The Corner

About Bolden’s Saudi Trip

NASA administrator Charlie Bolden raised eyebrows last month when he said his “foremost” goal was to help Muslim nations “feel good about their historic contribution to science.” He raised them further when he recently scheduled a trip to Saudi Arabia “to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Arab astronaut’s shuttle flight.”

National Review Online asked John Yembrick, a public-affairs officer for NASA, for additional details about the trip. Here’s his reply:

The administrator’s trip to Saudi Arabia is part of a larger trip to the Czech Republic and Nepal.  He is traveling to the Czech Republic to participate in the International Astronautical Conference in Prague where he will address hundreds of senior space related officials from around the world and conduct a series of bilateral meetings with heads of foreign space agencies. He will travel from Prague to Saudi Arabia during the weekend. After Saudi Arabia, Bolden will travel to Nepal to provide a keynote address at USAID sponsored regional conference on climate change and participate in a ceremony to commemorate the opening of the first NASA/USAID sponsored SERVIR program node in Asia. Similar nodes have been established in Central America and Africa. The SERVIR initiative integrates NASA-provided satellite observations, ground-based data and forecast models to meet local user needs in developing countries in areas such as agricultural development, fire detection, urban planning, air quality, water management, and natural disaster mitigation.


While in Saudi Arabia, on Saturday, October 2, 2010, Administrator Bolden will represent NASA at an aerospace technology conference and a commemorative event in honor of the 25th Anniversary of space shuttle flight STS-51G in Riyadh. The 1985 STS-51G mission aboard shuttle Discovery included among its crew astronaut Sultan Salman Al-Saud. Administrator Bolden and some of the active and retired astronauts who comprised the international STS-51G crew (including a French space agency astronaut) will also participate.


This trip including the visit to Saudi Arabia is driven by specific, appropriate agency-level objectives.  It was not initiated by the White House, State Department or any other entity and has no objective other than those identified above.  However, all such activities are coordinated through established State Department channels.


Costs for the administrator’s delegation are borne by NASA as is customary.  The Administrator’s official delegation includes:

·        Charles Bolden, NASA administrator

·        Jackie Bolden, administrator’s wife

·        Michael O’Brien, associate administrator for International and Interagency Relations

·        Patricia O’Brien, Michael O’Brien’s wife

·        Patrick Besha, international programs specialist, Office of International and Interagency Relations

·        Michael Cabbage, director, News and Multimedia Services, Office of Communications


Administrator Bolden’s itinerary in Saudi Arabia (October 1-3) includes:

·        Presentation to Aerospace Technology Conference  

·        Bilateral Meeting with King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST) and signing of Joint Statement

·        Remarks to 25th Anniversary of STS-51G Crew Reunion

·        Potential Meeting with King Abdullah

·        Tour of King Faisal Specialist Medical Clinic

·        Visit to the Kingdom School in Riyadh by the spouses

Other conference participants from NASA include:

·        Pete Worden, NASA Ames Research Center, center director (invited guest)

·        B.J. Jaroux, supervisor, Aerospace Engineer (invited guest)

·        Greg Schmidt, deputy director, Ames Research Center, and director of International Partnerships (invited guest)

·        Charles Elachi, director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and vice president, California Institute of Technology (invited guest)

·        Steve Nagel, NASA astronaut (Travel being reimbursed by Saudi Arabia. It is standard for NASA astronaut appearances to be funded by the invitee.) (invited guest)

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