American Companies Selected to Return Astronaut Launches to American Soil

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Today, with the selection of Boeing and SpaceX to be the first American companies to launch our astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA has set the stage for what promises to be the most ambitious and exciting chapter in the history of human space flight.

From day one, the Obama Administration has made it clear that the greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on other nations to get into space. Thanks to the leadership of President Obama and the hard work of our NASA and industry teams, today we are one step closer to launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on American spacecraft and ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia by 2017. Turning over low-Earth orbit transportation to private industry also will allow NASA to focus on an even more ambitious mission – sending humans to Mars.

We have already fulfilled part of the President’s vision. For the past two years, two companies, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, have been making regular cargo deliveries to the International Space Station. The contracts we are announcing today are designed to complete the NASA certification for human space transportation systems capable of carrying people into orbit. Once certification is complete, NASA plans to use these systems to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and return them safely to Earth. Again, this will fulfill the commitment President Obama made to return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil and end our sole reliance on the Russians.

As a former space shuttle commander, I know that the goal of every mission is to do something different from the flights that have gone before. Alan Shepard earned the title first American in space, John Glenn the first American to orbit Earth. And with all due respect to the late Michael Jackson, Neil and Buzz were the first moonwalkers.

Today, we don’t know who is going to get to command the first mission to carry humans into low-Earth orbit on a spacecraft built by an American private company, but we know it will be a seminal moment in NASA history and a major achievement for our nation. We now know, however, who will build it.

The Boeing Company (Boeing) and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) have each presented to us designs that will allow us to fly crews to the International Space Station in just a few years. Respectively, the vehicles are Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon. The total potential contract value is $4.2 billion for Boeing and $2.6 billion for SpaceX. The spacecraft will launch from Kennedy Space Center – Cape Canaveral complex.

Our specialist teams have watched the development of these new spacecraft during earlier development phases, and are confident they will meet the demands of these important missions. We also are confident they will be safe for NASA astronauts – to achieve NASA certification in 2017, they must meet the same rigorous safety standards we had for the Space Shuttle Program.

It was not an easy choice, but it is the best choice for NASA and the nation. We received numerous proposals from companies throughout the aerospace industry. Highly qualified, American companies – united in their desire to return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil – competed to serve this nation and end our reliance on Russia. I applaud them all for their innovations, their hard work and their patriotism.

The partnership with Boeing and SpaceX promises to give more people in America and around the world the opportunity to experience the wonder and exhilaration of spaceflight – to realize the dream of leaving Earth for even a short time to float above our planet Earth in microgravity and to see the stars and the majestic tapestry of the Milky Way unobstructed by the artificial lights and dust of our atmosphere. Space travelers also will be able to imagine and realize new benefits that can be brought back to Earth.

While Boeing and SpaceX handle the task of taking our astronauts to the space station, the scientists on Earth and astronauts on the orbiting ISS National Laboratory will continue the groundbreaking research that has been taking place there for almost 14 years now without interruption. They will be able to add to that portfolio with an expanded crew made possible by the arrival of these new spacecraft.

As research takes place in Earth orbit and the companies refine these new space transportation systems, we at NASA will be working just as diligently readying our new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and our multi-purpose crew vehicle, Orion, for missions in the next decade that will carry people far from our local space neighborhood.

Just yesterday, off the coast of California, I witnessed the successful recovery test of the Orion engineering test article – the next generation spacecraft that is being readied for its December flight test and its eventual use for journeys to an asteroid and to Mars. With the help of the U.S. Navy, the Orion mockup was put through a full ocean recovery dress rehearsal. Following its first flight (EFT-1), Orion will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean – the first time in more than 40 years that it has been necessary to recover a human spacecraft from the ocean.

Last week, at Kennedy Space Center, we rolled the Orion crew module for EFT-1 out of the Neil Armstrong O&C Building to the Hypergolic Processing Facility for fueling in preparation for its maiden test flight in December. Just two days later at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, we cut the ribbon on the new 170 foot high Vertical Assembly Center, the state of the art tooling facility that will weld together the massive core stage of the SLS – the rocket that will launch Orion and our astronauts farther into space than any human has gone before. From Michoud, I traveled to the Stennis Space Center to view progress on the historic B-2 Test Stand that is being prepared to test the core stage of SLS and its configuration of four RS-25 engines.

