President Barack Obama nominated former astronaut and retired Marine Corps general, Charles Bolden, to lead NASA, confirming speculation that began before Obama took office. Bolden, 62, served more than three decades in the military and flew on four space shuttle missions, including the 1990 flight that put the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit.

Obama also nominated Lori Garver, a former NASA official and a member of the president's transition team, to be second in command of the space agency as deputy administrator.

Michael Griffin, who resigned as NASA administrator in January and is now a professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, called Obama's selection of Bolden "a superb choice," according to the Huntsville Times. "Like most people, I have a hard time finding anything about [Bolden] that is not good," Griffin told the newspaper. "I like him very much." If confirmed, Bolden would be NASA's first African-American administrator and only the second former astronaut, after Richard H. Truly, to lead the space agency.

The nominee has also been championed by Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who as a congressman in 1986 flew on a space shuttle mission with Bolden. "I trusted Charlie with my life—and would do so again," Nelson told the Los Angeles Times.

Bolden is expected to be confirmed, according to The Wall Street Journal and the Houston Chronicle, but will likely face questions about his past ties to contractors involved with NASA programs. In recent years, according to the Journal, he worked as a lobbyist for Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, and sat on the board of GenCorp. Both companies are contractors for Constellation, the space launch system that NASA plans to begin using in 2015 to replace the space shuttle, which is slated for retirement next year. Earlier this month Obama convened an independent panel to review NASA's plans for manned spaceflight, casting some doubt on the future of Constellation as it currently stands.

What Bolden's tenure would look like is an open question, although as a former aviator and astronaut it is believed he would be a staunch supporter of manned space exploration. "We don't know exactly what this means yet," space historian Roger Launius of the National Air and Space Museum told the Los Angeles Times. But, Launius added, "I think in Charlie Bolden you'll have an individual who will be strong enough to speak to the administration."

Portrait of Bolden: NASA via Wikimedia Commons