Charles Thomas Bourland was born on July 19, 1937 in Osceola, Missouri to Thomas Bourland and Darline (Postlewait) Bourland. He was the eldest of eight siblings; 5 boys and 3 girls. His father was a farmer and part-time trucker most of his life. Charles’s early education was in a one room school in Osceola. He became active in Future Farmers of America and served as F.F.A. President his Junior year in High School and Treasurer his senior year. Additionally, his senior year, Charles received the State Farmers Degree in F.F.A. and was Vice President of his senior class, ranking 6th out of 56 in his class. He completed high school at Osceola Public High School in May 1955. During the summers between 1951 to 1955, he worked on the family farm and assisted his father on a milk route. By September of 1955, Charles owned 6 registered Holsteins, which he sold to go to college.
He began his college education at the University of Missouri in September of 1955. He started out in general agriculture and changed to dairy production his freshman year. At MU, he was in Advanced ROTC, Vice-President of the Dairy Club, member of the Agriculture Club, Independent Aggies, and Gamma Sigma Delta. In June of 1959, he completed his Bachelor of Science degree with a specialty in Dairy Husbandry from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.
Charles was drafted into the army in 1960. He was promoted to Air Defense Artillery Platoon Leader at Ft. Bliss, Texas and served in Germany commanding the launcher Platoon of a HAWK battery. Other duties included: motor officer, mess officer, security officer and fire marshal. He was promoted to Captain, and in 1968 was transferred to the Medical Service Corps.
In May of 1967, Charles obtained his Master of Science Degree in Microbiology. Finally, in August of 1969, He received his P.H.D. in Food Science and Nutrition, all from the University of Missouri. In August of 1969, upon completion of his P.H.D., he got a call out of the blue from NASA, inviting him to come and interview.
Charles ended up at that interview on the same day Apollo 11 was landing on the moon in 1969 and began working for NASA at The Johnson Space Center shortly after his interview. He began work at the Johnson Space Center with Technology Inc, later Krug International, and then part of Wyle Labs. Dr. Charles Bourland was involved in developing new foods and food packages for Apollo and was responsible for the quarantine food systems on the recovery ships for Apollo 12 and 13. Dr. Bourland also managed an analytical laboratory that analyzed space food for nutrient content during the Skylab program. During his career at NASA, he was involved in the Apollo recovery ship food, Zero G testing aboard the Zero G plane, quarantine food systems, and planetary-based food systems for the Apollo program, Skylab, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program, the shuttle program, and the International Space Station. He was the subsystem manager for International Space Station food in the Flight Crew Support Division at the Johnson Space Center. His responsibilities included food and package development and advanced planning for International Space Station, and Advanced Life Support involving conversion of chamber grown crops to edible food. He was on the recovery ship for the first Skylab crew return, monitoring the food intake. He directed the development and implementation of the Shuttle food system and was involved in many of the early Shuttle launches.
In later years he directed the development of the International Space Station (ISS) food system and traveled to Russia to negotiate the food plan for the Shuttle MIR program and the ISS. Dr. Bourland was involved in the food and package development for Apollo, Tektite, Skylab, Food for the Elderly program, Apollo-Soyuz, Shuttle, Shuttle/MIR, International Space Station, and planetary bases where crops will be grown and processed for food.
During Dr. Bourland’s tenure at NASA, space food changed from cubes and tubes to regular foods eaten from open containers with normal utensils. The following was introduced into space food systems during his 30 years; utensils, retort pouches, irradiated meat, frozen food, hot water, food heaters, ovens, and eating from open containers in microgravity.
Charles retired as the long-time Director of the NASA Space Food Program in December 1999. After Retirement from NASA, he worked as a Consultant to NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center, Iowa State University, Ames Iowa and National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Baylor University, Houston Texas. He was Adjunct Professor at Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston, Houston Texas. In 2000 he received the Silver Snoopy Award, the astronaut personal achievement award and in 2003 he was honored with a Faculty – Alumni Award from the University of Missouri. Aside from many distinguished awards, he was also chosen to meet the Queen of England and introduce her to Space Food as she toured NASA. He also met, educated, and fed the starring cast of the Apollo 13 Movie; Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Bill Paxton, and director Ron Howard.
After his retirement from the NASA Johnson Space Center, Charles returned to his birthplace in Osceola, where his mother still lived, as well as all (but 2) of his siblings. The area he resided in is lovingly known locally as “Bourlandville” because so many of them inhabit that area to this day. He was once again home.
Although Charles was retired, he was always very active in his community organizations, likely in a position of responsibility such as Secretary or Treasurer, but always as a volunteer at the ready. Charles worked tirelessly in Osceola and throughout his community. He was a faithful and dependable volunteer in organizations such as The Optimists Club, Lowry City Main Street Committee, Osceola F.F.A., The St. Clair County Cattlemen’s Association, St. Clair County Farm Bureau, The St. Clair County Republican Central Committee, and the Osceola High School All-School Reunion Committee.
In 2018, he was nominated for the State of Missouri Lieutenant Governor’s Senior Service Award by Gary Noakes and District 125 Representative Warren Love and received the award on May 7, 2018. The award is given to Missouri Seniors who serve the state and its citizens with distinction and are worthy of special recognition and honor.
Charles was a music lover. His favorite by far was Bluegrass music. He had many favorite bluegrass, gospel, and country music favorites, but none as much as local talents that he supported and enjoyed. He was an avid deer hunter and enjoyed turkey hunting as well. One of his favorite activities was fishing at his pond with his granddaughter.
Charles was a dedicated, and loving father, grandfather, brother, relative, neighbor, and friend. To meet him and get to know him, was to gain a friend. He had the heart of a true servant and spent his very last day here on earth as a volunteer at the annual Music on Main Street event in Lowry City, Missouri. Thank you for being the person you were. I know you will be looking down upon us with that WONDERFUL SMILE. You taught us so much and made a lasting impact on OUR HEARTS, the world, Osceola, and all those whose lives you touched. I will think of you each time I look at the moon. We will miss you greatly.
Charles was preceded in death by his parents, Darline and Thomas Bourland. He is survived by his daughter, Cindi Bourland Archer, husband Jon, and granddaughter Alexis; sister, Sue Wilkins; brother, Robert Bourland; brother, John Bourland and wife Linda; sister, Connie Frankenfield and husband Jim; brother, David Bourland and wife Sheila; brother, Ervin Bourland and wife Rita; sister, Rebecca Bourland; 12 nieces and nephews; 22 great nieces and nephews.