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SouthBound: Charles Bolden On His Adventures In Space, And Our Struggles Here On Earth

In this time when we have so many earthbound troubles, I wanted to spend some time in space. So I called up Charles Bolden.

Charles Bolden astronaut photo
Courtesy of Charles Bolden

Bolden flew on four space shuttle missions, helped deploy the Hubble Space Telescope, and was later in charge of NASA under President Obama. He is one of the lucky few who have seen our planet as a blue ball through a window.

But we ended up talking about more earthly things. How he had to overcome racism in Jim Crow South Carolina to launch his career. How he dealt with imposter syndrome even as he accomplished things most of us only dream of. And how, when it came time to explain why he wanted to fly the space shuttle, he did it as a letter to his mother.

He got choked up when he was talking about that part. I did, too.



  • Surak, "A Comet Is Born"
  • Stellardrone, "Airglow"
Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary that airs every Monday. He's the author of "The Elephant in the Room," a memoir about life as an overweight man in a growing America. He spent 23 years as a reporter and local columnist for the Charlotte Observer, where he was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in commentary. He has also written for publications including Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Garden & Gun. He’s a graduate of the University of Georgia and was a 2008-09 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Tommy and his wife, Alix Felsing, live in Charlotte.

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