Charles Bolden Jr. —a former Marine Corps major general, astronaut, and NASA administrator—has been recognized for the contributions that he’s made in the realm of science, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Bolden, 71, was the recipient of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s 2017 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest, the news outlet writes.

Bolden’s journey was no easy feat as he was confronted with racism along the way. Coming of age during the peak of the Jim Crow era in Columbia, South Carolina, his school didn’t offer advanced math or science classes. While at the U.S. Naval Academy, he was one of seven Black students in a 1,400-student class and often dealt with antagonism, reports the source. During his time as a Marine Corps major general, he was involved in over 100 combat missions in Vietnam.

After serving, he became an astronaut and went on four space shuttle journeys; pivotal missions that sparked research surrounding the Earth and other planets. In 2009, Bolden hit a major career milestone after becoming the first African American to serve as a NASA director, the Washington Post reports. While in this role he oversaw the 2012 landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover and Juno spacecraft’s 2016 trip to Jupiter. Bolden also played an integral role in the creation of the James Webb Space Telescope.

The Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest was created in honor of notable physicist William Nierenberg who died in 2000. Victoria Tschinkel, Nierenberg’s daughter, presented Bolden with the award. “As NASA administrator, Gen. Bolden saw his role to be the head of space for the Earth, an ambassador for science, technology and appreciation for the natural world,” she said, according to the Washington Post. “He is a visionary, inspiring all of us to think about the wonders that are out there, that we can feel, measure and maybe even touch.”

Bolden, who now joins a list of other science visionaries to win the award including Jane Goodall and Craig Venter, was humbled by the honor.

“I believe space exploration is one of the most important tools this generation will use to bring about the better future that you deserve – a more peaceful future; a greener future,” he said during his acceptance speech, according to the Washington Post.

SOURCE: San Diego Union-Tribune

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