Thoughts on 30 Years of the Space Shuttle

30 years ago today, Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center for the very first time. In a flight that lasted 54 hours, NASA proved an amazing piece of technology. For 30 years, the best workforce in the world has launched 133 Shuttle flights, dedicated to making each better than the last.

Administrator Bolden Addresses the Crowd

I want to thank each and every person who has ever been part of the shuttle workforce over the years for your significant contribution to this American accomplishment. You’ve helped make the world a better place and should take pride in that. Today belongs not just to the 360 men and women who have flown on the shuttle, but to all of you who have helped their missions to succeed.

Your work means a great deal to me personally. Those of us who have flown the shuttle put our lives in your hands each time we flew, and I never doubted that all of you on the ground, in launch and mission control, in orbiter processing, in every phase of the program, were absolutely dedicated, and among the most skilled and committed people I have ever known.

The shuttle has provided this nation with many firsts, with many proud moments, and it has helped the United States to lead the world in space exploration. Over three decades, this flagship program has become part of the fabric of our nation’s history. It’s helped us improve communications on Earth and to understand our home planet better. It’s set scientific satellites like Magellan and Ulysses speeding on their missions into the solar system and launched Hubble and Chandra to explore the universe.

The shuttle program has given us tremendous knowledge about a reusable spacecraft and launch system from which future commercial systems will benefit. It’s enabled construction of the International Space Station, our foothold for human exploration, which is leading to breakthroughs in human health and microgravity research. And it’s provided “first ever” astronaut flight and command opportunities for women and minorities.

We’ll never forget the crews of Challenger and Columbia. Many of us counted them as our personal friends, and their achievements will live on in the spirit of perseverance and grit and hope in which they lived and worked. They were all true heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country.

The human spaceflight program will continue with astronauts living and working on the International Space Station for at least 10 more years. We wouldn’t have been able to build that orbiting outpost without the shuttle. We wouldn’t have established that model of global cooperation that serves as a guidepost for how we can work together toward the greater things of which we are capable as human beings.

With the last flight of Atlantis in June, the shuttles stop flying, but they don’t stop inspiring, and they don’t stop being part of the fabric of America. Three museums and one NASA Center will have a shuttle orbiter to continue to tell the story of human spaceflight and American accomplishment.

There were many worthy institutions who requested an orbiter and far too few to go around. But millions of Americans and people from around the world will continue to learn from these amazing vehicles and the stories of their crews and their missions in their new homes.

The shuttle’s retirement is bittersweet for us, but I am also very excited about our future. A future that is bright and open to us because of the shuttle program. We could not be reaching for new heights and developing the next generation of capabilities without the technological breakthroughs of the shuttle and the many lessons learned that we will carry forward. Our commitment to human spaceflight is steadfast, and with this amazing workforce, we will continue to lead the world in human space exploration and discovery.


For more information about other shuttle program artifacts that are available to museums and libraries, visit:


NASA also is offering shuttle heat shield tiles to schools and universities that want to share technology and a piece of space history with their students. Schools can request a tile at:


For a map of the future locations for the orbiters and shuttle artifacts and for more information on visiting the facilities, visit:


For more information about NASA’s placement of the space shuttle orbiters, visit:


For information about the Space Shuttle Program, visit:


Keeping America on the Cutting Edge of Clean Energy Technology

In his remarks earlier this week to students at Georgetown University here in Washington, the President outlined his strategy for a secure energy future. He said the United States needs to “change the way we generate electricity in America – so that it’s cleaner, safer, and healthier…we also know that ushering in a clean energy economy has the potential to create an untold number of new jobs and new businesses – jobs that we want right here in America.”

Through your investments in NASA, we’re already leading this charge.

NASA continually develops new technologies that enable capabilities for our missions, now and in the future. Many of these technologies “spinoff” into our daily lives here on Earth. Some are commonplace, like wireless headsets for telephones and video games. Others are less well known, like new energy systems that will reduce our dependence of foreign oil.

As NASA plans for astronaut-explorers to live in harsh environments at distant destinations, we’ve had to think of all the things we’ll need for our human outposts: food, water, shelter and, of course, energy.

Given the extreme distance of the journey to Mars and the inability to restock supplies, Mars explorers will need to be able to “live off the land” as much as possible. They will need an energy source that is portable, sustainable, efficient and long-lasting. That’s the challenge we gave engineers a decade ago. They’ve met it, and more.

Thanks to the creative thinking of one of the engineers on the project team, a successful innovative energy business was created, now employing people in California who make clean, efficient energy fuel cell systems available commercially across America.

K.R. Sridhar was director of the Space Technologies Laboratory at the University of Arizona when NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley asked him to develop a solution for helping sustain life on Mars. Sridhar’s team created a fuel cell device that could use solar power to split Martian water into oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for use as fuel for vehicles. Sridhar saw potential for another application, though. In 2001, Sridhar’s team shifted focus to develop a commercial venture exploring the possibility of using its NASA-derived technology in reverse — creating electricity from oxygen and fuel.

Conventional fuel cell technology features expensive, complicated systems requiring precious metals like platinum as a catalyst for the energy-producing reaction. Sridhar’s group believed it had emerged from its NASA work with innovations that could result in an efficient, affordable fuel cell capable of supplying clean energy wherever it is needed.

Sridhar’s team founded Ion America and opened research and development offices on the campus of the NASA Research Park at Ames. In 2006, the company successfully demonstrated a 5-kilowatt (kW) fuel cell system. Now called Bloom Energy and headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., with more than 250 employees, the company has unveiled its NASA-inspired technology to the world.

Bloom Energy’s ES-5000 Energy Server employs the planar solid oxide fuel cell technology Sridhar’s team originally created for the NASA Mars project. At the core of the server are square ceramic fuel cells about the size of old fashioned computer floppy disks. Crafted from an inexpensive sand-like powder, each square is coated with special inks (lime-green ink on the anode side, black on the cathode side) and is capable of producing 25 watts –enough to power a light bulb. Stacking the cells, with cheap metal alloy squares in between to serve as the electrolyte catalyst, increases the energy output: a stack about the size of a loaf of bread can power an average home, and a full-size Energy Server with the footprint of a parking space can produce 100 kW, enough to power a 30,000-square-foot office building, or 100 average U.S. homes.

The Energy Servers design allows the system to use natural gas, any number of environmentally friendly biogasses created from plant waste, or methane recaptured from landfills and farms. According to Bloom, the process is about 67-percent cleaner than that of a typical coal-fired power plant when using fossil fuels and 100-percent cleaner with renewable fuels. The server can switch between fuels quickly and does not require an external chemical reformer or the expensive precious metals, corrosive acids, or molten materials required by other conventional fuel cell systems.

This sort of transfer of NASA-developed technology, from a space mission to a successful private business, is just one example of how America’s space program will help our country out-innovate the world while tackling the challenges of clean, sustainable energy for future generations. Through NASA technologies, we can win the future.


In his State of the Union address, President Obama said, “What America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.”

Nobody knows that better than those of us associated with NASA. Spaceflight today would not exist without the spark of innovation that drove us to build rockets and computers and robots. And small businesses helped us achieve our greatest missions.

Small businesses have always been an integral part of NASA. Small businesses have built parts for launch vehicles and planetary science missions, they help us manage our facilities and our data and help keep our organization running smoothly. Small business is crucial not only to NASA, but to the nation. And federal procurement opportunities for women, minority, veteran-owned and small businesses are critical to the economy and to sustaining economic development.

Today I am in Huntsville, Alabama, home to the Marshall Space Flight Center. I’m at Marshall to salute the center for its strong commitment to expanding opportunities for small businesses, and present them with an award for managing the most effective small business program in the agency. In 2010, NASA awarded approximately $2.3 billion directly to small businesses, an increase of almost 15 percent from the year before. NASA’s large, prime contractors awarded an additional $2 billion in subcontracts to small businesses.

Small businesses create jobs and power our economy. In fact, small businesses created 64 percent of the net new jobs in America over the past 15 years. And small business hire 40 percent of the high tech workers in the U.S. Small businesses are often started by people with an innovative product, a creative solution or just a passion for something. We are trying to change the way we do business at NASA, and we need the help of small business to get there. We need the energy and ideas that come from small business owners and their employees; we need their entrepreneurial spirit and innovation.

The President is urging government agencies to meet the combined goal of 23% for all federal contracting with small businesses, as well as specific goals for underserved small business groups that, for too long, have been left behind. NASA is working to help the Federal Government not only meet this standard, but also surpass it.

But partnering with small business is about more than reaching that goal. It’s about bringing the innovation and ideas of small businesses into the fold. It’s a larger effort to diversify our procurement and make the business of the federal government reflect the many perspectives of our entrepreneurs and make our procurement portfolio continue to be representative of small businesses.

Investment in space exploration has long pushed the boundaries of our nation’s technical capabilities. And we’ve succeeded with the help of our innovative small business partners.

Discovery's Final Flight

Today, the world watched the space shuttle Discovery launch on her final voyage to space. After 39 successful missions, counting the one begun today, Discovery has a rich history in human spaceflight. I can’t tell you all her wonderful stories, but she has been linked to many milestones. Go here to read about Discovery’s career in detail:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other NASA management watch the launch of space shuttle Discovery (STS-133) from the firing room at Kennedy Space Center, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Discovery, on its 39th and final flight, is carrying the Italian-built Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM), Express Logistics Carrier 4 (ELC4) and Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

It was my honor to fly aboard Discovery on the STS-31 mission in 1990 when she brought the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit for us. And on STS-60, when Sergei Krikalev, the first Russian to fly on an American spacecraft, was a crewmember. Discovery also was the orbiter for the final Shuttle/Mir docking mission and, after tragic losses, gave us hope when we returned to flight after the shuttle Challenger and Columbia accidents. The thousands of workers who have made Discovery’s storied legacy possible deserve our deepest gratitude.

While today is bittersweet for us, we are also excited about what the future holds for humans in space. Over the past months, we’ve seen many milestones in the commercial space industry that will help us bring humans to space in the future. Commercial space is fast becoming a reality and the capabilities NASA itself is starting to develop will reshape our perspective on what is possible. We’re looking at once in a lifetime opportunities to create the future. Let’s keep that in mind as we celebrate the history we have made and shape it anew.

Godspeed to the crew of Discovery on this tough bird’s final voyage!

Watch video of the launch here:

NASA's FY 2012 Budget Request

Earlier today, President Obama released his budget for fiscal year 2012. His plan asks us to live within our means in order to invest in the future. NASA accepts this challenge because we know that, in order to win the future, we must out-educate, out-innovate and out-build the rest of the world.

Here are a few highlights from NASA’s portion of the President’s budget:

• $18.7 billion for fiscal year 2012, which will require us to live within our means so we can make investments in our future.

• The budget supports all elements of our bi-partisan Authorization law enacted last year, including a reinvigorated path of innovation, technological development and scientific discovery.

• It includes $4.3 billion for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs, $5 billion for science, $3.9 billion for future exploration systems (includes $1.8 billion for a Space Launch System (SLS) and $1 billion for a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV); and $.8 billion for commercial crew) and $569 million for aeronautics research.

• The International Space Station will operate until at least 2020, allowing NASA to fully utilize it as a national laboratory for human health research and as a technology testbed.

• In these tight fiscal times, tough choices had to be made and NASA has prioritized funding for its partnership with the commercial space industry to facilitate crew and cargo transport to the station. Private companies will innovate to provide safe, reliable and cost effective access to low Earth orbit, and they will be encouraged to develop commercial low Earth orbit (LEO) destinations.

• NASA also will invest in the flight systems to take humans beyond low Earth orbit, including a deep space capsule (MPCV) and evolvable heavy lift rocket (SLS), and key research and technology to enable the long journeys.

• NASA’s science budget supports both new missions and the many space observatories and Earth observing systems successfully carrying out their work now.

• With the fiscal year 2012 budget request, NASA will continue its commitment to enhancing aviation safety and airspace efficiency, and reducing the environmental impact of aviation.

• NASA remains dedicated to developing the next generation of technology leaders through vital programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Despite the challenges ahead, this responsible budget sets ambitious but achievable goals that foster America’s continued leadership in space and science exploration. It’s important for us to remember that here at NASA we reach for new heights to reveal the unknown so the things we learn and the things we do benefit all humankind. We DO BIG THINGS, and by working together, we can win the future!

For more information, go to:


Thoughts on African Americans' Contributions to NASA

As we celebrate Black History Month across America, I want to send greetings to all and highlight the achievements of African Americans at NASA. Click play below to see my video message.

The White House is also publishing a series of blogs about the lives and achievements of African Americans in the Administration. Here’s a link to my contribution:

A Chance to Speak With Tomorrow's Leaders

A big part of NASA’s mission has always been to educate students and inspire the next generation of explorers, whether they’re astronauts, scientists or engineers. That mission has never been more important than right now. The President has challenged us to win the future, and to do that, we must win the race to educate our children.

I had the privilege today to speak to a great group of students at the MathScience Innovation Center in Richmond, Virginia. It’s always a pleasure to talk to young people. They are eager to create the future. These students know how important math and science is, and their teachers and parents know how important it is that they have a chance to learn and build skills in this area. Studying science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, opens up many diverse career opportunities and helps our country create a future that innovates to solve problems, create new technologies to meet our needs, and explore the boundaries of our solar system and beyond.

What students across the United States and the students I met with today from Albert Hill Middle School learn today will help us be globally competitive tomorrow. Today, the students built paper rockets. Tomorrow, they may be putting the final touches on a new design for a NASA rocket that carries a science payload or a crew of humans into the next great chapter of exploration.

The President’s call for us to win the future means we all need the skills and capabilities to stay competitive in the global economy. STEM education is not just about filling heads with knowledge. It’s about creating prosperity now and for future generations. As our commercial partners develop better and more cost effective ways for reaching low Earth orbit and we at NASA plan and design the missions that will explore our home planet in greater detail to reach for the outer solar system and beyond, good high-tech, high-paying jobs will continue to grow in the STEM fields. Students who study and prepare for the STEM fields will have the chance to take part in this whole universe of opportunities. As a result of their hard work and determination our country will be stronger and more competitive.

Here’s a great picture of me learning from the students:


Photo credit: NASA/Paul Alers

See this and other photos from the event at Flickr:

Thoughts on the President's State of the Union Address

Tonight, President Obama delivered a powerful State of the Union message to the nation. His focus on innovation, education and building are the foundations for our future success as a nation – and the key to economic recovery and long-term fiscal stability.

At NASA, we’re making contributions in all of these areas. Our education initiatives inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Our groundbreaking work on innovative technologies to solve some of the greatest challenges we face is why people turn to NASA for help in times of crisis, whether it’s firefighters in California or rescue workers in Chile trying to save trapped miners. And as we continue to maintain our world leadership in human spaceflight, we are working to help build the space transportation systems of tomorrow, incentivizing commercial companies to compete in the space marketplace and reducing our costs. Fifty years ago, another young President propelled a fledgling space agency on a bold, new course that would push the frontiers of exploration to new heights. The 21st Century course that President Obama has set our agency on will foster new industries that create jobs, pioneer technology innovation, and inspire a new generation of explorers through education – all while continuing our fundamental mission of exploring our home planet and the cosmos.

At NASA, we’re always reaching for new heights and hoping to reveal the unknown, so that what we do and what we learn will benefit our great nation. Tonight’s message of opportunity and inspiration will guide us as we reach even higher, building a better tomorrow and ensuring that we win the future for this generation and generations to follow.

A Day of Remembrance for a Great President

Today we recognize the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as president of the United States. While he is remembered for many things, one of his primary accomplishments was setting our nation on a path of unprecedented achievement. President Kennedy gave our Nation and NASA a great challenge. His vision and direction drove NASA to do what many thought was impossible. And we at NASA accomplished the task. President Kennedy therefore gave NASA its driving force, one that is as important today as it was then — to accomplish the seemingly unattainable using our unique talent, drive, and innovative skills.

It was my pleasure and honor today to travel to the U.S. Capitol with Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin to join with dozens of others in the historic rotunda to commemorate the occasion of President Kennedy’s inauguration. Vice President Biden spoke and there were many members of the Kennedy Administration on hand as well as members of the family. There were speeches and music and a lot of remembrance of the promise of those times.

I think NASA still carries forth the spirit of President Kennedy’s directive. Today, among many initiatives, we’re at the starting gate as we strive to reach an asteroid with humans, and also the moons of Mars and Mars itself. Our science missions are returning incredible amounts of information about destinations we could only dream about in the 1960s, and many more are poised to launch deep into our solar system and to peer beyond it. We have ten more years aboard the International Space Station in which we will make advances in human health research and make use of the unique microgravity environment to uncover the properties of materials that will help technology development on Earth.

Today’s event was a stirring reminder of what we can achieve when we set our sights on a goal that may be just out of reach today but not out of sight if we work hard for it.

Here is a link to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s remarks about how President Kennedy helped shape the future of exploration, science and technology in America:

And here’s a photo from this moving ceremony:

Image above: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, third from left, introduces EdwardMoore Kennedy III,
fourth from left, to NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin,left, and former NASA Astronaut Scott
Altman, second from left, asEdward’s mother Kiki Kennedy, wife of Edward M.
Kennedy Jr. and NASADeputy Administrator Lori Garver, right, look on at an event recognizing
the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy asPresident of the United States,
Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011 in the rotundaat the U.S. Capitol. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

See this and other photos from the event on Flickr

NASA Family Reaches Out After Tucson Tragedy

The thoughts and prayers of the entire NASA family continue to be with Congresswoman Giffords, her husband Mark Kelly, their family, and the families and friends of all who perished or were injured in Saturday’s senseless tragedy. Yesterday, we joined in a moment of silence with the President and First Lady, the crew of the International Space Station, and the American people to remember and honor those touched by this tragedy. Scott Kelly, Expedition 26 Commander on board the ISS and Congresswoman Giffords’ brother-in-law, spoke from orbit yesterday before leading the crew and NASA Mission Control in Houston in the moment of silence. You can hear his powerful comments here:

I know that many people are continuing to follow the news from Tucson closely, and we have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and goodwill from our fellow Americans in the aftermath of this heartbreaking event. If you are interested in sending a message of support or expressing your concerns for the Kelly family, you can post something on this message board we have set up:

Please continue to keep Congresswoman Giffords, Mark, Scott and all of the affected families in your thoughts and prayers.