Protecting Planet Earth

Having looked back at Earth from outer space, I have seen just how fragile our home planet is – and I’m committed to doing everything I can to help protect it.

Yesterday, President Obama announced an ambitious Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and put us on a more environmentally sustainable course. At NASA, where one of our primary goals is to improve life for everyone on the planet, I’m pleased to say that we have a number of missions already supporting this important work through our robust Earth Science program.

Scientific data and insights are essential to help government officials, communities, and businesses better understand and manage the risks associated with climate change. NASA will continue to work with the Administration as we continue to lead in advancing the science of climate measurement and adaptation and the development of tools for climate-relevant decision-making by focusing on increasing the availability, accessibility, and utility of relevant scientific tools and information.


Earth observation and the science associated with it have been central to NASA’s mission for decades. Missions such as the Landsat series of satellites have been helping us establish a baseline of understanding and demonstrating the planet’s changes over the past 40 years. Recently launched missions such as Suomi/NPP will enhance and continue our long tradition of climate observation.


Earth Science is a strong priority of the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget request for NASA. The budget supports 7 new Earth Science missions on course to launch through 2020 after the launch of 4 new Earth science missions in 2014 — the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), and the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III (SAGE III) instrument to be launched to the International Space Station.


These cover a wide spectrum of Earth observations and join NASA’s 17 Earth science missions in space observing our planet’s atmosphere and oceans, its climate, weather patterns, and much more. The data we collect helps us understand our planet as a dynamic, unified system. It helps us predict natural and manmade disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires and recover from them. Our satellites will play a critical role in helping us assess the carbon emissions problem, its history, current status, and possible future so decision makers can make informed policy decisions.


NASA’s Earth Science program was established to use the advanced technology of our space program to understand and protect our home planet by using the view from space to study the Earth system and improve predictions of its changes. To meet this challenge, NASA promotes the full and open sharing of all data with the research and applications communities, private industry, academia, and the general public.


NASA was the first agency in the US, and the first space agency in the world, to provide full and open access in a timely manner, with no period of exclusive access to mission scientists, and at no cost.


NASA made this decision after listening to the user community, and with the background of the newly-formed U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the International Earth Observing System partnerships. Other U.S. agencies and international space agencies have since adopted similar open-access policies and practices.


In line with agencies across the government working on climate change issues, NASA will help disseminate scientific information and translate scientific insights into practical, useable knowledge that can help decision-makers anticipate and prepare for specific climate-change impacts.


All of our work in exploration has benefits here on Earth, by helping us understand and protect our natural resources, improve lives, and strengthen the economy. The President’s climate initiative provides one more opportunity for our missions in space to bring science and technology home to the American people in a meaningful way.

Launching American Astronauts from U.S. Soil

NASA is committed to launching our astronauts on American spacecraft from U.S. soil as soon as possible. Since the end of our Space Shuttle Program in 2011, NASA has relied on the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) for the launch and safe return of astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) aboard its Soyuz spacecraft. While our Russian counterparts have been good partners, it is unacceptable that we don’t currently have an American capability to launch our own astronauts.

That’s why the Obama Administration has placed such a high priority on correcting this situation. Three years ago, the Administration put forward a public-private partnership plan, the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), to ensure that American companies would be launching our astronauts from U.S. soil by 2015. It’s a plan that supports the U.S. human spaceflight program, boosts our economy, and helps create good-paying American jobs. If NASA had received the President’s requested funding for this plan, we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz transportation flights.

Because the funding for the President’s plan has been significantly reduced, we now won’t be able to support American launches until 2017. Even this delayed availability will be in question if Congress does not fully support the President’s fiscal year 2014 request for our Commercial Crew Program, forcing us once again to extend our contract with the Russians. Further delays in our Commercial Crew Program and its impact on our human spaceflight program are unacceptable. That’s why we need the full $821 million the President has requested in next year’s budget to keep us on track to meet our 2017 deadline and bring these launches back to the United States.

I am pleased with the progress our commercial crew providers are making. We now have an American company resupplying cargo to the ISS — launching from U.S. soil — and another company on track to join in this competition. I’m confident that our ambitious plan for U.S. crew transportation, if fully funded, will allow U.S. commercial companies to launch our astronauts in just a few short years.

I’m bullish on the American aerospace industry, and I’m committed to gaining the support of the U.S. Congress to fully fund our investments in these companies and bring untold benefits to our economy.

For more information about NASA’s partnerships with industry to launch cargo and astronauts to space, visit:

Made in America, Launched in America

Today we marked another milestone in our aggressive efforts to make sure American companies are launching resupply missions from U.S. shores. Our NASA-SpaceX team completed another successful berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo module to the International Space Station (ISS) following its near flawless launch on the Falcon-9 booster out of Cape Canaveral, Florida Friday morning. Launching rockets is difficult, and while the team faced some technical challenges after Dragon separation from the launch vehicle, they called upon their thorough knowledge of their systems to successfully troubleshoot and fully recover all vehicle capabilities. Dragon is now once again safely berthed to the station.

I was pleased to watch the launch from SpaceX’s facility in Hawthorne, CA, and I want to congratulate the SpaceX and NASA teams, who are working side by side to ensure America continues to lead the world in space.

A little more than one year after the end of the Space Shuttle Program, our American industry partner, SpaceX, began resupplying the space station with cargo launched from our shores – and they’re on schedule to make at total of 12 resupply missions. Just last week, Orbital Sciences successfully test fired the engines of their Antares rocket, that will power a planned resupply test flight later this year from America’s newest spaceport in Wallops Island, Virginia.

Even as commercial cargo launches settle into a regular pattern, we continue to work hard on the Commercial Crew Program and the capability to once again launch our astronauts to space from U.S. soil with American companies. Our three partners – – SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada — continue to mark milestones toward this capability, and we are confident that within the next few years, we will be reporting a new series of human space launches to low Earth orbit, part of our ongoing efforts to reach farther in space.

Industry’s success in developing new space transportation systems is enabling NASA to focus on President Obama’s goals of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s. We continue to develop the space technologies to make these missions possible even as we marvel at the ingenuity of our commercial partners in taking us to low Earth orbit on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, all of this progress could be jeopardized with the sequestration ordered by law to be signed by the President Friday evening. The sequester could further delay the restarting of human space launches from U.S. soil, push back our next generation space vehicles, hold up development of new space technologies, and jeopardize our space-based, Earth observing capabilities.

In spite of this threat to our progress, however, we must remember that all of our investments in space are creating good jobs here on Earth and helping to inspire young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. As SpaceX demonstrated again today, tomorrow’s exploration missions are happening right now, and tomorrow’s innovators will have many paths from which to choose and many exciting NASA missions of which they can be a part.

To learn more about NASA’s commercial space program, visit:

NASA Creates Space Technology Mission Directorate

Today, we are formally announcing the creation of a new NASA organizational entity — the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). This new Mission Directorate is an outgrowth of President Obama’s recognition of the critical role that space technology and innovation will play in enabling both future space missions and bettering life here on Earth. For him this has been a consistent point of emphasis from the campaign to today. The directorate will be a catalyst for the creation of technologies and innovation needed to maintain NASA leadership in space while also benefiting America’s economy.

The Space Technology Mission Directorate will develop the crosscutting, advanced and pioneering new technologies needed for NASA’s current and future missions, many of which also benefit America’s aerospace industries, other government agencies, and address national needs. NASA will focus leadership responsibility for the existing Space Technology Program in the mission directorate, improving communication, management, and accountability of critical technology investment activities across the agency.

