Down-to-Earth Benefits of Space Exploration

“What does NASA do for me?” Countless people have asked me that question as the NASA administrator. It’s one I can answer easily – and one of the most important reasons is NASA spinoffs.

Finding homes for NASA technology beyond the space agency is part of our culture – it’s in our DNA. We have been transferring our technology to commercial companies since the very beginning of the agency. We also partner with industry, lending our expertise to help bring their innovations to market. These spinoffs result in products that improve and even save lives every day.

I feel confident saying you’re not too far from a NASA spinoff right now. Are you reading this on your phone? NASA helped develop the tiny, highly efficient video cameras in your device. It’s probably our single most ubiquitous spinoff technology, enabling high-definition video on the go and social media as we know it. But that’s not the only spinoff around you, or even in your phone. Every time your GPS app finds your location before offering you directions, it’s using software first developed at NASA.

We have countless spinoff examples of how investments in NASA pay dividends in the economy. The Apollo missions were expensive and challenging, but we’re still reaping the rewards here on Earth. Our new Spinoff 2021 publication tells more than 40 new stories of how NASA technologies have found uses beyond space. Each page represents at least one product for sale today. You – the public – benefit from not only those products but also the new ideas, companies, and jobs that come with them.

Spinoff 2021 highlights NASA innovations benefiting everyone from students to airplane passengers to assembly line workers and more. Here are a few highlights that stood out to me:

    • In this age of remote learning, a guided tour of Mars is more appealing than ever. We collaborated with Google to create a virtual reality tool, based on decades of Mars research, that allows students to follow in the path of the Curiosity rover, right from their computer, tablet, or smartphone.
    • The challenge of managing the organized chaos of airport ground operations, from fuel trucks to luggage handlers, has only grown as air travel has increased exponentially over the last few decades. Airport communication systems, however, were stuck in the past. We’re helping launch these systems into the digital age to help keep passengers safer and their flights on time.
    • In space, robots can’t rely on gravity to keep their footing. We turned back to Earth for inspiration and developed robot-gripping technology based on how geckos scale ceilings. Now that technology grabs circuit boards, solar panels, and other smooth parts on an assembly line.
    • PCBs (or polychlorinated biphenyls) were commonplace before the world realized they were toxic. But even decades after they were banned, the pollutant has proven hard to eliminate from the ecosystem – and the food chain. A NASA inventor drew inspiration from a drinking straw, inventing a tool that leaches PCBs from groundwater and the soil around it.

These spinoff success stories are only one piece of an ongoing process led by our Space Technology Mission Directorate. Our technology portfolio today has more than a thousand exciting innovations ready for enterprising companies or entrepreneurs to license and develop them into commercial products. As we gear up for 21st century exploration missions – NASA’s Artemis program, a sustainable presence on the Moon, and eventually landing humans on Mars – NASA will invent new technologies. They will become our spinoffs of tomorrow, leading to more wide-ranging benefits for everyone on Earth.

The redesigned 2021 NASA Spinoff publication features dozens of NASA innovations improving life on Earth.
The redesigned 2021 NASA Spinoff publication features dozens of NASA innovations improving life on Earth. Credit: NASA


Space Exploration Transcends All Terrestrial Borders

International collaboration in space exploration serves as an unparalleled and inspiring example of what humanity can do when it comes together to achieve a common goal for the common good. Our partnerships with the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Roscosmos aboard the International Space Station have led to an unprecedented continuous human presence in space for nearly 20 years. None of us could have done that alone.

Space exploration unites the world in a way no other activity can. With more and more emerging space agencies – there’s now 72 – this unity is a necessity in exploration as we learn from each other’s successes as well as failures. A prime example is this week’s United Arab Emirates ‘Hope’ Mars mission. Developed by the UAE, which is relatively young in its space program, the probe will be launched from Japan, bringing these nations together in exploration. This launch is the latest in a long-line of Mars attempts only a few nations can claim, and only two weeks ahead of our next Mars mission, the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.

Like Hope, NASA’s Artemis program is bringing nations closer together. We have our sights set on sustainable human exploration of the Moon, but we are not doing it alone. We are pleased and humbled by the overwhelming support Artemis has received from the international community. Our lunar program has fostered international cooperation through shared values that will benefit people around the globe as we prepare to send humans forward to the Moon and ultimately to Mars.