We will launch SLS and Orion from Kennedy Space Center. They will test the systems needed to get to Mars – with missions to an asteroid and areas beyond the moon such as Lagrange points, where space observatories will be operating within our reach in the 2020s as we conduct the first deep space mission with astronauts since the Apollo moon landings.

We’ll conduct missions that will each set their own impressive roster of firsts. First crew to visit and take samples of an asteroid, first crew to fly beyond the orbit of the moon, perhaps the first crew to grow its own food in space — all of which will set us up for humanity’s next giant leap: the first crew to touch down and take steps on the surface of Mars.

The partnership we are announcing today for development of our commercial crew vehicles would not be possible without the hard work of hundreds of individuals dedicated to America’s spirit of exploration and innovation. I especially want to commend the President and Congress for providing support for this new way of doing business. By combining private sector ingenuity with a bipartisan national commitment, and the unmatched expertise of NASA, we are not only better able to stretch the boundaries of the possible, we are strengthening our economy and creating good jobs for our people. As President Obama has said, “We will not only extend humanity’s reach in space — we will strengthen America’s leadership here on Earth.”

Our destiny is set. Our course is laid out before us. And we are following it. We hope the American people will be inspired to join us on this next great, ambitious leg of humanity’s journey farther into our solar system than ever before.

NASA Celebrates National Aviation Day

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Today the NASA family celebrates National Aviation Day, which was established in 1939 on the birthday of Orville Wright, the aviation legend who made that historic first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903.

Since those early days of open air cockpits and fabric-covered airplanes, aviation has grown to become a critical component of our daily lives, no matter where we are in the world. Aviation enables us to stay connected with family and friends across the globe, and it has a major influence on our economy.

The spirit of the Wright Brothers’ pioneering work continues at NASA as our aeronautical innovators seek to drive technological breakthroughs that make aviation more fuel-efficient, and that reduce aircraft noise and noxious emissions.

Today we’re looking at how aviation fits into the big picture of global economic and population expansion, and how we can take advantage of technological innovation in areas not traditionally associated with aviation.

NASA Aeronautics has developed an exciting new strategic vision that clearly focuses our research on priority challenges in order to benefit society and our nation’s economy.

Technologies we’ve worked on recently include Precision Departure Release Capability, a software tool we transferred to the FAA last year. It identifies precisely when an aircraft needs to push back from an airport gate in order to make its slot in the overhead stream of traffic on time, improving traffic flow and saving fuel.

We’re also setting up a round of field tests for Dynamic Weather Routing, a tool that continually analyzes flight trajectories and weather conditions, and then suggests course corrections to avoid trouble and reduce delays.

Efficient Descent Advisor – another tool transferred to the FAA — has the potential to reduce local noise and emissions pollution, reduce flight time and save $300 million per year in wasted jet fuel.

Still other technologies continue to be developed. For example, NASA will be on board a Boeing 787 ecoDemonstrator aircraft this fall to flight test a technology designed to improve airborne spacing, and on a Boeing 757 ecoDemonstrator next year to test new ideas for reducing drag and improving fuel efficiency.

Making aviation greener for the long term is a major focus of our aeronautics research strategic vision, and we’re also continuing to lead research in documenting whether aircraft biofuels actually reduce emissions. (Preliminary results indicate they do).

As always, we’re looking to advance the state of the art in everything we do. Another key initiative we’re working on is to help bring back supersonic passenger flight by increasing our understanding of how to create quieter sonic booms. Our work could lead to new designs that alter how sonic booms are made by aircraft so that people on the ground might not even notice.

All of these innovations directly affect travelers and commerce worldwide. The President’s FY15 budget proposal sets the stage for NASA to continue our innovative work as we tackle the global challenges facing aviation as laid out in the strategic vision.

This Aviation Day, please join me in saluting our aeronautics researchers and the critical work they do.

Take a look at some great photos in a special Flickr album we’ve put together for this day.

In the spirit of Orville Wright, use social media to tell us about your first flight experience. What kind of airplane were you on? Where were you going? Did anything about the flight surprise you? Use the hashtag #myfirstflight.

Visit a local aviation museum. Or say “thanks” to someone who works in aviation as you embark on a trip.

We can all look forward to continued advances in Aeronautics, the first “A” in NASA — because NASA is with you when you fly, today and into the future.

 

NASA Gets High Marks on Small Business Scorecard

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When we say that small business is big business here at NASA, it’s not a slogan, it’s ingrained in our culture.  I am especially proud of NASA’s record of support for small businesses, which is essential to our achievements in space and here on Earth.

