ASTRA's Futurist Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein Joins Shades of Blue Captain Willie Daniels to Honor the STEM Education Legacy of (Former) NASA Administrator and Astronaut, Major-General Charlie F. Bolden

January 26, 2017

By Dr. Ronnie B. Lowenstein

On Friday January 13, 2017, as ASTRA's Futurist, I traveled to NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to join Shades of Blue Founder and CEO, Captain Willie Daniels, and a Shades of Blue Chapter Board Member from DCMD, Mr. Marvin Richardson, to honor the STEM Education Legacy of the 12th NASA Administrator and former Astronaut (ret), Major-General Charles F. Bolden, with A Shades of Blue Community Outreach Award and a Shades of Blue Astronaut Reunion Commemorative Patch. It was a wonderful gathering of leaders who each possesses a deep commitment to cultivating America’s Innovation Capacity on Earth and in Space.

In presenting the Shades of Blue Award, Captain Daniels remarked:

“Throughout your life, General Bolden, whether as a Marine Corps Aviator and Astronaut, or Administrator of NASA, you have provided community outreach that has Opened the STEM Education Pipeline and Fostered Diversity and Inclusion in America’s Workforce. For this lifetime of service, we thank you!”

See General Bolden’s bio:

In presenting the Shades of Blue Astronaut Reunion Commemorative Patch to the NASA Administrator, Captain Daniels described the rich symbolism designed by artist Tim Gagnon:

The overall shape was designed to be reminiscent of the STAR Trek insignia in tribute to its iconic star and NASA advocate, Nichelle Nichols, and her pioneering efforts to recruit women and minorities into the Astronaut Corps. The success of her recruitment efforts is reflected in the list of esteemed Astronaut recruits: Dr. Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, Colonel Guion Bluford, the first African American Astronaut, Dr. Judith Resnik & Dr. Ronald McNair who gave their lives on Challenger Center and Columbia disasters, as well as Major General Charles Bolden, former Astronaut and Administrator of NASA from 2009-2017.

Spotlighting both the past and future: (a) the Space Shuttle Orbiter which is the focal point of the design, mission complete, payload bay doors closed, ready to come home; (b) Above the Orbiter, in the distance is the Moon and Mars, symbolic of past and future goals of human space exploration; (c) Above and to the left, the International Space Station orbiting the earth; (d) To the right in a higher orbit, the Hubble Space Telescope peering into deep space.

Below the orbiter are two USAF jets flying in formation, paying tribute to two heroes who endured much to pave the way for those who came after: Captain Edward Dwight, Jr. and Major Robert Lawrence. The twenty stars in the sky represent every minority Astronaut who served either in the US Air Force or NASA. The two brighter stars represent two fallen heroes: Dr. Robert E. McNair and Michael P. Anderson of the ill-fated space shuttles, Challenger and Columbia. The final red star symbolizes Cuban Astronaut, General Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez. All of the stars inspire the next generation of explorers of all genders and ethnicities: ‘Because they did, we can.’

Following the presentation of the award and commemorative patch, Captain Daniels, Mr. Richardson and I had the privilege of conversing with General Bolden, first reminiscing about past affiliations, then discussing current community outreach initiatives, and finally visioning some potential future STEM education activities. It was obvious that our lives reflect a shared passion for diversity and inclusion and dedication to engaging youth from traditionally underserved communities and inspiring them to pursue STEM Careers.

As General Bolden asserted:

“Our country needs youth from all communities to develop their intellectual capital and capabilities and serve as America’s next generation of Innovators, Aviators, Astronauts, Scientists, Engineers, and Entrepreneurs who will Invent the Future! Hence, we need education stakeholder organizations, like Our Shades of Blue (see, to provide young people with enriching educational, training and employment assistance to pursue careers in the aviation and aerospace industries.”

Other memorable highlights from our morning conversation referenced …

1) The origins of NASA in collaboration with the Aviation Industry as a response to the Soviet Union’s October 4, 1957 launch of its first satellite, Sputnik I

  • As General Bolden commented at the 15th Annual Aviation Summit on March 22, 2016, “The aviation industry has long been involved in America’s exploration in outer space… At NASA, our eyes are not only focused starward but also focused skyward.”
  • See the full report -Aviation Summit Celebrates History and Innovation

2) The evolution of the International Space Station, the largest artificial body in orbit serving as a microgravity and space environment research lab in low earth, that is directed as a joint project among five participating space agencies: The United States’ NASA, Canadian Space Agency, Japan’s Jaxa, Russia’s Roscosmos, and the European Space Agency.

  • General Bolden has often asserted that: “The ISS is the greatest example of what can be achieved through international cooperation…. I call it ‘the UN in orbit; it represents what is best in humankind.”
  • Additional testimony regarding the educational benefits of the ISS was provided by a NASA Education Task Force to the ISS in their 2008 NASA Report submitted to Congress, “An Opportunity To Educate: ISS National Lab.” See
  • In that report, Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein, who served as one of the ISS Education Task Force Advisors, was quoted: “Because the ISS embodies 21st century values of cooperation and collaboration, the ISS National Lab is a unique resource for promoting international understandings and for cultivating youth as emerging leaders of a global society. It provides opportunities for youth to investigate significant real-world issues; to communicate with inspiring NASA ISS role models; and to practice applying the 21st century global competencies they need to invent the future.”
  • Eight years later in June 2016, NASA Deputy Administrator Dr. Dava Newman addressed the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and eloquently summarized the 16 years of Human Habitation on the ISS as the “centerpiece of international human space exploration and the first step in the global human exploration roadmap.” See

3) A spotlight on General Bolden’s dedication to meeting with students across the US and abroad to share his own life journey. His goal has been to inspire them to aspire, achieve academically, pursue successful life paths & STEM careers, & to serve as leaders addressing global challenges and opportunities in space and on earth. General Bolden often provides three pieces of advice to students, including:

  1. ‘Follow your passion and study really hard —Embrace education as key to your life goals. Study everything, not only math and science.’ Both Administrator Bolden and his Deputy Administrator, Dr. Dava Newman, have become advocates of changing the acronym of STEM to STEAMD Education to highlight the critical importance not only of science, technology, engineering and math, but also arts and design.’
  2. ‘Take risks. Be confident; fearlessly pursue your interests & life goals.’
  3. ‘Learn from failure. Each failure brings you closer to achieving your success.’ Check out this video of General Bolden advising students of the importance of education and studying

4) Multiple collaborations between NASA, Our Shades of Blue, & other partners, eg., ASTRA, committed to promoting diversity & inclusion in STEM careers:

  • August 2015 SHADES OF BLUE hosted ‘Wings over the Rockies, an Astronaut Reunion honoring the Achievements & Contributions of Minority Stars in Space’ held in Denver Colorado at the Air and Space Museum. Among the attendees were Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, Astronauts- Guy Bluford, Al Drew, Jeannette Epps, Vic Glover, Colonel Fred Gregory, Dr. Bernard Harris, Joan Higgenbotham, Livingston Holder, Leland Melvin, Bobby Satcher, Winston Scott, Joe Tanner, and Stephanie Wilson. Additional space champions honored included Founder of The Traveling Space Museum, Ivor Dawson, and Mrs. Cheryl McNair, widow of Dr. Ronald McNair who was a physicist and second African American to fly in space before he died with six other astronauts aboard the 1986 space shuttle Challenger. (See Photos in Photo Gallery below).
  • September 2015 the Shades of Blue DCMD Chapter directed by Dr. Valerie Thomas designed a family night, “A NASA STAR Party Program” prior to the launch of NASA’s SOFIA (NASA Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy). Youth from Prince George’s County and their families were introduced to the SOFIA star gazing program through a robust set of presentations. During the night flight of SOFIA, a telescope-bearing Boeing 747 airplane, youth had a unique opportunity to engage in a live Twitter conversation with guest passenger, the iconic Star Trek Actress Nichelle Nichols.

- See Photo Gallery below for photos of the Shades of Blue leadership who organized the NASA Stargazing Party, photo of the SOFIA 747 itself and a photo that captures the fascination of some of the youth and adults.

