NASA Providing Global Leadership to Explore

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.

NASA Celebrates National Aerospace Week

Every time you step aboard an airplane there’s an excellent chance that a piece of innovative NASA technology will be flying with you, helping to ensure you have a safe and efficient flight.

It might be found in the upturned winglets you see at the tip of the wing, or within the composite material used to build part of the aircraft structure, or hidden inside the increasingly fuel efficient and quiet jet engines slung beneath the wings.

And whether or not you flew today, it’s likely that some product you recently used was once flown as cargo on board a flight whose pilots relied on NASA-developed computer software tools that help air traffic controllers safely move airplanes through the sky.

Your life and mine would be very different without the benefits of flight.

In fact, thanks in part to the work of NASA’s aeronautics innovators, aviation accounts for $1.3 trillion of U.S. economic activity annually and generates more than 10.2 million direct and indirect jobs.

Those are some big numbers, and they are worth celebrating.

That’s why NASA this week joins with the rest of the aerospace industry in marking National Aerospace Week, an annual observance that recognizes the enormous contribution the aerospace industry makes to America’s economy, global competitiveness and national security.

NASA’s aeronautics experts understand how important that contribution is, and I can promise you that we are doing everything we can to ensure this nation remains the world’s leader in aviation.

To help us do that, during the past two years we’ve taken an in depth look at the important role that aviation plays in a world of  incredible economic, technological and population expansion.

New Ideas for Greener Aircraft
Three industry teams spent 2011 studying how to meet NASA’s goals for making future aircraft burn 50 percent less fuel than aircraft that entered service in 1998, emit 75 percent fewer harmful emissions; and shrink the size of geographic areas affected by objectionable airport noise by 83 percent.
Image credit: NASA

The changing world has led us to adopt an exciting new strategic vision for NASA’s aeronautical research efforts.

It’s a vision that will guide us in choosing our long term investments in aeronautics innovation, all of which are aimed at supporting our current and future civil aeronautics workforce, companies, and passengers.

It addresses global emerging trends leading to key drivers that are changing the face of aviation during the next 20 to 40 years.

Those drivers include significant growth in planet-wide demand for air mobility, mounting environmental concerns related to climate change and sustainable energy sources, and the convergence of technologies ranging from new materials to embedded sensors.

In response, we’re continuing to develop tools – on board aircraft, in air traffic control towers, or across the entire system — that will help manage predicted growth in global aviation operations safely and efficiently.

We’re continuing to explore, test and develop technologies for new aircraft that have dramatically less impact on the environment.

And, as only NASA can, we’re continuing to push the envelope of innovation that can transform the way we fly, such as making it possible to travel in a commercial aircraft at supersonic speeds over land or to have higher levels of automation and autonomy across the aviation system.

All of this is designed to advance our commitment to a healthier planet and a better life for people everywhere.  Those are really the underpinnings of everything we do at NASA.

The world is changing fast.  We all know it.  If you’ve been around a few decades like me, you’ve seen new technologies snapped up and adopted so quickly that it’s hard to remember a time when taking a flight across the country was a big deal or we hadn’t yet walked on the moon.

The same kind of thing is happening within modern flight.  It’s really something of a Renaissance time in aviation when you look at all the things we’re working on and all the potential for breakthroughs.

NASA will continue to be at the forefront of these innovations.  But we must use our limited resources wisely to have the most impact possible.  That’s what this new aeronautics vision will help us achieve.

With confidence rooted in our historical contributions to aeronautics, and inspired by our new strategic vision, we at NASA take this opportunity during National Aerospace Week to pledge our continuing appreciation of and support to the aerospace industry.

You can learn more about our new strategic vision and research goals at:

And learn why I like to say ‘NASA is with you when you fly’ at:

We’ll see you in the skies.

Advancing Our Deep Space Exploration Program

Yesterday, a distinguished panel discussed NASA’s progress on a proposed mission to find, capture, redirect and visit a near-Earth asteroid. The presentation at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2013 Conference and Exposition in San Diego offers our most mature thinking about how we’ll locate an asteroid in deep space, and send cutting edge space technology to bring it to an orbit closer to Earth where astronauts can visit and study it and bring samples home – all part of our ambitious plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030’s.

This initiative — which includes the broad swath of public engagement to identify more near-Earth objects, plus the mission to bring one of these ancient space rocks closer to home and send astronauts to it on an unprecedented mission — has captured the world’s imagination.

Since President Obama set as a goal for NASA sending humans to an asteroid by 2025, we’ve been leveraging the hard work we were already doing on a Space Launch System and the Orion crew vehicle to carry astronauts to deep space. Our Space Technology Mission Directorate is working on new capabilities such as solar electric propulsion to power the mission to retrieve the asteroid. On the LADEE spacecraft that launched to the moon last Friday, there’s an experiment to test laser communications that will support our future deep space missions. This is just a sampling of the many things we are already working on to make the asteroid mission — and our other deep space missions — a reality.

NASA has chosen 96 ideas it regards as most promising from more than 400 submitted in response to a June request for information about protecting Earth from asteroids and finding asteroids humans can explore.

The ideas provide the agency with fresh insight into how best to identify, capture and relocate a near-Earth asteroid for closer study and respond to asteroid threats. At the end of this month, we’ll hold a workshop in Houston to look in more detail at the top ideas we received.

Earlier this summer we completed a mission formulation review to examine internal studies proposing multiple concepts and alternatives for each phase of the asteroid mission. The review assessed technical and programmatic aspects of the mission. With the mission formulation review complete, we now will begin integrating the most highly-rated concepts into an asteroid mission baseline concept to further develop in 2014.

Next week I depart for Asia — to visit our Japanese partners in Tokyo and then to attend the International Astronautical Congress in Beijing along with the leaders of the world’s space agencies. It will be a great opportunity to strengthen our partnerships, discuss the issues facing the world space community and talk about the asteroid mission in greater detail.

In Japan, I look forward to meetings with many officials at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, one of our strongest partners on the International Space Station. Japan is also very interested in asteroid exploration. NASA had a part in the Japanese Hayabusa mission that returned the first samples of an asteroid in space to Earth. That was just the beginning of what we’re going to learn from our efforts to identify more asteroids, understand them, and transform our exploration capabilities by developing the technologies to send humans on a mission to one.

Make no mistake; this mission represents an unprecedented technological challenge that will lead to new scientific discoveries and technological capabilities. It will also inform our efforts to develop technologies and processes that may one day help protect our home planet. It brings together the best of NASA in an integrated way to once again raise the bar of human achievement.

In August, we announced that we’re bringing the NEOWISE telescope out of retirement with a new goal: identify more near-Earth objects.

Starting in October, the Spitzer Space Telescope will attempt infrared observations of a small near-Earth asteroid named 2009 DB to better determine its size. This study will assist NASA in understanding potential candidates for the agency’s asteroid capture and redirection mission. However, this asteroid is just one of many candidates the agency is evaluating. [Link to Spitzer release] We recently released new photos and video animations depicting the asteroid mission. The images demonstrate crew operations, including the Orion spacecraft’s voyage and rendezvous with the relocated asteroid and astronauts maneuvering through a spacewalk to collect samples.

I’m proud of the team of scientists, engineers and program managers who are eagerly combining scientific and engineering know-how with innovative ideas to make this mission a reality. I’m equally proud of our new astronauts, who are even now training for tomorrow’s missions, and the people engaged with our work across the world, who are sharing their ideas and expertise to make this exciting mission a reality.

The future of space exploration and international partnerships to benefit humankind is bright and our presentation at the AIAA Conference and Exposition highlighted the exciting endeavor on which we are currently embarked.

You can read more about the asteroid retrieval mission at: