NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures in 2015

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By NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and
NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our generation and it affects every person on Earth. Tracking the changes in the global climate is the basis for understanding its magnitude and extent.

Today’s announcement that NASA and NOAA scientists have determined that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history underscores how critical Earth observation is. The NOAA-NASA collaboration has served the country very well, from the origin of space-based remote sensing for weather forecasting to the Earth system monitoring and science that are so crucial to tackling the issues of our times. This announcement is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice — now is the time to act on climate.

The modern temperature record dates back to1880, and 2015 was the warmest year by a long shot.

There has been a lot of talk about the strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean and how that might be supercharging temperatures. El Niño did likely play an important role – but more significantly, 2015’s record temperatures are the result of the gradual, yet accelerating, build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists have been warning about it for decades and now we are experiencing it.  This is the second year in a row of record temperatures and what is so interesting is that the warmest temperatures often occur the year after an El Nino, like in 1998 compared to 1997.

Fifteen of the 16 warmest years on record have now occurred since 2001. Temperatures will bounce around from year to year, but the direction of the long-term trend is as clear as a rocket headed for space: it is going up.

This record-breaking moment is a good time to take stock of what we know of our changing planet and why it is important for NASA, NOAA and other federal agencies to continue studying Earth’s climate and how it is changing:

  • Sea levels are rising – nearly three inches in the past two decades alone. The successful launch earlier this week of the NOAA-led Jason-3 mission will continue our 23-year record of measuring sea level change from space with remarkable precision. In the coming years and decades, our work to understand how quickly seas are rising will be vital to coastal cities in the U.S., millions of people around the world who live in low-lying areas, and to NASA’s own facilities at Kennedy Space Center, where we will one day launch astronauts to Mars, and other affected facilities such as the Stennis Space Center, Wallops Flight Facility and Michoud Assembly Facility.
  • The Arctic ice cap is shrinking. In the 1970s and 80s, NASA scientists pioneered techniques to measure the extent of sea ice at the poles. That new ability quickly gave way to the realization that the Arctic ice cover – which plays a significant role in the planet’s climate and even the weather we experience in the U.S. – is retreating and growing thinner.
  • NOAA’s global drifting buoy program and other NOAA and international ocean temperature and land surface temperature measurements have provided the means to measure the temperature at the Earth’s surface, so critical to our survival.
  • Ice sheets and glaciers worldwide are shedding ice. Greenland is losing about 300 billion tons of ice per year, according to measurements from NASA’s GRACE mission. Observations from the agency’s Operation IceBridge have helped confirm rapidly accelerating changes in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the dramatic retreat of glaciers in Alaska. Given the pace of these changes and their significance for the climate and sea level rise, we need close and continuous monitoring. In 2017, NASA will launch two missions – GRACE-FO and ICESat-2 – that represent a major refresh of our capabilities to observe how ice sheets and glaciers are changing.

Rising temperature is not an isolated effect of rising greenhouse gas levels, and scientists are still studying the full implications of a warmer world. How might patterns of drought and precipitation change?  Will ecosystems and species be able to adapt to human-induced climate change? What might these changes mean for wildfires, agriculture and the economy?

Climate change isn’t a problem for the future. Earth’s climate is changing now.  At NASA, we use our unique vantage point from space to study the planet as a whole system.  NOAA’s scientists are on the ocean, land and in the sky collecting data that help bring clarity.  Our job is to answer these kinds of questions, to make the measurements needed to get to those answers and to provide our knowledge and our data freely so the world can address this fundamental challenge.



Building a Robust Commercial Market in Low Earth Orbit

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NASA is on a Journey to Mars and a new consensus is emerging around our plan, vision and timetable for sending American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s. Our strategy calls for working with commercial partners to get our astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station while NASA also focuses – simultaneously — on getting our astronauts to deep space.

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Few would have imagined back in 2010 when President Barack Obama pledged that NASA would work “with a growing array of private companies competing to make getting to space easier and more affordable,” that less than six years later we’d be able to say commercial carriers have transported 35,000 of pounds of space cargo (and counting!) to the International Space Station (ISS) – or that we’d be so firmly on track to return launches of American astronauts to the ISS from American soil on American commercial carriers.

But that is exactly what is happening.

Since the first SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply mission to deliver cargo to the ISS in October 2012 and Orbital ATK’s first Cygnus mission in January 2014, American companies have delivered cargo to the Space Station that enables our astronauts to work off Earth for Earth on extensive and ongoing scientific research and technology demonstrations aboard the Space Station. This has included investigations that directly benefit life on Earth and expand commercial access to microgravity research through the U.S. National Laboratory (which is operated by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space or CASIS).

