Not My Job: NASA's Charles Bolden Gets Quizzed On 'Charles In Charge'

Oct 15, 2016
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PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Just this last summer, we went to Wolf Trap outside Washington, D.C., and we put out a senior bureaucrat trap. When we checked it right before the show, we had really gotten lucky. We found Charles Bolden, a former marine pilot, astronaut and now the head of NASA.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SAGAL: Charles Bolden, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

CHARLES BOLDEN: Thank you. Good to be here. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So let's pick up on that right away. It is true that your voice was the first broadcast to Mars.

BOLDEN: Actually from Mars.

SAGAL: From Mars?

BOLDEN: Yeah.

SAGAL: Oh, how did that work?

BOLDEN: We sent the file to Mars, to the Curiosity Rover.

SAGAL: Yeah.

BOLDEN: And then when Curiosity woke up, it was asked to send my voice back.

SAGAL: Really? And what did you say from Mars?

BOLDEN: I have no idea.

SAGAL: You don't know?

BOLDEN: No. I don't remember.

ROXANNE ROBERTS: Really?

SAGAL: You're...

BOLDEN: It was like we...

SAGAL: You recorded the...

BOLDEN: ...Come in peace or something like that.

SAGAL: Yeah, I understand.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDEN: My wife is in the audience somewhere and she says dog gone it, you can't find your way out here. And now you can't remember what you said from Mars.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah.

TOM BODETT: Yeah. That's like you ask Neil Armstrong what he said on the moon. And he says I don't know, something about walking.

SAGAL: I don't remember.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So this is what we were told, that in your career you've been a Marine pilot and an astronaut and you did not want to be either of those things.

BOLDEN: Correct.

SAGAL: Now...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...it has been my understanding that those things are actually quite hard to become.

BOLDEN: Correct.

SAGAL: So how do you stumble into that?

BOLDEN: It's really not a joke, but I used to say, you know, my mother always taught me that, you know, just don't be a fool about things you decide you want to do. So flying was inherently dangerous, and I did not want to do that. And then I married the most beautiful woman in the world who is my wife now of - I would say how many years except then she'll be angry because I said that.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDEN: You all will be impressed with how long she has stuck with me.

SAGAL: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDEN: But I would rather have you guess than have me in trouble.

SAGAL: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDEN: And so...

SAGAL: Let's just - a long and successful marriage.

BOLDEN: ...She did not...

SAGAL: You met your wife...

BOLDEN: She did not enjoy the prospect of me going to Vietnam and defying the law of averages for the life expectancy of a second lieutenant.

SAGAL: Right.

BOLDEN: So she said why don't we go to Pensacola and you go to flight school? I said but I don't want to fly. And she kept saying that over and over and over and I found out during our three-day war at the end of my six months of training that I really did not like crawling around in the mud.

SAGAL: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDEN: And it was the first time that I learned in my marriage that if your wife says do something, she's probably right.

SAGAL: Right.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

BOLDEN: So we went to Pensacola.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Did her wishes have anything to do with you eventually leaving the planet?

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDEN: I need to - I never thought of that.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDEN: I - oh.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Charlie, I've got to ask you, when are we really going to Mars?

BOLDEN: We're going to Mars in the 2030s. So we've got the vehicle called - we're going to name it but right now we call it the Space Launch System. It's a heavy lift launch vehicle.

SAGAL: Right.

BOLDEN: And so we're going to fly in 2018. It won't be - have a - it won't have a crew on it.

SAGAL: Right.

BOLDEN: So the first first flight in 2018 will be a non-crewed mission. It'll go out around the moon and come back. We'll check it all out and make sure everything is good. The next flight will have a crew.

SAGAL: Right.

BOLDEN: And then for about 10 years, we're going to work - go back into the area around the moon so we can make sure the technology to go to Mars is really good...

SAGAL: Yeah.

BOLDEN: ...Because when you go to the moon, you're a couple of days away from Earth.

SAGAL: Right.

BOLDEN: You can be rescued if you need it. You go to Mars, you're eight months one way.

SAGAL: Yeah.

BOLDEN: And there is no pizza delivery man coming.

SAGAL: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

PAULA POUNDSTONE: I'll tell you something. I want to go to another planet so badly...

BODETT: Yeah.

ROBERTS: Really?

POUNDSTONE: ...That even - oh, yes.

BODETT: Yeah.

