A Glimpse Into the Future of Science

The future of science is on display right now in Baltimore. A full-scale model of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will be on view in front of the Maryland Science Center through Oct. 26. I had the opportunity to visit it today, and it is amazing.

The Webb telescope will be the most scientifically powerful telescope NASA has ever built — 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope. It is the next of our great observatories. It will find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. The telescope will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting star formation in our own galaxy with the solar system.

The telescope is a complex program for which 10 new technologies had to be invented. All of these challenges have been conquered, including the capabilities that will be required for this huge instrument to be deployable, work at cryogenic temperatures, and maintain precise pointing and attitude control from its orbit approximately one million miles from Earth.

That’s what we do at NASA. We create what doesn’t exist, to create and win the future. While most of our missions occur in space, the investments made–and the jobs created — to support these missions — happen right here on Earth. NASA has always been an engine for economic growth and job creation, and the Webb telescope is just the latest example.

I was privileged to pilot the mission that deployed Hubble, and I am very excited about the promise of Webb. Science remains integral to NASA’s future, and just in the past months we’ve launched missions to Jupiter and the Moon. We’ll launch a new Earth-observing satellite later this month, and in November the Curiosity rover will be on its way to Mars. Those are just a few of NASA’s newest science missions, not to mention the dozens already in orbit around Earth, zooming across the solar system and peeling back the veil on the cosmic phenomena and other planets that are enormous distances from us.

I know tomorrow’s science leaders and engineers will be inspired by the life-size Webb mockup. Just as Hubble re-wrote science textbooks, Webb will take us even farther on our cosmic journey. I hope you can visit, and when the Webb telescope launches, you’ll have a tangible image in your mind of just how incredible our newest great observatory is going to be.

A Bright Future Through Education

The power of education to transform lives, lift up communities and build pathways to a brighter future was brought home to me in a very personal way tonight during a visit to my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. At the Richland County Public Library I was honored to present the Ethel Bolden Minority Scholarship to Gabrielle Marshae Dudley. Gabrielle is a young African American woman who has demonstrated outstanding community service leadership skills while pursuing a joint Masters of Library and Information Science and Master of Public History at the University of South Carolina. The Ethel Bolden Scholarship was established last year in honor of my mother’s more than 40 years of service to the Richland County community, its libraries, and its minority students.

Being back in Columbia reminded me of the commitment my parents, who were both teachers, had to education. I guess you could say I got my passion for education honestly. And since becoming NASA Administrator in 2009, I have worked with our Associate Administrator for Education, Leland Melvin, to strengthen the Agency’s commitment to preparing the next generation for leadership roles, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math, or the STEM disciplines. We are committed to ensuring that every child, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or background, has an equal chance to pursue and succeed in these fields.

NASA’s partnerships with schools, universities and communities in every corner of this country is not only about keeping our own workforce pipeline fresh and flowing, it is also about ensuring that America will have the technical expertise needed to compete and win in the 21st century global economy.

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. This crisis in education, if not resolved, will contribute to future declines in qualified employees to meet demands in critical career fields that affect U.S. global competitiveness and the national economy. As President Obama has wisely noted, “The country that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow.”

That is why STEM education is the foundation of NASA’s learning initiatives. But NASA needs more than scientists. We need researchers, accountants, writers, archivists, historians and yes, even librarians like Gabrielle Dudley. Ethel Bolden taught me as a child, “You need to know your heritage, where your ancestors came from, but you are part of a larger realm, part of a larger world.” As NASA Administrator, one of my greatest challenges and pleasures is helping to engage and inspire the next generation of Americans to explore that larger realm. Education is the vehicle that will take us there.

For more about NASA education programs, visit:



Visiting the Kennedy Space Center

Earlier today, I got a first-hand look at the future of space exploration during a visit to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. The new 6.75 million-ton Mobile Launcher is one more tangible step on our path forward to launching deep space missions.

When I was at Kennedy a little more than two months ago, I joined the dedicated team there in celebrating the achievements of our space shuttle program as it concluded an amazing 30 years of ground-breaking exploration and discovery. Since then, we have made great strides toward implementing the bipartisan vision agreed to by President Obama and Congress just one year ago.

o We continued to work on the Orion spacecraft, the next vehicle in which astronauts will travel into deep space.

o We’ve launched exciting science missions.

o We expanded our agreements with our American commercial partners who are making great strides toward transporting cargo and crew to the International Space Station.

o We’ve established a non-profit – located in the Space Coast – to manage the U.S. portion of the International Space Station.

o We made significant progress on upgrading our ground-based operations here at KSC to support a range of launch activities, including commercial and deep space launches.

o And we announced our plan forward with a Space Launch System, our heavy lift rocket.

And today, we got to see the progress Kennedy is making with the new Mobile Launcher, which will be carried to Launch Pad 39B, a modernized clean pad that will launch those missions to the ISS and farther destinations.