- See the video of actress Nichelle Nichols (who played Communications Officer Lt. Uhura on Star Trek) discussing this opportunity to ‘fly again” with scientists and educators aboard NASA’s SOFIA. See

- See the article and photo gallery published on ASTRA’s website entitled: ‘ASTRA Sponsors Suitland High School’s NetGeneration of Youth at SOFIA Star Party” global-netgeneration-youth-sofia-star-party

- Check out the youth perspective in “Sofia and Me,” a video creatively designed by Global NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalist, Mary Lane from Suitland High School, a Prince George’s County Public School, in Maryland:

  • March 2016 -See ASTRA article and 12 photos “Answering the Call to Sustaining Women in STEM & Championing Diversity and Inclusion “ detailing a dynamic day long Policy Round Table that convened 100 STEM Trailblazers from across the nation by co hosts: NASA’s Dr. Christyl Johnson, Deputy Director for Technology and Research Investments of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Mrs. Wanda Sigur, Vice President for Civil Space of the Lockheed Martin Corporation Space Systems Company.

- See the photos from NASA Lockheed Martin Policy Round Table, Sustaining Women in STEM and Championing Diversity and Inclusion.

  • October 2016 celebrating STEM as a Girl Thing at the Annual Women of Color in STEM Conference in Detroit, Michigan. As a 2015 recipient of the WOC Lifetime Achievement Award, ASTRA’s Advisor and Futurist Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein was invited to join NASA at their various panels and workshops highlighting the success of NASA leadership throughout the nation in building a diverse STEM/ STEAMD Pipeline.

- See article by Former NASA Deputy Administrator Dr. Dava Newman “Embracing the Diversity of Our Journey…” that summarizes NASA’s involvement at the 2016 WOC forum. Not only did NASA provide interactive workshops to build the STEM Pipeline, but they honored their NASA Technology Rising Stars at a Technology Awards Luncheon Recognition Program, their NASA Peer Awardees at the WOC Gala, and spotlighted current promising ‘best practice programs’ that increase underrepresented populations at NASA and in other STEM careers.

- See attached photos in the Photo Gallery below that highlights the NASA STEM is a Girl Thing Forums, including the panel, A Perspective from NASA Executives and Trailblazers moderated by Dr. Michelle Ferebee (Langley} with panelists Dr. Marla Perez-Davis (Glenn), Julie Williams-Byrd (Langley), Robyn Gordon (Glenn), and Dr. Dionne Hernandez-Lugo (Glenn).

- See the special video welcome to the over 2000 attendees of the 2016 Women of Color in STEM Conference by actress Tariji Henson who plays math savant Mrs. Katherine Johnson in the movie, ‘Hidden Figures’. See

  • 2016 Summer and Fall, NASA and Shades of Blue continued to champion ‘sheroes’ depicted in the movie, ‘Hidden Figures’ in order to awaken the world to the untold stories of three African American women employed at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. All three, Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who would eventually take over early IBM’s processing computers; Dorothy Vaughn, NASA’s first Black Supervisor; and Mary Jackson, NASA’s first Black Engineer, not only shattered stereotypes and broke down racial barriers during the key period of the civil rights movement in 1960’s, but also played indispensable roles in helping America win the space race with Soviet Union.

- See the article written by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and published August 2016, in which he recalls the historic trajectory of one of the Hidden Figures, the one known as ‘a human computer’ “Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil.” See

- See the photos in the attached Photo Gallery that capture the joyful experience of Shades of Blue Founder, Captain Willie Daniels when he joined Administrator Charles Bolden, his wife Jackie Bolden, former Associate Administrator and Astronaut Leland Melvin, Actress Octavia Spencer who played Dorothy Vaughn in the movie “Hidden Figures,” and Mrs. Cheryl McNair, widow of Astronaut Ron McNair and Founding Director of Challenger Center, in Hampton Virginia at NASA Langley Research Center, honored the now 98 year old Mrs. Katherine Johnson, and then enjoyed a special screening of the movie based on her life.