Which is why I was so pleased today to join Small Business Administration head Maria Contreras-Sweet at an event unveiling our nation’s federal procurement scorecard for this past year, FY2013.  The scorecard outlines our progress toward using small business to achieve our nation’s goals in many areas.

NASA’s SBA Scorecard has moved from “C” to “A” in just three years.  We’re not perfect, and in some areas we have a ways to go, especially in meeting our goals with Women-Owned, HUBZone, and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned small businesses, but we’re headed the right direction.  After all, we’re NASA – we’re in the business of shooting for the stars – and learning along the way how we can improve and get better.

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy.  They employ about half of all private sector employees.  They account for 42% of the total U.S. private payroll and they are incubators of innovation, developing new products and new ways of solving problems that are benefiting communities nationwide and maintaining America’s leadership in the global economy.  

This is the first time in 9 years the federal government exceeded the overall 23% goal for small business procurement.  I commend the Obama Administration for its commitment to small business and for recognizing how crucial these entrepreneurs are to the health of our economy and for creating new jobs.

At NASA, we also take our commitment to small business very seriously, and I pledge to continue working diligently toward all of our goals.  I want to thank and commend Administrator Contreras-Sweet for her dedication and commitment to small businesses –for her work to keep this vital engine of our economy moving forward.

NASA is on a journey to Mars and there are already small businesses there supporting various aspects of the Curiosity rover.  As we implement our stepping stone approach to more challenging missions, eventually sending humans to the Red Planet, I know small businesses will be with us all along the way. 

Building on Apollo 11 for the Next Giant Leap

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This month, our nation will mark the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon – a remarkable American accomplishment and a “giant leap” for humankind.  Today, at NASA, we’re working on the next giant leap – a human mission to Mars, standing on the shoulders of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

NextGiantLeap image

As I near the end of my fifth year as NASA administrator, I take great pride in the many amazing things our nation’s space program continues to accomplish.  From an incredible five Earth science missions heading to space this year, to the first flight test of the Orion spacecraft that will one day carry astronauts to Mars, and the continued success of our commercial partners in their missions to the International Space Station (ISS), we’re building on the Apollo program’s legacy to test and fly transformative, cutting-edge technologies today for tomorrow’s missions.

Around this 45th anniversary, we look ahead on our path to Mars and the milestones within our grasp.  We’re treading that path with a stepping stone approach that takes the extraordinary work our crews have been doing aboard the Space Station for more than 13 years preparing us to travel farther into our solar system.  Technology drives exploration, and we’ll be testing new technologies in the proving ground of deep space on our mission to an asteroid, eventually becoming Earth independent as we reach Mars.

Just this past week we were pleased that one of our private sector partners, Orbital Sciences, once again successfully launched a cargo mission to the ISS from U.S. soil.  Along with another commercial partner, SpaceX, they’ve demonstrated with their Cygnus and Dragon spacecraft, respectively, that American industry can help us reach low Earth orbit and create good jobs and value for NASA at the same time.  Later this year, we plan to award commercial contracts for transporting our astronauts to space from American soil by 2017, ending our reliance on others to get into space and freeing up scarce resources to focus on our even bolder Mars mission.

Our science missions also continue to turn science fiction into science fact.  Today in Washington, we are hosting a public event, “The Search for Life in the Universe,” about our work on one of the most fundamental questions in exploration, “Are we alone?”  Top scientists will share insights on how close we are to answering that question, what we know today from NASA missions and what we may find out soon.

In September, MAVEN arrives at Mars to study the planet’s upper atmosphere even as Curiosity and Opportunity continue to rove the surface and help prepare us for human missions to the Red Planet.  Next year New Horizons arrives at Pluto and the year after, Juno arrives at Jupiter, even as we prepare our next Great Observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, for launch in 2018 to peer back at the oldest light in the cosmos.

You can see that today’s astronauts, scientists and engineers continue to be inspired by the Apollo 11 mission.  I’m proud and privileged to head a space agency that is accomplishing so much today with the legacy of the Apollo 11 crew and the thousands of ground support personnel who facilitated their success.  As the world’s leader in exploration, we have so much to look forward to in the coming years.

Here is a video I recorded about my personal remembrances of the first moon landing. I’m sure every one of you who was old enough also remembers exactly where you were at the time.

In the spirit of this brave crew, we look forward to a new generation of NASA achievements in space.

