What's Next for NASA

Next week, NASA will launch its final Space Shuttle mission, turning the page on a remarkable period in America’s history in space, while beginning the next chapter in our nation’s extraordinary story of exploration.

From the early exploits of Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark and Robert Peary to the breakthrough journeys of Alan Shepard and John Glenn, Americans have always been a curious people – bold enough to imagine new worlds, ingenious enough to chart a course to them and courageous enough to go for it. And the gifts of knowledge and innovation that we have brought back from the unknown have played their part in the building of our more perfect union.

Some say that our final Shuttle mission will mark the end of America’s 50 years of dominance in human spaceflight. As a former astronaut and the current NASA Administrator, I want to tell you that American leadership in space will continue for at least the next half-century because we have laid the foundation for success – and here at NASA failure is not an option.

President Obama has given us a Mission with a capital “M” — to focus again on the big picture of exploration and the crucial research and development that will be required for us to move beyond low Earth orbit. He’s charged us with carrying out the inspiring missions that only NASA can do, which will take us farther than we’ve ever been – to orbit Mars and eventually land on it. He’s asked us to start planning a mission to an asteroid, and right now our Dawn spacecraft is approaching one of the biggest in the solar system, Vesta. What it finds out could help inform such a mission.

The President is asking us to harness that American spirit of innovation, the drive to solve problems and create capabilities that is so embedded in our story and has led us to the Moon, to great observatories, and to humans living and working in space, possibly indefinitely. That American ingenuity is alive and well, and it will fire up our economy and help us create and win the future now.

So when I hear people say – or listen to media reports – that the final Shuttle flight marks the end of U.S. human spaceflight, I have to say… these folks must be living on another planet. We are not ending human space flight, we are recommitting ourselves to it and taking the necessary – and difficult – steps today to ensure America’s pre-eminence in human spaceflight for years to come.

I spent 14 years at NASA before leaving and then returning to head the agency. Some of the people I respect most in the world are my fellow astronauts. Some of my best friends died flying on the shuttle. I’m not about to let human spaceflight go away on my watch. And I’m not going to let it flounder because we pursued a path that we couldn’t sustain.

We have to get out of the business of owning and operating low Earth orbit transportation systems and hand that off to the private sector, with sufficient oversight to ensure the safety of our astronauts. American companies and their spacecraft should send our astronauts to the ISS, rather than continuing to outsource this work to foreign governments. That is what I am committed to and that is what we are going to do.

Along with supporting the ISS and commercial crew transportation, NASA will pursue two critical building blocks for our deep space exploration future — a deep space crew vehicle and an evolvable heavy-lift rocket. As you know, we have made a decision to base the new multi-purpose crew vehicle, or MPCV – our deep space crew module — on the original work we’ve done on the Orion capsule. We’re nearing a decision on the heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System, or SLS, and will announce that decision soon.

Our destinations for humans beyond Earth remain ambitious. They include: the Moon, asteroids, and Mars. The debate is not if we will explore, but how we’ll do it. The International Space Station is the centerpiece of our human space flight for the coming decade. Every research investigation and all of the systems that keep the ISS operational help us figure out how to explore farther from our planet and improve life here.

And we have a huge number of amazing science missions coming up. We’ll advance aeronautics research to create a safer, more environmentally friendly and efficient air travel network.

NASA is moving forward and making change because the status quo is no longer acceptable. President Obama has outlined an urgent national need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our competitors and create new capabilities that will take us farther into the solar system and help us learn even more about our place in it. NASA is ready for this grand challenge.

As we go into this Independence Day holiday weekend, my thoughts are on what it means to be an American and this great responsibility we have to our country. For those of us in public service, it is a commitment to serve our country. Thank you for your work and your dedication; we would not have this amazing, American space program if it were not for people like you. Have a wonderful and safe holiday and may God bless America!

Support the Campaign to Cut Waste

We live in a time of tight budgets. As responsible stewards of public resources, it is vitally important that we, as a federal agency, do our part to live within our means.

Most of us go through our personal budgets with a fine-tooth comb, looking for ways to cut waste and make our dollars go further. That’s what the federal government is doing right now. President Obama spoke today about the kinds of wasteful spending we should look to eliminate. You can watch the video here:


I would like to encourage all of you to do the same thing here at NASA. We are working hard to refine our day-to-day operations and get rid of wasteful spending. This is something we should do routinely anyway, but it is more important than ever as we find new ways to do more with less.

I want to hear from you. Are there things we can do to cut out wasteful spending? Are there programs, websites or facilities we can consolidate or operate more efficiently? If you have ideas, please contact your manager. Thank you for your commitment to making NASA a great place to work and the best agency in the federal government.

Charlie B

Memorial Day Message

On Memorial Day, we remember and honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. And we also look to the future. To the ways we can honor their legacies and to the ways they have given us strength and help propel us into that future even as we cherish their memories.

NASA is in the future business. For more than 50 years, we’ve helped to bring things into reality that were just dreams. It’s a dangerous business we do – this exploring space – it always has been and always will be. Each time men and women board a spacecraft, their actions carry great risk along with the opportunity for great discoveries and the chance to push the envelope of our human achievement.

We will always honor the Apollo 1, STS-51L Challenger and STS-107 Columbia crews, as well as other members of the NASA family who lost their lives supporting NASA’s mission of exploration. We thank them and their families for their extraordinary sacrifices in the service of our nation.

The Marine Corps was my life for 34 years. It will always be a part of me. Along the way I served with and commanded many fine Marines and sailors, some of whom lost their lives serving this nation. I remember them all and ask that you remember and honor all our military members on this occasion of Memorial Day.

I joined the military to follow in the footsteps of my father and uncles, who had served in World War II, and to be part of something larger – to do something for my country and be involved on a national scale.

I am privileged to have served with so many fine men and women, who took their military training and applied it to NASA and other agencies and organizations to help create a future that was not only free, but expanded horizons for people across the globe.

To friends and family of service members lost in combat, we honor your great sacrifice. To those of you still serving or who have served, I know you carry with you the same large debt I do to our colleagues who have made the ultimate sacrifice and enriched our lives through their work.

It’s my honor as NASA administrator to help our nation maintain its leadership in space and to push the limits of human experience. National service is about serving that ideal of our nation — that we do big things – things that benefit the whole world. The highest compliment we can pay those who have died for our country is to take action today to keep unfolding the future for which they fought and died.

As we gather with family and friends on Memorial Day, we celebrate the blessings of our hard-won freedom and remember those who made it possible. I wish you a safe and enjoyable holiday.

Reaching for New Heights

It is hard to imagine that just 50 years ago, a young and vibrant President challenged a worried nation to reach for the seemingly impossible goal of landing humans on the moon and returning them safely to Earth. I was a teenager when President John F. Kennedy delivered his charge to Congress and the American people, but those words sparked my imagination, as they did for the millions of others who watched.

We recently completed the construction of the International Space Station and today we stand at the door to closing the incredible 30 year Space Shuttle Era – a great adventure of unprecedented international cooperation in low Earth orbit. The words of President John Kennedy 50 years ago today are at this time so appropriate: “…the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take.”

He added, “Now it is time to take longer strides–time for a great new American enterprise–time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth.”

And a NEW ERA began.

His inspiring words, calling on us to pursue exploration as a unified nation, to think beyond the moon and also envision the benefits of exploration for Earth, were part of a speech on “Urgent National Needs.”

Today, we have another young and vibrant President who has outlined an urgent national need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our competitors and create new capabilities that will take us farther into the solar system, and help us learn even more about our place in the universe.

President Barack Obama not only honors the Kennedy space legacy, but advances it for this new century with his vision for the next era of exploration and discovery. We stand at a moon shot moment once again, where we have a chance to make great leaps forward to new destinations, develop new vehicles and technologies, and new ways of exploring.

Our advantage now is that we have five decades of accomplishment and world leadership in space on which to build. The dreams President Kennedy helped make real for our world, and the dreams we still hold, may appear to be just out of reach but they are not out of our grasp.

Today, we pause to remember the speech that launched that first moon shot moment, but we should not focus on the past. Later today, we’ll announce an exciting new mission that represents an important down payment on President Obama’s exploration objectives. We’re making incredible progress in our goal to hand over low Earth orbit transportation services to our commercial partners, and yesterday, we announced an important next step in developing a successor to the space shuttle – a spacecraft that will carry our astronauts to new destinations away from the gravity of our home planet.

We are moving into a bright new future that builds on a challenge presented to us 50 years ago. It is important that we remember our history but we must always look forward toward a brighter future.

We want to express our thanks and appreciation to the entire Kennedy family for sharing this day with us, and I want to thank each of you who work every hour of every day to make NASA the world’s preeminent space program. What began 50 years ago as a desperate race to space is now an ongoing journey to reach for new heights and new knowledge in the stars.

Recognizing Excellence in STEM Education

It was my pleasure today to meet the 85 winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. It was an honor to host them at NASA Headquarters, since these educators are critical to our nation’s future in space and the scientific and technological breakthroughs of tomorrow.

This year’s award recognized teachers at the Kindergarten to 6th grade level, and that’s really where young minds start to grasp the important concepts of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and turn their sense of wonder into a sense of purpose.

STEM teachers bear a special responsibility, because it is so essential that we develop more technology leaders for tomorrow to out-innovate and out-build our competitors and maintain U.S. leadership in space. I remember the many teachers who were instrumental in my life as I grew up – not least my parents, who were lifelong educators. These dedicated public servants are on the front lines of tomorrow with the young people who are going to be carrying out our missions to new destinations in the solar system and creating the technologies we’ll need to live and work in space for long periods of time.

President Obama has committed to strengthen STEM education and prepare 100,000 effective science and mathematics teachers over the next decade. These commitments build on the President’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign to help bolster science and technology education in the classroom.

The President said, “America’s competitiveness rests on the excellence of our citizens in technical fields, and we owe these teachers a debt of gratitude for strengthening America’s prosperity.”

Congratulations to all the winners. Keep going!

To find out more about the awards and see a list of winners, visit:


Administrator Bolden speaks at NASA Headquarters to winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. (Photo credit: NASA/Paul Alers)

Thoughts On Today's Final Launch of Endeavour

Today’s final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour is a testament to American ingenuity and leadership in human spaceflight. As we look toward a bright future with the International Space Station as our anchor and new destinations in deep space on the horizon, we salute the astronauts and ground crews who have ensured the orbiter’s successful missions. The presence of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at the launch inspired us all, just as America’s space program has done for the past 50 years.

For more information about the shuttle program, visit:



NASA officials view space shuttle Endeavour (STS-134) as it launches skyward through the windows of Firing Room 4, Monday, May 16, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. During the 16-day mission, Endeavour, with Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson, Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Robert Vittori will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank and additional spare parts for Dextre. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

50th Anniversary of US Human Spaceflight

Fifty years ago today, Alan Shepard rocketed into space on America’s first manned space mission. That flight set our nation on a path of exploration and discovery that continues to this day.

May 5, 1961 was a good day. When Alan Shepard launched toward the stars that day, no American had ever done so, and the world waited on pins and needles praying for a good outcome. The flight was a great success, and on the strength of Shepard’s accomplishment, NASA built the leadership role in human spaceflight that we have held ever since.

I was a teenager at the time and just sorting out the field of study I wanted to pursue. Though I never dared dream it growing up in segregated South Carolina, I was proud to follow in Alan’s footsteps several years later and become a test pilot myself. The experiences I’ve had would not have been possible without Alan’s pioneering efforts. The inspiration that has created generations of leaders to enlarge our understanding of our universe and to strive toward the highest in human potential was sparked by those early achievements of our space program. They began with Freedom 7 and a daring test pilot who flew the ultimate experimental vehicle that May day 50 years ago.

Today we celebrate a first – and we celebrate the future. Project Mercury gave our country something new, including an astronaut corps and the space vehicles that began our human exploration efforts.

I encourage everyone to not only remember that remarkable achievement, but to be reminded that we are still driven to reach for new heights in human exploration.

At NASA, each first is grown and expanded until we make the next breakthrough. 50 years ago, we sent the first American into space. Today we have a space station flying 250 miles overhead right now on which men and women have lived continuously for more than 10 years.

With the same spirit of innovation and grit of those early days of space flight, we now move out on an exciting path forward where we will develop the capabilities to take humans to even more destinations in the solar system. With our support and assistance, commercial companies will expand access to that rarefied area Alan Shepard first trod for America, allowing NASA to focus on those bigger, more challenging destinations and to enable our science missions to peer farther and farther beyond our solar system.

We are just getting started. Our future, as an agency and as a country, holds many more firsts. We know the next 50 years will be just as exciting as the last – filled with discovery, innovation and inspiration.

NASA Family Affected by Storms

The severe weather that devastated parts of the country last week has hit close to home for the NASA family. Madison County, home to Huntsville and the Marshall Space Flight Center, was in the path of the storm. Many of our coworkers and friends are dealing with property damage and power outages and Robert Lightfoot and his leadership team at Marshall continue their efforts to account for all our NASA and contractor employees.

Although the damage in Alabama to homes and businesses is unimaginable, we can at least take solace in the fact that property can be replaced. Lives, however, cannot and the toll in human life is even more tragic. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who lost loved ones or friends.

We often talk about “the NASA family.” These are not just words. Everyone at NASA, regardless of their geographic location, pulls together to support each other in times like this. The employees and contractors at Marshall Space Flight Center proved this in 2005 when they opened their hearts, homes, and wallets to many of our Stennis and MAF families who found themselves homeless for a time. They joined with the NASA family around the country in sending relief items and supplies and also shared office space with many who worked from MSFC as the region slowly returned to normal. To the members of the NASA family in Alabama, we are standing with you now just as you did with your fellow NASA family members then.

I encourage everyone to visit http://www.fema.gov/rebuild/recover/howtohelp.shtm to see how you can offer support to the people in Alabama and other states across the country impacted by these storms. I also encourage every member of the NASA family to visit http://www.ready.gov for more information on how to prepare in case disaster strikes where you live.

Again, please keep the members of the NASA family impacted by these storms in your thoughts and prayers. Together, we will get through this tragedy.

New Partnership With USAID

Yesterday, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah and I signed a five-year memorandum of understanding to expand our agencies’ joint efforts to overcome international development challenges such as food security, climate change, and energy and environmental management. The agreement also encourages NASA and USAID to apply geospatial technologies to solve development challenges affecting the United States and developing countries.

Since 2003, NASA and USAID have worked together developing and expanding the SERVIR program. The program allows people in developing regions to use Earth observations for addressing challenges in agriculture, biodiversity conservation, climate change, disaster response, weather forecasting, and energy and health issues. We also partner on the LAUNCH forums that support science and technology innovators in the non-profit and private sectors. The program’s goal is improving innovations to achieve greater impact on sustainability issues. And, we’ve agreed to explore how efforts promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education can be advanced through joint support of programs such as Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE). GLOBE is a worldwide primary and secondary school-based science and education program funded by NASA and other U.S. agencies.

Technologies for NASA missions have long improved life here on Earth. Together with USAID, we’ll meet even more sustainable development challenges here on the ground, solving problems for the world community. As we explore space, we’ll also be exploring solutions to important health, nutritional and safety challenges in developing countries.

 USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, left, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden shake hands after signing a five-year memorandum of understanding, Monday, April 25, 2011, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The agreement formalizes ongoing agency collaborations that use Earth science data to address developmental challenges, and to assist in disaster mitigation and humanitarian responses. The agreement also encourages NASA and USAID to apply geospatial technologies to solve development challenges affecting the United States and developing countries. Photo Credit: (NASA/Paul E. Alers)

Today We Announce CCDev2

Here’s my statement about today’s announcement of the second round of Commercial Crew Development (CCDev2) awards:

“We’re committed to safely transporting U.S. astronauts on American-made spacecraft and ending the outsourcing of this work to foreign governments. These agreements are significant milestones in NASA’s plans to take advantage of American ingenuity to get to low-Earth orbit, so we can concentrate our resources on deep space exploration.”

To find out more, go to: