NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), established Ames Research Center over 60 years ago on December 20, 1939, as an aircraft research laboratory. Located on 2,000 acres, Ames sits in the heart of California's Silicon Valley in the San Francisco-San José Bay area. With world-renowned researchers, scientists, and an array of state-of-the-art facilities, Ames is responsible for the performance of a tightly coupled, multidisciplinary research base directed toward NASA's missions. Ames achieves scientific and technical excellence through its first-rate management team, critical mass of top-tier scientists, "excellence-driven" research environment, and collaboration with distinguished academic, corporate, and non-profit organizations.
Ames' budget for fiscal year 2001 is $720 million. The Center has nearly 1,500 civil servants and over 3,000 on-site contractors in its work force. Ames is NASA's Center of Excellence for information technology and has additional core technology competencies in biotechnology and nanotechnology. Ames pursues NASA missions in aerospace operations systems and astrobiology. The Center has core scientific competencies in fundamental space biology and all disciplines of the Agency's multifaceted astrobiology thrust. The Center also performs key work in support of NASA missions in computational systems, aviation capacity, air traffic management, thermal protection systems, and a host of other areas.
The grand challenge of NASA's mission to explore space and study the origin and role of life in the universe is driving the Agency's focus on the technology triad of information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. These arenas are widely accepted as the most likely sources of breakthrough technologies in the next decade. Ames is unique within NASA in its ability to provide the integrated research environment required to exploit the crossover potential, as well as the individual fields of the technology triad, to meet the Agency's mission needs.
Fundamental research and technology development is performed in the areas of nano-scale assembly, computational nanotechnology, nano-scale computing and sensing elements, and nano-scale architecture, and systems integration. The Center is pursuing the development of protein-based nanotubes, a crossover technology potentially capable of self-organization and replication.
The Center specializes in the research and development of methods, technologies, and processes in autonomous reasoning, human-centered computing, and intelligent data understanding for broad application to NASA's mission requirements. Ames is NASA's pathfinder in single-system image parallel computers, quantum computing, distributed heterogeneous computing, revolutionary computing, and high performance networks.
As the NASA lead for astrobiology, the Center studies the origin, evolution, distribution, and destiny of life in the universe. Astrobiology represents the synthesis of disciplines from astronomy to zoology, from ecology to molecular biology, and from geology to genomics. Ames hosts the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which conducts and integrates groundbreaking astrobiology science with the assistance of its 11 founding member institutions and numerous affiliated consortiums.
Life in the unique environments of space, including microgravity, high radiation and temperature extremes, and planetary protection, are key themes of Ames' space biology science base. The convergence of space biology with the technology triad provides fundamental enabling knowledge for human exploration. Ames exploits the potential knowledge transfer to Earth-based health issues through the establishment of partnerships with the medical community, including the National Cancer Institute.
The complexity of and performance demands on aerospace operational environments are increasing significantly. The national response to this rise in requirements is the increased application of automation and autonomous reasoning methodologies. Ames is at the forefront of the development of automated aerospace operation for applications from decision tools for air traffic management deployed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to autonomous reasoning control of spacecraft in unpredictable environments.
Ames works with the FAA and the aircraft operations industry to meet the nation's expanding air transportation demands by developing and demonstrating pioneering concepts and technologies to improve safety, increase efficiency, and enhance environmental protection. In particular, Ames is striving to provide the research and technology products needed to achieve the President's challenge to improve aviation safety.
The Ames base program develops advanced research and technology to enable revolutionary advances in understanding concepts, methods, and procedures of aviation operation systems.
Ames' Future Flight Central (FFC) is the world's premier technical design studio for 21st century airport operations and planning. The facility is able to replicate a 360-degree high-fidelity visual simulation of any airport in the world. FFC can provide a functionally accurate, physical and software replication of any airport's current or future tower or operations center. Airport research and operations staff can work with NASA experts using the FFC to: plan new runway configurations, test new ground traffic and tower communication procedures, and validate air traffic planning simulations based on airport and airline planning tools.
The Surface Movement Advisor (SMA) project is a joint FAA and NASA undertaking to help current airport facilities operate more efficiently. The SMA system integrates airline schedules, gate information, flight plans, radar feeds, and runway configuration (departure split and landing direction). This integrated information is then re-transmitted over the network and shared between the key players at an airport.
Ames' scientists conduct advanced research in a unique flight simulation complex. Ames provides researchers with exceptional tools to explore, define, and solve issues in both aircraft and spacecraft design. Ames' vertical motion simulator offers fast and cost-effective solutions using real-time, piloted simulations, realistic sensory cues, and the greatest motion range of any flight simulator in the world.
Ames is the lead center for Aviation Systems Technology Advanced Research (AvSTAR). AvSTAR will accelerate the development of selected NASA air traffic management technologies that have been identified by industry and the FAA to improve the capacity and reliability of the current system. It will also provide the foundational research and long-term exploratory investigations for the air transportation system of the future.
Mission success starts with safety, and Ames is leading the NASA Design for Safety (DFS) development effort with a vision of achieving ultra-high levels of safety and mission success through the infusion of advanced technologies. To that end, DFS will develop advanced technology methods for: reasoning, model-based, risk-advised system engineering to provide continuous, systematic, quantified assessment of risk and high-assurance systems; continuous lifecycle knowledge capture, evaluation, and utilization; and highly adaptive, resilient systems to provide intelligent responses to both known and unanticipated hazards.
The DFS project will ensure that the techniques developed are applied throughout the lifecycle of NASA systems and programs. Further, it will seek to tailor, mature, and infuse the technologies developed into all NASA enterprise missions.
DFS will incorporate a number of elements and thrusts, including intelligent system risk management, model-based reasoning and architecture, knowledge engineering and development of resilient, self-monitoring systems based on advanced sensor research, and artificial intelligence.
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