NASA Providing Global Leadership to Explore

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NASA continues to lead the world in space exploration, planning some of the most ambitious missions to take Americans farther into space than ever before, first to an asteroid and ultimately to Mars.  And with global leadership comes a responsibility to point the way, build the coalitions and work to have international partners join us on this bold journey.

This week I held a series of meetings with officials from one of NASA’s oldest and strongest international partners during a working visit to Japan.  The United States has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with Japan for decades in civil space activities.  Our cooperation touches almost every aspect of NASA’s mission.  We currently have 46 active agreements with Japanese entities in human space flight, exploration, Earth science, space science, and aeronautics.  This makes Japan one of NASA’s leading partners in civil space cooperation.  Dr. Naoki Okumura, President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and I discussed many topics of mutual interest as we sought to strengthen our cooperation.  These include NASA’s planned mission to identify, relocate and sample an asteroid.  JAXA shares our interest in asteroid exploration, and has established a working group to evaluate and support it.  JAXA has unique experience in carrying out asteroid exploration, returning the first samples to Earth with their Hayabusa Mission in 2010, on which the United States proudly partnered.

The centerpiece of our partnership has been Japan’s important contributions to the International Space Station (ISS).  In fact, Japanese Company aided Wednesday’s successful launch by U.S. commercial partner, Orbital Sciences Corporation, of its first cargo mission to the International Space Station.   The Mitsubishi Electric Company (MELCO), under its agreement with Orbital, is providing the Proximity Communication System (PROX) for Orbital’s Cygnus cargo module.  PROX will provide guidance information to the spacecraft in its rendezvous and berthing with the ISS.

Even as we work hard to help support the U.S. commercial space industry and the jobs that it supports, we’re advancing international cooperation and supporting the in-space platform – the ISS – that will help take us deeper into space than ever before.

JAXA’s steadfast support for the ISS throughout its development was instrumental to the success we enjoy today as we are now realizing the significant benefits that this unique research laboratory can provide to the global research community.

My Asia trip also includes participation in the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which is being held in Beijing next week.  This annual gathering of space agency leaders from around the world gives NASA a unique opportunity to strengthen global partnerships, discuss issues facing the world community and enlist support for some key United States objectives, including NASA’s asteroid initiative.   These discussions will continue to build on the foundation laid by the recently updated Global Exploration Roadmap, a blueprint for human exploration developed by technical experts from a dozen of the world’s largest space agencies.  This international roadmap further documents NASA’s commitment to cooperation with our international partners on human and robotic missions to the Moon, an asteroid and Mars, while encouraging strong U.S. private-sector participation in these endeavors.

While in China, I also will meet with officials from the Chinese Academy of Sciences to discuss the feasibility of restarting cooperation under our existing geodynamics agreement.  I also intend to explore the potential for enhanced contributions of Earth observation data products for purposes such as glacier characterization in the Hindu-Kush region, based on existing relationships with the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development, a site of the USAID-NASA SERVIR program.  These are important Earth-science initiatives that can provide benefit to people around the world as we study and learn – from space – more about our home planet.