All this matters because NASA research helps us understand our home planet as well as the solar system and beyond, while technology demonstrations and human health research like astronaut Scott Kelly’s one-year mission and the Twins Study aboard the Space Station prepare us for long-duration missions into deep space.

As a result, we are closer than ever before to sending American astronauts to Mars and at the very same time, we’re “insourcing” American jobs and empowering American entrepreneurs and innovators to expand the nascent commercial market in low-Earth orbit.

Today, thanks to the bold plan laid out by the President, Americans are working at more than 1,000 companies in nearly every state in the Union on NASA commercial space initiatives.

Across the board, about 80% of NASA’s activities are carried out by our partners in industry and at America’s academic institutions. We develop more than 1,600 new technologies a year and work with business partners to transfer thousands of products, services and processes into the market for job creation and economic growth. More venture capital was invested in America’s space industry in 2015 than in all the previous 15 years combined.

In other words, at NASA we’re exploring deep space, but we’re anchored right here on Earth, where we’re creating jobs and fueling innovation, technology development and growth, recognizing that it all depends on American ingenuity and innovation.

With the recent passage of the FY2016 federal budget and our selection of Robert Behnken, Sunita Williams, Eric Boe and Douglas Hurley to be the first NASA astronauts to train to fly to space on commercial crew vehicles, we are close to returning human launches to American soil and ending our sole reliance on the Russians to get into space.

In addition, the commercial crew spacecraft will enable us to add a seventh crew member to the normal Space Station crew complement, effectively doubling the amount of crew time available to conduct research off Earth for Earth. The additional research (and crew supplies) will be delivered during cargo resupply missions.


Despite critics who may have said this was a pipe dream just five short years ago, we continue to transform the way NASA does business and as a result, today we’re able to mark another significant milestone that will carry President Obama’s vision further into the future.

This afternoon, our ISS team in Houston will announce that NASA is making its new award for commercial space cargo delivery to the ISS.

This is a big deal, because our commercial resupply missions enable NASA and our private industry and other government agency partners to continue the extensive, ongoing scientific research aboard the Space Station.

President Obama extended the life of the International Space Station through at least 2024 (with the support of Congress) and our commercial cargo providers ensure cargo resupply missions continue, enabling us to keep using the station as our springboard to the rest of the solar system and a test bed for human health in space. Today’s selection builds on our initial resupply partnerships. It will ensure that NASA maintains the capability and flexibility to operate the ISS and conduct the vital research of a unique National Lab through resupply services launching from the United States.

As President Obama said, “in fulfilling this task, we will not only extend humanity’s reach in space — we will strengthen America’s leadership here on Earth.” Our investment in commercial space is creating jobs and it’s bringing us closer to sending American astronauts to Mars. Competition, innovation and technology – it’s the American way. It’s helping us to Launch America.

NASA’s Work to Understand Climate: A Global Perspective

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NASA is uniquely positioned to study our home planet, and Earth observation has been at the core of the agency’s work since our founding. In addition to a fleet of amazing satellites that we and our international partners use to study our planet in a range of wavelengths, and across the spectrum of planetary features from oceans to atmosphere and ground cover, the International Space Station is also rapidly becoming a significant platform to study Earth.

Our work has global implications. This week, a small delegation of NASA leaders have been participating with a larger U.S. delegation at the 21st session of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties, also known as COP-21. COP-21 will bring nearly 200 nations together to reach an agreement on limiting climate change.

Global climate change, driven by rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, represents a fundamental challenge to the U.S. and the world. It is the challenge of our generation. While NASA has no formal role in the COP-21 climate policy talks, the agency is hard at work providing the nation and the world the best information possible about how Earth is changing. Regardless of what world leaders decide in Paris, our job is to build an understanding of the whole planet now and what it will look like in the future.

NASA’s comprehensive study of Earth has provided much of the underlying understanding of current trends in the planet’s climate – including definitive measurements of rising sea levels, glacier retreat, ice sheet changes and the decline in the volume of the Arctic sea ice cap. Our satellites have provided global, long-term views of plant life on land and in the ocean. And our supercomputing power is allowing us to better understand how all the parts of the Earth system work together and help us to predict how this could change. We will continue to monitor climate trends and investigate other ways in which the planet is ultimately responding to increasing greenhouse gas levels.

