Monthly Archives: September 2012

Small Business Google Hangout on Wednesday, Sept. 19

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Landing the Curiosity rover on Mars was a big feat for NASA, but we could not have done it without the work of small businesses.

On Wednesday, Sept. 19, I’m joining Administrator Karen Mills of the Small Business Administration for a Google+ Hangout with ATA Engineering, one of the small businesses that made the Mars Science Laboratory mission landing a success.

Google+ members and reporters are welcome to join the discussion from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. EDT Wednesday. Administrator Mills and I will talk with representatives of ATA about their work to design and analyze the design of the entry, descent and landing process – known as “Seven Minutes of Terror” – as well as other systems operating the Curiosity rover.

The Google+ Hangout will go live here: Http://plus.google.com/+NASA

Reporters wishing to join the Hangout should e-mail lauren.b.worley@nasa.gov for more information. You can join in the conversation on Wednesday by submitting your questions during the Google+ Hangout and on Twitter using the hashtag #AskNASA.

50th Anniversary of President Kennedy's Speech at Rice University

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Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s “Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort,” when the young president shifted our efforts in space from low to high gear. In proclaiming, “We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy propelled our space program to the forefront of American culture and consciousness, galvanizing an historic effort on which we continue to build today.

Accomplishing Kennedy’s goals, both tangible and intangible, we have taken on his vision to create new challenges and now reach toward new capabilities and destinations. Neil Armstrong first left humanity’s footprint on the moon, and more importantly helped raise the “banner of freedom and peace,” fulfilling Kennedy’s vow to “not see [space] governed by a hostile flag of conquest.”

And we now stand on Armstrong’s shoulders to create a sustainable vision for the future exploration of space. Much like those aboard the Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 10 missions cleared the path for Apollo 11 and Armstrong to land on the moon, our Curiosity rover on Mars is clearing the path for humans – Americans – to land on Mars. Our space program has developed new technologies that made human expansion into the solar system a reality. It created a global enterprise, now spinning off into the private sector, which continues to advance our nation and our world.

We realize now as we did then that we are not just on a mission to discover the universe; we are on a mission to discover ourselves. As astronaut Bill Anders, one of the first three humans to see the far side of the moon, put it, “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.” We cannot forget that the purpose of space exploration is to make life on Earth better, even as we “increase our knowledge and unfold our ignorance,” as Kennedy said, and as we continuously raise the bar of human achievement.

As Kennedy hoped for greater achievements in science and education, in culture, and for peace, he could not have foreseen the degree to which we have unfolded our ignorance. He envisioned “new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school.”

There are literally thousands of examples of exploration technology being adapted for life on Earth, and a few areas where we have surpassed Kennedy’s greatest dreams: artificial hearts; retrofit systems that convert gas-powered vehicles into gas-electric hybrids, used in such trucks as mail delivery trucks for the U.S. Postal Service; health and fitness monitoring technology capable of measuring and recording vital signs of soldiers, first responders, professional athletes, and consumers seeking to get in shape; and parachutes capable of rescuing entire planes.

Our fleet of Earth observation satellites track hurricanes and wildfires and are able to analyze landslide motion and keep watch on agricultural fields. They provide continuity of data over the long term to help us see how our planet continues to change as a unified system. Our research on the International Space Station has helped us understand processes such as bone and muscle loss especially applicable to our senior citizens.

All this innovation has saved countless lives and billions of dollars, all the while creating thousands of jobs.

And we continue to reach higher. We have opened a new door to commercial space, for instance, helping facilitate a new space transportation industry to low Earth orbit.

Today, to “organize and measure the best of our energies and skills,” as Kennedy charged us, we’re doing things like landing that small SUV-size rover on Mars, now transmitting high definition images and information, which will lead to a better understanding of the Martian environment and the different ways Mars and Earth evolved. By 2018 we will launch our new James Webb Space Telescope, which will serve as our eye in the sky, peering deeper into the universe than ever before.

We’re building our Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket in history, and Orion, the new multi-purpose vehicle crew capsule, which will lead to the first-ever crewed missions beyond the low Earth orbit and the Moon into deep space. President Obama charged us with increasingly difficult challenges, beginning with sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by the mid-2030s. The journey there will be full of discoveries and new technological breakthroughs.

So while President Kennedy christened our sails on the new sea of space exploration, our work is far from done. Thanks to President Obama, this generation’s young president, we are witnessing a christening of a rejuvenated space program, where we will traverse previously untouched terrain, learning from our past and building on it to forge a bright future.

To watch President Kennedy’s historic speech, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=151776051

Curiosity Takes Us Back to Mars

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NASA is back on Mars – and getting ready for the next mission to the Red Planet! After an astounding 352 million mile journey and a harrowing landing that demonstrated cutting-edge technology, Curiosity, the largest rover ever sent to another planet, is in place and ready to work. This robotic laboratory will seek answers to one of humanity’s oldest questions as it investigates whether conditions have favored development of microbial life on the Red Planet. The mission is a critical planetary science mission — and a precursor to sending humans to the Red Planet in the 2030’s, a goal set forth by President Obama.

It’s another great leadership moment for our nation and a sign of the continued strength of NASA’s many programs in science, aeronautics and human spaceflight. It’s also important to remember that the $2.5 billion investment made in this project was not spent on Mars, but right here on Earth, supporting more than 7,000 jobs in at least 31  states.

With the retirement of the Shuttle program after its final flight in July 2011, some have suggested that NASA’s leadership in the exploration of space, including our extraordinary successes on Mars, was coming to an end. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Curiosity mission is only the latest in a long list of extraordinary NASA missions that established the United States as the undisputed world leader, and it will help guarantee that remains the case for many years to come.

When our Orion deep space crew vehicle takes its first test flight in 2014, it will travel farther into space than any spacecraft designed for humans has flown in the 40 years since our astronauts returned from the moon.

In 2017, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit, will launch Orion.

We also reached a critically important milestone in May when SpaceX became the first private company to send a spacecraft — the Dragon cargo capsule — to the International Space Station and return it with cargo intact. This successful mission ushered in a new era in spaceflight — and signaled a new way of doing business for NASA. And just a few days ago, we announced the next step in the Obama Administration’s aggressive plan to once again launch our astronauts from U.S. soil on spacecraft built by American companies.

As part of our commitment to maintain American leadership in the exploration of Mars beyond the Curiosity mission, NASA will launch the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter next year. Earlier this year, I directed NASA’s science mission director, along with the head of human exploration, Chief Technologist, and Chief Scientist to develop a more integrated strategy to ensure that the next steps for Mars exploration will support the nation’s planetary science objectives as well as our human exploration goals. They are looking at many options, including another robotic mission to land on Mars in this decade.

I am so proud of the NASA team that has made tonight’s challenging milestone possible. However, tomorrow we begin to plan for the next great challenge — and start compiling incredible scientific data from Curiosity. For the past 50 years, NASA has specialized in doing the hard things. Thanks to the ingenuity of our teams across America and the world, we are poised for even greater success.

For more information about Curiosity and NASA’s missions to Mars, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

 

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team in the MSL Mission Support Area reacts after learning the the Curiosity rover has landed safely on Mars and images start coming in at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)