NASA file
Charles F. Bolden Jr., who is likely to be named NASA administrator, flew on four space shuttle missions and commanded the first shuttle mission to include a Russian cosmonaut as part of the crew. This photo dates back to that 1994 mission.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/19/2009 2:55:37 PM ET 2009-05-19T18:55:37

After a day's delay, President Obama met Tuesday with a leading candidate to head NASA, the White House said.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said Obama met with Charles Bolden, a former shuttle commander and retired Marine major general.

The meeting had been scheduled Monday but was postponed because the president's talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went long.

The administration isn't expected to announce a new NASA chief immediately.

The 62-year-old Bolden left NASA in 1994 after flying in space four times, twice as shuttle commander, and serving as assistant deputy administrator at NASA headquarters in Washington.

If the Houston resident is nominated and wins Senate confirmation, he would become the space agency's first black administrator and second astronaut in the post.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged that there was "obviously great interest" in selecting NASA's next chief, in part because of the attention being paid to the shuttle Atlantis' mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. In the next few months, an independent panel is due to review NASA's plans to retire the shuttle fleet and build a new generation of spacecraft for returning to the moon.

Gibbs said he could not characterize Obama's meeting with Bolden but said the president "hopes that he's the right person to lead NASA in the coming years and through its evolving role."

This report includes information from The Associated Press and msnbc.com.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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