Update on NASA’s Response to Coronavirus

As we navigate this difficult time, the protection and care of the NASA family continues to be our top priority and the key consideration as we make decisions on how to move forward. NASA leadership is coordinating closely with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and interagency partners in our nation’s unified response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and regularly re-evaluating the conditions at each center. Your careful observance of recommendations is key to protecting our team and ensuring we accomplish our mission.

As you are aware, Ames Research Center in California was elevated to Stage 3 of NASA’s Response Framework after an onsite case of COVID-19 was confirmed on March 8. We recently received confirmation that an employee at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama has tested positive for COVID-19. As with Ames – in consultation with Marshall Center Director Jody Singer, NASA Chief Health and Medical Officer Dr. J.D. Polk, and in accordance to agency response plans ­– Marshall has been elevated to Stage 3 and is in mandatory telework status, with restricted access to the center until further notice.

While we do not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19 at any other NASA center as of today, March 14, out of an abundance of caution, all other NASA centers are transitioning to Stage 2 of our response framework. Center directors have been in contact with their employees about this status change and steps moving forward.

In Stage 2, telework is strongly encouraged for employees who can work remotely. Take home your laptop computer, power cord, NASA badge, and any other equipment you need to work effectively from an alternate location, as well as essential personal items you may need. Stay in regular contact with your supervisor. Travel that is not mission-essential, as defined in the response framework, will be limited agencywide.

More information on leave and telework is available on the NASA People website and a list of collaboration tools and information on VPN also is available online.

If you are performing mission-essential work on center, do not go to work if you feel sick. Everyone should take extra precautions to protect themselves and others. Please continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer, and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to talk with your supervisor.

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, we’ll continue to closely monitor and coordinate with federal, state, and community officials to take any further appropriate steps to help safeguard the NASA family. Please check the NASA People website regularly for additional guidance.

The vigilance our workforce has displayed in our response to coronavirus is remarkable and has placed our agency in a position of strength as we confront this national emergency. Thank you for all you are doing to care for the health of our workforce and keeping the mission going. We will get through this together and continue to accomplish amazing things for our country and all of humanity. Please take care of yourselves and your families.

Ad astra,


A 21st Century Budget for 21st Century Space Exploration

President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget for NASA is worthy of 21st-century exploration and discovery. The President’s budget invests more than $25 billion in NASA to fortify our innovative human space exploration program while maintaining strong support for our agency’s full suite of science, aeronautics, and technology work.

The budget proposed represents a 12 percent increase and makes this one of the strongest budgets in NASA history. The reinforced support from the President comes at a critical time as we lay the foundations for landing the first woman and the next man on the South Pole of the Moon by 2024. This budget keeps us firmly on that path.

We are preparing to achieve pivotal milestones this year in development of the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and the Gateway. These make up the backbone of our Artemis program and are fully supported by this budget. They constitute our ability to build a sustainable lunar presence and eventually send human missions to Mars.

Most noteworthy, is the President’s direct funding of $3.3 billion for the development of a human landing system. This is the first time we have had direct funding for a human lander since the Apollo Program. We are serious about our 2024 goals, and the President’s budget supports our efforts to get the job done.

We will soon launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade. This recaptured ability will not only allow us to do more science and more exploration than ever before, but will also broaden commercial activity in low-Earth orbit to support ever greater private partnerships.

As we prepare to celebrate 20 years of continuous human presence aboard the International Space Station this year, we will continue to look for ways to partner with private enterprise and give more people access to the unique environment microgravity offers. Similarly, when we go to the Moon in the next four years, we are interested in taking the world with us. This includes those involved in our Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative and the international relationships we have forged over the decades.

The FY 2021 budget positions NASA to spearhead a new era of human space exploration without focusing funds on one program at the expense of others. This all-of-NASA approach to the future will help us take advantage of all the exciting, new horizons emerging in science, aeronautics, and technology.

