Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest: Maj. Gen. C - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest: Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden Jr.

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(NEWS 8) - News 8 loves to highlight people who are doing incredible things in their community on the Morning Extra, and Tuesday was no different.

Joining News 8's Heather Myers was Major General Charles Frank Bolden Jr., the 2017 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest award winner and former astronaut and first-ever black NASA Administrator.

Bolden served as NASA Administrator from 2009 to 2017, helping develop the Orion spacecraft that can shuttle astronauts beyond the moon.The Curiosity rover's landing on Mars and the launch of a spacecraft toward Jupiter all happened under Bolden's watch.

Before his stint with NASA, Bolden served in the United State Marine Corps for 34 years, including 14 years as an astronaut which took him to orbit four times. He was also inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2006.

Before earning his Master's degree from USC in 1977, he was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy where he graduated in 1968. His appointment wasn't easy, though. After years of exclusion, he wrote letters to congressmen, senators and even Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. His local congressman and senators made it very clear to him that he would not be receiving an appointment to the academy so his hopes rested in the hands of Johnson, so when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated he thought he had no chance. He never heard back from the president directly, but after a few weeks of his letter he got a visit from a Navy recruiter and then a federal judge who was tasked with looking for black and Latino academy candidates. he ended up getting an appointment from a congressman in Chicago.

Bolden will receive his award Tuesday night at a ceremony at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. The event is free to attend -- you can register here.

Other recipients of the award given by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography are journalist Walter Cronkite and filmmaker James Cameron.

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