President Obama Meets With Space Pioneers

Monday, the stars were out at the White House — literally — as more than 100 students joined President Obama, twelve astronauts, scientists, engineers, teachers, and space enthusiasts — along with Americans participating virtually from more than 80 national parks, observatories, schools, museums, and astronomy clubs across our country — White House Astronomy Night.

President Barack Obama greets NASA Commercial Crew astronauts: Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, in the Map Room before White House Astronomy Night on the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 19, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama greets NASA Commercial Crew astronauts: Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, in the Map Room before White House Astronomy Night on the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 19, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Some of the brightest stars of the night weren’t celestial in nature. Rather, they are four space pioneers: astronauts Robert Behnken, Sunita Williams, Eric Boe, and Douglas Hurley.

These distinguished veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail, a trail that will one day land them in the history books. NASA selected these four, who privately met with the President earlier in the evening, to be the first astronauts to train to fly to space on commercial crew carriers.

It’s an important step on our Journey to Mars, and for President Obama’s ambitious plan to once again launch U.S. astronauts into space from U.S. soil and to create good-paying American jobs in the process – 350 American companies across 35 states are working toward this goal.[/embedyt]

For as long as I’ve been Administrator, President Obama has made it very clear that returning the launches of American astronauts to American soil is a top priority.

Five years ago, when the President came to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to ask NASA to work toward sending American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, he talked about being inspired as a young boy when his grandfather lifted him on his shoulders so he could cheer on astronauts arriving in Hawaii.

His hope – and, really, all our hope – is that a new generation of young Americans will be inspired by people like Bob, Suni, Eric, and Doug to reach for new heights, both in their own lives and in the life of our nation.

Today’s young people are a part of what I like to call the “space generation.” Those who are younger than 15 have lived every day of their lives in a time when American astronauts are living and working in space aboard the International Space Station.

Our goal is to give them a future where Americans are pushing further into the solar system at the very same time that our Nation strengthens our leadership here at home. President Obama’s commercial crew vision represents a giant leap into this future.

More Links:

#AskNASA Chat with NASA commercial crew astronauts. 

Photos from Astronomy Night 2015. 

Video of the President’s remarks at Astronomy Night.


Mars: A Journey We Will Take Together

Nearly everywhere I travel, I meet people who are excited to learn more about NASA’s Journey to Mars and NASA’s plan, timetable and vision for getting there. This past week, we released a detailed outline of our plan – a clear, affordable sustainable, roadmap for sending our astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.

It’s called “NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration” and I hope you’ll take a moment to give it a look, here.

A Journey such as this is something that no one person, crew, or Agency can undertake alone. As I like to tell the young people with whom I meet, it will take not only astronauts, scientists and engineers, but also, physicists, physicians, programmers, poets, teachers, designers, human capital professionals, entrepreneurs and parents who talk to their kids and get them excited about space. It will take folks working both in and out of government.

A mission of this magnitude is made stronger with international partnership – the sort of spirit and cooperation that is demonstrated so vividly by the tens of thousands of people across 15 countries who have been involved in the development and operation of the International Space Station.

This is the message I plan to share with our friends and partners next week at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Jerusalem.

Yesterday I joined the leaders of space agencies from around the world to talk about NASA’s Journey to Mars and the partnerships and cooperation that help make humanity’s common dreams a reality.

Tuesday, I’ll join leaders of the Israeli Space Agency to sign a framework agreement to continue ongoing cooperation. It extends our decades-long relationship working together in Earth science, discoveries in space and new technologies.

The late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon – who grew up about 50 miles from where we’ll be meeting – commented that “There is no better place to emphasize the unity of people in the world than flying in space. We are all the same people, we are all human beings, and I believe that most of us, almost all of us, are good people.”

Having been blessed with the opportunity to see the Earth from space with my own eyes, I cannot agree more with this sentiment.

NASA’s Journey to Mars is ongoing right now — from our Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to new propulsion and habitation systems – and our partnerships across sectors, across states and across the world make it stronger.

Supporting the People of South Carolina

The hearts of the entire NASA family go out to our friends, family, colleagues and countrymen and women in South Carolina.  While the people of my home state have seen our share of tough times (including severe weather events), I cannot recall, in all my years growing up in the Palmetto State, rains and flooding as devastating as what has been going on this week.

As a child of Columbia, I can personally attest to the fact that South Carolinians are resilient.  As the people of the Palmetto State turn to the tough task of recovery and rebuilding, we hope that they will know that NASA is with them every step of the way – and we have been since the storm began.

From the time the rain began to fall, our assets in space were watching it and our scientists were harnessing these unique capabilities day after day for weather forecasters and the emergency agencies dealing with the flooding and other impacts of the storm.

NASA provided regular updates on the amount of rain falling across the region using data from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission. Data from the GPM Core Observatory that we launched with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) last year is combined with rainfall estimates from a constellation of international satellites to provide rainfall totals every three hours. These data not only confirmed the record-breaking rainfall totals in the Carolinas, they helped forecast the extent of flooding in the region.

Rainfall totals over the U.S. Southeast
Rainfall totals over the U.S. Southeast measured from space by the NASA/JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement mission aided weather forecasters and emergency agencies responding to extensive flooding in South Carolina.
Image credit: SSAI/NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce

NASA provided the National Weather Service with detailed information about how water-saturated the ground was across the U.S. Southeast from the heavy rains – a key factor in forecasting flood conditions. Data from GPM and another NASA satellite, the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, were combined in the NASA Land Information System model to produce experimental soil moisture estimates as a new piece of information for short-term flood forecasting.

Maps of the location and severity of local flooding produced by a NASA-funded experimental modeling system at the University of Maryland were provided to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help identify hard hit areas across South Carolina. The system, fine-tuned with over a decade of previous NASA satellite precipitation data, used GPM data to estimate the intensity and location of floods every three hours.

It will be a while before South Carolina recovers from the enormous rainfall and flooding. The loss of life and property is a heartbreaking outcome of this disaster that will take more than time to heal. I want everyone in South Carolina and other parts of the world threatened by natural disasters to know that NASA is dedicated to using our scientific ingenuity and innovative satellite resources to help inform response and recovery efforts on the ground.

There are some who have suggested our country and our agency ought be doing less when it comes to Earth Science.  When tragedies like these occur, I believe it’s a reminder that we ought be doing more. As we make advances in studying Earth’s climate, weather, oceans, ice caps, and land cover, that long-term effort of scientific discovery also yields benefits in improving our ability to respond to and recover from natural disasters.

Today, Americans everywhere are thinking about our brothers and sisters in South Carolina.  We know that the Palmetto State will recover stronger, just like we always have.