We have discovered more than a thousand planets outside of our solar system, but none yet match Earth’s complexity. That’s one reason we have more satellites orbiting Earth than any other planet. We made a significant expansion of the Earth-observing fleet in 2014 and 2015, launching missions that are making unprecedented measurements of rainfall and snow (Global Precipitation Measurement), carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2), and soil moisture (Soil Moisture Active Passive). Soon, with the help of NOAA, the French Space Agency CNES, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites -EUMETSAT and SpaceX, we will launch the Jason-3 mission to continue building on the vital, two-decade record of how much and where global sea level is changing.

The view from space is incredible – seeing our planet from orbit is one of the highlights of my life — but sometimes we need to get in a little closer. So in the 2015 and throughout 2016, NASA is sending scientists on expeditions to all corners of the planet – by plane, by ship and even by foot – to get an on-the-ground look to help answer some important science questions. How are warming ocean waters melting Greenland glaciers and adding to sea level rise? How are the world’s coral reefs responding to changes in the ocean? What will rapidly warming temperatures in the Arctic mean for the greenhouse gases stored in forests and permafrost? Our scientists are putting together multi-year campaigns that will complement our space-based perspective. Consider it planetary exploration right here at home.

Global meetings like COP-21 are important for discussion and policymaking, and NASA will continue the day to day work of monitoring our Earth observation satellites and making their wealth of data available to people across the globe. There’s no more important planet for us to understand.

President Obama Meets With Space Pioneers

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

A Partnership Connecting Space to Village

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The ISERV camera aboard the International Space Station acquired images of portions of Malawi (Africa) like this one that are being studied for changes in land use and subsistence agriculture. Residents of the villages adjacent to the mountainous region shown in this image are changing their land use patterns in response to changing climate and the demands of increased population.

The ISERV camera aboard the International Space Station acquired images of portions of Malawi (Africa) like this one that are being studied for changes in land use and subsistence agriculture. Residents of the villages adjacent to the mountainous region shown in this image are changing their land use patterns in response to changing climate and the demands of increased population. Credit: ISERV/NASA

NASA is deeply committed to Earth science and the value it provides people around the globe. We have been since our founding. It was my pleasure to attend the launch of the newest SERVIR hub — SERVIR-Mekong — in Thailand just a couple of weeks ago. Today, I joined hundreds of colleagues from our partner, USAID, and from around the world for a Town Hall about SERVIR and the impact of our global collaborations in Earth observation.

NASA and USAID have accomplished a lot together. Launch of this important new hub in the SERVIR network, which includes SERVIR-Himalaya, SERVIR-Eastern and Southern Africa and the Applied Sciences Team projects in Mesoamerica, is certainly tangible proof that what we’re doing is working.

We get a lot of questions about our Earth observation work at NASA. In fact, a lot of people aren’t even aware that it’s such a core function of the agency. But make no mistake, NASA is deeply committed to Earth science and the value it provides people around the globe. We have been since our founding.

The more the SERVIR network and other partnerships expand, the more opportunities we have to test and showcase our newest Earth observation satellites. Missions like Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM), Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) and others are now returning massive amounts of data and more Earth science missions are on the way.

I am also pleased that we are finding new ways to bring NASA’s science to meet USAID’s development objectives. We are excited that our scientists are being connected with international scientists to combine those people’s local knowledge with NASA’s Earth system science studies through USAID’s Partnership for Enhanced Engagement in Research, or PEER program. Twelve of our scientists now work with USAID-funded international collaborators to harness their collective knowledge for the benefit of development.

Our partnership between NASA and USAID allows us to work together to bring space to village. Moreover, it also is bringing “village to space” as NASA has learned new USAID terminology such as “results framework”, “indicators”, and “theory of change” – terms that are more than just words, but help benchmark impacts and ensure the successful outcome of our activities. Together, our agencies have worked in 4 regions and 37 countries, developed 62 tailored decision support tools using Earth observations, increased the capacity of over 300 institutions, enabled 120 university fellows from 24 countries, and trained over 2000 people.

The International Space Station also is becoming a platform for Earth observation. There’s the ISERV test bed camera used by SERVIR end users, for instance which has acquired more than 140,000 images of across 6 continents to support response to floods, wildfires, tropical storms, and other extreme events around the world. Other instruments aboard the Station, including RapidScat to monitor ocean winds and the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) to measure clouds and pollution, also are contributing to the wealth of Earth science data available to the public and to decision-makers like those SERVIR serves.

