December 11, 2009
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden’s talk at a Women in Aerospace luncheon in Washington D.C. this week is worth watching. Four months into his tenure, Bolden seems as committed as ever to using NASA—and his own example—to push education and diversity.
He also had interesting things to say about international cooperation, just as he did in 2000, when he was interviewed for our book, Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years. Bolden’s initial attitude about working with Russians in space was similar to the opinions you hear in some quarters today about cooperating with China.
I’m a pretty liberal kind of guy, but at first I was not enamored of the partnership with the Russians, because I honestly did not feel that they had been equal partners over the decades. I’d been led to believe that we had given them information from our space flights, and that we had received little or no information from them in return. Taking quite a naïve and immature approach, I didn’t think that was fair. I wasn’t ready to sign up for them learning all about our shuttle systems.
Once I had an opportunity to meet Sergei Krikalev and Vladimir Titov, the two cosmonauts who would be assigned to train with us for STS-60, I soon became a believer in what we were doing, and I still support the partnership wholeheartedly. After that flight, which had Sergei onboard as the first Russian to fly on the shuttle, I had no question of the value and importance of our cooperative exploration efforts. The Russian government brought the whole crew over for some postflight events, and we had an opportunity to observe the way the Russian people live. I don’t think we got a true view, because as guests of the government we saw mostly the good side. But even the good side was not that good. When you went out to the test facilities and saw a brand new engine being fueled through a line that was rusting and corroding, you had to come away with a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the people in the Russian space program who were able to accomplish all that they accomplished.
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