U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will be in Orlando Wednesday alongside the man who captained his 1986 space flight to discuss the Orion spacecraft, NASA’s next-gen heavy-lift rocket that will take humans farther into space than ever before.

Nelson and Charlie Bolden, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General and former NASA administrator, were instrumental in writing and implementing the Orion plan that could eventually see mankind take its first steps on Mars.

Nelson and Bolden first met when Bolden was Nelson’s captain on the Space Shuttle Columbia’s STS-61-C mission in 1986. This afternoon, the former colleagues and friends of more than 30 years will meet at the Orlando Science Center where they provide a peek into the future of America’s space program, including a discussion of NASA’s Orion spacecraft.

Bolden is traveling to Florida to campaign for his longtime friend because of all that Nelson has done for America’s space program.

“Bill Nelson showed how you can work in a bipartisan way to pass major legislation in order to get America on track for commercial space ventures and the program to go to Mars, which NASA is executing,” he said.

The former NASA administrator isn’t touching down in the Sunshine State just to talk shop — he’s also set to back up Nelson in dispelling “false attacks” levied by Nelson’s opponent in the U.S. Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Nelson, a Democrat, has mentioned his space flight in campaign ads, and Scott’s team has poked at the 1986 trip.

According to Bolden, Nelson wasn’t just along for the ride — it was his legislation that opened the door for Florida’s commercial space program and helped save the heavy-lift rocket program that is essential to the mission to Mars.

During his tenure as NASA administrator from 2009 to 2017, Bolden helped put in place the programs that have kept the United States at the cutting edge of space technology and brought a boost to the Central Florida economy.

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