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Former NASA head shares space travel stories with Vietnamese students

Thursday, June 13, 2019, 15:32 GMT+7
Former NASA head shares space travel stories with Vietnamese students
Former NASA administrator Charles Bolden talks with students in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on June 12, 2019. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Former NASA administrator and astronaut Charles Bolden was in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday morning to chat with local students and space enthusiasts about his experience in space and leading the world’s top space research agency.

Bolden was in the southern metropolis as part of the city’s third annual Space Day, co-organized by the Ho Chi Minh City Space Technology Application Center (STAC) and the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology.

Themed “50 Years Since The Moon Landing," the day-long event presented an opportunity for participants to explore various areas of space study through real-life examples and equipment.

Asked about his most frightening experience in space, Bolden said it was when he was inside the International Space Station and the structure lost all connections to Earth.

The incident lasted only for around two minutes, but it worried astronauts enough to send out distress signals, he said.

Bolden served as the 12th administrator of NASA, serving from 2009 until his resignation in 2017.

A NASA astronaut since 1981, Bolden has been to space for four times and was the first human being to have his voice broadcast on the surface of Mars on August 28, 2012, when the Curiosity rover received the transmission of his voice and then beamed it back to Earth.

Former NASA administrator Charles Bolden talks with students in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on June 12, 2019. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Former NASA administrator Charles Bolden talks with students in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on June 12, 2019. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Answering one student’s question on whether he could become an astronaut if he was not American, Bolden said the opportunity to explore space is open to everyone, regardless of nationality.

Nations like Russia, China, and India are all developing their own independent space programs, he said, so there are more opportunities to become an astronaut now than ever as long as one performs well academically and is in good health.

Bolden spent a significant part of the discussion talking about the role of women in space research and exploration.

NASA is always looking for outstanding candidates, both male and female, from every part of the world, and treats its men and women equally in the workplace, he said.

He encouraged all girls and women in the room to “never stop reaching” for their goals.

Students experience operating telescopes at the 3rd annual Space Day in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on June 12, 2019. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Students experience operating telescopes at the 3rd annual Space Day in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on June 12, 2019. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

NASA, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

Since its establishment in 1958, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo Moon landing missions, the Skylab space station, and the Space Shuttle.

Space research in Vietnam is still in its infancy, but there are signs the government has been paying more attention to this uncharted territory in recent years.

In 2006, the Vietnamese government approved a national strategy on research and application of aerospace technology until 2020.

The plan set a goal to build a legal framework for the research and application of space technology, developing the infrastructure for space technology, and promoting scientific research in the area.

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