OCO-2 Launch: Another Asset in NASA’s Fleet to Observe and Protect Our Planet

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Today, we launch the second of five incredible Earth Science missions this year. It’s the first time in a decade we’ve had so many Earth observatories headed to space in one year.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden discusses Earth Science near the launch site for OCO-2. NASA photo by Bill Ingalls

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden discusses Earth Science near the launch site for OCO-2. NASA photo by Bill Ingalls

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) is the first NASA satellite dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide. OCO-2 data will help reduce uncertainties in forecasts of future carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere and help us make more accurate predictions of global climate change. With up to 100,000 measurements per day, the satellite will provide new insight into locations and behavior of both carbon dioxide sources and “sinks” where it is absorbed on regional scales.

OCO-2 joins Japan’s Greenhouse gases Observing SATellite (GOSAT), launched in 2009, to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide. The missions use different measurement approaches that together will help scientists better understand this important greenhouse gas and its impacts on our present and future climate.

Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and with OCO-2 and our existing fleet of orbiting satellites, NASA is uniquely qualified to take on the challenge of documenting and understanding these changes, predicting the ramifications, and sharing information about these changes for the benefit of society.

OCO-2 joins the “A-train” of satellites flying in formation that observe our planet globally on a daily basis. Our fleet of Earth-observing satellites, along with our airborne missions, ground observations, and researchers will help answer some of the critical challenges facing our planet today and in the future: climate change, sea level rise, freshwater resources, and extreme weather events.

Data and applications for societal benefit produced from NASA’s investment in Earth science research are directly accessible to decision-makers and stakeholders around the world anytime, anywhere. Our planet is changing, but NASA is on the job, helping us to understand and address the challenges we face and learn more about our planet each day.

Technology Drives Exploration

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NASA’s missions of the future are going to depend on new technologies that will be evolvable and applicable across a broad range of missions. We are dedicated to extending human presence into the solar system and to the surface of Mars, and new technologies and advanced capabilities are essential to safely taking us from Earth-reliant to Earth-independent missions, and the surest path to an eventual crewed landing on Mars.

NASA's new technologies in development will be usable across many missions.

NASA’s new technologies in development will be usable across many missions.

Sustained investment in these technologies advances the agency’s exploration capabilities and supports the innovation economy. What that means in tangible terms is that transformative capabilities and cutting-edge new technologies are being developed, tested and flown today.

While Mars is the goal, we recognize the capabilities of space-faring nations today are not sufficient to safely land and return humans from the surface of the Red Planet, as we know we have gaps in our scientific, engineering and technological knowledge.

This summer there will be a series of exciting launches and demonstrations across NASA that will illustrate the innovative and critical technology development efforts supporting deep space exploration, science, and aeronautics missions.

They begin with the planned test flight this week through early June of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD). The LDSD is designed to investigate breakthrough technologies that will benefit landing future human and robotic Mars missions, as well as aid in safely returning large payloads to Earth. The parachute we are demonstrating in this test yields 30-40 percent more landed mass over the Mars Science Laboratory heritage system that brought Curiosity to Mars, with improved altitude and accuracy performance. And if we are successful, we may be able to utilize this parachute on our upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission.

Other upcoming technology demonstrations include: testing of a composite cryogenic propellant tank and a high-powered solar array for a future solar electric propulsion system, demonstration of an advanced EVA space suit with portable life support system, delivery of a 3D printer to the International Space Station, and the launch of a new climate-studying imager.

Additionally, NASA is hard at work on technology transfer and collaboration. The online publication Spinoff 2013 highlighting these commercial products created using NASA-developed technology is now available at: http://spinoff.nasa.gov

Groundbreaking space technologies will help enable new missions, stimulate the economy, contribute to the nation’s global competitiveness, and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers. With the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift rocket and Orion spacecraft coming online soon, the next great leaps in space exploration are within our grasp, but these leaps require our continued investments in technology today.

In order to explore an asteroid, or someday land humans on the surface of Mars, we need sustained and substantial investments in advanced space technologies and an enduring focus on cultivating innovation at NASA. After all, technology drives exploration — it provides the onramp for new capabilities and creates a pipeline that matures them from early-stage through flight.

Our near term activities are going to be defined by a regular cadence of compelling human and robotic missions building to more complex missions over time, from a one-year increment aboard the station, to the proving ground of a mission to an asteroid and finally to an Earth-independent mission to Mars. Technology will be a driving force behind all of this work.