Together with our partners at USAID, we are all contributing to the effort to help bring our space-based science down to Earth for real time, real world applications that are changing the lives of people where they live.

The demand-driven approach of SERVIR is unique in the space world. The network is responsive and engaged and developing the demand-driven tools that are going to have the most impact for a specific region. I never doubted that there was a hunger for more information and ways for people everywhere to make a difference in their home regions, but the tools that SERVIR has provided have really started something special.

Just as the Space Station has become a model of international cooperation among nations who have many differences, so has SERVIR become a network not just of hubs, but also of regions and people.

I can’t think of anything more gratifying to demonstrate why our space program is vital to everyone on this planet.


NASA Selects Astronauts for First U.S. Commercial Space Flights

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July has always been a big month for America’s space program.  Next week, on July 14, New Horizons will make the closest approach ever to Pluto, and the United States will become the first nation to visit this dwarf planet in the outer reaches of our solar system. This July 4 marked the tenth anniversary of Deep Impact, mankind’s first mission to reach out and touch a comet. It was on July 20, 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their giant leap for humankind.  It was on July 30, 1971 that the lunar rover was driven on the surface of the Moon for the very first time. It was on July 4, 1997 that Pathfinder arrived on Mars.  Furthermore, it was on July 14, 1965 – 50 years ago next week – that Mariner 4 flew by and sent us the very close-up first pictures of Mars.

Today, a half century after we received those first pictures of the Red Planet, we’re able to make a significant announcement that will further our nation’s Journey to Mars.

I am pleased to announce that four American space pioneers have been selected to be the first astronauts to train to fly to space on commercial crew vehicles, all part of our ambitious plan to return space launches to U.S. soil, create good-paying American jobs and advance our goal of sending humans farther into the solar system than ever before.  These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail, a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars.  (Click on each astronaut’s name to learn more about him or her!):

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 – and he has persistently supported this initiative in his budget requests to Congress.  Had we received everything he asked for, we’d be preparing to send these astronauts to space on commercial carriers as soon as this year.  As it stands, we’re currently working toward launching in 2017, and today’s announcement allows our astronauts to begin training for these flights starting now.

We are on a Journey to Mars, and in order to meet our goals for sending American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s we need to be able to focus both on deep space and the groundbreaking work being done on the International Space Station (ISS).

Our commercial crew initiative makes these parallel endeavors possible.  By working with American companies to get our astronauts to the ISS, NASA is able to focus on game-changing technologies, the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that are geared toward getting astronauts to deep space.

Furthermore, there are real economic benefits to bolstering America’s emerging commercial space market.  We have over 350 American companies working across 35 states on our commercial crew initiative.  Every dollar we invest in commercial crew is a dollar we invest in ourselves, rather than in the Russian economy.

Our plans to return launches to American soil also make fiscal sense. It currently costs $76 million per astronaut to fly on a Russian spacecraft.  On an American-owned spacecraft, the average cost will be $58 million per astronaut.  What’s more, each mission will carry four crewmembers instead of three, along with 100 kg of materials to support the important science and research we conduct on the ISS.

For these reasons, our commercial crew program is a worthy successor to the incredible 30-year run of the Space Shuttle Program.  The decision that President Bush made in 2004 to retire the Space Shuttle was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision.  As you’ll recall, it was the recommendation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, and endorsed by many people in the space community – including yours truly.

I cannot think of a better way to continue our celebration of independence this July than to mark this milestone as we look to reassert our space travel independence and end our sole reliance on Russia to get American astronauts to the International Space Station.

I also want to take this opportunity to offer a special word of congratulations to astronaut candidates from the Class of 2013, who are transitioning into flight-ready status.  These eight outstanding Americans – four of them women, four of them men — were selected from a pool of more than 6,300 applicants – our second largest pool of applicants, ever.

The enthusiasm for NASA’s astronaut program reminds us that journeying to space continues to be the dream of Americans everywhere.  So my message to members of our incredible NASA Family, is that you must never lose sight of the fact that by your work every day, you inspire today’s students to become tomorrow’s leaders, scientists, engineers and astronauts.

You can click on each astronaut’s name to learn more about our newest astronauts:

Investing in Our Journey to Mars

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Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations will take up NASA’s budget for the next fiscal year.  The President’s priorities for NASA – including our goal and timeline for sending American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s – traditionally have enjoyed strong bipartisan support, which is a testament to the hard work and progress of NASA’s dedicated employees and contractors.

