk about “the NASA family.” These are not just words. Everyone at NASA, regardless of their geographic location, pulls together to support each other in times like this. The employees and contractors at Marshall Space Flight Center proved this in 2005 when they opened their hearts, homes, and wallets to many of our Stennis and MAF families who found themselves homeless for a time. They joined with the NASA family around the country in sending relief items and supplies and also shared office space with many who worked from MSFC as the region slowly returned to normal. To the members of the NASA family in Alabama, we are standing with you now just as you did with your fellow NASA family members then.

I encourage everyone to visit to see how you can offer support to the people in Alabama and other states across the country impacted by these storms. I also encourage every member of the NASA family to visit for more information on how to prepare in case disaster strikes where you live.

Again, please keep the members of the NASA family impacted by these storms in your thoughts and prayers. Together, we will get through this tragedy.