For more information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/technology

NASA at the White House Science Fair

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Today, I was pleased to join President Obama at the White House for the 2014 White House Science Fair recognizing the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. This year’s fair is especially focused on girls and women who are excelling in STEM and inspiring the next generation with their work. In addition to recognizing the achievements of the students, the President also announced new steps as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign, designed to engage and support more girls and boys in STEM education. As a major driver of science, technology and innovation, NASA has made STEM education the centerpiece of our outreach to schools and students throughout the nation.

 

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden poses with an all-girl engineering team that participated in the White House Science Fair. "Team Rocket Power" was one of 100 teams that qualified for last year’s Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). Nia'mani Robinson, 15, Jasmyn Logan, 15, and Rebecca Chapin-Ridgely, 17, gave up their weekends and free time after school to build and test their bright purple rocket, which is designed to launch to an altitude of about 750 ft, and then return a “payload” (an egg) to the ground safely. The fourth White House Science Fair was held at the White House on May 27, 2014 and included 100 students from more than 30 different states who competed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions. (Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden poses with an all-girl engineering team that participated in the White House Science Fair. “Team Rocket Power” was one of 100 teams that qualified for last year’s Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). Nia’mani Robinson, 15, Jasmyn Logan, 15, and Rebecca Chapin-Ridgely, 17, gave up their weekends and free time after school to build and test their bright purple rocket, which is designed to launch to an altitude of about 750 ft, and then return a “payload” (an egg) to the ground safely. The fourth White House Science Fair was held at the White House on May 27, 2014 and included 100 students from more than 30 different states who competed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions. (Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Through our educational partnerships with teachers, students and schools, we are committed to inspiring the next generation of scientists and explorers who will keep America in the forefront of technology, innovation and space exploration.

As is well known, there is a crisis in this country that stems from the gap between our growing need for scientists, engineers, and other technically skilled workers, and our available supply. It is also well known that women and minorities continue to earn a paucity of the science and engineering degrees earned by U.S. citizens and to be underrepresented in the STEM fields. We must close those gaps if America is to remain in the forefront of the rapidly evolving, highly competitive, global technology market.

That is why we have made STEM education a priority at NASA. And today at the White House Science Fair, I was pleased to announce an exciting new resource for students. NASA and Khan Academy, a non-profit educational website, have initiated a series of online tutorials designed to increase student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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The interactive education lessons invite users to become actively engaged in the scientific and mathematical protocols that NASA uses every day to measure our universe, to explore the exciting engineering challenges involved in launching and landing spacecraft on Mars, and to learn about other space exploration endeavors and destinations. These dynamic educational materials are free and available on the Khan Academy’s website:

https://www.khanacademy.org/nasa

The Science Fair’s focus on girls reminds us that NASA is a major employer of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and one of our priorities is inspiring young women to pursue an education and career in the STEM pipeline. For example, half of the eight newest members of our astronaut candidates in the Class of 2013 are women – the highest percentage ever – and we hope to maintain this level of diversity in our ranks in the years ahead.

But at NASA women are not only astronauts; they also run science missions. They engineer and build our many spacecraft. Our chief financial officer, chief scientist and one of our field center directors are women. They are program managers, budget analysts and communicators. They serve in every capacity and continue to prove something we all know – as Amelia Earhart famously said, men and women are equal “in jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness and willpower.”

I saw that first-hand at the White House Science fair which included the members of Oklahoma-based Girl Scout Troop 2612 – Avery Dodson, 7; Natalie Hurley, 8; Miriam Schaffer, 8; Claire Winton, 8; and Lucy Claire Sharp, 8. These girls put their preparedness skills into action as part of the Junior FIRST Lego League’s Disaster Blaster Challenge. The Challenge invites thousands of elementary-school-aged students from across the country to explore how simple machines, motorized parts, engineering, and math can help solve problems posed by natural disasters like floods or earthquakes.

NASA is embarking on the most exciting human spaceflight missions in our storied history. We are charting a path to Mars. Our Asteroid Redirect Mission will send humans to an asteroid for the first time and our International Space Station is helping us perfect the technologies to achieve these ambitious goals. Our need for STEM educated workers will only increase in the coming years. Today’s White House Science Fair makes it clear that there is no shortage of young people who want to be a part of America’s technology future. We stand with President Obama in pledging to give them the support and the opportunities they need to succeed.