The Mobile Launcher is tangible evidence of our bright future and the critical path forward we are on to new destinations and new exploration achievements. It was built in large part by a Florida company, and it represents the jobs of the future as we continue to move toward reinvigorating Kennedy’s world-class launch capabilities.

All around Kennedy, from the Operations and Checkout facility for the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle, to the establishment of a Commercial Crew program office to the ongoing science launches that regularly take-off here, it is clear the Space Coast is open for business and ready for a bright future.

As we’ve ramped up our work on the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle, for example, we brought on more than 250 workers at the Operations and Checkout facility – bringing that number to more than 350 in 2012.

This is also further proof that as our nation looks for ways to compete and win in the 21st century, NASA continues to be an engine of job growth and economic opportunity. From California to Florida, the space industry is strong and growing.

The history of NASA is tied to Florida. The next generation of explorers will not fly a space shuttle, but they may be able to walk on Mars. And those journeys are starting at the Kennedy Space Center today.

Administrator Bolden speaks in front of the Mobile Launcher at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA Contest Heralds The Dawn Of Electric Plane

In addition to NASA’s missions in space that amaze the world, our work in aeronautics continues to spur innovation and jobs.

NASA is providing the $1.65 million prize purse for the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation Green Flight Challenge competition, sponsored by Google, taking place this week outside of Santa Rosa, Calif.

The purse is the largest aviation prize in history and attracted 13 teams, all led by American innovators. Three teams successfully completed aircraft and flight qualification requirements and are competing for the purse. Teams are flying electric and biofueled powered aircraft to prove they have the most fuel efficient, small aircraft in the world.

To win the competition, an aircraft must fly 200 miles in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity.

Why is NASA sponsoring the competition?

NASA-funded prize competitions establish an important goal without having to choose the approach or the team that is most likely to succeed. NASA pays only for results. The competitions highlight excellence in a particular domain of human endeavor to motivate, inspire, and guide others.

NASA prize competitions increase the number and diversity of the individuals, organizations, and teams that are addressing a particular problem or challenge of national or international. They stimulate private sector investment that is many times greater than the cash value of the prize, while furthering NASA’s mission by attracting more interest and attention to a defined program, activity, or issue of concern. And they capture the public imagination and change their perception of what is possible.

Aerospace remains a strong component of our national fabric and is the largest positive contributor to our nation’s trade balance. However, this technological leadership position is not a given. To remain the leader in aerospace technology, we must continue to perform research and invest in the people who will create the breakthroughs of tomorrow.

The CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, may be the birth of a new segment of the aviation industry. This competition represents the dawn of a new era in efficient flight and is the first time that full-scale electric aircraft have performed in competition. The technologies demonstrated by the winning plane may end up in general aviation aircraft, spawning new jobs and new industries for the 21st century.

For photos of the Green Flight Challenge, visit:


Team members of the e-Genius aircraft prepare their plane prior to competition as part of the 2011 Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, Calif. on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. NASA and the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation are having the challenge with the goal to advance technologies in fuel efficiency and reduced emissions with cleaner renewable fuels and electric aircraft. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Visiting the Future

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse at the future of human space exploration.

NASA is working with multiple industry partners so that American companies can develop a capacity for carrying crew and cargo to the International Space Station, stop the outsourcing of this work to foreign governments and create good jobs right here at home. What I saw in Boulder, Colo. was Sierra Nevada’s amazing Dream Chaser vehicle – a kind of space plane that could be soaring into low Earth orbit in the coming years.

Sierra Nevada is one of the participants in NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, and last week we decided to exercise additional milestones in their agreement with us to accelerate development of their transportation system. The company has already met four of the nine milestones under the CCDev2 Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA, and our amended agreement adds four new milestones — bringing the potential value of Sierra Nevada’s SAA to $105.6 million, if all milestones are completed successfully, to help them create jobs and get our economy back on track.

The Boeing Company, another CCDEV2 participant, also will now pursue additional milestones, and all four of the CCDEV2 participants are performing well. Boeing will receive $112.9 million, if all milestones are reached, money that is being pumped into our economy at a critical time. Transporting crew to the ISS is crucial, and we are focusing hard on ensuring that American companies will be carrying our astronauts and our cargo to space as we ramp up a new era of the station’s potential as an orbiting laboratory without peer. After all, the ISS is the centerpiece of our human space flight activities for the coming years with international crews of six living aboard it 24/7 right now.

Because of the progress Sierra Nevada and our other commercial space partners have made, I am confident that NASA will soon have access to multiple capabilities for reaching low Earth orbit.

And while American innovators open up a new segment of the economy by creating these new capabilities, NASA can focus its energy and resources on deep space exploration.