A robust technology development program is vital to reaching new heights in space — and sending American astronauts to new destinations like an asteroid and Mars. A top priority of NASA is to invest in cross-cutting, transformational technologies. We focus on collaboration with industry and academia that advances our nation’s space exploration and science goals while maintaining America’s competitive edge in the innovation economy.

Associate Administrator Michael Gazarik will head the organization. He previously served as the director of the Space Technology Program within the Office of the Chief Technologist. James Reuther will serve as the Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs in STMD. Reuther brings years of expertise in technology development, research and project management to oversee the nine programs within the mission directorate. Reuther previously served as deputy director of the Space Technology Program within the Office of the Chief Technologist. Dorothy Rasco, formerly the business manager of the Space Shuttle Program and the manager of the Space Shuttle Program Transition and Retirement, will join the directorate as the Deputy Associate Administrator for Management, assisting with the organization’s strategic planning and management.

The Space Technology Mission Directorate will employ a portfolio approach, spanning a range of discipline areas and technology readiness levels. Research and technology development will take place within NASA centers, in academia, and industry, and leverage collaboration with other government and international partners.

NASA’s Chief Technologist, Mason Peck, will continue to serve as my principal advisor and advocate on matters concerning agencywide technology policy and programs. Peck’s office will lead NASA’s technology transfer and commercialization efforts, integrating, tracking, and coordinating all of NASA’s technology investments across the agency. The Office of the Chief Technologist also will continue to develop strategic innovative partnerships, manage agency-level competitions and prize activities, as well as document and communicate the societal impacts of the agency’s technology efforts.

We are confident that STMD will greatly enhance NASA’s critical technology and innovation mission and the benefits it brings to our agency and the nation. Welcome to Michael Gazarik and the whole Space Technology Mission Directorate team. Visit to learn more about the new mission directorate.

Building a Strong Space Program

Last week in his State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized that we must make America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. At NASA, we depend on a strong US-based manufacturing capability for the success of our space and aeronautics programs.

We are building the next generation of rockets and a crew capsule that will take us farther into the solar system than we’ve ever been. And while we are focusing on deep space exploration and discovery, our American partners in the commercial space industry are building rockets to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) with cargo, and will soon be launching our astronauts into space from U.S. soil.

American businesses are building the most sophisticated space telescope ever made – the James Webb Telescope – and others fabricated the robotic dust-removal tool being used by Curiosity on Mars as this car-size rover begins drilling operations on the Red Planet. U.S. companies are building expandable space habitat technology to test on orbit on the ISS, and satellites that look back at Earth and inform us of severe weather events and changes in our climate. These firms are building unmanned aerial vehicles that fly through hurricanes and above wildfires, providing critical information to forecasters and first responders, as well as scientists on the ground who analysis this life-saving data.

U.S. manufacturing is a vital part of the American space and aeronautics programs. Although we work in space and fly through the air, every dollar of NASA’s budget is spent right here on Earth. A vibrant American manufacturing sector means a strong space program with plenty of future high-tech jobs for workers now – and into the future.

MissionSTEM: Building Our Nation's Talent Pool

In a recent blog, I noted the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s famous speech on the nation’s space effort. That speech is especially relevant today in light of NASA’s current work to launch humans to destinations in deep space. These missions will involve formidable challenges, but they will drive the creation of exciting new capabilities and unprecedented technologies. One thing is clear: such an awesome undertaking will require the best talent our nation has to offer, just as it did in 1962 when President Kennedy vowed that America would lead the world in space exploration.

In 2009, more than 1.5 million U.S. citizens earned bachelor’s degrees in this country, but only 4.4 percent were in engineering, and only 1.1 percent were in the physical sciences. Only 2.4 percent of our undergraduates earned degrees in computer sciences and only 1.0 percent in mathematics. When we consider the numbers of women and minorities earning degrees in these fields, the situation is even worse. According to the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 0.8 percent of all bachelor’s degrees earned in 2009 were by women in engineering and only 0.2 percent of those earned were by African Americans in engineering. These numbers are simply unacceptable for a world leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) like the United States.

At NASA, we take seriously our responsibility to help inspire our nation’s future scientists and engineers and provide them with experiences and opportunities. We also want the nation’s STEM degree programs to be more welcoming, supportive, and accessible to all students. With that in mind, this week we launch, a Web site created by our Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, to assist colleges and universities in strengthening their STEM programs. MissionSTEM informs our grantee universities and science centers and museums of their EO compliance responsibilities, but it goes far beyond compliance. The Web site also will connect NASA with its grantees, professional STEM organizations, and other interested stakeholders, to creatively address issues such as recruitment and retention of diverse students. It will serve as a conduit for information-sharing on topics of common interest, such as promising practices to lead educational institutions that help create more inclusive learning environments and more broadly diverse student bodies.

Where will we find our future STEM talent? We will find it in every community, in every university and college, and in students of every socio-economic background. The talent is out there. It always has been. I am confident that American students have the intelligence, curiosity, and tenacity to excel in STEM fields. We, as a nation, must commit to encouraging and supporting them to pursue their dreams. Take a few minutes to look at and see how you can help foster the future talent for America’s STEM workforce.

Working with Industry Key to NASA's Future

Today I had the pleasure of meeting with two groups of workers in Alabama that are critical to ushering in NASA’s new era of spaceflight. First, I met with one of NASA’s key commercial partners — the team at United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Alabama. I went there to talk about the progress we are making to return NASA space launches to U.S. soil, develop the next generation of spacecraft that will take us farther than ever before, and continue our cutting edge science missions.

Just last month, NASA announced that ULA has completed the fifth and final milestone for its Commercial Crew Development Round 2 agreement with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

With the completion of these milestones, ULA establishes a technical foundation for potentially certifying its Atlas V rocket for crewed missions. It also marks the development of the design criteria for the rocket’s emergency detection system, which would allow crew members to escape if something were to go wrong with either the launch vehicle or spacecraft.

The development of a commercial crew industry is critical for NASA because it will ensure we launch American astronauts from U.S. soil, fueled by American ingenuity, American companies and American workers. This new way of doing business will also reduce the cost of missions to low Earth orbit while allowing NASA to focus our resources on deep space missions back around the moon, to an asteroid and eventually to Mars.

The other team I met with is hard at work on doing just that. Just down the road from ULA at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, NASA workers are developing our Space Launch System that will provide an entirely new capability for deep space human exploration.

Designed to be flexible for launching payloads and spacecraft, including NASA’s Orion spacecraft that will take humans beyond low Earth orbit, SLS will enable the agency to meet the Obama Administration’s goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s.

My visits to ULA and Marshall gave me a chance to see NASA’s new era in spaceflight taking shape. And more importantly, I got to meet some of the exceptional men and women who are bringing it to life.

American Ingenuity at Its Best

With a big splash in the Pacific Ocean today, we are reminded that American ingenuity is alive and well and keeping our great nation at the cutting edge of innovation and technology development. Just a little over one year after we retired the Space Shuttle, we have completed the first cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. Not with a government owned and operated system, but rather with one built by a private firm – an American company that is creating jobs and helping keep the U.S. the world leader in space as we transition to the next exciting chapter in exploration.

Congratulations to SpaceX and the NASA team that supported them and made this historic mission possible. With the successful return of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule – the first of at least 12 cargo resupply missions – we’ve brought space station resupply missions back to American soil. Under President Obama’s leadership, NASA initiatives are helping develop a robust U.S. commercial space transportation industry with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the space station and low Earth orbit. In addition to cargo flights, NASA’s commercial space partners also are making progress toward launch of our astronauts from the U.S. again in just a few years.

A new era of space exploration is underway, with the commercial spaceflight milestones like we see today, and the recent opening of the nation’s newest American spaceport in Virginia, from which Orbital Sciences will launch its space station resupply missions. NASA’s other commercial partners like Sierra Nevada, Boeing, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance are making progress on an array of systems and technologies to open the next generation of low Earth transport to more users.

By allowing the private sector to take over routine transportation to the space station and other low-Earth orbit destinations, NASA can focus on the things that are too big for any one company to do right now — send our astronauts back around the Moon, to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. The Space Launch System that will carry astronauts once again to deep space and the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle in which they’ll travel are also making great progress, and in 2014, partnering with our prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, we’ll test fly Orion out to the reaches of space where the Apollo astronauts once traveled.

However, in order to focus on these deep space missions, we must have a successful partnership with private industry to take our astronauts and their cargo to the International Space Station. This is critically important to insource jobs, stimulate the economy and continue to bring crew and cargo launches back to U.S. soil, ensuring that American companies are transporting our astronauts and their supplies.

With today’s mission, we’ve closed the loop and demonstrated that American industry is ready to step up to the plate and meet our needs for transport to low Earth orbit. This work will transform our relationship to space, save money and create jobs. America remains the leader in space and technology development. A driving force toward a bright and innovative future for this nation, and an inspiration for generations to come. And we’ve just begun our march to the future.

The Next Era of Space Exploration Has Begun

Over the past few days, we’ve taken significant steps to implement America’s ambitious new space exploration plan, with progress made on our deep space exploration program, the rollout of another commercial rocket, and discoveries on Mars that will guide our way on future missions to the Red Planet with U.S. astronauts.

Today, we announced contract awards to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of an advanced booster for the Space Launch System (SLS) — the rocket that will launch humans on missions of deep space exploration. The companies selected will develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts that will inform our work on this crucial system that will help us reach those destinations farther in our solar system.

The initial 77-ton (70-metric-ton) SLS configuration will use two 5-segment solid rocket boosters similar to those that helped power the space shuttle to orbit. The evolved 143-ton (130-metric-ton) SLS vehicle will require an advanced booster with more thrust than any existing U.S. liquid- or solid-fueled boosters. These new initiatives will demonstrate and examine advanced booster concepts and hardware demonstrations during a 30-month period.

The Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle in which astronauts will travel to these deep space destinations recently completed a set of tests to simulate various water landing scenarios to account for different velocities, parachute deployments, entry angles, wave heights, and wind conditions the spacecraft may encounter when landing in the Pacific Ocean. The next round of water impact testing is scheduled to begin in late 2013 using a full-sized model that was built to validate the flight vehicle’s production processes and tools. In 2014, Orion will make its first test flight to simulate re-entry from a lunar mission. As the next class of astronauts is selected, NASA continues to ensure they will be able to travel to low Earth orbit as well as other destinations farther into our solar system.

However, in order to focus on these deep space missions, we must have a successful partnership with private industry to take our astronauts and their cargo to the International Space Station. This is critically important to insource jobs, stimulate the economy, and bring crew and cargo launches back to U.S. soil, ensuring that American companies are transporting our astronauts and their supplies.

Today’s rollout of Orbital Sciences’ Antares test vehicle to the launch pad at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia marks yet another milestone in the development of the commercial cargo resupply program. Next Sunday in Florida, SpaceX plans to launch the first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station, marking the return of cargo launches to America’s shores.

We look forward to Orbital soon joining SpaceX in regular service missions to the space station and helping our international crews continue the breakthroughs in human health and technology that will help us travel farther.

In addition to this extraordinary progress, all eyes continue to be on Mars — and the Curiosity rover does not disappoint. Last week, we announced an incredible new finding — one of many to come that we know will transform our understanding of the Red Planet and help pave the way for human landings there.

Curiosity has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. Such a running stream could have provided an environment hospitable to life. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence — images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels — is the first of its kind. During the two-year prime mission of the rover, researchers will use Curiosity’s 10 instruments to investigate whether other areas in Gale Crater have ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. All of this furthers scientific discovery, but also paves the way for human exploration in the not-too-distant future.

It’s been a great few days, but we’ve only just begun to carry out the ambitious exploration plan to which President Obama and Congress have agreed, positioning America to continue to lead the world in space and changing the way we see our home planet.

50th Anniversary of President Kennedy's Speech at Rice University

Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s “Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort,” when the young president shifted our efforts in space from low to high gear. In proclaiming, “We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy propelled our space program to the forefront of American culture and consciousness, galvanizing an historic effort on which we continue to build today.

Accomplishing Kennedy’s goals, both tangible and intangible, we have taken on his vision to create new challenges and now reach toward new capabilities and destinations. Neil Armstrong first left humanity’s footprint on the moon, and more importantly helped raise the “banner of freedom and peace,” fulfilling Kennedy’s vow to “not see [space] governed by a hostile flag of conquest.”

And we now stand on Armstrong’s shoulders to create a sustainable vision for the future exploration of space. Much like those aboard the Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 10 missions cleared the path for Apollo 11 and Armstrong to land on the moon, our Curiosity rover on Mars is clearing the path for humans – Americans – to land on Mars. Our space program has developed new technologies that made human expansion into the solar system a reality. It created a global enterprise, now spinning off into the private sector, which continues to advance our nation and our world.

We realize now as we did then that we are not just on a mission to discover the universe; we are on a mission to discover ourselves. As astronaut Bill Anders, one of the first three humans to see the far side of the moon, put it, “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.” We cannot forget that the purpose of space exploration is to make life on Earth better, even as we “increase our knowledge and unfold our ignorance,” as Kennedy said, and as we continuously raise the bar of human achievement.

As Kennedy hoped for greater achievements in science and education, in culture, and for peace, he could not have foreseen the degree to which we have unfolded our ignorance. He envisioned “new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school.”

There are literally thousands of examples of exploration technology being adapted for life on Earth, and a few areas where we have surpassed Kennedy’s greatest dreams: artificial hearts; retrofit systems that convert gas-powered vehicles into gas-electric hybrids, used in such trucks as mail delivery trucks for the U.S. Postal Service; health and fitness monitoring technology capable of measuring and recording vital signs of soldiers, first responders, professional athletes, and consumers seeking to get in shape; and parachutes capable of rescuing entire planes.

Our fleet of Earth observation satellites track hurricanes and wildfires and are able to analyze landslide motion and keep watch on agricultural fields. They provide continuity of data over the long term to help us see how our planet continues to change as a unified system. Our research on the International Space Station has helped us understand processes such as bone and muscle loss especially applicable to our senior citizens.

All this innovation has saved countless lives and billions of dollars, all the while creating thousands of jobs.

And we continue to reach higher. We have opened a new door to commercial space, for instance, helping facilitate a new space transportation industry to low Earth orbit.

Today, to “organize and measure the best of our energies and skills,” as Kennedy charged us, we’re doing things like landing that small SUV-size rover on Mars, now transmitting high definition images and information, which will lead to a better understanding of the Martian environment and the different ways Mars and Earth evolved. By 2018 we will launch our new James Webb Space Telescope, which will serve as our eye in the sky, peering deeper into the universe than ever before.

We’re building our Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket in history, and Orion, the new multi-purpose vehicle crew capsule, which will lead to the first-ever crewed missions beyond the low Earth orbit and the Moon into deep space. President Obama charged us with increasingly difficult challenges, beginning with sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by the mid-2030s. The journey there will be full of discoveries and new technological breakthroughs.

So while President Kennedy christened our sails on the new sea of space exploration, our work is far from done. Thanks to President Obama, this generation’s young president, we are witnessing a christening of a rejuvenated space program, where we will traverse previously untouched terrain, learning from our past and building on it to forge a bright future.

To watch President Kennedy’s historic speech, visit: