Preparing for Jobs of the Future

In Boulder, Colorado, a group of students are working now at jobs of the future. They are building satellites and rockets, turning what has been something they previously only read about into a hands-on experience.

More than 100 Colorado high school students and college students from across the country have spent the summer building six high-powered rockets and 20 payloads. Four of the payloads were developed by college interns at Ball Aerospace, as part of the BIRST (Ball Intern Rocket Scientist Team) program.

High school students from Colorado built the other 16 payloads. The payloads will be launched Saturday on rockets made by college students from across the country who are working as interns for United Launch Alliance.

NASA currently is working on technology to take us deeper into space and travel to a variety of destinations, including asteroids, Earth’s moon, the moons of Mars, and eventually Mars itself. These students also are working on technologies to take their work into space. This summer is preparing them for the future, both theirs and ours as a nation.

These students are the future workers, designers, builders and engineers (and, yes, taxpayers) for commercial rockets going to the ISS and NASA-built deep-space exploration vehicles going to asteroids and Mars. Tomorrow’s space program is taking shape right now, and these students are training for those jobs of the future. Many of the jobs they will do haven’t been invented yet – but they are prepared to do those jobs when they exist.

NASA is departing from the model of the past, in which the government funded all space activities. To succeed, we want more than one human spaceflight provider to accommodate all of the needs we anticipate in the future. We need robust redundancy, so to speak, and we want it to be American-made. And with the success of multiple commercial partners, it frees up NASA to do the hard things, like travel to an asteroid and Mars.

This month, for the first time, we put a spacecraft, Dawn, into orbit around an asteroid. Later this year, we will launch spacecraft to Jupiter, our moon, and Mars. These missions are precursors to sending people there. What we learn from each of these missions helps us build a future where humans travel throughout the solar system.

We are building the crew vehicle that will take us there in the not-so-distant future. The President has charged us with the goal of landing humans on an asteroid by 2025. That’s a tough mission, but it is the kind of challenge that NASA does best.

We are working to help build the economy of the future, with a robust commercial space market and the opportunity to travel to space for anyone. In fact, we just signed an agreement with ULA to share data on the potential for human rating a ULA Atlas V launch vehicle as part of the Commercial Crew Development program.

NASA’s future is bright. So is the future for these students getting hands-on experience this summer. The jobs of the future are innovative, involve cutting-edge technologies, and will lead to exciting and challenging missions. Most of all, it’s what makes this country great.

The Future is Bright

We are on the cusp of a great milestone for NASA and this country with the final launch of the space shuttle program. I am so proud of the men and women of the NASA workforce, both government and industry, who have proudly flown the shuttle over the past 30 years.

The space shuttle has provided unbelievable benefits and return on investment to the American taxpayer. The orbiter fleet has launched spacecraft to other planets enabling amazing scientific discoveries; spacecraft that make possible communications that keep our service men and women out of harm’s way; and of course the shuttle has helped build the International Space Station.

As Administrator Charlie Bolden said last week, human spaceflight is not ending with the retirement of the Space Shuttle program. Indeed, American leadership in space will continue for at least the next half century. We will maximize the use of the International Space Station. This is really our toehold for the future and the centerpiece of our human spaceflight program. We have extended station operations until 2020. We are working to reduce the gap in spaceflight for cargo and crew to the International Space Station.

Americans are so proud of our space exploration history and we believe we will be going further faster as we develop the next generation of spacecraft. We are working with our industry team on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the next-generation capsule that’s going to take our astronauts to those far destinations. We are working on the Space Launch System, the heavy lift rocket that will complement and carry the capsule. Once again, this nation will have the opportunity to raise the bar and do big things. Great nations explore, and we are going to demonstrate what human beings can do when we are challenged.

We have been given a road map by President Obama and Congress, a charge to reach those new heights and reveal the unknown and leave future generations with more capability than we have today. We’ve set our sights on destinations in the solar system, going beyond low-Earth orbit, first to an asteroid in around 2025 and then on to Mars in the mid 2030s.

NASA science has incredible things coming up. Just in the next six months, we will go to Mars with the Curiosity rover, to the Moon with our GRAIL mission, and to Jupiter with Juno. And there are many, many more missions coming up to improve the understanding not only of our home planet but the solar system and beyond.

We are investing in technologies that will make our rockets go farther and faster, so that we can continue to build on the capabilities NASA invested in over our first 50 years of history. We will also continue our cutting-edge aeronautics research and improve tomorrow’s aircraft and systems that we all depend on to get from place to place on this planet.

The retirement of the Space Shuttle program is not an end; it’s the start of the next chapter in American space exploration. As the United States continues to lead the world, we truly, truly salute the workforce of this amazing space shuttle program. We will be standing on the shoulders of the shuttle program as we embark on the next chapter of our nation’s journey of exploration.