Monthly Archives: March 2015

One-Year Mission to Station Advances NASA’s Journey to Mars

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Today we launch an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut to live and work in space for an entire year. It’s the first time an American astronaut will have been in space for that length of time. It’s an important stepping-stone on our journey to Mars and will give us detailed medical data recorded throughout the one-year expedition. President Obama recognized this significant American space exploration milestone in his State of the Union address this year, noting: “[We’re] pushing out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay…as part of a reenergized space program.”

Expedition 43 Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), top, NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly, center, and Russian Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka of Roscosmos wave farewell as they board the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft ahead of their launch to the International Space Station, Friday, March 27, 2015 in Baikonor, Kazakhstan. As the one-year crew, Kelly and Kornienko will return to Earth on Soyuz TMA-18M in March 2016.  Photo Credit (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Expedition 43 Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), top, NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly, center, and Russian Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka of Roscosmos wave farewell as they board the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft ahead of their launch to the International Space Station, Friday, March 27, 2015 in Baikonor, Kazakhstan. As the one-year crew, Kelly and Kornienko will return to Earth on Soyuz TMA-18M in March 2016. Photo Credit (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

This mission is part of the critical roadmap we’ve been undertaking with bipartisan support since the President challenged us five years ago to plan for a human mission to an asteroid and later to Mars.

When American astronaut Scott Kelly is in space, he’ll not only carry out the research and technology demonstrations that our astronauts have been helping us develop during the past 14 years of continuous human habitation aboard the International Space Station (ISS), he’ll also participate in a unique experiment.

Scott has an identical twin brother, Mark – also an astronaut – who will be here on Earth. We’ll compare the brothers’ vital signs and learn how space affects the human body on orbit. Throughout Scott’s mission we’ll gain new, detailed insights on ways long-duration spaceflight can affect things like bone density, muscle mass, strength, vision and other aspects of human physiology. We’ll also look at mental changes and challenges astronauts may face when they embark on longer-duration missions.

We will also get an opportunity to see how microgravity affects the human genome. This information might affect every one of us on Earth as we get a unique insight into genomic changes.

Unfortunately, Scott won’t launch on this important mission from the United States on an American spacecraft. However, that’s not for a lack of trying on the part of the Obama Administration.

Five years ago, the President laid out a plan to ensure we had an American system to transport our astronauts to the International Space Station once the Bush Administration’s plan to retire the Space Shuttle went into effect. That plan looked to the ingenuity of U.S. industry to develop private space transportation systems to get crews to the ISS. Regrettably, Congress did not fully fund this plan and delayed its implementation until 2017. It is my hope that the plan is fully funded this year, as full funding this year is critical to ending our sole dependence on the Russians as soon as possible.

Kelly’s launch is one key aspect of NASA’s efforts to meet the President’s goal of a human mission to Mars, but much work is underway throughout the agency to meet this vision. Technology drives exploration and NASA has integrated its work to focus on developing the technologies to reach deeper into space. Our Space Launch System rocket, which will be the most powerful ever built, has moved from being a concept into development. Just this month we’ve tested the booster and the rocket engines for this powerful vehicle. The Orion spacecraft, in which astronauts will travel to farther destinations in deep space, performed flawlessly on its first flight test in December. We have completed the first round of detailed reviews and are now looking even closer at the heat shield through destructive evaluation. This data review will help us improve Orion’s safety and performance as we prepare for a crewed flight.

We’re also working on the advanced technologies for propulsion, landing and radiation shielding, among many others, that humans will need to travel farther than we ever have before. While that work is rapidly advancing, our commercial partners’ innovation will make it possible for the next generation of astronauts to travel once again to space on American systems. We couldn’t be more proud of our astronaut corps, our innovative engineers and scientists and the industrial gumption of our partners. Together, they’re helping to create a whole new segment of the economy that is driving the inspiration and competitiveness of the future.

Scott Kelly’s launch is more than simply one person’s journey to the International Space Station. At the end of his mission, he will become the record holder for longest stay in space by an American. But as he works off the Earth, for the Earth, he stands on the shoulders of the great NASA achievements that made the Space Station possible. He is helping us reach higher and take those next great leaps in exploration. His historic mission is one more sign that our nation’s space program is thriving and continues to lead the world.

