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: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/flyout/discovery.html

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:

https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=66333901

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: https://www.nasa.gov/budget

 

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:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/02/06/charles-boldens-story-segregated-south-low-earth-orbit

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: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasahqphoto/5396383560/

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:

http://reid.senate.gov/newsroom/pr_011911_kennedyinaugural.cfm

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:

https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=50674531

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:

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/sentiments.html

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

Thoughts on NASA's 2010 accomplishments

Despite many challenges, NASA accomplished extraordinary things this year. Our agency’s new direction, supported by President Obama and Congress, provides us a bold path forward to demonstrate even further the many things of which we are capable. We will build on the strong foundation of hard work over the years, and ensure continued success in the future. Here’s a link to my message about the wide range of achievements in 2010 for America’s space program. 

 

Thoughts on Today's SpaceX Launch

Now that NASA’s bipartisan Authorization Act of 2010 has been signed into law by President Obama — giving us a clear direction forward — I want to provide you with periodic updates about some of the exciting things happening in the agency. And one of the most exciting things taking place is the emergence of a strong commercial space industry that will, among other things, help provide vital support to the International Space Station and may one day carry astronauts into orbit.

Earlier today, one of our commercial partners, SpaceX, completed the first successful demonstration flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. While rocket launches from the Cape are considered a common occurrence to some, the historic significance of today’s achievement by SpaceX should not be lost. Just the launch is difficult enough, but successful launch, orbit, and intact reentry have been accomplished by only a few nations to date. The SpaceX mission today is the first time an entrepreneurial enterprise has joined this very elite company of space faring entities. This is the first in a new generation of commercial launch systems, and the successful demonstration flight is an important milestone in meeting the objectives outlined by the President and Congress. It once again shows how government and industry can leverage expertise and resources to foster a new and vibrant space economy.

Watch video of the launch here:

Over the past month, we’ve seen the runway inaugurated at Spaceport America in New Mexico, the opening of Orbital Sciences’ mission control center, and the first-ever license for commercial spacecraft re-entry granted by the FAA to SpaceX. Commercial space is fast becoming a reality and the capabilities NASA itself is starting to develop will help reshape our perspective on what is possible. These new explorers are to space flight what Lindbergh was to commercial aviation.

We’re witnessing the dawn of a new era whose ultimate result could be routine, safe access to space, with industry, academia, other agencies and other governments regularly sending payloads and people to low Earth orbit. That’s the goal. There remains a lot of work left to do in order to get there, but today was a dramatic step forward.