The trophy was presented to Bolden on December 17 by the National Aeronautic Association at the Aero Club of Washington’s seventy-third annual Wright Memorial Dinner. The award is presented each year on or near the anniversary of the historic first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.
The Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy was established in 1948 by the NAA to honor the memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright, and is presented to a living American for “significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.”
In presenting the award, the NAA stated that Bolden was being honored for “his impassioned commitment to public service in aviation and aerospace as an aviator, astronaut, and leader and his dedication to excellence for the advancement of all humanity.”
Bolden has carved a career that others can only dream of. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, he became a naval aviator and flew more than 100 combat missions in Vietnam. In 1980, Bolden embarked on a 14-year career as a NASA astronaut. He launched into space four times, completing two missions as the pilot and two as mission commander. Bolden left NASA and returned to the operating forces of the Marine Corps in 1994, and in 1998, he was promoted to major general.
Following retirement from the Marine Corps, Bolden was chosen to serve as NASA administrator, remaining in that post from 2009 to 2017.
“As this honor sinks in, I think of the many true heroes of aviation who won this award before me,” said Bolden. “This trophy is an incredible honor and can only hope to live up to its legacy and inspire many future Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy winners.”
Past recipients of the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy include Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong, Sen. John Glenn, and R.A. “Bob” Hoover.