Unfortunately, this work is in jeopardy of being halted, delayed or possibly undone by the Budget Bill as currently written.  This could cost our country jobs and opportunity as well as progress on some of the defining issues of our time, including returning human spaceflight launches to America, our Journey to Mars, and our ability to understand and respond to things like earthquakes, storm events, and climate change.

Technology drives all of our exploration and it also creates jobs, strengthening the American economy and producing “spill-over effects” (like those we’re seeing in Nepal, as NASA technologies are being used to save lives and strategically deploy resources).   The bill being considered would take funding from this type of critical technology development.

For example, it would upend the investments we need to execute contracts with Boeing and SpaceX to return the launches of American astronauts to American soil and to do it by 2017.  Instead, it would force us to continue our sole reliance on Russia.  In other words, it would guarantee we will continue to send millions of dollars a year to Moscow instead of investing that money in United States, creating jobs and once again launching Americans from U.S. soil.

This at a time when a new consensus is emerging around NASA’s goal, timetable, and plan for sending American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.  Make no mistake: This plan is clear. This plan is affordable, and this plan is sustainable.

Meanwhile, NASA has an amazing fleet of Earth observation satellites, many in partnership with other nations, and they help us predict and respond to disaster as well as understand climate change and many other aspects of our living planet’s processes. Yet, the House proposal would seriously reduce our Earth science program and threaten to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events.

With the incredible progress we’ve been making – from Earth Science to Orion to the Space Launch System to the work being done on the International Space Station – now is not the time to hit the rewind button or to press pause.  It’s time to fast forward into greater prosperity and job creation as America expands humanity’s reach into space, while strengthening our leadership here on Earth.

To read the entire Office of Management and Budget letter on the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, visit:

One Step Closer to Launching American Astronauts from American Soil

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NASA is committed to returning American space launches to U.S. soil, and an important step toward achieving that goal took place today as our commercial partner, SpaceX, undertook a flight test to see how its Crew Dragon capsule performed on a simulated escape from an emergency at launch.

May 6, 2015 -- Eight SuperDraco engines boost a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft away from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in an emergency pad abort simulation. Each of the eight SuperDraco engine generates 15,000 pounds of thrust and burns about six seconds. The test began at 9 a.m. After the engines shut down, the Dragon spacecraft's trunk, with passive fins for stability, will separate when it reaches peak altitude. Photo credit: NASA

May 6, 2015 — Eight SuperDraco engines boost a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft away from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in an emergency pad abort simulation. Each of the eight SuperDraco engine generates 15,000 pounds of thrust and burns about six seconds. The test began at 9 a.m. After the engines shut down, the Dragon spacecraft’s trunk, with passive fins for stability, will separate when it reaches peak altitude.
Photo credit: NASA

SpaceX and The Boeing Company both are working on commercial space transportation systems to launch American astronauts from the United States by 2017 and end our sole reliance on the Russians to reach space. As we move toward certification of these systems, safety remains our number one priority. The pad abort test today gives us crucial insight into how SpaceX’s system would perform if a booster failed at liftoff or in any other scenario that would threaten astronauts inside the spacecraft.

During the test, the spacecraft and its trunk, which together are about 20 feet tall, flew on the power of eight SuperDraco engines. The SuperDracos, each producing 15,000 pounds of thrust, lifted the spacecraft above the launch pad before it parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean. The whole test took about two minutes. Recovery teams will retrieve the Crew Dragon from the ocean for further study.

The test was one of the milestones NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX agreed to as part of the developmental effort for a privately owned and operated crew transportation system that can safely and economically carry crews to and from low-Earth orbit. The spacecraft was equipped to gather lots of information about the test and the engines, with 270 sensors and a life-sized dummy as part of the cargo.

Commercial crew is a critical component of our journey to Mars. It will enable regular service to low-Earth orbit with astronauts by 2017 while NASA develops technologies like solar electric propulsion and radiation shielding that will take us farther into the solar system. The innovation of our partners has opened a whole new segment of the economy, created good jobs, and yielded new technologies for traveling to orbit. Our investment in commercial space is paying off with achievements like this pad abort test, as well as regular cargo deliveries to the International Space Station. We must continue those investments if we are to meet our goal of launching from America again in 2017.

We’re proud of the continued progress our commercial partners are making and look forward to a robust commercial crew program as part of an integrated strategy for fully utilizing the International Space Station as a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system and sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s. Today’s test gets us closer to this challenging but achievable goal.


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