POUNDSTONE: That even though this is a radio show, I'm going to make this noise until you say yes (imitating high-pitched tone).

BOLDEN: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Where...

POUNDSTONE: Man, you cracked pretty fast for a marine.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I heard...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Charles Bolden, we are delighted to have you with us. And we have invited you here today to play a game we're calling...

BILL KURTIS: You're Not Charles In Charge, He Is.

SAGAL: So you're Charles in charge of NASA, but what do you know about the real Charles in charge? And that would be Scott Baio...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Actor and, this really happened, featured speaker at the Republican National Convention. So we thought the time was clearly right for a quiz about his remarkable career. Answer two of these questions correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Charlie Bolden of NASA playing for?

KURTIS: Blake Redding of Washington, D.C.

SAGAL: All right, then.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So what - do astronauts have to give, like, a verbal yes before launch? Do you have to, like, say yes, go?

BOLDEN: Yes.

SAGAL: And what is that phrase they use?

BOLDEN: Roger.

SAGAL: Really, that's it?

BOLDEN: Yeah.

SAGAL: Roger?

BOLDEN: Or the crew is go.

SAGAL: OK.

BODETT: The crew is go.

SAGAL: I like that. There we go.

BOLDEN: Yeah. The crew is ready.

SAGAL: There we go.

SAGAL: Mr. Baio got his first breakout role at the age of 15. It was the title role in that bizarre kids as gangsters movie "Bugsy Malone." And he landed the job as an unknown with his remarkable audition. How did he nail it? A - by performing perfectly Shakespeare's this sceptered isle, this England speech from "Richard II;" B - by simply looking at the director in his most smoldering, come-hither sexy glance...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C - by reading the script, throwing it at the director and stomping out.

BOLDEN: C.

SAGAL: You're exactly right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

POUNDSTONE: Wow.

(APPLAUSE)

BOLDEN: That's exactly what I'd do.

SAGAL: Really?

BOLDEN: No. No.

SAGAL: You don't strike me as the...

BOLDEN: No. No.

SAGAL: ...Throw a thing and stomp off.

BOLDEN: I would not. No.

SAGAL: You were very confident though. You looked at me with the steely-eyed confidence of a Marine pilot and I was impressed.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You knew this. All right. That was - you're right. He - the director was so impressed with his brash attitude that he got the part before he left the building. All right. Next question. In addition to his acclaimed run as Chachi on "Happy Days," Mr. Baio appeared in one of those classic after-school specials in 1980 about real problems kids might have. What was his episode called? Was it A - but those pants make me feel funny, B - the boy who drank too much, or C - are you there God? It's me, Scott Baio.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDEN: Holy gimoley (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: B.

BOLDEN: B.

SAGAL: They're going for B.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: The boy who drank too much. You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

BOLDEN: Somebody said if you don't cheat, you're not trying.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right. That's fine. Yeah, it was the boy who drank too much. It's about a boy who drinks too much.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right. You can go for perfect here. Mr. Baio's acting career did not end with "Charles In Charge," of course. He's remained busy in the decades since. For example, he did this - in 2007, he did a reality show called "Scott Baio Is 45...And Single." And he did another series the next year as kind of a sequel. What was that sequel reality series called? Was it A - "Scott Baio Is Looking For A Job Since The Last Thing Didn't Work Out..."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B - "Scott Baio Is 46 And Pregnant..."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C - "Scott Baio, Crappy Days?"

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDEN: OK. It's time to think about this. No, nobody?

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDEN: Let's just try B.

SAGAL: You're going to go for B. He's 46 and pregnant. It is, in fact, B.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: That's all right. You're OK. You're OK.

POUNDSTONE: Wow. That is...

SAGAL: The show is called - the follow-up to "Scott Baio's 45...And "Single was "Scott Baio Is 46 And Pregnant." To clarify, it was actually Mr. Baio's girlfriend who was pregnant. He's talented but not that talented.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Bill, how did NASA Administrator Charles Bolden do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Three right.

SAGAL: Well done.

BOLDEN: It's the team.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Charlie Bolden is the administrator at NASA.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Charlie Bolden, thank you so much for being with us.

BOLDEN: Thank you.

SAGAL: What a pleasure. Ladies and gentleman, your NASA director.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: What a guy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAGAL: Coming up, we talk to the governor of Rhode Island and a former NBA star, you know, as you do. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.