As President Obama looks for ways to put America back to work, NASA continues to be an engine of job growth and economic opportunity. Our collaborations with private industry are enhancing our ability to design and build the most technologically advanced spacecraft in the world. These partnerships are building an economic sector that will create new high-tech, high-paying jobs in communities like Boulder all across the country – all while ensuring a bright future that ensures America’s leadership in space.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden flies Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser simulator.

Visiting the Johnson Space Center

Today I had the privilege of sharing some time with the dedicated workforce at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. As the command center for our human spaceflight missions – and of course that means the centerpiece of our activities, the International Space Station — Johnson has had a critical role in the many accomplishments of humans living, working and discovering in space. The next chapter of America’s space exploration story is being written today, and Johnson will be on the front lines of that as well.

Johnson Center Director Mike Coats and the entire Johnson team are absolutely dedicated to America’s human spaceflight program. They train our astronauts, support our missions, test our crew capsules keep our nation at the forefront of space exploration.

Mike and I visited a mockup of the Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) on which Johnson is working. Orion represents the next great step to destinations farther into the solar system. Powered by the Space Launch System we unveiled recently, Orion will take our astronauts farther into space than ever before, create high-quality jobs here at home and provide the cornerstone for America’s future human space exploration efforts.

In fact, nationwide, the MPCV represents about 2,700 total jobs. Right in Houston that translates to about 1,200 jobs, made up of 400 civil servants and 800 contractors. Combined with the extension of the ISS to at least 2020, mission control in Houston is going to be humming along for a very long time.

I was privileged to be a shuttle commander and there will be many more space explorers to follow. People who are passionate about space, who have been there or who want to go. Who know a lot about the challenges and risks and are there for their colleagues 24/7 as we work to do the big things for which NASA is known, and face the steep challenges of living and working in space that only those who are involved in it can truly appreciate it.

That’s just one of the many valuable things that Johnson has given NASA and the nation.

And as I stood beside Orion, the tangible representation of our future, it reaffirmed my optimism that our best days are ahead. That the excitement of our next destinations will inspire a new generation of explorers, and keep some of us who have been around for a while, working hard and sharing our expertise for a few more years yet as this next grand adventure gets off the ground.

I was proud to fly on the shuttle, but thanks to the efforts of the dedicated professionals at Johnson, tomorrow’s explorers will dream of one day walking on Mars.

So today I salute the Johnson workforce, and all they have done to keep the bigger goals in mind, using the strength and momentum of their long and wonderful history, and the determination they have always exhibited to make America the worldwide leader in space exploration.

For more information about the Orion MPCV, visit:


GRAIL and Jobs

If there’s any doubt that the Space Coast will continue to be open for business, that thought was drowned out by the roar of the latest NASA launch from Florida. NASA’s GRAIL spacecraft, the second major mission to launch from Florida since the final space shuttle flight in July, is on its way to the moon – and it carries the hopes and dreams of a nation with it.

On August 5, NASA launched Juno from Florida on its five-year journey to Jupiter. In November, we will launch the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), Curiosity, a rover that will help us evaluate the likelihood that life has ever existed on Mars and serve as a precursor to a future human mission to the Red Planet. The vast amount of information that GRAIL sends us will be mined by scientists and students for decades to come. With these and many other exciting upcoming missions, it’s clear that NASA is taking its next big leap into deep space exploration, and the space industry continues to provide the jobs and workers needed to support this critical effort.

GRAIL and MSL created good-paying American jobs. More than 3000 people nationwide were employed just on these two missions alone, from spacecraft design and processing through ground operations and ongoing mission management after the spacecraft reach their destinations.

As President Obama looks for ways to put America back to work, NASA continues to be an engine of job growth and economic opportunity. The President has repeatedly stressed that the only way for America to win the future is to out innovate, out educate, and out build our global competitors. Those three goals have been central to NASA’s mission from the beginning. We continue to stretch the boundaries of science and the possible. Our partnerships to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers — to support the jobs of tomorrow — are growing. And our collaborations with private industry are enhancing our ability to design and build the most technologically advanced spacecraft in the world to explore new destinations and take humans farther into space.

The GRAIL mission exemplifies that potential. As GRAIL was being prepared for launch, I visited with the people who were making it possible – the engineers, scientists, mission planners and frontline workers. GRAIL was built by Lockheed Martin, and it is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The mission’s principal investigator comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. AstroTech, a company in Titusville, Florida, processed the spacecraft and ensured it was ready for its dramatic launch, and United Launch Alliance made sure GRAIL had a textbook ride to orbit on its Delta II rocket.

GRAIL is only the latest in a long line of NASA programs that have brought jobs and opportunity to local communities all across this nation. From California to Florida, the space industry is strong and growing. With the bold new course we are on, that growth will only continue.