The decadal survey priorities are strongly supported by this budget, including history’s first Mars sample return mission, the Europa Clipper, and development of a host of new trailblazing Earth observation missions. In aeronautics, the budget backs all our cutting-edge research on commercial use of supersonic aircraft, all-electric airplanes, and development of an unmanned aerial system that will make flying small drones safer and more efficient in the 21st century.

NASA is on the cusp of embarking on era-defining exploration. The civilization-changing technology we develop will deepen humanity’s scientific knowledge of the universe and how to take care of our ever-changing world.

I am confident the FY 2021 budget’s proper investment in our agency’s priorities, coupled with NASA’s unmatched talents and expertise, will strengthen our national posture for continued space preeminence and, as President Trump said during his State of the Union speech last week, help our nation embrace the next frontier.

To learn more about our budget, please visit: www.nasa.gov/budget

Day of Remembrance – January 30, 2020

Each year at this time, the NASA community pauses on this Day of Remembrance to honor the brave women and men who lost their lives for the most noble of goals: the pursuit of truth and greater understanding. Today, we remember the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia, as well as those who surrendered all in support of missions of exploration and discovery. Our expressions of gratitude for their sacrifice cannot retract the overwhelming pain of their loss, but perhaps our efforts can further propel forward the purpose for which they gave their lives.

NASA’s Day of Remembrance gives all of us an opportunity to thoughtfully reflect on the lessons of the past and on the lives of those who dared slip the bonds of Earth and reach for greater heights. Space exploration holds many rewards as well as countless unforgiving dangers. Unfortunately, NASA has learned through sad experience the high price spaceflight demands for mistakes and failures. Each of these tragedies have changed NASA. The lessons we learned from them influence everything we do today, ensuring the sacrifices of the fallen will never be forgotten.

Shortly after the Apollo 1 accident that catastrophically killed all three crew members, flight director Gene Kranz addressed his team at mission control. “Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity and neglect,” he said. “Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up [and] we should have caught it.” Kranz insisted that from that moment on his team would be known for two words: “tough and competent.” This renewed sense of personal accountability marked the transformation of a slapdash engineering culture into one with a relentless pursuit of perfection. This culture of excellence has persisted and permeated throughout all of NASA. Similarly, the Challenger and Columbia investigative reports have further perfected and cemented our unrelenting determination to keep our astronauts safe.

Taps is played by a member of The Old Guard after NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns as part of NASA’s Day of Remembrance, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The wreaths were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

This year the lessons of the past are ever at the forefront of our minds as we prepare to return human spaceflight to our nation. In the very near future, we will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil – something not done since the end of the Shuttle program in 2011, and a capability our nation must never lose again. NASA’s close partnerships with American businesses will revolutionize spaceflight as commercial spacecraft pave the way to an era of greater human spaceflight opportunities than ever before. These commercial partners know that our standards of safety are uncompromising and are informed by the heart-wrenching loss of heroes we will forever honor on this Day of Remembrance.

The daring pioneer spirit of our men and women throughout the years as they take their seats aboard our spacecraft is remarkable. There is nothing inevitable about scientific discovery nor is there a predetermined path of cutting-edge innovation. Long hours of arduous study and courageous experimentation are required merely to glimpse a flicker of enlightenment that can lead to greater heights of human achievement. Our fallen heroes knew this and it is why they risked their lives. To expand our knowledge of the cosmos is to pursue a better life on Earth for our children, and future generations to come. Much of the technological triumphs and success we enjoy today and the scientific advancements awaiting humanity on the horizon of this new, dynamic era of 21st-century spaceflight are the very gifts they wished to bestow. Our efforts today in pursuing the objectives of the Artemis Program and others honor our heroes for the foundations they laid that make our success possible.

Today on NASA’s Day of Remembrance, I encourage all to reflect on the legacy and memory of our friends and colleagues who lost their lives to advance humanity to new frontiers. Let us give gratitude not only in words but through our actions by redoubling our efforts in honor of their selfless sacrifice.



NASA Authorization Bill Update

I would like to thank the Committee for producing a comprehensive NASA authorization bill. I am particularly encouraged that the bill is proceeding on a bipartisan basis, reflecting a consensus on a Moon to Mars approach. Maintaining a bipartisan, consensus approach is critical to constancy of purpose and supporting a long-term national commitment to the human exploration of the Moon and Mars. The bill envisions a destination of Mars while supporting missions to the Moon as the most effective strategy to achieve that critical, shared goal. NASA would appreciate the opportunity to work with the Committee in a bipartisan way, as we did with the Senate Commerce Committee, on some modifications.

I am concerned that the bill imposes some significant constraints on our approach to lunar exploration. As you know, NASA has successfully fostered the development of a rapidly expanding commercial economy for access to space. We would like to continue building on this success as we develop the most efficient mission architectures and partnership approaches to accomplish our shared goals.

NASA seeks to expand the sphere of economic activity deeper into space by conducting space exploration and development with commercial and international partners. Without the dynamic participation of commercial partners, our chances of creating a sustainable exploration program are significantly diminished. In particular, we are concerned that the bill’s approach to developing a human lander system as fully government-owned and directed would be ineffective. The approach established by the bill would inhibit our ability to develop a flexible architecture that takes advantage of the full array of national capabilities – government and private sector – to accomplish national goals. NASA would appreciate the opportunity to work with the Committee to develop language that would support a broader national and international effort that would maximize progress toward our shared exploration goals through the efficient application of our available resources.

NASA is fully committed to a lunar exploration program that supports and enables human missions to Mars. The Committee should be aware that the exploration of Mars is a very challenging goal both technically and from a resource perspective. If we are going to accomplish this goal, we will need the flexibility to rapidly develop technical expertise using the Moon and to fully engage commercial and international partners. We do think that the bill’s concerns for limiting activities on the Moon could be counterproductive. If we are going to explore Mars in a safe and sustainable way, we will require a strong in situ resource utilization capability and significant technology development using the surface of the Moon. NASA would appreciate more flexibility in defining lunar surface activities that may contribute directly to Mars exploration.

NASA subject matter experts are now closely reviewing the available bill text to identify issues and concerns of a more technical, detailed nature, and we would appreciate an opportunity to share the results of this review with the Committee at the appropriate time.

We would welcome an opportunity to work with the Committee on a bill that would accommodate a broader partnership approach. I appreciate the Committee’s bipartisan efforts and congratulate you on producing this bipartisan consensus in favor of a Moon to Mars exploration program.

Update on Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test


NASA and Boeing are in the process of establishing a joint, independent investigation team to examine the primary issues associated with the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test.

The independent team will inform NASA and Boeing on the root cause of the mission elapsed timer anomaly and any other software issues and provide corrective actions needed before flying crew to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The team will review the primary anomalies experienced during the Dec. 2019 flight test, any potential contributing factors and provide recommendations to ensure a robust design for future missions. Once underway, the investigation is targeted to last about two months before the team delivers its final assessment.

In parallel, NASA is evaluating the data received during the mission to determine if another uncrewed demonstration is required. This decision is not expected for several weeks as teams take the necessary time for this review. NASA’s approach will be to determine if NASA and Boeing received enough data to validate the system’s overall performance, including launch, on-orbit operations, guidance, navigation and control, docking/undocking to the space station, reentry and landing. Although data from the uncrewed test is important for certification, it may not be the only way that Boeing is able to demonstrate its system’s full capabilities.

The uncrewed flight test was proposed by Boeing as a way to meet NASA’s mission and safety requirements for certification and as a way to validate that the system can protect astronauts in space before flying crew. The uncrewed mission, including docking to the space station, became a part of the company’s contract with NASA. Although docking was planned, it may not have to be accomplished prior to the crew demonstration. Boeing would need NASA’s approval to proceed with a flight test with astronauts onboard.

Starliner currently is being transported from the landing location near the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range to the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility in Florida. Since landing, teams have safed the spacecraft for transport, downloaded data from the spacecraft’s onboard systems for analysis and completed initial inspections of the interior and exterior of Starliner. A more detailed analysis will be conducted after the spacecraft arrives at its processing facility.

Boeing’s Orbital Flight test launched on Friday, Dec. 20, on United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission successfully landed two days later on Sunday, Dec. 22, completing an abbreviated test that performed several mission objectives before returning to Earth as the first orbital land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history.

Readout: International Astronautical Congress (Day 4)

Building on the growing international support for NASA’s Artemis program, agency leaders continued their bilateral discussions with world leaders on the fourth day of the 70th International Astronautical Conference in Washington.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine began Thursday with a meeting with President Jean-Yves Le Gall of France’s space agency the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) to discuss French support for bilateral and European cooperation in human and robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Following their meeting, Bridenstine and Le Gall signed an update to an agreement for cooperation between the agencies on the U.S.-France Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission. SWOT will create the first global survey of Earth’s surface water, which will help us better understand our freshwater resources. Set to launch in 2021, SWOT is the latest in a series of ocean altimetry missions resulting from U.S.-France cooperation.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), left, shakes hands with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine after signing an amendment to the Surface Water and Ocean Topography Mission agreement at the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 24, 2019, in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Bridenstine also met with Israel Space Agency Director Avigdor Blasberger to discuss areas of mutual cooperation and future exploration plans. Israel, together with the German Aerospace Center, is developing a vest for human exploration. The vests will be flight-tested on NASA’s Artemis 1 mission.

Israel Space Agency Director Avi Blasberger, second from right, meets with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, second from left, during the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 24, 2019, in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Polish Space Agency (POLSA) also expressed its support for the Artemis program by signing a joint statement with Bridenstine focused on strengthening cooperation between the United States and Poland. Through ESA (European Space Agency), Poland has been involved in plans for elements of the lunar Gateway.

Michal Szaniawski, president of the Polish Space Agency (POLSA), left, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shake hands after signing a joint statement expressing their intent to discuss opportunities for cooperation, including sustainable activities around and on the Moon in connection with NASA’s Artemis program, Oct. 24, 2019, during the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Bridenstine held a media availability in the late morning at the NASA exhibit, where he took questions from national and international reporters. The administrator answered questions on a wide range of topics including future robotic missions to the Moon and Mars, to the selection of Artemis astronauts.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine answers questions during a media availability at the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 24, 2019, in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Representatives from the United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA), which recently sent its first astronaut to the International Space Station, met with Bridenstine to discuss possible opportunities for UAE astronauts to train in the United States, as well as commercial industry activity in low-Earth orbit, the space between Earth and the Moon, and on Mars.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, meets with United Arab Emirates Space Agency Director General Mohamed Al Ahbabi, right, during the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 24, 2019, in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

In the afternoon, Bridenstine spoke at the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition finals, hosted by the International Institute of Space Law, where law students – with support from NASA’s Office of General Counsel and Office of STEM Engagement – participate in a hypothetical legal case.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine gives remarks during the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition finals Oct. 24, 2019, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Readout: International Astronautical Congress (Day 3)

For the first time in almost two decades, IAC was held in the United States, providing a great opportunity for NASA employees from all over the country to showcase the agency’s impact on science and discovery.

On the third day of IAC, hundreds of NASA employees wearing NASA blue gathered for a group photo to kick off the day. The theme of NASA’s involvement this year focuses on Artemis and working with our international partners to achieve our goals.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks to agency employees as they gather for a group picture at the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 23, 2019, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

At a meeting with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Bridenstine discussed Canada’s commitment to the lunar Gateway with CSA President Sylvain Laporte and senior Canadian officials. Canada was the first international partner to commit to the Gateway and has been coordinating with NASA to provide external robotics.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard, and Ken Bowersox, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, meet with Sylvain Laporte, president of the Canadian Space Agency, at the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 23, 2019, in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Bridenstine also participated in the Young Professionals Town Hall, which brought together early career space professionals from around the world. The administrator discussed NASA’s plans and priorities, and how young people can become involved in Artemis, and answered questions from the crowd. 

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is seen during the Global Networking Forum Young Professionals Town Hall at the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 23, 2019, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is an important international partner for NASA, and in a meeting today, leaders of the agencies had a lengthy discussion on ongoing and future cooperation in aeronautics and science. They also talked about potential DLR contributions to the Artemis program bilaterally and through ESA (European Space Agency) and noted the critical importance of the European Service Modules for Orion, which are being developed in Germany.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, right, is seen during a meeting with Sylvain Laporte, president of the Canadian Space Agency, at the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 23, 2019, in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Italian Space Agency (ASI) President Giorgio Saccoccia signed a joint statement with Bridenstine that acknowledged the strong mutual cooperation between the agencies and identifies areas of potential future cooperation for the Artemis program. The NASA-ASI partnership provides potential for industry cooperation in support of Artemis. 

Giorgio Saccoccia, head of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), left, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shake hands after signing a joint statement acknowledging the strong ongoing cooperation between the agencies, and identifying areas of potential future cooperation on and around the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program at the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 23, 2019, in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement hosted a live broadcast entitled “STEM and Space: Where Do You Fit In?” The goal of the event was to bring IAC to students in the United States and around the globe who are pursuing undergraduate and graduate STEM studies and interested in learning about opportunities in the space sector. Bridenstine participated alongside NASA astronauts Doug Wheelock and Jeanette Epps, former NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus, and other senior NASA officials.


Readout: International Astronautical Congress (Day 2)

For Administrator Bridenstine’s second day at the 70th International Astronautical Congress focused on continuing to broaden our international partnerships. Many space agencies and nations are represented at IAC, and NASA is maximizing the opportunity to meet with those space agencies who have an interest in partnering with us on the Artemis program and our journey to Mars.

In the morning, Bridenstine and a delegation of NASA officials met with Thomas Jarzombek, federal government coordinator of German aerospace policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and senior officials from ESA (European Space Agency). The meeting focused on German support for NASA-ESA collaboration on the International Space Station, European service modules and lunar Gateway.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, poses for a photo with Thomas Jarzombek, federal government coordinator of German aerospace policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, during the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 22, 2019, in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

A meeting was also held with ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner to solidify support for Artemis and contributions from Europe. Topics such as the significance of Europe’s human exploration plans and support for the upcoming ESA ministerial meeting were on the agenda. 

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, third from right, and Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard, fourth from right, speak with Professor Johann-Dietrich Worner, Director General of ESA (European Space Agency), fourth from left, during the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 22, 2019, in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

The administrator also convened a meeting of senior leaders from more than 25 international space agencies to discuss the future of human exploration, during which NASA presented a vision and plans for Artemis and missions to Mars.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks during a multilateral meeting of the heads of space agencies at the 70th International Astronautical Congress, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Bridenstine and leaders from the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) signed a joint statement that highlights areas of mutual interest, such as lunar exploration and calls for the establishment of a new framework agreement between the two agencies. Marc Serres, chief executive officer of LSA, led the meeting with Bridenstine, focusing on the International Space Station, Orion, Gateway, and Mars sample return. 

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, right, and Dr. Marc Serres, chief executive officer, Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA), left, shake hands after signing an agreement while the Honorable James Randolph Evans, Ambassador to the Grant Duchy of Luxembourg, back right, and Etienne Schneider, Deputy Prime Minister, back left, observed at the 70th International Astronautical Congress Oct. 22, 2019 in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)


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!