Major General Charles Bolden, the 12th Administrator of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), called on students to focus on improving the Indian space programme instead of looking to NASA for employment. Speaking to a large audience of future engineers and scientists at the Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bengaluru on Thursday, Bolden asked students, many of whom were advanced-level engineering students, to challenge Isro.
When a student asked about opportunities at NASA, which often recruits students as young as 17 for space-flight training, Bolden bluntly said: “I want you to challenge the Indian Space Research Organization which is currently starting recruitment for manned space missions.” Stating that “anything is possible”, Bolden, who is African-American, described his experiences about growing up in a racially segregated United States in the 1950s, when African-Americans had few opportunities.
He said that he was inspired to join the US Naval Academy at Annapolis after watching a TV show about the academy in the 1950s. “It helped that I liked the uniforms and all the beautiful women who appeared to hang around the base in the show,” he said to raucous laughter. When a student from the Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology said that his team was building a satellite and asked about collaborating with NASA, Bolden said: “You don’t need to explore a collaboration with NASA. You have your own space agency. Work with Isro,” he said and offered a Donald Trump-like wordplay: “Don’t try to make NASA great. Make Isro better.
Do not try to follow NASA’s way of doing things.” Speaking about the International Space Station, which has been in orbit for 20 years, Bolden showed an image of 16 flags painted on the station’s outer skin, a majority of which represent nations in North America and Europe, plus Russia and Japan “There is no reason for India not to be there,” he said.