The German Space Agency Is a Vital NASA Partner

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This week, I am in Berlin for meetings with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel as well as the head of the German Space Agency (DLR), Johann-Dietrich Worner, and top officials from the European Space Agency (ESA).  I am also representing NASA at the world famous Berlin Air Show.  My visit to Germany is a chance to reaffirm the strong and growing alliance between NASA, DLR and our other European partners, and to highlight a number of important collaborations that are currently underway, including DLR’s help in charting NASA’s ambitious path to Mars.

In fact, today, I have the high honor of presenting German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a model of Orion, NASA’s next generation deep space exploration vehicle that will be used for our Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and eventually, for a human mission to Mars.  As Orion is being readied for its first test flight later this year, DLR, through the European Space Agency (ESA), is helping develop the spacecraft’s service module, which will provide essential in-space propulsion and life support systems for human crews.  This is only one of many areas of cooperation between NASA and DLR.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden presents German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a model of the Orion crew vehicle at the Berlin Air Show. The European Space Agency is providing the spacecraft's service module. Photo credit: European Space Agency (ESA).

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden presents German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a model of the Orion crew vehicle at the Berlin Air Show. The European Space Agency is providing the spacecraft’s service module. Photo credit: European Space Agency (ESA).

The success of the International Space Station (ISS), our springboard to Mars and deep space, would not be possible without German support.  DLR is our largest European partner for ISS and has been involved in missions for the past 13 years.  In just a few days, ESA German Astronaut, Alexander Gerst will launch to the Space Station along with Expedition 40/41 crewmates, Cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and NASA Astronaut Reid Wiseman.  During their six-month stay aboard the ISS, dubbed the “Blue Dot” mission in a nod to Carl Sagan’s description of Earth as a “pale blue dot,” Gerst and his crewmates will conduct a series of scientific experiments designed to improve life on Earth and prepare for future human missions.

Our German partners are also providing critical support as NASA prepares its path to Mars.  In addition to its work on the Orion service module, DLR may provide scientific instrumentation for our planned Mars 2020 rover.  They are also leading the development of the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer, or MOMA, for the ESA 2018 ExoMars rover.  Two of the three instruments to be launched with NASA’s 2016 InSight mission to Mars, will be provided by European partners: a heat-flow probe provided by DLR and a seismometer provided by CNES, the French Space Agency.

Finally, closer to home, DLR is one of NASA’s closest international partners in aeronautics.  Our organizations are founding members of the International Forum for Aviation Research (IFAR).  Just last week, during my visit to the newly renamed Armstrong Flight Research Center, I had the opportunity to view the planes used on one of our joint aeronautics research projects – ACCESS II, a joint venture involving NASA, DLR of Germany and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada, to study the atmospheric effects of emissions from jet engines burning alternative fuels.  Understanding the impacts of alternative fuel use in aviation could help solve some of the key operational and environmental challenges facing aviation worldwide in the 21st century.  I plan to see the ACCESS II planes and meet with our aeronautics team at the Berlin Air Show.

NASA’s partnership in the sky with DLR is paying big dividends on Earth for both Germany and the United States.  We look forward to continuing to work together to expand our reach into space and bring new benefits to Earth.

 

NASA’s Role in Climate Assessment

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A 'Blue Marble' image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite - Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed 'Suomi NPP' on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.  Suomi NPP is NASA's next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.  Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS.  Image Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

A ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The satellite is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.
Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS.
Image Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

NASA’s role in studying and protecting our home planet has never been stronger. Climate change is a problem we must deal with right now, and our Earth science satellite missions have become ever more vital to documenting and understanding our home planet, predicting the ramifications of this change, and sharing information across the globe for everyone’s benefit.

Today, the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment was released.  The report is the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information ever generated about climate-change impacts on all major regions of the United States and critical sectors of society and the national economy. It presents an influential body of practical, useable knowledge that decision-makers will use to anticipate and prepare for the impacts of climate change.

The assessment reports on a broad range of topics that illuminate the interconnectedness of everything tied to climate. The focused approaches used to conduct the analyses in this report will help us build the capability to do better and more regular climate assessments in the future.  I am proud that NASA data and NASA scientists contributed to the research reported in many of the Assessment’s chapters.

We can already see the impacts of climate change around the world, especially through the lens of our satellites. The U.S. National Climate Assessment combined observations from NASA’s incredible fleet of Earth observation satellites with surface-based and satellite data from our interagency and international partners, to help us understand what’s going on globally in areas such as polar ice, precipitation extremes, temperature change, sea level rise and forest ecosystems.

