Monthly Archives: May 2014

NASA at the White House Science Fair

Posted on by .

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFWV8ZEnfGw[/embedyt]

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

Posted on by .

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

Posted on by .
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.