For more than 50 years, communities that have partnered with NASA have been the launch pads of American imagination, exploration, and innovation. Our greatest technological breakthroughs and scientific discoveries have been made possible by people who might be your next-door neighbors. And as we invest in space, it is critical to remember that the money we spend to get there is actually spent here on Earth. GRAIL will tell us about the moon’s gravity fields and how our near neighbor formed, from crust to core. That will help us understand our solar system a little better, and help inspire the next generation of exploration leaders. But right here in our back yard, it’s also one more dynamic way that NASA is creating jobs and economic growth.

For more information about GRAIL, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/grail


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, stands in front of the Atlas V first stage booster while taking questions from the media, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The booster will help send NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover to Mars later this year. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Next Stop: Jupiter

We were reminded today, in dramatic fashion, that NASA is still open for business and leading the world in space exploration. At 12:25 p.m. EDT, we launched the Juno spacecraft from the Space Coast of Florida on its five-year journey to Jupiter, putting NASA on a mission to yet another new frontier. Our future in space exploration is bright and holds many such cutting-edge science missions that will help us better understand our solar system and an ever-increasing array of challenging destinations where humans might travel.

Juno will speed past our moon in less than a single day before it begins its trek of 1,740 million miles to reach the largest planet in our solar system. Those astounding distances and speeds are hard for us to fathom, but they are the kind of numbers our dedicated scientists and navigators work with every day to get the job done.

Juno will orbit Jupiter’s poles 33 times. Its color camera will provide unprecedented close-up images of the planet, including the first detailed glimpse of the planet’s poles. Juno’s eight science instruments will peer through our mysterious neighbor’s atmosphere and tell us more about what goes on in its atmosphere and magnetosphere. They’ll also help us determine if there is a solid core to this gas giant.

Juno will power its systems using solar energy. This is the farthest out we’ve yet sent a spacecraft using this type of energy source. It’s just one of many things we’ll be looking at as we make the most of the spacecraft’s journey to help refine technology for future exploration missions.

With its four large moons and numerous smaller ones, Jupiter is like its own miniature solar system and, indeed, it could have become a star if it had been larger, since it shares a similar composition.

The largest planet in our neighborhood is about to reveal its secrets, and everything Juno finds will help us understand more about the origins and evolution of our solar system. This is exciting stuff. The kind of thing that inspires young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The kind of thing that NASA has become known for — and the kind of thing we’re going to keep doing for decades to come.

NASA has many more exciting missions coming up just in the next six months, to the moon and Mars, and to study our own planet in even more depth. In addition, we’ll be bringing American companies on-line to transport cargo and crews to the International Space Station, and developing a new heavy lift rocket and capsule to explore deep space. We have started a remarkable new chapter in our nation’s story of exploration; enjoy the journey.

Keep tabs on Juno’s progress and the sights it sees along the way at:




An Atlas V rocket launches with the Juno spacecraft payload from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Friday, August 5, 2011. The Juno spacecraft will make a five-year, 400-million-mile voyage to Jupiter, orbit the planet, investigate its origin and evolution with eight instruments to probe its internal structure and gravity field, measure water and ammonia in its atmosphere, map its powerful magnetic field and observe its intense auroras.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)


Today's Final Landing of the Space Shuttle

At today’s final landing of the space shuttle, we had the rare opportunity to witness history. We turned the page on a remarkable era and began the next chapter in our nation’s extraordinary story of exploration.

The brave astronauts of STS-135 are emblematic of the shuttle program. Skilled professionals from diverse backgrounds who propelled America to continued leadership in space with the shuttle’s many successes. It is my great honor today to welcome them home.

I salute them and all of the men and women who have flown shuttle missions since the very first launch on April 12, 1981.

The shuttle program brought our nation many firsts. Many proud moments, some of which I was privileged to experience myself as a Shuttle commander. I was proud to be part of the shuttle program and will carry those experiences with me for the rest of my life.

As we move forward, we stand on the shoulders of these astronauts and the thousands of people who supported them on the ground – as well as those who cheered their triumphs and mourned their tragedies.

This final shuttle flight marks the end of an era, but today, we recommit ourselves to continuing human space flight and taking the necessary – and difficult – steps to ensure America’s leadership in human spaceflight for years to come.

I want to send American astronauts where we’ve never been before by focusing our resources on exploration and innovation, while leveraging private sector support to take Americans to the International Space Station in low Earth orbit.

With the bold path President Obama and Congress have set us on, we will continue the grand tradition of exploration.

Children who dream of being astronauts today may not fly on the space shuttle . . . but, one day, they may walk on Mars. The future belongs to us. And just like those who came before us, we have an obligation to set an ambitious course and take an inspired nation along for the journey.

I’m ready to get on with the next big challenge.

The future is bright for human spaceflight and for NASA. American ingenuity is alive and well. And it will fire up our economy and help us win the future, but only if we dream big and imagine endless possibilities. That future begins today.