The head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration credited the 30-year space shuttle program with helping break down segregation in space.
Retired Marine Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr., in remarks for a Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday breakfast Tuesday, said the shuttle made more than scientific and technological breakthroughs possible.
"It has also been instrumental in providing space flight opportunities for women and people of color, effectively breaking down that segregation without a single law being passed to force it," the Columbia, S.C., native said.
Bolden, appointed by President Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, became the first black administrator of NASA in July of 2009.
"Believe me, when I grew up, either one of those things would have been unimaginable as I sat in Columbia's Carver Theater, the only movie house in town for black people," said Bolden, 64.