Goddard Space Flight Center, located in Greenbelt, Maryland, is dedicated to furthering our knowledge of the Earth and its environment, the solar system, and the universe, through space observations. By developing new technologies to advance this mission, the Center strives to expand our understanding of our planet and beyond.
To support NASA's Space Science Enterprise, Goddard leads missions in space-based physics and astronomy that foster research programs through a broad variety of flight opportunities. The Center also promotes the development of advanced technology designed to enhance scientific capabilities at an affordable cost. Goddard space scientists seek answers about the composition and variability of stellar objects like black holes and exploding stars, and how the universe formed and evolved. The Center also contributes to the quest to learn how planetary systems are born and evolve. Goddard missions help researchers study the nature of the Sun's interaction with its surroundings and Earth, and determine the physical properties of the planets and interplanetary space.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is managed by and operated from Goddard Space Flight Center. In its first 10 years, the 12.5-ton Earth-orbiting observatory has studied 13,670 celestial objects, made 271,000 individual observations, and returned 3.5 terabytes of scientific data. Hubble's scientific hall of fame includes the current deepest view of the universe in visible light; images of the majestic birth of stars in spectacular stellar clouds; observations of extraordinary arcs, shells, and ribbons of glowing gas sculpted by the deaths of stars much like our Sun; unique records of mega-megaton blasts produced by comet fragments falling into the cloud tops of Jupiter; a map of the surface of distant Pluto; and evidence that galaxies may have been built up from smaller objects early in the history of the universe.
Goddard-operated space observatories continue to make discoveries about the Sun and advance our ability to predict the effects of solar storms on the Earth. Among the important observatory contributors are the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a cooperative project being carried out by the European Space Agency and NASA; and Goddard's WIND and Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) satellites.
From the local weather to the larger environment, our home planet changes every day. These changes affect our quality of life, our health, and our economy. Since the first days of observing Earth from space in the early 1960s, NASA and Goddard Space Flight Center have been pioneers in helping scientists, policymakers, and the general public gain a better understanding of how and why these changes occur. This research, and the new technology that pushes it forward, has matured to a point where we can begin to understand the details of how Earth's land, atmosphere, oceans, ice, and life interact with each other, both in local communities and across vast regions of the globe.
Goddard scientists and engineers contribute daily to NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, which consists of research studies, satellites and aircraft missions, and advanced computer networks that transmit data and resulting information to a variety of users across the world.
Goddard facilities, especially Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, play a large role in many upcoming NASA projects. The High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (HESSI) will explore the basic physics of particle acceleration and energy release in solar flares. The Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics, and Dynamics (TIMED) spacecraft will conduct a global study of a critical region in Earth's atmosphere. The mission will study the influences of the Sun and humans on the least explored and understood region of Earth's atmosphere. The QuikTOMS (Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer) mission is designed to continue daily mapping of the global distribution of total column atmospheric ozone. Continuous observation of global ozone is critical in order to monitor the expected recovery of ozone as levels of chlorofluorocarbons decrease from their current maximum as a result of the Montreal Protocol limits.
The Big Bang theory is based on Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity and the 1929 discovery that the universe is expanding. This expansion implies the universe was denser and hotter in the distant past, and was able to produce the lightest chemical elements such as hydrogen and helium. The Big Bang theory correctly predicts the relative amounts of these light elements. It also predicts that the universe should be bathed in a faint afterglow of radiation. The Cosmic Background Radiation appears as a glow that is remarkably uniform in all directions in the sky ("isotropic"), though the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) discovered very faint non-uniformities ("anisotropy") in this glow in 1992. The Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) satellite will produce a much more detailed picture of the early universe than COBE did. This information, which is recorded in the Cosmic Background Radiation, will allow astronomers to address these key cosmological questions.
Formerly called Earth Observing Spacecraft PM-1, Aqua will observe changes in the Earth's radiation energy budget, together with measurements of changes in land/ocean surface and interactions with the atmosphere through the exchanges of energy, carbon, and water.
NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-I (TDRS) is next in a series of communications satellites that will serve as the sole means of continuous, high-data-rate communications with the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and with dozens of scientific satellites in low-Earth orbit. TDRS-I is the second of three satellites that will help replenish NASA's aging TDRS fleet.
The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite, or ICESAT, will accurately measure the elevations of the Earth's ice sheets, clouds, and land, as well as answer fundamental questions about the growth or shrinkage of the Earth's polar ice sheets and the future rise or fall of global sea levels.
Goddard will continue to provide us with innovative research with some of their future initiatives. NASA's Ultra Long Duration Balloon (ULDB) program is developing a revolutionary research balloon that could open a new era in scientific research. The full-scale ULDB is the largest single-cell, super-pressure (fully sealed), balloon ever flown. The Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) will continue the precise measurement of total solar irradiance.
Goddard is leading the development of the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST); a new type of observatory with capabilities that will surpass those currently available in existing ground-based or space telescopes. NGST will employ some of the most advanced optical systems ever placed into space to observe the first stars and galaxies in the universe.
The Solar Terrestrial Probe Program science objectives are directly tied to the quests in the Sun Earth Connection theme. They describe the system behavior of the magnetic variable star, our Sun, and its interaction with the entire solar system. Living with a Star (LWS) is a NASA initiative that addresses the effects of solar variability on life and society, including human technology, humans-in-space, and terrestrial climate.
The Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, or GLAST, is a future high-energy gamma-ray mission, which promises to be a significantly advanced tool for answering these questions and others. Constellation-X is a team of powerful x-ray telescopes that will orbit closely to each other, like a constellation of tiny stars, and work in unison to simultaneously observe the same distant objects. The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) consists of three spacecraft flying 5 million kilometers apart in the shape of an equilateral triangle, to observe gravitational waves from galactic and extra-galactic binary systems. Swift is a three-telescope space observatory for studying gamma ray bursts. Swift will have the unique ability to rotate in orbit and point its gamma ray telescope, x-ray telescope, and ultraviolet/optical telescope at gamma ray bursts within minutes of the burst's first appearance.
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