On Wednesday, NASA administrator Charles Bolden visited the United Launch Alliance (ULA) factory in Decatur, Alabama, where the company assembles Atlas and Delta rockets. During his visit, local media quizzed him on a variety of topics, from the looming threat of sequestration to rumored discoveries by the Mars Science Laboratory Rover to even whether he bought a ticket for the Powerball lottery and its estimated $550-million jackpot. “I did not buy. My wife was supposed to buy one,” he said, as reported by television station WAFF.
Maybe he should have, though. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Bolden’s future as NASA administrator in the Obama Administration’s second term is “uncertain”. The article largely recounts some of the missteps Bolden has made in the last three and a half years, as well as speculation about whether he’ll continue in the post (a spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson, perhaps Bolden’s biggest supporter in Congress, said that the senator “fully expects Charlie Bolden to continue as administrator” in the next term.)
The most damning comment about Bolden, though, comes from an anonymous “senior administration official.” “The senior White House staff is aware of the [NASA] administrator’s inability to advance their agenda and will have to decide whether they make an adjustment in a second term,” that official, not authorized to speak on the record, told the Sentinel. A second unnamed official said Bolden “was just the kind of leader NASA needed” during the Space Shuttle’s retirement, but suggested that NASA “would benefit from a leader fully committed to implementing the bold policy put forth by the president and his administration.”
Of course, even with those comments, Bolden may remain at NASA for some time to come; an official said replacing Bolden would require replacing a “legend with a legend.” But he could have still bought a Powerball ticket: if he won, the estimated cash payout of $360 million would more than cover the shortfall in NASA’s planetary program in 2013, for example…