Psalm 46



God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of  the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Memory is a funny thing; some days I cannot find where I put my car keys; but everywhere and anytime my memory is crystal clear as I remember January 31, 1986.  On a very slight rise beside two sapling trees just outside building 16 at Johnson Space Center, I was standing with hundreds of my co-workers for the Challenger memorial service.   The President was there, and spoke; there was a lengthy program and other speakers.  But what I remember most vividly was a young astronaut by the name of Charlie Bolden at the podium reading the 46th Psalm.

There was not a doubt in my body that he meant every word that he read.

These days there seems to be some debate about some things Charlie says.  

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; . . .  the earth melts.

Isn’t it interesting how the psalmist’s imagery can apply to many situations, even the current one?

When I say there is debate, I don’t just mean about the content, althought there is that.  Whether you agree with the plan, vision, change, whatever, or not, is your business.  The debate I am referencing is the question:  Does Charlie really believe all this, or is he just a pawn in the political process saying what they tell him to say?

You would never ask that question about the Charlie Bolden that I worked when he was on the crew and I was in Mission Control.   A straight shooting Marine Aviator, he was direct, to the point, and always, always, always honest to a fault.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day

Years later when Charlie served on various review boards and we interacted, he had not changed.  Always enthusiastic, ready to ask questions, astute in his observations, Charlie was still the Marine; integrity covered him like a mantle.

I am fortunate in that I can still talk with Charlie.  In fact, it was my privilege to spend one-on-one time with him after work recently.   We talked about many things but mostly about the future path for NASA – the plan which he has been speaking about. 

Here is my conclusion:  what Charlie says is what Charlie believes.  Do not be mistaken.  If he doesn’t believe it, he doesn’t say it.

Now you may still disagree with Charlie – that’s OK – but at least you should know that Charlie maintains his integrity.

That’s a role model we all can follow.

The Lord makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bows and shatters the spear.




14 thoughts on “Psalm 46”

  1. Thank you for this. I must admit that I easily fall into the majority who is cynical towards government officials. I do strongly disagree with the current plan, but I could only hope to accomplish 1/10th of what Charlie Bolden has accomplished in his life so far and hated having negative feelings towards someone I’ve never met. People of pure integrity are hard to come by.

    Now I just hope he starts seeing it my way! 😉

  2. Charlie impressed me as a leader when he gave testimony to Congress that he could not in good conscience send astronauts to Mars with what is presently known of the environment between Earth and Mars – a good call.

    While Plan B is disappointing in its timeframes, the retention of Orion as an ISS lifeboat keeps Boeing and Lockheed Martin deep in the business of servicing the ISS. These companies are the benchmark in many aerospace fields. Their presence in the game will give confidence that pressure to lower standards will be resisted if the new players get into financial, timetable or technology trouble – the nature of competition is such that some players will come under pressure and look to have short cuts accepted.

  3. I’ve never met the man, but I’ve watched his addresses and I Charlie Bolden does seem like a nice guy. And I am excited for the new vision for NASA. But Wayne, I disagree with you.

    A while ago, Bolden said, “flying the space shuttle is like playing Russian roulette.” While the space shuttle is dangerous, we all know it isn’t that dangerous. And portraying it as such is an insult to the thousands of people to work to make it safe every day.

    Recently, he called out media outlets for their haphazard reporting of NASA’s situation. And while the media sometimes don’t get their facts straight about NASA, I think a lot of the current poor reporting is due to there not being a lot of hard and fast facts about NASA’s future.

    As NASA’s leader, Bolden has the power to change that (not complete power, because of government bureaucracy, but some). But the truth is, though we have been anxiously waiting for a clear, definite direction for NASA, we don’t have it. We have a vision, but we still don’t have a plan for getting there.

    Wayne, I’m a former KSC worker and current master’s of aerospace engineering student. Whatever NASA decides to do in the future, I’ll be there supporting it. But right now, it is really hard to follow NASA’s leadership. Because you can’t follow what isn’t there.

  4. Beautiful text, Mr. Wayne!

    I believe in the immense capacity of Mr. Chalie Bolden, and his moral integrity. Now, with the text presented, I admire him even more. With courage, Mr. Bolden redirects NASA for a glorious future. He is a great leader.

  5. I’m very glad you wrote this. I had a lucky chance to meet Mr. Bolden in a relaxed setting yesterday morning. While I may not have agreed with everything he said, I do indeed believe his words were sincere.

  6. Thank you for your insites Mr. Hale. I do believe mr. Bolden believes what he is putting forth for NASA’s future. The Ares 1 booster was a poor design and should have been canceled. I believe the Orion capsule should be continued and should be mated to a proven launch vehicle such as the Atlas 5. This would provide access to LEO and the ISS. This could be accomplished within 2 – 3 years, in my beliefs. We would not have to rely on the Russians or anyone else to launch our Astronauts to ISS. Relying on the Russians is a national disgrace and should not be tolerated!
    This is not as complicated as everyone seems to think. A simple version of Orion and a proven Atlas V booster. Plan done. Let’s get off our hands and get moving forward. We have wasted the last 6 years on bogus plans and another years running around with no guidence. Mr. Bolden it’s time to get off ground zero and start working to make the U.S. once again the leaders in the space industry instead of the laughing stock of Russia!

  7. Well that was more direct than other posts. It probably was a budget decision & Obama just said OK. There simply isn’t enough money in a welfare capitalist system to sustain a human spaceflight program & there isn’t going to be a “$6 billion increase”. If some priviledged bank executive can raise enough money to launch a Mercury capsule on steroids than so be it, but more likely there won’t be any more human spaceflight.

  8. A long time ago, in a constellation far far away


    Episode 5


    It is a dark time for the
    Ares Rebellion. Although the Death
    Dragon is only poised for flight
    White House troops have driven the
    Rebel forces from their hidden KSC
    base and pursued them across the Constellation.

    Evading the dreaded Imperial
    Motorcade, a group of freedom
    fighters led by Hanley Skywalker
    has established a new secret
    base on the remote JSC world
    of J2X.

    The smiling lord Darth Bolden,
    obsessed with finding young
    Skywalker, has dispatched
    thousands of remote unmanned probes into
    the far reaches of space.

  9. Thank you Mr. Hale. One thing at a time, one more aspect of the future of NASA revealed. I don’t mean the plan, the details of that are out there for any who care to look, but of the resolve of folks like Mr Bolden. Thank you for enlightening us, we all need to know that the right stuff is still in charge.

  10. Charlie Bolden is indeed a good soldier and a good Marine. The Marines prize toughness and loyalty, among other things. The Marine Corp Motto: “Semper Fideles” – Always Faithful

    From the Marine’s prayer:
    ” Keep me loyal and faithful to my superiors and to the duties my Country and the Marine Corps have entrusted to me.”

    From the Staff NCO creed:
    ” I realize I am the mainstay of Marine Corps discipline, and I carry myself with military grace, unbowed by the weight of command, unflinching in the execution lawful orders, and unswerving in my dedication to the most complete success of my assigned mission.”

    Note how strong the virtues of faithfulness and loyalty to the chain of command are. I have no doubt that Charlie embodies these attributes. President Obama is currently the top of the chain of command. To the extent his policies and directions are lawful, any Marine feels an obligation to give full and dedicated support to those policies and directions.

    I have little doubt that President Obama is exercising the prerogatives of his office. There may be a tiny problem with “lawful orders” if those orders are contradictory to a law passed by Congress and signed by him relative to the Constellation Program cancellation. I assume that Charlie is handling the currently ongoing Constellation activities consistent with the actual law of the land.

    The real question to me is whether the President’s policy that Charlie is following is one he would have come up with on his own, or is he being a loyal soldier in pursuing a particular Presidential policy even if he has misgivings? As he stated, for his part as a member of this administration, the “decision has been made” and he is, as his Marine training has been ingrained, giving full and dedicated support to those policies and directions. Full and dedicated support means showing no doubt to anyone, anywhere.

    If the President had instead come to a different direction, such as to accelerate Constellation, would he have just as enthusiastically endorsed it? My guess is he would have. If so, then his philosophy is not so much to a particular solution or direction, but loyalty to either the proponent of the policy or to whatever obligation he feels binds him to the job he accepted, and therefore to implement legal direction to his full abilities. That is integrity also.

    “Giving full and dedicated support to those policies and directions” is laudable, especially as a soldier. But it says nothing about the wisdom and/or efficacy of the policy or decision. Charlie is not a “soldier” any more. He is a civilian asked to serve in a certain capacity. IF there was a fundamental disagreement in policy with the administration, there is, in my mind, more honor in resigning than staying on. If he has no particular direction for human spaceflight in mind and is happy to go along with whatever the policy-makers come up with, or if he is the proponent of this particular policy, then he is indeed doing what he thinks is best for implementing the policy.

    The problem in my mind is pursuing an unwise or ineffective policy, regardless of our admiration for those implementing the policy.

  11. I hope some media organisation signs up P.Savio for his NASA WARS series – most amusing thing I’ve seen written on the space industry.

  12. After all of the “romance” is stripped away, what Mr. Bolden is doing is exactly what he should be doing: obeying the commands of his boss and Commander-in-Chief.

    We would expect nothing less.

    And this is exactly why our space program has vascillated in LEO for the past 37 years (including Skylab).

    Every four years or so, Captain Jack Sparrow’s compass points in a different direction.

  13. Wayne, beautifully spoken. My Dad is a Marine, and I know first hand about the loyalty and integrity that go with this.

    And kudos to you for the profile in the Purdue Engineering Impact magazine. I guess I’ve been living on Mars since I did not realize you are a Purdue Alum as well. We may have even crossed paths on campus…BSME 79 🙂


  14. Mr. Hale,

    I immensely respect your service to our country.

    And I equally respect that of Charles Bolden’s.

    But, as NASA Administrator, General Bolden has been caught several times making unsubstantiated cost claims for operating Ares I, claims which have, in all case, not only been disproven, but sometimes by order of magnitude. Left unanswered is why NASA’s own Administrator does not know, e.g. that an Ares I launch does not cost $1.6B when testimony and published information indicates a far lower number?

    The worst is that, yesterday, General Bolden was caught in a…well, charitably, a misstatement. Here’s the video exchange:

    Forced as I am to choose between Gene Cernan’s version of events or that of General Bolden, I have to go with Cernan.

    None well-informed want Charlie to resign–we both know the hades that would be NASA under his automatic replacement’s leadership, such as it would be.

    But wouldn’t it be refreshing if Bolden would stand-up for what he believes in and tell it like it is in public, just as he has, according to the former Apollo 11 and 17 missions commanders, done in private? Wouldn’t such candor go a long way in not only helping the General maintain his good name but begin an honest debate over the future of human space flight?

    Instead, what we are seeing is the bruising of a good man’s name in defense of a space plan he clearly doesn’t believe in.

Comments are closed.