Major General Charles Bolden to receive Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy

Press release from: National Aeronautics Association
Posted: Thursday December 16 2021

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) is honored to present Major General Charles Bolden, USMC (Retired) with the 2020 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy during the 73rd Annual Wright Memorial Dinner on December 17, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Bolden is recognized for “his passionate commitment to public service in aviation and aerospace as an aviator, astronaut and leader and his dedication to excellence for the advancement of all mankind.”

Established by the NAA in 1948 to honor the memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the trophy is presented annually to a living American for “… an important public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.” One of the most significant, historic and visible aerospace awards in the world, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy reflects a timeline of the most innovative inventors, explorers, industrialists and officials in aeronautics and astronautics.

Bolden was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina. After graduating from high school in 1964, he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy after writing directly to then-President Lyndon Johnson because his Senators and Congressman refused to appoint him. . At the Naval Academy, Bolden became the president of his class. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical science and later his master’s degree in systems management from the University of Southern California.

After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1968, Bolden was appointed a second lieutenant in the US Marine Corps. After completing his flight training, Bolden became a naval aviator. During the Vietnam War, Bolden flew over 100 combat missions between 1972 and 1973, piloting the A-6A Intruder. Several years later, Bolden graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School. As a test pilot, Bolden flew numerous test projects in the A-6E, EA-6B and A-7C / E aircraft. He logged more than 6,000 flight hours during his active military career.

Beginning in 1980, Bolden spent 14 years as an astronaut at NASA. He has ventured into space a total of four times as part of NASA’s space shuttle program, including two missions as a pilot and two as a mission commander. Bolden first served as a pilot on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986. Following the Challenger disaster, he was appointed head of the security division. In 1990, he piloted the Space Shuttle Discovery on its mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope. Then, in 1992, Bolden was mission commander for Space Shuttle Atlantis. Finally, in 1994, he led the Space Shuttle Discovery for the first historic joint US-Russian Space Shuttle mission. In total, Bolden logged 680 hours in space.

Bolden left NASA and returned to the task forces of the United States Marine Corps in 1994, and was appointed Deputy Commander of Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy. During Operation Desert Thunder-Kuwait in 1998, he was appointed Commanding General of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. The same year, he was promoted to division general. Bolden retired from the Marine Corps in 2003 after commanding the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Bolden eventually became the administrator of NASA from 2009 to 2017. He is the first and, to date, the only African-American confirmed by the Senate to hold this position. As an administrator of NASA, Bolden led the agency in the development of the powerful Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft, which are the basis for future space missions beyond Earth orbit. He also supported the development of commercial space transportation systems in the United States, including their use to resupply the International Space Station. Other accomplishments include chairing the Mars Curiosity Rover landing in 2012 and entering the Juno spacecraft into Jupiter’s orbit in 2016, as well as preparing for the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. During its last five years as a trustee, NASA has been consistently named “Best Place to Work” among major federal agencies by the Partnership for the Public Service. Bolden retired as a NASA administrator in January 2017.

Bolden’s many awards and accolades include the National Space Trophy (2014), the Nierenberg Prize (2016), the Carl Sagan Award (2017), National Aviation Hall of Fame entry (2017), and the National Air and Space Museum Trophy (2019). . As an astronaut, Bolden was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and the American Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2006. NASA awarded him the Outstanding Service Award in 1988, 1989 and 1991 Bolden’s military decorations include the Defense Senior Service Medal. and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“I can’t begin to thank the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy Selection Committee for making this prestigious honor possible,” Bolden said. “As this honor continues to flow, I am humbled and feel the effect of ‘impostor syndrome’ even more when I think of the many true aviation heroes who have come before me with this award. an incredible honor and I truly look forward to trying to live up to his legacy and inspire many future Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy winners. “

“The Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy is our greatest individual honor,” said NAA President Greg Principato. “When you consider Charlie Bolden’s career and commitment, he truly embodies what this award aims to recognize. In all aspects of his career, he has served causes and missions greater than himself. His example will inspire future generations.

Members of the 2020 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy Selection Committee:

James Albaugh, President, National Aeronautics Association

James Bridenstine, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Nicholas Calio, President and CEO, Airlines for America

Daniel Dumbacher, Executive Director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Eric Fanning, President and CEO, Aerospace Industries Association

David Hartman, Writer of Aviation and Space Documentaries

Mary Miller, Vice-President, Industrial and Government Affairs, Signature Aviation

Norman Mineta, 2006 Wright Trophy Recipient

General Lloyd “Fig” Newton, 2018 Wright Trophy Recipient

TJ Schulz, President of the Aero Club of Washington

The 73rd Annual Wright Memorial Dinner, hosted by the Aero Club of Washington, will be held at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel on the anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. For more information on the award or to view a list of past recipients, please visit For more information on the Wright Memorial Dinner, please visit

The National Aeronautic Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering opportunities to fully participate in aviation activities and promoting public understanding of the importance of aviation and spaceflight to the United States. United. The NAA is the custodian of some of the most important aviation awards in the world and certifies all national aviation records set in the United States. For more information, visit

// to finish //

More press releases and status reports Where Best Stories.

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and like us on Facebook.