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 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 is the Nation's leading Government agency for providing technological leadership and advancements for the aerospace industry and the traveling public. To address the major needs for our future air and space transportation systems, the Aerospace Technology Enterprise has formulated 10- and 25year objectives in 10 areas. Achieving these objectives would not only create a future system characterized by many new capabilities, but would also continue to contribute toward strengthening national security and improving the quality of life for all Americans. 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, microdevices and instruments, information technology, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. These advances will allow space missions to expand our knowledge of the Earth and the universe.
As we begin the 21st century, the Space Program seeks to forge a "Highway to Space" that will enable its citizens to travel, work, and live in space as a matter of routine. NASA research will make it possible for industry and 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 main challenges for the space industry continue to be reliability and cost. Space launch is prohibitively expensive and risky for all but missions of national importance and the most lucrative commercial efforts, such as worldwide broadcasting satellites. Whether doing business in Earth orbit or exploring distant worlds, the first few hundred kilometers of the "Highway to Space" are the toughest part of the journey. Half of the energy needed to go to the farthest planets in our solar system is devoted to escaping Earth's gravity and getting into low-Earth orbit.
Technology has a significant role in meeting these challenges. Advanced physics-based modeling, simulation, new materials and structural concepts, and other bold new technologies will enable quieter, more efficient aircraft and more robust and affordable spacecraft. A new information network for a modernized National Airspace System will allow greater flight efficiency and capacity. As the space transportation system grows, it will be increasingly linked with the aviation system. In the future, a single aerospace system will serve both air and space transportation.
NASA has always been a leader in applying advanced technologies. New technology will drive the next wave of innovation, enabling missions to be performed in completely new ways and creating missions that were never before possible. 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. 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. Safe, lowcost transportation will make space commercially accessible for both passenger and cargo operations. It will also allow the continued expansion of human and robotic exploration throughout our solar system.
Biological and Physical Research
The Biological and Physical Research Enterprise was established in 2000 to affirm NASA's commitment to the essential role biology plays in the 21st century, to establish the core of biological and physical sciences research needed to support Agency strategic objectives, to foster commercial development in space, and to ensure an effective management structure to optimize implementation of the Agency's scientific and technological goals.
Revolutionary solutions to science and technology problems are likely to emerge from scientists and engineers who are working at the frontiers of their respective disciplines and are also engaged in dynamic interdisciplinary interactions. The Enterprise fosters and enhances rigorous interdisciplinary research, closely linking fundamental biological and physical sciences. It is dedicated to using the unique characteristics of the International Space Station (ISS) environment to understand biological, physical, and chemical processes, conduct science and technology research required to enable humans to safely and effectively live and work in space, transfer knowledge and technologies for Earth benefits, and support investment in space research by the private sector.
Advances in biology, medicine, physics, and chemistry; associated analytical tools; and information systems have opened an era of unprecedented opportunities for bringing spacebased knowledge to benefit human life on Earth. This increased understanding will transform the technological foundations not only of the space program, but also of our society. NASA researchers stand on the brink of using this knowledge to develop "smart" materials and "intelligent" spacecraft systems that are programmed to sense changes and adapt to them, a capability that will enable widespread advances for commercialization in Earth-based technology, engineering, biomedicine.
Imagine lighting homes with solar energy at night or having several days to prepare for a hurricane developing out in the Atlantic Ocean. Much of the technology studied by NASA's Earth Science Enterprise is being used to make these scenarios possible, with the hope that ongoing research and future projects will continue to improve our way of life.
While many people are interested in the scientific elements of the research data being collected, many more are concerned with how these data will impact their lives. Generally, people are unaware of the benefits that satellite research has already yielded for them. While satellites have been in orbit studying weather patterns for some time now, scientists and researchers have used resulting data to create a detailed historical weather pattern, allowing them to make relatively accurate predictions about potential locations of inclement weather and pinpoint likely destruction patterns within a community not prepared for that weather.
NASA has contributed to this effort by providing vital observations from space. The Agency continues to improve their models and methodologies, in order to achieve the best space-based observations to improve prediction techniques for certain weather patterns.
NASA's advancement of satellite technology is also assisting countries in locating food sources. For example, in December 1999, NASA launched the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard its Terra satellite. Remote sensing instruments like the MODIS have enabled fisherman to pinpoint fish populations in the ocean based on clear patterns of temperature and chlorophyll concentrations observed at the surface.
Additionally, the progression of satellite technology spawned the invention of the laser. Once upon a time, lasers were only used in space to conduct delicate technical procedures on equipment; however, dentists are now using this technology to make visits far less painful for their patients. Instead of using the traditional dental drill, dentists and oral surgeons can perform a variety of procedures using laser technology. The laser has the ability to cut and remove soft tissue for the treatment of gum disease, and can close off blood vessels to eliminate visible bleeding.
As NASA forges ahead into the new millennium, Earth science data will continue to be usefully applied to our lives. The prospects look hopeful with the scheduled 2005 launch of the Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer-Indian Ocean METOC Imager mission, which partners NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Navy. Substantial improvements in current weather forecasting techniques are anticipated from this mission.
Human Exploration and Development of Space
The goal of the Human Exploration and Development of Space Enterprise is to open the space frontier by exploring, using, and enabling the development of space. The Enterprise's programs provide safe, assured transportation to and from space for people and payloads, and develop and operate habitable space facilities in order to enhance scientific knowledge, support technology development, and enable commercial activity.
NASA serves as a catalyst for space development. In exploring space, NASA brings people and machines together to overcome challenges of distance, time, and environment. Robotic science missions survey and characterize other bodies as precursors to eventual human missions. The Space Shuttle and the ISS serve as research platforms to pave the way for sustained human presence in space through critical research on human adaptation. These programs also provide opportunities for research with applications on Earth. The Enterprise employs breakthrough technologies to revolutionize human space flight.
Utmost in the commercialization plans is the ISS, which opened new frontiers in human space exploration, technology, and business. The ISS is an unparalleled international scientific and technological cooperative venture that has ushered in a new era of human space flight with the promise of economic benefits to people on Earth. The ISS provides more space for research, with greater resources and flexibility than any spacecraft ever built. It provides unprecedented, long-term access to the microgravity and ultra-vacuum environment of space, a flexible vantage point for observational research, and a test bed for new technologies.
The commercial development of the space frontier is one of the greatest opportunities facing America. It is the growth of business into space that will bring the benefits of space down to Earth and enrich the everyday lives of all Americans. The Enterprise also is encouraging businesses to seize this opportunity through the Space Product Development Program and its Commercial Space Centers, to help ensure continued U.S. economic growth and to bring the opportunities for new advances, technological understanding, products, and jobs to the public.
The Space Science Enterprise offers 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 the following questions: 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, and are enabled by, 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 started 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" also will pursue partnerships with other Federal agencies that are concerned with the effects of the Sun on the Earth.
The "Living With a Star" initiative will: 1) observe the entire Sun simultaneously using a few well-positioned spacecraft, including Solar Sentinel spacecraft, which will observe the side of the Sun away from the Earththe first spacecraft capable of doing so; 2) track solar storm regions both above and below the solar surface for the first time, using an advanced spacecraft called the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO), which will also probe the interior of the Sun to help us understand the source of solar variability; 3) use the Sentinels, the SDO, and dozens of low-cost micro-satellites in critical regions around Earth to track Earth-directed solar mass ejections and their impact on the Earth's space environment; 4) use one of the most intriguing and far-reaching technologies currently under development, the large solar sails that will use the energy in sunlight rather than wind to get to their stationary positions above the poles of the Earth and in polar orbit about the Sun; 5) miniaturize spacecraft and instruments in order to orbit numerous "space buoys" similar to ocean buoys that will probe the Earth's upper atmosphere and space environment and their response to solar storms.
The program's goal is to provide an exciting new capability for understanding, and ultimately predicting "solar weather" which affects Earth.
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