Five NASA Earth Science missions will be launched into space in 2014 alone. Together with NASA’s existing fleet of satellites, airborne missions, researchers, and the unique platform of the International Space Station (ISS), these new missions will help answer some of the critical challenges facing our planet today and in the future.

The Global Precipitation Measurement core observatory launched in February is already helping us learn more about rainfall patterns worldwide. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2), slated for a July launch, will map the greenhouse gas globally, providing new insights into where and how it moves into and out of the atmosphere. The RapidScat instrument to measure wind speed and direction over the oceans, and the CATS lidar instrument to measure aerosols and cloud properties will be installed on the ISS.  The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will launch in November, to measure soil moisture over the globe and freeze-thaw timing.

All of the data NASA collects is widely disseminated and helps many people to make wise decisions about how we care for our planet, as well as predict and cope with changes in climate and extreme weather events. The National Climate Assessment is an example of how critical the NASA data and research are.

Please take some time to review this important document at: www.globalchange.gov.

Celebrating Earth Day

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Observations of our home planet – and improving life on it for every resident – have always been at the core of NASA’s mission, and this year we’ll demonstrate that in multiple ways with a remarkable five Earth science launches.

NASA ventures into space not only to explore beyond Earth – we also venture into space to get to know Earth better.  It’s only from space that we really get to understand our home planet.

In 2014, for the first time in more than a decade, five NASA Earth Science missions will be launched into space in one year.  Together with NASA’s existing fleet of satellites, airborne missions, and researchers, these new missions will help answer some of the critical challenges facing our planet today and in the future: climate change; sea level rise; access to freshwater resources; and extreme weather events.

These new missions highlight NASA’s role as an innovation leader in Earth and climate science.  They’re helping us build a constantly expanding view of our planet from space and are backed by an exceptional team of experts and decades of innovative scientific and technical research.

Back in February, we successfully launched the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory with Japan’s space agency.  GPM inaugurates an unprecedented international satellite constellation to produce frequent global observations of rainfall and snowfall — revolutionary new data that will help answer questions about our planet’s life-sustaining water cycle and improve weather forecasting and water resource management.

With the launch of two Earth science instruments to the International Space Station scheduled for this year — RapidScat and CATS — NASA will for the first time use our unique orbiting laboratory as a 24/7 Earth-observing platform to collect critical information about ocean winds, clouds, and aerosol particles for climate research, weather forecasting, and hurricane monitoring.

Advances in understanding carbon dioxide’s role in climate change are expected after NASA returns the Orbiting Carbon Observatory to flight in July after a 2009 launch failure.  OCO-2 will map the greenhouse gas globally, providing new insights into where and how it moves into and out of the atmosphere.

On a water planet like Earth, “following the water” is a massive undertaking but one that is essential to predicting the future of our climate and the availability of water resources around the globe.  With the launch of the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission this year, NASA will track water into one of its last hiding places: Earth’s soil.  Coupled with GPM and the NASA Aquarius instrument measuring sea-surface salinity and the GRACE mission, which can detect changes in underground aquifers, we will have unprecedented measurements of our planet’s vital water cycle.

In 2014 NASA also wraps up a three-year campaign to study Atlantic hurricanes with unmanned aircraft and advances the development of a new satellite constellation — CYGNSS, to launch in 2016 — to probe these storms worldwide with GPS signals.

Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA is uniquely qualified to take on the challenge of documenting and understanding these changes, predicting the ramifications, and sharing information about these changes for the benefit of society.

But beyond hard data, our Earth science missions help us appreciate our planet as the beautiful, fragile oasis it is.  From the Station we are fortunate to be able to really see and appreciate Earth as a beautiful and dynamic world worth protecting.  From our science satellites, we get a full and rich picture of how our planet works.

With the new tools we’re sending to space this year, NASA gives the world a better view of our planet.  Our new satellites and instruments aboard the Station join an already incredible fleet of Earth observation satellites examining ocean temperatures and salinity, changes in land cover and the atmosphere, climate change and many other factors that affect us all.

NASA research yields down-to-earth benefits such as improved environmental prediction, preparing for natural hazards, and anticipating the impacts of climate change.

You can be sure that we will continue to share this knowledge with the world to improve and protect life here on Earth.  I’d say that’s a perfect way to celebrate Earth Day, every day.

 

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