Monthly Archives: April 2011

New Partnership With USAID

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Yesterday, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah and I signed a five-year memorandum of understanding to expand our agencies’ joint efforts to overcome international development challenges such as food security, climate change, and energy and environmental management. The agreement also encourages NASA and USAID to apply geospatial technologies to solve development challenges affecting the United States and developing countries.

Since 2003, NASA and USAID have worked together developing and expanding the SERVIR program. The program allows people in developing regions to use Earth observations for addressing challenges in agriculture, biodiversity conservation, climate change, disaster response, weather forecasting, and energy and health issues. We also partner on the LAUNCH forums that support science and technology innovators in the non-profit and private sectors. The program’s goal is improving innovations to achieve greater impact on sustainability issues. And, we’ve agreed to explore how efforts promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education can be advanced through joint support of programs such as Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE). GLOBE is a worldwide primary and secondary school-based science and education program funded by NASA and other U.S. agencies.

Technologies for NASA missions have long improved life here on Earth. Together with USAID, we’ll meet even more sustainable development challenges here on the ground, solving problems for the world community. As we explore space, we’ll also be exploring solutions to important health, nutritional and safety challenges in developing countries.

 USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, left, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden shake hands after signing a five-year memorandum of understanding, Monday, April 25, 2011, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The agreement formalizes ongoing agency collaborations that use Earth science data to address developmental challenges, and to assist in disaster mitigation and humanitarian responses. The agreement also encourages NASA and USAID to apply geospatial technologies to solve development challenges affecting the United States and developing countries. Photo Credit: (NASA/Paul E. Alers)

Today We Announce CCDev2

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Here’s my statement about today’s announcement of the second round of Commercial Crew Development (CCDev2) awards:

“We’re committed to safely transporting U.S. astronauts on American-made spacecraft and ending the outsourcing of this work to foreign governments. These agreements are significant milestones in NASA’s plans to take advantage of American ingenuity to get to low-Earth orbit, so we can concentrate our resources on deep space exploration.”

To find out more, go to:

https://www.nasa.gov/exploration

 

Thoughts on 30 Years of the Space Shuttle

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30 years ago today, Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center for the very first time. In a flight that lasted 54 hours, NASA proved an amazing piece of technology. For 30 years, the best workforce in the world has launched 133 Shuttle flights, dedicated to making each better than the last.

Administrator Bolden Addresses the Crowd

I want to thank each and every person who has ever been part of the shuttle workforce over the years for your significant contribution to this American accomplishment. You’ve helped make the world a better place and should take pride in that. Today belongs not just to the 360 men and women who have flown on the shuttle, but to all of you who have helped their missions to succeed.

Your work means a great deal to me personally. Those of us who have flown the shuttle put our lives in your hands each time we flew, and I never doubted that all of you on the ground, in launch and mission control, in orbiter processing, in every phase of the program, were absolutely dedicated, and among the most skilled and committed people I have ever known.

The shuttle has provided this nation with many firsts, with many proud moments, and it has helped the United States to lead the world in space exploration. Over three decades, this flagship program has become part of the fabric of our nation’s history. It’s helped us improve communications on Earth and to understand our home planet better. It’s set scientific satellites like Magellan and Ulysses speeding on their missions into the solar system and launched Hubble and Chandra to explore the universe.

The shuttle program has given us tremendous knowledge about a reusable spacecraft and launch system from which future commercial systems will benefit. It’s enabled construction of the International Space Station, our foothold for human exploration, which is leading to breakthroughs in human health and microgravity research. And it’s provided “first ever” astronaut flight and command opportunities for women and minorities.

We’ll never forget the crews of Challenger and Columbia. Many of us counted them as our personal friends, and their achievements will live on in the spirit of perseverance and grit and hope in which they lived and worked. They were all true heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country.

The human spaceflight program will continue with astronauts living and working on the International Space Station for at least 10 more years. We wouldn’t have been able to build that orbiting outpost without the shuttle. We wouldn’t have established that model of global cooperation that serves as a guidepost for how we can work together toward the greater things of which we are capable as human beings.

With the last flight of Atlantis in June, the shuttles stop flying, but they don’t stop inspiring, and they don’t stop being part of the fabric of America. Three museums and one NASA Center will have a shuttle orbiter to continue to tell the story of human spaceflight and American accomplishment.

There were many worthy institutions who requested an orbiter and far too few to go around. But millions of Americans and people from around the world will continue to learn from these amazing vehicles and the stories of their crews and their missions in their new homes.

The shuttle’s retirement is bittersweet for us, but I am also very excited about our future. A future that is bright and open to us because of the shuttle program. We could not be reaching for new heights and developing the next generation of capabilities without the technological breakthroughs of the shuttle and the many lessons learned that we will carry forward. Our commitment to human spaceflight is steadfast, and with this amazing workforce, we will continue to lead the world in human space exploration and discovery.

 

For more information about other shuttle program artifacts that are available to museums and libraries, visit:

http://gsaxcess.gov/htm/nasa/userguide/NASA_SSPA_Pamphlet.pdf

 

NASA also is offering shuttle heat shield tiles to schools and universities that want to share technology and a piece of space history with their students. Schools can request a tile at:

http://gsaxcess.gov/NASAWel.htm

 

For a map of the future locations for the orbiters and shuttle artifacts and for more information on visiting the facilities, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/shuttle_station/features/shuttle_map.html

 

For more information about NASA’s placement of the space shuttle orbiters, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/transition

 

For information about the Space Shuttle Program, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

 

Keeping America on the Cutting Edge of Clean Energy Technology

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In his remarks earlier this week to students at Georgetown University here in Washington, the President outlined his strategy for a secure energy future. He said the United States needs to “change the way we generate electricity in America – so that it’s cleaner, safer, and healthier…we also know that ushering in a clean energy economy has the potential to create an untold number of new jobs and new businesses – jobs that we want right here in America.”

Through your investments in NASA, we’re already leading this charge.

NASA continually develops new technologies that enable capabilities for our missions, now and in the future. Many of these technologies “spinoff” into our daily lives here on Earth. Some are commonplace, like wireless headsets for telephones and video games. Others are less well known, like new energy systems that will reduce our dependence of foreign oil.

As NASA plans for astronaut-explorers to live in harsh environments at distant destinations, we’ve had to think of all the things we’ll need for our human outposts: food, water, shelter and, of course, energy.

Given the extreme distance of the journey to Mars and the inability to restock supplies, Mars explorers will need to be able to “live off the land” as much as possible. They will need an energy source that is portable, sustainable, efficient and long-lasting. That’s the challenge we gave engineers a decade ago. They’ve met it, and more.

Thanks to the creative thinking of one of the engineers on the project team, a successful innovative energy business was created, now employing people in California who make clean, efficient energy fuel cell systems available commercially across America.

K.R. Sridhar was director of the Space Technologies Laboratory at the University of Arizona when NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley asked him to develop a solution for helping sustain life on Mars. Sridhar’s team created a fuel cell device that could use solar power to split Martian water into oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for use as fuel for vehicles. Sridhar saw potential for another application, though. In 2001, Sridhar’s team shifted focus to develop a commercial venture exploring the possibility of using its NASA-derived technology in reverse — creating electricity from oxygen and fuel.

Conventional fuel cell technology features expensive, complicated systems requiring precious metals like platinum as a catalyst for the energy-producing reaction. Sridhar’s group believed it had emerged from its NASA work with innovations that could result in an efficient, affordable fuel cell capable of supplying clean energy wherever it is needed.

Sridhar’s team founded Ion America and opened research and development offices on the campus of the NASA Research Park at Ames. In 2006, the company successfully demonstrated a 5-kilowatt (kW) fuel cell system. Now called Bloom Energy and headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., with more than 250 employees, the company has unveiled its NASA-inspired technology to the world.

Bloom Energy’s ES-5000 Energy Server employs the planar solid oxide fuel cell technology Sridhar’s team originally created for the NASA Mars project. At the core of the server are square ceramic fuel cells about the size of old fashioned computer floppy disks. Crafted from an inexpensive sand-like powder, each square is coated with special inks (lime-green ink on the anode side, black on the cathode side) and is capable of producing 25 watts –enough to power a light bulb. Stacking the cells, with cheap metal alloy squares in between to serve as the electrolyte catalyst, increases the energy output: a stack about the size of a loaf of bread can power an average home, and a full-size Energy Server with the footprint of a parking space can produce 100 kW, enough to power a 30,000-square-foot office building, or 100 average U.S. homes.

The Energy Servers design allows the system to use natural gas, any number of environmentally friendly biogasses created from plant waste, or methane recaptured from landfills and farms. According to Bloom, the process is about 67-percent cleaner than that of a typical coal-fired power plant when using fossil fuels and 100-percent cleaner with renewable fuels. The server can switch between fuels quickly and does not require an external chemical reformer or the expensive precious metals, corrosive acids, or molten materials required by other conventional fuel cell systems.

This sort of transfer of NASA-developed technology, from a space mission to a successful private business, is just one example of how America’s space program will help our country out-innovate the world while tackling the challenges of clean, sustainable energy for future generations. Through NASA technologies, we can win the future.