NASA Headquarters oversees the Agency's multifaceted mission of ongoing scientific research, investigating the reaches of outer space, and developing new and innovative technology. NASA has developed five Strategic Enterprises, as outlined in the Agency's Strategic Plan, to coordinate these activities in pursuit of its mission. Each Enterprise covers a key area of NASA's research and development efforts. The five Strategic Enterprises are: Aerospace Technology, Biological and Physical Research, Earth Science, Human Exploration and Development of Space, and Space Science.
NASA's charter is to pioneer advanced technologies that will meet the challenges facing air and space transportation, to maintain U.S. national security and preeminence in aerospace technology, and to extend the benefit of its innovations throughout society.
A modern air and space transportation system is fundamental to the national economy, quality of life, and security of the United States. For 75 years, a strong base of aerospace technology research and development has provided enormous contributions to this system--contributions that have fostered the economic growth of the Nation and provided unprecedented mobility for U.S. citizens. In the past 30 years, aircraft noise was reduced by a factor of 10, fuel consumption was cut in half, and a notably low accident rate was maintained despite a threefold increase in flight operations. Although major technical advances have made the Nation's air and space transportation system the largest and best of its kind, the future holds critical challenges to its continued growth and performance.
Because the U.S. air and space transportation system serves both critical national security needs and the public good, ensuring the continued health and preeminence of that system is a key issue for the future of this Nation. NASA is the Nation's leading government agency for providing technological leadership and advancements for the aerospace industry and the traveling public.
In addition to its role in advancing air and space transportation, the Enterprise has a role in developing basic technology for a broad range of space applications, such as aerospace communications, power and propulsion systems, micro devices and instruments, information technology, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. These advances will expand our knowledge of the Earth and the universe through space missions.
Historically, transportation and communication have always been integrally linked. Today, tourism, ecommerce, and other factors such as economic growth and changing demographics are fueling demand for access to high-speed, highly distributed transportation systems.
For the U.S. commercial space launch industry, however, 1998 and 1999 were disappointing years, due to a string of failures that restricted the launch rate and slowed the development of new vehicles. A number of entrepreneurs have announced plans for commercial launch vehicles in hopes of capturing some of the strong market for launch services of commercial satellites.
As the 21st century begins, NASA seeks to forge a "Highway to Space" that will enable citizens to travel, work, and live in space as a matter of routine. Because of NASA research, it will be possible for the private sector to make space transportation economical. This, in turn, will create enormous opportunities for commercial endeavors, new services, scientific and medical research, and other uses not yet imagined.
The space industry is changing dramatically as it transitions from government-driven needs to market-driven growth. However, this industry is less mature than the aviation industry and the technologies are more complex.
Technology has a significant role in meeting these challenges. Advanced physics-based modeling, simulation, new materials and structural concepts, and other technologies will enable quieter, more efficient aircraft and more robust and affordable spacecraft. As the space transportation system grows, it will be, in the future, linked increasingly with the aviation system.
The main challenges for the space industry continue to be reliability and cost. New technologies that enable simplified space transportation operations, robust design and operating margins, and near complete reuse of hardware have the potential to reduce costs dramatically. Safe, lowcost space transportation will make space commercially accessible for both passenger and cargo operations. Equally important are new propulsion technologies that will enable new in-space operations, such as economical travel between low Earth orbit and geo-stationary orbits, faster travel to other planets, and ultimately, the stars. It will also allow the continued expansion of human and robotic exploration throughout our solar system.
Biological and Physical Research
Space Shuttle flight has been synonymous with science research in biology, physics, chemistry, and engineering since the Shuttle program's inception. In the year 2000, NASA's Biological and Physical Research Enterprise began focusing its scientific research on biological sciences in preparation for full scientific utilization of the International Space Station in the coming decade. This focus adds cutting-edge interdisciplinary sciences of the 21st century to the space program, such as space genomics, biomolecular physics, macromolecular biotechnology, and nanotechnology.
Continual research on Earth and in space provides fascinating opportunities to improve life on Earth. For example, industry has planned to invest over $6 million to develop a bone replacement ceramic-metal composite that is highly porous, allowing blood vessels, nerves, and even bone to grow through and around it. By optimizing the pore size, distribution, and strength of a composite material, industry hopes to perfect materials for more durable bone replacements. Eventually research could lead to products that could dissolve into the body as natural bone cells grow into an implant.
In addition, conducting scientific research in space, where gravity is one-millionth that of Earth, allows researchers to observe properties of solids, liquids, and gases that could potentially change industrial practices and products in ways that are unimaginable today.
While perfecting research that will enable humans to exist off the planet, ground research and flight opportunities on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station will use the unique characteristics of space for research to improve most facets of life on Earth in the coming decade--your health, home, environment, transportation, and commerce.
NASA's Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) is dedicated to understanding the total Earth system and the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment. NASA's commitment to share the benefits of Earth Science discoveries with the broad public is evidenced in the Enterprise's commitment to translate NASA-funded Earth Science and technology research results to the development of remote sensing applications for practical, everyday use.
NASA spearheaded efforts to share Earth Science discoveries and applications through a federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIPs). The federation is comprised of partners from government agencies, national laboratories, universities, nonprofit organizations, and commercial providers of data and information services. The partners work together to ensure that quality scientific data and information are made available to a wide community of scientists and non-scientists alike.
Under ESIP, NASA's Earth Science Enterprise partnered with the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and General Electric Corporate Research & Development to utilize ESE data in operational weather forecasting. By integrating NASA's remotely sensed data into daily weathercasts, NBC became the first television network to offer high-resolution imagery to the public on a routine basis. The public benefited by receiving better information and an increased awareness of the practicality of NASA's remote sensing applications.
Dave Jones, a meteorologist and President-CEO of StormCenter.com, LLC, first piloted the television weathercasts on NBC 4 in Washington, D.C., on January 1, 2001. Through StormCenter.com, the partnership with NBC continues and allows each of the 13 NBC-owned and operated television stations to use advanced remote sensing imagery in their local newscasts.
StormCenter.com will be expanding its reach into other types of media by attracting media partners across the nation. These partners will use StormCenter.com content for newspapers, radio and television web sites, and wireless applications.
This partnership serves as a successful model for translating NASA's Earth science into new and innovative information products that extend the social and economic benefits of NASA's Earth science research to a broad user community.
Human Exploration and Development of Space
NASA's Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS) Enterprise includes the International Space Station (ISS), Space Shuttle, Space Communications, and Space Access offices. The mission of HEDS is to open the space frontier by exploring, using, and enabling space development, and to expand the human experience into the far reaches of the universe.
The ISS, a key HEDS program, is capable of performing unique, long duration, space-based research in a variety of disciplines, while providing a unique platform for observations of the Earth, Sun, and other astronomical objects. The ISS is crucial to fulfilling NASA's mission to explore, use, and enable the development of space for human enterprise.
The past year has seen a tremendous surge of program activity, as the ISS grew from the Unity and Zarya modules to become a permanently inhabited and premier research laboratory in space. Since May 2000, NASA and its partners at the Russian Aviation and Space Agency executed 11 successful launches and dockings to the space station. Among the elements now on orbit are the Zvezda Service Module, Russia's keystone contribution, and the U.S. laboratory, Destiny.
Permanent human habitation began aboard the space station in November 2000. The ISS commercialization efforts include opportunities for investors to develop new capabilities for the station through submission of Entrepreneurial Offers. These are private investment proposals to NASA.
In addition, HEDS Technology and Commercialization Initiative advances several strategic goals and objectives that enable the commercial development of space. Activities include 1) systems analysis, concepts and modeling, 2) enabling research and technology, and 3) technology flight demonstrations. In fiscal year 2001, a competitive cooperative agreement notice was released to solicit proposals, and it is anticipated that initial awards will be announced as early as May 2001.
The HEDS Enterprise also provides support for Space Shuttle payload buildup, test and checkout, integration, servicing, transportation and installation, as well as support for NASA missions launched on Expendable Launch Vehicles. HEDS also provides command, tracking, and telemetry data services between ground facilities and flight mission vehicles.
The Space Science Enterprise is poised to enter the new millennium with a solid foundation upon which to build, as well as expand new capabilities to explore the farthest reaches of the universe and the solar system.
The Office of Space Science is looking for answers to questions such as: How did the universe, galaxies, stars, and planets form and evolve? How can exploration of the universe and our solar system revolutionize our understanding of physics, chemistry, and biology? Are there Earth-like planets beyond our solar system? Does life in any form, however simple or complex, carbon-based or other, exist elsewhere than on planet Earth?
Long-term goals of the Space Science Enterprise are to establish a virtual presence throughout the solar system and probe deeper into the mysteries of the universe and life on Earth and beyond; to pursue space science programs that enable future human exploration beyond low Earth orbit; to develop and utilize revolutionary technologies for missions impossible in prior decades; and to contribute measurably to achieving the science, mathematics, and technology education goals of our nation.
To better study solar variability and understand its effects on humanity, NASA is starting a program called "Living With A Star," a set of missions and enhancements to current programs which will eventually encompass a number of spacecraft and systems. "Living With A Star" will also pursue partnerships with other Federal agencies that are concerned with the effects of the Sun on the Earth. The goal is to provide an exciting new capability for understanding, and ultimately predicting "solar weather," which affects Earth.
NASA's Space Science Enterprise has experienced a number of tremendous successes. Some of the top highlights include Hubble scientists' measurements of how fast the universe is expanding, and astronomers' searches of the galaxy that led to the discovery of six new planets, bringing the total to 28 of known planets outside the solar system. The Mars Global Surveyor provided the first global 3-D map of Mars, which includes an impact basin deep enough to swallow Mount Everest. NASA's Compton Gamma Ray Observatory alerted astronomers of one of the most powerful explosions in the universe, enabling them to take the first optical images of the gamma ray burst explosion that occurred on January 23, 1999. The deployment of the Chandra X-ray Observatory into orbit provided a stunning image of the Crab Nebula. Several NASA spacecraft observed that the solar wind and auroral display at the North Pole virtually disappeared from May 10-12, 1999, the most drastic and longest-lasting decrease ever seen. The crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery replaced Hubble's gyros, made numerous improvements to battery power and guidance systems, and replaced the outer layers of thermal protection, making it better than new.
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