- See also a brief video of Captain Daniels and Former Astronaut Leland Melvin with an elegant and humble Mrs. Katherine Johnson at the NASA Air and Space Museum IMG_5162.MOV

  • October 5-7, 2016 The Annual Shades of Blue Honors American Heroes program was designed as a three day Aeronautical, Aviation and STEM Education Symposium held in Washington, DC. It included: a Launch Day held at Bowie State University with inspiring E-Learning Webcasts of esteemed presenters that were Ustreamed with the support of NASA’s Digital Learning Network Studio to over a million students from across the country and to 99 countries around the world; A Moonlight River Cruise on the Potomac River Honoring America’s Heroes and Champions; & a Grand Black Tie Gala honoring Mrs. Katherine Johnson and Dr. Valerie Thomas with the Ed Dwight Jr. Award.
  • The Ed Dwight Award is named in honor of its designer, Captain Ed Dwight, Jr. who had been the first African American astronaut trainee personally appointed by President John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy’s assassination, severe discrimination resulted in Dwight’s 1966 resignation from the Astronaut Corps. While his dream to fly in space was forever deferred, he began to explore his other passion, art. Over the past 46 years, Ed Dwight Jr. has become a world- renowned entrepreneur, celebrated sculptor celebrating African American heritage, sculptor of major monuments nationally and internationally, and recognized innovator pioneering the negative space technique in sculpture. He also remains a good friend of both Shades of Blue Captain Willie Daniels and of former NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden.

- See photos from the Moonlight Cruise on the Potomac in Photo Gallery below.

- See videos of the Presenters of the Elearning Webcast on Shades of Blue website,

- See October 5, 2016 Webcast Interview of Administrator Bolden by Shades of Blue Founder Captain Willie Daniels. General Bolden shares insight into: the origins of NASA, the genesis of his interest in space; his excitement for NASA’s policy commitment since 2010 to “Journey to Mars;’ his passion for Opening the STEM/ STEAMD Education Pipeline to ensure we have the diverse talents needed to reach Mars; and encourages youth to study diligently and learn about the Journey Mars by going on the NASA Website and typing in top search “ Real Martian.” See

- See bio of Ed Dwight Jr. in the History Makers Archive…

5) The Future: While Major General Bolden has formally retired as the NASA Administrator on January 20th, 2017, he will not be retiring from life, nor from his passions. His conversations and the history of his remarks in Blogs archived on the NASA website, along with those of his Deputy Administrator Dr. Dava Newman, reflect deeply held and shared convictions related to...

  • ... Space as man’s final frontier. Both Major General Bolden and Dr. Dava Newman assert that it is ‘Our Destiny to Explore and Reach Out.’ One key aspect of NASA’s exploration program is a sustainable, affordable expansion of human presence into the solar system, with the focus of ‘ living off the earth for the earth.’
  • ... A deep pride in NASA’s accomplishments as a global leader in space and aeronautics research, technology innovation, as well as, in the development of international, private-public partnerships. Both Major General Bolden and Dr. Newman cite with pride the robust development and 16 year operation of the International Space Station, and the development of the James Webb Telescope scheduled for launch in 2018
  • ... A passion for Education and a commitment to continuing to promote diversity and inclusion that Opens the STEM/ STEAMD Education Pipeline. Major General Bolden and Dr. Newman both perceive youth as the best hope of the Future, a “Mars Generation’ that needs to be engaged and cultivated as the global problem solvers addressing global challenges on earth and in space.

- January 2017 Deputy Administrator Dr. Dava Newman addresses the UN COPUOS “Journey to Mars via Global Space Collaboration.” See

- October 2016 Administrator Bolden’s blog- “International Cooperation: Critical on Our Human Journey to Mars” See

- August 2016 Blog by Administrator Charles Bolden “Kibo: Our Shared Destiny Will Be Written by Us, Not for Us” addressing the hope (Japanese word is Kibo) that is embodied in the International Space Station, and the exciting national and global research and technology innovations in aviation. See

- June 2016 Blog of NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden’s keynote address at the Aviation 2016 conference in Washington entitled “Concept to Reality - Our Journey to Transforming Aviation.” His focus was on NASA Aeronautics New Aviation Horizons, a 10-year research plan based on the president’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. See

- November 12, 2015 video “The Path to Mars: A Conversation With Charles F. Bolden Jr. with Shirley Ann Jackson, President, Rensselear Polytechnic Institute; Member, Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations See

- May 2016 Dr. Dava Newman talk at MIT “Journey to Mars and Beyond.” See

Click image below to view photo gallery.

From left: Shades of Blue Founder, Captain Willie Daniels; Major General Charles Bolden with his Shades of Blue Community Outreach Award; ASTRA Futurist and Shades of Blue Advisor for STrategic Planning and Partnerships, Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein; Shades of Blue DCMD Chapter Mr. Marvin Richardson.