American-Made Technology and Innovative Commercial Partnerships Advance Our Journey into the Solar System

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Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology

“We have to do everything we can to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, wherever we find it. We should be helping American companies compete and sell their products all over the world. We should be making it easier and faster to turn new ideas into new jobs and new businesses and we should knock down any barriers that stand in the way. Because if we’re going to create jobs now and in the future, we’re going to have to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth.”
-President Barack Obama, September 16, 2011

This artist's concept depicts the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), constructed by Bigelow Aerospace, attached to the International Space Station. The BEAM will be launched to the space station later this year. Image Credit: Bigelow Aerospace

This artist’s concept depicts the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), constructed by Bigelow Aerospace, attached to the International Space Station. The BEAM will be launched to the space station later this year.
Image Credit: Bigelow Aerospace

Over the past six years, the Obama Administration has placed a high priority on developing innovative new technologies that advance our nation’s journey into the solar system on a path to Mars, facilitate the creation of a thriving space economy, and keep the United States of America the undisputed world leader in exploration.

This week, Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas is marking completion of all major milestones for a new, American-made, space-technology demonstration module to be added to the International Space Station (ISS), another concrete example of how we are out-innovating every other nation on Earth while knocking down the barriers as we push out into the solar system, not just to visit, but to stay.

The “Bigelow Expandable Activity Module,” or the BEAM, is an expandable habitat that will be used to investigate technology and understand the potential benefits of such habitats for human missions to deep space. The ISS is an excellent platform to test and demonstrate exploration systems such as the BEAM. and NASA expects that the BEAM project will gather critical data related to structural, thermal, and acoustic performance, as well as radiation and micro-meteoroid protection. All of these data are essential to understanding the technology for future astronaut habitats for use in long-duration space travel.

The International Space Station serves as the world’s leading laboratory where researchers conduct cutting-edge research and technology development to enable human and robotic exploration of destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including asteroids and Mars. This innovative expandable habitat concept is an example of how American businesses and NASA can help to open new markets in low-Earth orbit and pioneer the space frontier.

The BEAM is scheduled to launch to the ISS later this year, along with supplies for astronauts, aboard an American commercial rocket provided by SpaceX. The SpaceX cargo resupply mission marks another in the ongoing successful revival of cargo launches from American soil.

The U.S. human spaceflight program continues to mark many advances. This year NASA awarded fixed-price contracts to two American companies — SpaceX and Boeing — to safely and cost effectively transport our astronauts to the Space Station from the United States. This will end our sole reliance on Russia for this function.

Our newest rocket, the Space Launch System, or SLS, will be the most powerful rocket ever developed. It has already moved from conceptual design to development. This week we also conducted a critical qualification test for the SLS boosters that will help power the rocket to orbit. The Orion spacecraft, in which astronauts will travel again to deep space, performed nearly flawlessly on its first trip to space this past December. NASA is now examining the full set of data that will inform improvements to the spacecraft before it carries humans beyond Earth orbit. The attitude control motor for the Orion ascent abort system recently underwent a successful test firing in Maryland.

Technology drives science and exploration. Thanks to American-made advanced technologies being developed by both NASA and our commercial partners, we are moving more rapidly on our journey of sending humans to Mars than at any point in NASA’s history. These new technologies come from NASA, traditional arrangements with longstanding aerospace firms, innovative arrangements with newly emerging companies, and every combination in between. These concrete steps for pioneering space reinforce a proven formula for success. American companies working with NASA are creating the tools needed to keep us on our path of discovery.

Today’s NASA understands that the agency can generate more innovation and attract more investment in space by partnering with America’s commercial space industry and its entrepreneurs. Our plans for exploration in the 21st century intentionally rely on American commercial partners in every aspect of what we do, whether it is rockets to get to space or new technologies such as the BEAM expandable habitat for living in space.

The United States continues to lead the world in space exploration. We are successful because we are a nation of innovative scientists, engineers, technologists, educators, and dreamers. We are a nation of unlimited potential, where individuals and businesses, small and large, can contribute to our critical work in space. Thanks to that, America’s space program is not just alive, it is thriving.