What’s Next For NASA? | NUST Science Blog

By -

“As a former astronaut and the current NASA Administrator, I’m here to tell you that American leadership in space will continue for at least the next half-century because we have laid the foundation for success — and failure is not an option.”

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
National Press Club, July 1, 2011

The end of the space shuttle program does not mean the end of NASA, or even of NASA sending humans into space. NASA has a robust program of exploration, technology development and scientific research that will last for years to come. Here is what’s next for NASA:

Exploration
NASA is designing and building the capabilities to send humans to explore the solar system, working toward a goal of landing humans on Mars. We will build the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, based on the design for the Orion capsule, with a capacity to take four astronauts on 21-day missions.
We will soon announce the design for the heavy-lift Space Launch System that will carry us out of low Earth orbit. We are developing the technologies we will need for human exploration of the solar system, including solar electric propulsion, refueling depots in orbit, radiation protection and high-reliability life support systems.

Work on the heat shield and thermal protection backshell of the Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle ground test article, or GTA, was completed in preparation for environmental testing. This image is of the crew vehicle at the Lockheed Martin Vertical Test Facility in Colorado. The crew vehicle will undergo rigorous testing to confirm its ability to safely fly astronauts through all the harsh environments of deep space exploration missions.

International Space Station
The International Space Station is the centerpiece of our human spaceflight activities in low Earth orbit. The ISS is fully staffed with a crew of six, and American astronauts will continue to live and work there in space 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Part of the U.S. portion of the station has been designated as a national laboratory, and NASA is committed to using this unique resource for scientific research.

The ISS is a test bed for exploration technologies such as autonomous refueling of spacecraft, advanced life support systems and human/robotic interfacesCommercial companies are well on their way to providing cargo and crew flights to the ISS, allowing NASA to focus its attention on the next steps into our solar system.

Backdropped by Earth's horizon and the blackness of space, the International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-134 crew member on the space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation.

Aeronautics
NASA is researching ways to design and build aircraft that are safer, more fuel-efficient, quieter, and environmentally responsible. We are also working to create traffic management systems that are safer, more efficient and more flexible. We are developing technologies that improve routing during flights and enable aircraft to climb to and descend from their cruising altitude without interruption.

We believe it is possible to build an aircraft that uses less fuel, gives off fewer emissions, and is quieter, and we are working on the technologies to create that aircraft. NASA is also part of the government team that is working to develop the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, to be in place by the year 2025. We will continue to validate new, complex aircraft and air traffic control systems to ensure that they meet extremely high safety levels.

NASA Langley Research Center engineers in Hampton, Va., use flight simulators, such as the Research Flight Deck, to develop cockpit technologies to make airliners safer and more efficient. Airline pilots test the concepts and offer suggestions about how the systems would work in the real world or could be improved.

Science
NASA is conducting an unprecedented array of missions that will seek new knowledge and understanding of Earth, the solar system and the universe. On July 16, the Dawn spacecraft begins a year-long visit to the large asteroid Vesta to help us understand the earliest chapter of our solar system’s history. In August, the Juno spacecraft will launch to investigate Jupiter’s origins, structure, and atmosphere. The September launch of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project is a critical first step in building a next-generation Earth-monitoring satellite system.

NASA returns to the moon to study the moon’s gravity field and determine the structure of the lunar interior with the October launch of GRAIL. In November, we launch the Mars Science Laboratory named Curiosity on its journey to Mars to look for evidence of microbial life on the red planet. And in February 2012, we will launch the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array to search for black holes, map supernova explosions, and study the most extreme active galaxies.

Launching from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only 5,000 kilometers (about 3,000 miles) from the cloud tops at closest approach. Juno's primary goal is to improve our understanding of Jupiter's formation and evolution. The spacecraft will spend a year investigating the planet's origins, interior structure, deep atmosphere and magnetosphere. Juno's study of Jupiter will help us to understand the history of our own solar system and provide new insight into how planetary systems form and develop in our galaxy and beyond. Juno's principal investigator is Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the mission. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver, Colo., is building the spacecraft. The Italian Space Agency, Rome, is contributing an infrared spectrometer instrument and a portion of the radio science experiment.

Source: www.nasa.gov

The NUST Science Society is the brainchild of innovative individuals who felt the need to create a platform to indulge the interests of scientifically talented students. We believe in inspiration, creativity and innovation. We believe in creating opportunities. We believe in you. Send us your views and information to Coordinator Science Blogs on nustsciencesociety@gmail.com!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *