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October 3, 2014

Canadian youth meet NASA Administrator at Encounters with Canada

On October 1, 2014, Encounters with Canada (EWC), in collaboration with the United States Embassy Ottawa, had the great honour and privilege to welcome National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) administrator Major General Charles Bolden to the Terry Fox Canadian Youth Centre in Ottawa. The participants in EWC’s Science and Technology theme week discovered what it takes to be an astronaut and work for an organization like NASA.

From the get-go, Major General Bolden captivated Encounters’ participants. As an ice-breaker, he asked various participants to introduce themselves and tell the audience what school year they were presently in. From this simple beginning, a conversation ensued about the importance of academic success in achieving career goals. "Study hard. Work hard. And don’t be afraid of failure.” Having experienced at a young age, the realities of racial segregation in his native South Carolina, Mr. Bolden told the participants that he would not have become the person he is today, if he had dropped out and been afraid of failure.

“Don't waste your time trying to explain yourself or your identity to anyone, or justify why you are where you are in the workplace or anywhere else. Do your job and do it very well. Always remind yourself of 'why' you are pursuing the things you do. Stay in touch with that answer, and don't let others define it for you.”

The event featured a short presentation, followed by a question and answer period with students. Administrator Bolden spoke about NASA and the U.S. space program, in general, as well as his own personal experiences as an astronaut.

Nominated in 2009 by President Barak Obama, Charles Bolden became NASA's first African American Administrator. At the Space Agency, Administrator Bolden has overseen the safe transition from 30 years of space shuttle missions to a new era of exploration, focused on the full utilization of the International Space Station, and space and aeronautics technology development. He has also led the agency in developing a Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts to deep space destinations, such as an asteroid and Mars.

Administrator Bolden's 34-year career with the Marine Corps included 14 years as a member of NASA's Astronaut Office. After joining it in 1980, he traveled into orbit four times aboard space shuttles between 1986 and 1994, commanding two of the missions and piloting two others.

During this jam-packed presentation, Encounters with Canada participants had the chance to see images of earth taken from space, learn more about space travel, weightlessness and its effects on astronauts, life on the International Space Station, and technological advancements made by NASA and its various programs. Mr. Bolden also surprised the audience when he spoke of the critical role played by NASA in research on climate change. Indeed, the agency's research encompasses solar activity, sea-level rise, the temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans, the state of the ozone layer, air pollution and tracking the change in sea and land ice.

Charles Bolden ended his presentation by presenting Director General Linda Brunet with a superb framed collage of space-related photos and items. In return, the Director General gave him a selection of EWC clothing and accessories.

Throughout their week, these young Canadians participated in numerous activities in science and technology-related fields. They attended workshops on genetics and reproductive technologies, and robotics, and explored the world of reptiles and amphibians, and so much more. In short, it was an amazing week of discovery for these science and technology buffs!