Just last week I executed the Joint Exploration Declaration of Intent with our friends in Japan, which describes their planned participation in Artemis. Last month, Canada announced its contract for the development of a robotic arm for the Gateway – a lunar outpost built by commercial and international partners. The Gateway will orbit the Moon and support missions to the lunar surface and beyond. ESA has received unprecedented levels of funding for its participation in the Artemis program, and we’re grateful for the strong support of these 22 European nations. They are contributing the European Service Module for our Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions and the ESA Council recently took action allowing for progress to continue on Europe’s contribution of the International Habitat and ESPRIT refueling module for the Gateway.

We are excited to continue working with our traditional international partners and we are equally eager to engage with as many emerging space agencies as possible. For example, the Australian Space Agency is already dedicating $150 million for its researchers and businesses to support the Artemis program.

The scope and nature of the Artemis program will build on our partnerships in low-Earth orbit and result in NASA leading the largest and most diverse international space effort in history to the Moon. I’m incredibly proud to work with innovative partners from the private sector and around the world to transform the dream of sustainable lunar exploration into reality.

Gateway concept
NASA’s concept image of the Gateway in orbit around the Moon with international contributions.

Readout: International Astronautical Congress (Day 1)

Administrator Jim Bridenstine kicked off the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, D.C., the morning of Oct. 20 with a keynote speech at the 70th IAC’s Members of Parliaments meeting. Bridenstine joined representatives from ESA (European Space Agency), France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), the United Arab Emirates Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) to discuss the challenges and opportunities emerging in space exploration, as well as share information about NASA’s Artemis program with parliamentarians from around the world.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks at the Members of Parliament meeting at the 70th International Astronautical Congress’s Members of Parliaments meeting. Photo Credit: NASA/Matthew Rydin

Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard joined senior space agency officials for a dinner the evening of Oct. 20, prior to the kickoff of the conference. Countries and space programs represented were Japan, Germany, UAE, Brazil, France and Russia, as well as the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. 

On Monday, Oct. 21, the IAC opening ceremony featured speeches by international dignitaries and a cultural and entertainment program for thousands of attendees from around the world. Bridenstine gave a speech on America’s impact on humanity’s progress in space and introduced Vice President Mike Pence, who delivered remarks on the outstanding contributions the United States has made in space exploration. 

Later in the day, the IAF World Space Award was presented to the Apollo 11 crew, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. Watch the opening ceremony here.

Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks during the opening ceremony of the 70th International Astronautical Congress, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Following the opening ceremony, Bridenstine participated in a Heads of Agency Plenary Session. He was joined by his counterparts from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Russian space agency Roscosmos, ESA and JAXA. The theme of the plenary was “Space Agencies: Challenges and Opportunities in a Changing Space Environment.” Watch the plenary here.

Pascale Ehrenfreund, incoming president of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), left, and current IAF President Jean-Yves Le Gall, second from left, facilitate a panel with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Johann-Dietrich Woerner, director general of ESA (European Space Agency), Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Sylvain Laporte, president of the Canadian Space Agency, Sergey Krikalev, executive director of Piloted Spaceflights for the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and S. Somanath, director of the Indian Space Research Organization’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, for the Heads of Agency Plenary of the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 21, 2019, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Following the Heads of Agency Plenary session, senior officials from Japan, Canada, Russia, ESA, and India joined Bridenstine for a press conference, which you can watch here

Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is seen during the Heads of Agency press conference of the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 21, 2019, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Later in the afternoon, Bridenstine met with students from around the world for the International Space Education Board Heads of Agency Interactive Session, taking questions from the students and discussing the importance of STEM education.

As a follow-up to the joint statement of intent signed by the Australian Space Agency (ASA) and NASA last month, and the announcement by  Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to commit $150 million (Australian dollars) for cooperation with NASA on the Artemis program, Bridenstine met with Karen Andrews, Australian Minister of Parliament and Minister of Industry, Science and Technology. They discussed implementing the funding for Artemis and other future opportunities for ASA-NASA cooperation.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks with the Karen Andrews, Australian Minister of Parliament and Minister of Industry, Science and Technology, during the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 21, 2019, in Washington. Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani


Why We’re Going to the Moon

When discussing plans to explore the Moon under our Artemis program, I often get asked a lot of “why” questions. As in – why go back to the Moon and not somewhere else? Why now? Why NASA? Or even, why explore at all?

There are many reasons to go back, or as you may have heard me say, go forward to the Moon. With Artemis, we’re going to explore more of the Moon than ever before, and this time, we’re planning to stay. We are traveling 250,000 miles to the Moon to demonstrate new technologies, capabilities and business approaches needed for future exploration of Mars, which can be as far as 250 million miles away from home.

With Mars as our horizon goal, we need to take steps to get there, and the Moon is the next logical one. Today, our astronauts are living 250 miles above us in low-Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station – something we’ve continued to do for almost 20 years. This is an incredible feat for humanity and international cooperation. If there’s an emergency on station though, we can have our crew home in a matter of hours. On and around the Moon, we will build on our experiences from station and learn to live and work days away from Earth. We need this step before we send astronauts on a mission to Mars, which can take years round-trip.

Science and technology will lead us there

We have successfully explored the Moon robotically for many years since humans last walked on the surface in 1972. We want to take what we’ve learned from missions like the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and couple that knowledge with new science investigations and technology demonstrations in new locations across the Moon.

Working with our partners, we will send a suite of new instruments to the lunar surface on commercial robotic landers to study the Moon and prepare for our human return. Our goal is to send the first woman and next man somewhere we’ve never been before: the lunar South Pole. We’re targeting this area for a landing by 2024 because we believe it is rich in potential resources including water. Finding those resources, successfully extracting them, and ultimately converting them into other uses will help us further our exploration into the solar system.

As we did with Apollo, we hope our exploration of the Moon will inspire a new generation – the Artemis generation – and encourage more students to pursue careers in STEM. We will need astronauts, scientists, engineers, and more as we push boundaries for humanity and explore the vast wonders of our universe for decades to come.

With our Artemis program, we will once again establish American leadership and a strategic presence on the Moon while also expanding our global impact here on Earth. Since we’re not going alone this time, we’ll use the Moon to broaden and strengthen our commercial and international partnershipsacross a variety of programs. Our partnerships are critical to ensuring we reach the surface by 2024 and establish sustainable exploration by 2028. Together, we will get ready to explore Mars in the 2030s.

Again, there are many reasons to go to the Moon, and these are the main drivers for why NASA is going. Need more info? In our latest episode of #AskNASA, Jim Green, the chief scientist here at NASA explains from his point of view why we are going, talks more about converting the ice in the poles into drinkable water and rocket fuel, and more. Take a look!


Readout: NASA Administrator Bridenstine’s Visit to Japan (Day 2)

On Wednesday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine continued his visit to Japan with a meeting hosted by 20 Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Diet members at the LDP Headquarters in Tokyo. The purpose of the visit was to brief key Japanese Diet members about the agency’s current activities and plans for future human space exploration. Following his remarks, the administrator answered questions from Diet members.

Watch Administrator Bridenstine’s speech to LDP members.

Following Bridenstine’s visit to LDP Headquarters, he participated in a press conference at the headquarters of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tokyo with JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa.

Bridenstine noted the exceptional international cooperation that currently exists on the International Space Station, highlighting Japan’s significant contributions to the program and congratulating JAXA on the recent successful launch of the of the HTV resupply vehicle.

Bridenstine reiterated NASA’s strong interest in enhancing cooperation with JAXA and highlighted its potential to play a critical role in the Artemis program, NASA’S innovative and sustainable exploration program, beginning with a mission to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

Watch the joint NASA-JAXA press conference.

The administrator then delivered a keynote at a luncheon of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan entitled Commercial Partnerships in Space Exploration. His remarks focused on the importance of NASA’s efforts in enabling a commercial marketplace in space.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan on Sept. 25, 2019.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan on Sept. 25, 2019.

After the luncheon, Bridenstine held a meeting with Yoshihide Suga, Chief Cabinet Secretary to the Prime Minister of Japan, and Hiroto Izumi, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan. The meeting focused on the 60-year history of space cooperation between the United States and Japan and the many areas in which Japan can make significant contributions to the Artemis program. The meeting was held at the official residence of the Japanese prime minister.

NASA Administrator Bridenstine presents a gift to Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary to the prime minister of Japan, on Sept. 25, 2019 at the Japanese prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo.
NASA Administrator Bridenstine presents a gift to Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary to the prime minister of Japan, on Sept. 25, 2019 at the Japanese prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo.

Later in the afternoon, Bridenstine met with Minister of Justice Katsuyuki Kawai, who is a long-time advocate within the government of Japan of U.S.-Japan cooperation in space exploration. They discussed U.S.-Japan human space flight cooperation, including the future of the space station and the important role Japan can play in the Artemis program.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is greeted on Sept. 25, 2019 by Katsuyuki Kawai, Minister of Justice for Japan.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is greeted on Sept. 25, 2019 by Katsuyuki Kawai, Minister of Justice for Japan.

The final meeting Wednesday was with Hiroaki Okuchi, Toyota President of Advanced R&D and Engineering Company. Okuchi briefed Bridenstine on a joint JAXA-Toyota pressurized lunar rover concept. Recognizing the importance that a lunar rover could have in supporting the Artemis program, JAXA is using toyota’s experience in automotive design to assess the technical feasibility of developing a pressurized lunar rover.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa and Toyota representative Hiroaki Okuchi meet at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Tokyo on Sept. 25, 2019.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa and Toyota representative Hiroaki Okuchi meet at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Tokyo on Sept. 25, 2019.

Readout: NASA Administrator Bridenstine’s Visit to Japan (Day 1)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine arrived in Tokyo Monday, Sept. 23, to hold discussions on the agency’s Artemis program with key Japanese government officials and sign a Joint Statement on Cooperation in Lunar Exploration.

Bridenstine was greeted by the Charge d’ Affaires ad interim, Joseph Young, at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. They spoke at length about NASA’s plan to return to the Moon under the Artemis program and the strategic partnership the United States and Japan enjoy in space activities. Young emphasized that the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo will work diligently to help cement Japan’s involvement in Artemis.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Charge d’ Affaires ad interim Joseph Young at the U.S. Embassy in Japan.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Charge d’ Affaires ad interim Joseph Young at the U.S. Embassy in Japan.

Later in the morning, Bridenstine was interviewed by the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun.

Following the interview, Bridenstine met with Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), to discuss future bilateral cooperation and JAXA’s potential participation in NASA’s Artemis program. They identified several areas in which the United States and Japan can extend scientific and technological cooperation to advance sustainable exploration of the Moon, including on the lunar Gateway and the Moon’s surface.

They also discussed the possibility of NASA collaboration on JAXA’s Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM) mission, and JAXA’s plans to launch CubeSats on NASA’s Artemis I mission. Read the Joint Statement on Cooperation in Lunar Exploration online at

Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine sign a Joint Statement on Cooperation in Lunar Exploration Sept. 24, 2019, in Tokyo.
Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine sign a Joint Statement on Cooperation in Lunar Exploration Sept. 24, 2019, in Tokyo.

Following the signing of the joint statement with JAXA, Bridenstine met with Koichi Hagiuda, minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology – the parent ministry of JAXA – to discuss Japan’s participation on the Gateway and Artemis lunar surface activities.

Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Minister Koichi Hagiuda in Tokyo.
Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Koichi Hagiuda, minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, met Sept. 24, 2019, in Tokyo to discuss Japan’s potential role in Artemis.

In the afternoon, Bridenstine met with Naokazu Takemoto, Minister of State for Space Policy. Bridenstine briefed Takemoto on the progress NASA has made in developing the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and lunar Gateway. They also had an in-depth conversation on space policy and the importance of expanding cooperation between the United States and Japan in space activities.Following the meeting with Takemoto, Bridenstine conducted two media interviews with NHK and NIKKEI.Later in the afternoon, Bridenstine held a meeting with Yoshiyuki Kasai, chairman of the Space Policy Commission (SPC) of Japan. They discussed the strategic importance of ongoing and future cooperation in space, including NASA’s Artemis program. The SPC is an external advisory body made up of members from the private sector and academia that provides advice on space matters directly to Japan’s prime minister.

The final event of the day was a speaking engagement at the University of Tokyo, where Bridenstine spoke to approximately 300 students and members of the media about the Artemis program and the importance of international partnerships in the U.S.-led effort to return to the Moon by 2024. Following his speech, he took questions from students on topics ranging from how Japan will contribute to the Gateway and lunar surface activities to NASA’s efforts to send humans to Mars.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks to students at the University of Tokyo Sept. 24, 2019.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks to students at the University of Tokyo Sept. 24, 2019.

Moon to Mars: Seeing Progress First-Hand

This week I had the pleasure of visiting NASA facilities in Louisiana and Alabama, where we are developing and manufacturing our powerful Space Launch System (SLS). This rocket will send astronauts aboard our Orion spacecraft to the Gateway under the Artemis program. Our new deep space transportation system is the backbone for lunar surface exploration and will pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

My first stop was NASA’s rocket factory, the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where we’re manufacturing the massive core stage for SLS. The core stage houses the avionics and computers for flight and stores the systems and fuel that will feed the rocket’s engines.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks to media and employees at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans Aug. 15, 2019, about progress on the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and the Artemis program.

It’s one thing to talk about progress, but another to see real flight hardware in person. The current unfinished SLS core stage is around 190-feet-long. And wow, is it impressive to see up close. Soon, its assembly will be complete and it will be a staggering 212 feet high, with a diameter of more than 27 feet.

Media saw both flight and test hardware, and we discussed the significant progress made to the core stage for the Artemis 1 mission. When we finish adding the last section, the engine section and the four RS-25 engines later this year, we’ll be ready for the green run test. After that, the first SLS will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with Orion and their first flight test around the Moon. Our launch date remains under review for this mission while we search for new leaders in our human spaceflight programs, but every day of progress brings us one more day closer to launch.

During our tour at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, I was joined by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee. At this stop, I announced this center, working with future commercial partners and experts from other centers, will lead development of a new Human Landing System Program. Staged from the Gateway in lunar orbit, this system will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

On Aug. 16, 2019, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will lead the Human Landing System Program. Bridenstine was joined by Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Representative Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee. The announcement was made in front of the 149-foot-tall SLS liquid hydrogen structural test article, currently being tested to help ensure the structure can safely launch astronauts on the Artemis lunar missions.

We focus on a ‘One NASA’ integrated approach that uses technical capabilities across many centers. Marshall has the right combination of expertise and experience to accomplish this critical piece of the mission, with support from other centers. NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston for example, manages other human spaceflight programs for deep space including the Gateway and Orion, but our Artemis program and Mars goals wouldn’t be possible without each of our centers providing their unique capabilities to the effort.

Our SLS, Orion, and human landing system progress are important to accelerating our return to the Moon. As is development of the first phase of the Gateway. As you may know, we awarded a contract to Maxar Technologies to design, develop, launch and demonstrate the power and propulsion element by 2022, which is managed out of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio. We are also working to develop another module of the Gateway, the habitation and logistics outpost (HALO), which NASA Johnson will work with a commercial partner to design and develop.

Following feedback from industry on our draft human lander solicitation, which closed earlier this month, we are targeting a formal request for lander proposals by the end of summer, and targeting awards by the end of this year to design, develop and demonstrate this system.

Finally, we will also release a solicitation for American companies to deliver supplies to the lunar outpost that support the 2024 Moon landing, and supplies for future sustainable lunar exploration. The logistics efforts will be led out of NASA Kennedy, which as I mentioned before, is where we launch SLS and Orion from a modernized spaceport on Artemis missions to deep space.

I’m incredibly proud of our teams at Marshall, Michoud, and all across the agency, on their response to the President’s call to quickly return to the Moon. I know our workforce can meet all the technical challenges of this bold goal.

As for my part, I will continue to work with all of our stakeholders, including you, the American public, on securing confidence and the $1.6 billion investment we need for a successful Artemis program.

Again, I had a great visit to Louisiana and Alabama this week. I especially appreciated the support shown by our representatives in Congress. NASA is going forward to the Moon, and getting ready for our next giant leap – Mars. This is an incredible time in human spaceflight, and we are proud to once again be leading the way.

Artemis is Our Future

Last week, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing. We weren’t just looking backward though.

As part of our current Artemis lunar exploration program, we published a draft solicitation asking U.S. industry to think about how they would build an integrated human landing system that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in the next five years.

If you’re wondering why NASA doesn’t simply dust off the Apollo lander designs to put humans on the Moon by 2024, you’re not alone. Yes, we had a highly successful Moon program in the past in which we won the space race, but we have new goals for Artemis, which is a stepping stone for Mars.

When we go forward to the Moon, we want the ability to land anywhere on the lunar surface anytime we want. To do so, we need a modern landing system that we can reuse, refuel and refurbish in space.  That system will be staged at the Gateway in lunar orbit – our command module to support robotic and human exploration on the lunar surface, and missions farther into the solar system.

Illustration of a human landing system on the lunar surface.
Illustration of a human landing system on the lunar surface. Credit: NASA

We will accelerate our return to the Moon by 2024 and establish a foundation for a sustainable human presence by 2028. NASA is leading that charge with meaningful contributions from our commercial and international partners. We are building spacecraft to internationally agreed standards so that when our partners begin sending their own lunar systems, we’ll be ready for them. Apollo didn’t allow for that, but with Artemis, it is a core principle. Together, we will use the Moon to validate human safety protocols, technologies, and operational procedures before embarking on the ultimate human destination: Mars.

Exploring More of the Moon

Apollo’s primary goal was to win the space race: to be the first on the Moon; to plant flags and footprints. All six landings occurred at the equatorial region because the command modules were designed to operate in that specific orbit, for one mission. Those six landing sites span about 6% of the Moon’s surface.

This time, when we go to the Moon, the Gateway will make it possible to access any region of the lunar surface, from pole to pole, from near side to far side. We will learn to use the Moon’s resources to reduce the amount of supplies we need to send from Earth, and build systems to common standards, so that contributors across the globe may seamlessly join our endeavor.

Higher safety standards

Astronaut safety has always been a top priority for NASA, but we took many unknown risks with early lunar exploration. We know much more about the Moon now than we did in the 1960s, so we can address these risks technically and operationally.

For instance, during Apollo, our greatest concern with soil was that the lander would sink into the soil, or that crew would step onto the surface and sink down to their shoulders like falling in a snowdrift. We now understand our greater risk from dust is actually how inhaling the small sharp, glass-like dust particles can lodge in the lungs creating acute and long-term risks to astronaut health. Through work with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – which opened at the very end of Apollo in 1971 – we now have standards for particulate size, and how long we can breathe specific compositions.

In some cases, NASA established its own safety standards, but many of those standards, such as atmospheric concentrations of carbo dioxide, are now debated with other experts. Apollo systems were designed to maintain breathing air with up to 1% carbon dioxide, but today’s human health experts recommend 0.25%.

Lighter, smarter technologies

As a Navy pilot, I would cherish the opportunity fly a vintage plane, but I certainly would not choose it over today’s newer aircraft for a flight around the world. That said, in 2005, a team of NASA engineers met with some of the Grumman veterans who built the Apollo landers just to see what they would do with current technologies. The engineers conducted a study and re-designed the Apollo landers. Based on technologies that are now 15 years old, they brought the overall spacecraft mass down by about a ton, mostly because of lighter avionics and batteries.

Today, we have even lighter, and certainly smarter, technologies, so imagine what we will do with a 21st century refresh.

Investing in NASA

We now have a robust industrial base of spacecraft suppliers. New partnerships and other affordability options are considered at every level of Artemis technical and programmatic planning. In the 1960s, NASA essentially had to start from scratch, developing the Saturn rocket, and sending astronauts into space incrementally through the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs – at a cost of 5% of the nation’s discretionary budget. At the moment, we’re waiting for Congress to approve the President’s budget amendment, which includes the additional funds we need as a down payment on this bold goal. And like Apollo, we expect the national investment in NASA to pay dividends on our economy and technologies for generations to come.

For future exploration, we will entrust only the most modern systems to keep our astronauts safe. We will incorporate state-of-the-art technologies – some born of Apollo and matured over the past 50 years.

We are grateful for the Apollo generation that came before us – for the bold vision, for the unforeseen technological boom that led to miniaturized technologies, and for the inspiration that gave birth to a new era of dreamers, tinkerers, scientists, artists, and engineers.

We’re ready to explore the Moon again – this time with advanced technologies, modern spacecraft, and more access than ever before. We will use what we learn at the Moon, and ultimately take our next giant leap, sending astronauts to Mars.

We are the Artemis generation, and we’re going to the Moon and beyond. Are you ready?

Apollo 11 and NASA’s Plans Today for the Moon and Mars

As we look back on one of the signature accomplishments of humanity, NASA’s Apollo 11 Moon landing 50 years ago this Saturday, July 20, our view in hindsight has not dimmed this historic milestone or what it means for our future.

As President Nixon spoke to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the Moon, he said, “Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man’s world … For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one; one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.”

Neil Armstrong’s one small step continues to propel humanity to ever greater heights. As the international leader in space for 60 years, NASA has achieved inspiring feats of exploration, discovery, science, and technology. We have changed the way the world flies, communicates, navigates, predicts weather, produces food and energy, and so much more.

Today, we’re implementing President Trump’s Space Policy Directive-1 to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system.”

We have been charged by Vice President Pence on behalf of the President, to send the first woman and the next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and to “use all means necessary.” Under our Artemis program, we will go with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than was ever thought possible. This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars. This is America’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

This work is unfolding right now with the contributions of every single NASA center, and every single discipline represented in our talented workforce.

We are going to the Moon with commercial and international partners to explore faster and explore more together. We will bring new knowledge and opportunities and inspire the next generation. The Moon will provide a proving ground to test our technologies and resources that will take us to Mars and beyond, including building a sustainable, reusable architecture. And, in going to the Moon, we are laying the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

Our backbone for Artemis is the biggest rocket ever built, the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion spacecraft and the Gateway lunar command module.

We’re staying on schedule for flying the Artemis-1 mission with our Orion spacecraft on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket next year, and for sending the first crewed mission, Artemis-2, to the lunar vicinity by 2022.

Our charge for a national exploration campaign will use the experience of the NASA workforce, coupled with the innovation of our commercial and international partners, to create an architecture that is open, sustainable and agile to move forward to the Moon once again and then on to Mars. This unified effort will create and inspire the “Artemis generation,” and change the course of history as we realize the next great scientific, economic and technical achievements in space.

Our work is one endeavor with three unique destinations: low-Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars. And we are building on the legacy of the pioneers at NASA – the brave women and men across the planet who helped us land 12 human beings on the lunar surface and bring them home safely. We are building on the success of commercial space around our planet and the vibrant opportunities is generates, even as we launch humanity once again to the lunar surface to do more science, explore more places, foster innovation, and inspire and engage partners around the world in the next chapter of our history.

As Apollo 11 made preparations for return, Buzz Aldrin said, “This has been far more than three men on a voyage to the Moon. More, still, than the efforts of a government and industry team. More, even, than the efforts of one nation. We feel that this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown.”

Neil Armstrong in the crew’s final television transmission from space, said, “The responsibility for this flight lies first with history and with the giants of science who have preceded this effort. Next with the American people, who have through their will, indicated their desire. Next, to four administrations, and their Congresses, for implementing that will. And then, to the agency and industry teams that built our spacecraft, the Saturn, the Columbia, the Eagle, and the little EMU; the spacesuit and backpack that was our small spacecraft out on the lunar surface.” He thanked all the Americans who put “their hearts and all their abilities into those craft.”

Going forward, we again require the deep and broad support of every American, lawmakers, our innovative and growing aerospace base, and the many passionate professionals who will stake their careers and the future of our species on what we do next in space.

Apollo 11 lifted us all up, as space continues to do on countless fronts that improve our daily lives, even as we look with awe beyond the bounds of our planet.

Starting with the Artemis program and continuing on to Mars, we’re going to do more of the civilization changing human space exploration begun with Apollo 11, and we look forward to the good will and ideas, and the “hearts and abilities,” of people everywhere to chart this brave course.


Symposium Day 3: Partners in Inspiration

On the third day of the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, I held important bilateral meetings with the United Arab Emirates Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center. Our charge to explore the Moon, and make the next giant leap to Mars, will require strong international partnerships. The dialogue today helped clarify NASA’s plans and highlighted the interest from other space agencies in joining us on this incredible journey.

In a meeting with Dr. Mohamed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA), we discussed NASA’s plans to move forward to the Moon and opportunities for UAESA participation in future lunar surface activities. We also discussed the UAESA’s plans to fly their first astronaut to the International Space Station later this year.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, second from left, speaks with the Director General of the United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA), Dr. Mohamed Al Ahbabi, second from right, about NASA’s plans to land humans on the Moon by 2024, UAESA’S human spaceflight objectives, and prospective cooperation involving the International Space Station and exploration of the Moon and Mars, at the Space Symposium, Wednesday, April 10, 2019 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

In the final meeting of the day, I met with Professor Pascale Ehrenfreund, Executive Board Chair of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). We spoke about the robust relationship between our agencies in human and robotic exploration and areas for cooperation as we pursue returning humans to the lunar surface in 2024. Professor Ehrenfreund was particularly excited about the opportunities we have to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders with stunning achievements in space exploration.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks with German Aerospace Center (DLR) executive board chair, Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund, about the robust relationship between their agencies in human and robotic exploration, and prospects for cooperation as NASA pursues the landing of humans on the Moon by 2024, at the Space Symposium, Wednesday, April 10, 2019 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Moving forward to the Moon is a global effort that will improve life for all of humanity, and NASA is leading this growing coalition of nations to raise the bar of human achievement.