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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
One of the reasons that President Obama has made it a priority to invest in NASA’s Earth Science initiatives is so that once disaster strikes, we have the tools in place to respond quickly and effectively – and to save lives. While some have proposed deep cuts to critically important investments like these, we hope we’ll never have to know the true cost of neglecting to invest in the Earth Sciences when we need them most.
The immediate value of these investments is on display right now, where the men and women of NASA – along with colleagues throughout the federal government, NGOs and the private sector – are working hard to save lives and aid in the recovery efforts in Nepal, which recently suffered an unthinkable tragedy.
I think I speak on behalf of all our NASA colleagues when I say that our hearts break for the Nepalese people. The news is devastating: more than 5,000 of our global neighbors have lost their lives; more than 10,000 are injured.
The President has pledged that the American people will do everything we can to help our brothers and sisters in Nepal. At NASA, along with our thoughts and prayers, we’re sending technical assistance that’s powered by Earth Science. You can help as well. Our colleagues at USAID have information available here on how to pitch in.
I want to share with you some of the ways in which NASA is working on behalf of the recovery effort:
• We are helping get satellite data into the hands of government officials in Nepal where Internet bandwidth is limited.
• Through a joint project with USAID we call the SERVIR project, we are supporting disaster response mapping efforts, including image processing, compression and distribution.
• We are pulling optical and radar satellite data and compiling them into products like “vulnerability maps” (used to determine risks that may be present) and “damage proxy maps” (used to determine the type and extent of existing damage) that can be used to better direct response efforts.
• Along with our partners, we’re providing assessments of damage to infrastructure; tracking remote areas that may be a challenge for relief workers to reach, as well as areas that could be at risk for landslides, river damming, floods and avalanches.
In addition, organizations both public and private are making use of NASA technologies – including the U.S. Geological Survey, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, World Bank, American Red Cross and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
For more information on this tragedy and how you can help, please click here to learn more.
I invite everyone to celebrate Earth Day today. Observing our home is at the core of NASA’s mission, and it continues be a dynamic and growing area of our activity.
Living in space is going to be part of our future, but what we know about Earth and how we live on this planet is absolutely critical. That’s one reason I was so pleased that this past year NASA launched five Earth new observation missions, including sending instruments to the International Space Station that are adding to its capabilities as a platform for Earth science in addition to what it helps us learn about human health in space.
We want to know how our planet works, how we affect it, and how it might change in the future. Right now, including those recent launches, NASA has 20 spacecraft orbiting Earth and gathering amazing science data. They can see carbon dioxide in the air, water reserves below ground, the heat our planet is absorbing, and the inside of hurricanes — Amazing stuff!
This is the first time in human history that we can really see and hope to understand how a planet lives and breathes. It’s a tall order, but NASA is on it. With this knowledge we are able to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing everyone on Earth today: Climate Change. Because we have these incredible tools in space, we can now see the changes across the whole planet. We can see the facts.
We don’t have all the answers yet, but we’re making progress. We are steadily increasing the known, and decreasing the unknown about how Earth is changing. Knowledge is a powerful tool, and with it we can all be better stewards of our home planet.
This Earth Day all of you have the opportunity to become Earth observers. We want everyone to stop for a moment this April 22 and share their photos and videos of favorite places they’ve been using the hashtag #NoPlaceLikeHome.
We’ll be posting NASA’s best shots from space (including some of my favorites from my “old days” in shuttle) to send the message that there really is no place like our home planet. We all love Earth, so let’s be more observant of it. Let’s learn more about it and NASA will keep circling the globe to help us all protect it and work toward a brighter future.
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.”
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.