The agency's administration is located at
NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, and provides overall guidance and direction. Except under exceptional circumstances, NASA civil service employees are required to be
NASA's administrator is nominated by the President of the United States subject to the approval of the
US Senate, and serves at the President's pleasure as a senior space science advisor. The current administrator is
Bill Nelson, appointed by President
Joe Biden, since May 3, 2021.
NASA operates with four FY2022 strategic goals.
Expand human knowledge through new scientific discoveries
Extend human presence to the Moon and on towards Mars for sustainable long-term exploration, development, and utilization
Catalyze economic growth and drive innovation to address national challenges
Enhance capabilities and operations to catalyze current and future mission success
NASA budget requests are developed by NASA and approved by the administration prior to submission to the
U.S. Congress. Authorized budgets are those that have been included in enacted appropriations bills that are approved by both houses of Congress and enacted into law by the U.S. president.
NASA fiscal year budget requests and authorized budgets are provided below.
Center-wide activities such as the Chief Engineer and Safety and Mission Assurance organizations are aligned to the headquarters function. The MSD budget estimate includes funds for these HQ functions. The administration operates 10 major field centers with several managing additional subordinate facilities across the country. Each is led by a Center Director (data below valid as of September 1, 2022).
Short 2018 documentary about NASA produced for its 60th anniversary
Beginning in 1946, the
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) began experimenting with
rocket planes such as the supersonic
Bell X-1. In the early 1950s, there was challenge to launch an artificial satellite for the
International Geophysical Year (1957–1958). An effort for this was the American
Project Vanguard. After the
Soviet space program's launch of the world's first artificial
satellite (Sputnik 1) on October 4, 1957, the attention of the United States turned toward its own fledgling space efforts. The
US Congress, alarmed by the perceived threat to national security and technological leadership (known as the "
Sputnik crisis"), urged immediate and swift action; President
Dwight D. Eisenhower counseled more deliberate measures. The result was a consensus that the White House forged among key interest groups, including scientists committed to basic research; the Pentagon which had to match the Soviet military achievement; corporate America looking for new business; and a strong new trend in public opinion looking up to space exploration.
On January 12, 1958, NACA organized a "Special Committee on Space Technology", headed by
Guyford Stever. On January 14, 1958, NACA Director
Hugh Dryden published "A National Research Program for Space Technology", stating,
It is of great urgency and importance to our country both from consideration of our prestige as a nation as well as military necessity that this challenge [Sputnik] be met by an energetic program of research and development for the conquest of space ... It is accordingly proposed that the scientific research be the responsibility of a national civilian agency ... NACA is capable, by rapid extension and expansion of its effort, of providing leadership in
While this new federal agency would conduct all non-military space activity, the
Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was created in February 1958 to develop space technology for military application.
NASA's first administrator was Dr.
T. Keith Glennan who was appointed by President
Dwight D. Eisenhower. During his term (1958–1961) he brought together the disparate projects in American space development research.James Webb led the agency during the development of the Apollo program in the 1960s.James C. Fletcher has held the position twice; first during the Nixon administration in the 1970s and then at the request of Ronald Reagan following the
Challenger disaster.Daniel Goldin held the post for nearly 10 years and is the longest serving administrator to date. He is best known for pioneering the "faster, better, cheaper" approach to space programs. Bill Nelson is currently serving as the 14th administrator of NASA.
NASA seal was approved by Eisenhower in 1959, and slightly modified by President
John F. Kennedy in 1961. NASA's first logo was designed by the head of Lewis' Research Reports Division, James Modarelli, as a simplification of the 1959 seal. In 1975, the original logo was first dubbed "the meatball" to distinguish it from the newly designed "worm" logo which replaced it. The "meatball" returned to official use in 1992. The "worm" was brought out of retirement by administrator
Jim Bridenstine in 2020.
NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC provides overall guidance and political leadership to the agency's ten field centers, through which all other facilities are administered.
Aerial views of the NASA Ames (left) and NASA Armstrong (right) centers
Ames Research Center (ARC) at
Moffett Field is located in the Silicon Valley of central California and delivers wind-tunnel research on the aerodynamics of propeller-driven aircraft along with research and technology in aeronautics, spaceflight, and information technology. It provides leadership in
astrobiology, small satellites, robotic lunar exploration, intelligent/adaptive systems and thermal protection.
Glenn Research Center is based in Cleveland, Ohio and focuses on air-breathing and in-space propulsion and cryogenics, communications, power energy storage and conversion, microgravity sciences, and advanced materials.
View of the SLS exiting the
VAB at KSC (left) and of the
MSFC test stands (right)
Kennedy Space Center (KSC), located west of
Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. KSC also manages and operates uncrewed rocket launch facilities for America's civil space program from three pads at Cape Canaveral.
NASA inherited NACA's X-15 experimental rocket-powered
hypersonic research aircraft, developed in conjunction with the US Air Force and
Navy. Three planes were built starting in 1955. The X-15 was
drop-launched from the wing of one of two NASA
Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses, NB52A tail number 52-003, and NB52B, tail number 52-008 (known as the Balls 8). Release took place at an altitude of about 45,000 feet (14 km) and a speed of about 500 miles per hour (805 km/h).
Twelve pilots were selected for the program from the Air Force, Navy, and NACA. A total of 199 flights were made between June 1959 and December 1968, resulting in the
official world record for the highest speed ever reached by a crewed powered aircraft (current as of 2014[update]), and a maximum speed of Mach 6.72, 4,519 miles per hour (7,273 km/h). The altitude record for X-15 was 354,200 feet (107.96 km). Eight of the pilots were awarded Air Force
astronaut wings for flying above 260,000 feet (80 km), and two flights by
Joseph A. Walker exceeded 100 kilometers (330,000 ft), qualifying as spaceflight according to the
International Aeronautical Federation. The X-15 program employed mechanical techniques used in the later crewed spaceflight programs, including
reaction control system jets for controlling the orientation of a spacecraft,
space suits, and horizon definition for navigation. The
reentry and landing data collected were valuable to NASA for designing the
Based on studies to grow the Mercury spacecraft capabilities to long-duration flights, developing
space rendezvous techniques, and precision Earth landing, Project Gemini was started as a two-man program in 1961 to overcome the Soviets' lead and to support the planned Apollo crewed lunar landing program, adding
extravehicular activity (EVA) and
docking to its objectives. The first crewed Gemini flight,
Gemini 3, was flown by
Gus Grissom and
John Young on March 23, 1965. Nine missions followed in 1965 and 1966, demonstrating an endurance mission of nearly fourteen days, rendezvous, docking, and practical EVA, and gathering medical data on the effects of weightlessness on humans.
Under the direction of
Soviet PremierNikita Khrushchev, the USSR competed with Gemini by converting their Vostok spacecraft into a two- or three-man
Voskhod. They succeeded in launching two crewed flights before Gemini's first flight, achieving a three-cosmonaut flight in 1964 and the first EVA in 1965. After this, the program was canceled, and Gemini caught up while spacecraft designer
Sergei Korolev developed the
Soyuz spacecraft, their answer to Apollo.
The U.S. public's perception of the Soviet lead in the Space Race (by putting the first man into space) motivated President
John F. Kennedy to ask the Congress on May 25, 1961, to commit the federal government to a program to land a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s, which effectively launched the
Apollo was one of the most expensive American scientific programs ever. It cost more than $20 billion in 1960s dollars or an estimated $236 billion in present-day US dollars. (In comparison, the
Manhattan Project cost roughly $30.1 billion, accounting for inflation.) The Apollo program used the newly developed
Saturn I and
Saturn V rockets, which were far larger than the repurposed ICBMs of the previous Mercury and Gemini programs. They were used to launch the Apollo spacecraft, consisting of the
Command and Service Module (CSM) and the
Lunar Module (LM). The CSM ferried astronauts from Earth to Moon orbit and back, while the Lunar Module would land them on the Moon itself.[note 1]
The planned first crew of 3 astronauts were killed due to a fire during a 1967 preflight test for the Apollo 204 mission (later renamed
Apollo 1). The second crewed mission,
Apollo 8, brought astronauts for the first time in a flight around the Moon in December 1968. Shortly before, the Soviets had sent an uncrewed spacecraft around the Moon. The next two missions (
Apollo 9 and
Apollo 10) practiced rendezvous and docking maneuvers required to conduct the Moon landing.
On July 3, 1969, the Soviets suffered a major setback on their Moon program when the rocket known as the
N-1 had exploded in a fireball at its launch site at
Baikonur in Kazakhstan, destroying one of two launch pads. Each of the first four launches of N-1 resulted in failure before the end of the first stage flight effectively denying the Soviet Union the capacity to deliver the systems required for a crewed lunar landing.
Apollo set major
milestones in human spaceflight. It stands alone in sending crewed missions beyond
low Earth orbit, and landing humans on another
celestial body.Apollo 8 was the first crewed spacecraft to orbit another celestial body, while
Apollo 17 marked the last moonwalk and the last crewed mission beyond
low Earth orbit. The program spurred advances in many areas of technology peripheral to rocketry and crewed spaceflight, including
avionics, telecommunications, and computers. Apollo sparked interest in many fields of engineering and left many physical facilities and machines developed for the program as landmarks. Many objects and artifacts from the program are on display at various locations throughout the world, notably at the
Smithsonian's Air and Space Museums.
Skylab was the United States' first and only independently built
space station. Conceived in 1965 as a workshop to be constructed in space from a spent
Saturn IB upper stage, the 169,950 lb (77,088 kg) station was constructed on Earth and launched on May 14, 1973, atop the first two stages of a
Saturn V, into a 235-nautical-mile (435 km) orbit inclined at 50° to the equator. Damaged during launch by the loss of its thermal protection and one electricity-generating solar panel, it was repaired to functionality by its first crew. It was occupied for a total of 171 days by 3 successive crews in 1973 and 1974. It included a laboratory for studying the effects of
microgravity, and a
solar observatory. NASA planned to have the in-development
Space Shuttle dock with it, and elevate Skylab to a higher safe altitude, but the Shuttle was not ready for flight before Skylab's re-entry and demise on July 11, 1979.
To reduce cost, NASA modified one of the Saturn V rockets originally earmarked for a canceled Apollo mission to launch Skylab, which itself was a modified
Saturn V fuel tank. Apollo spacecraft, launched on smaller
Saturn IB rockets, were used for transporting astronauts to and from the station. Three crews, consisting of three men each, stayed aboard the station for periods of 28, 59, and 84 days. Skylab's habitable volume was 11,290 cubic feet (320 m3), which was 30.7 times bigger than that of the
Apollo Command Module.
In February 1969, President
Richard Nixon appointed a space task group headed by Vice President
Spiro Agnew to recommend human spaceflight projects beyond Apollo. The group responded in September with the Integrated Program Plan (IPP), intended to support
space stations in Earth and lunar orbit, a lunar surface base, and a human Mars landing. These would be supported by replacing NASA's existing
expendable launch systems with a reusable infrastructure including Earth orbit shuttles,
space tugs, and a
nuclear-powered trans-lunar and interplanetary shuttle. Despite the enthusiastic support of Agnew and NASA Administrator
Thomas O. Paine, Nixon realized public enthusiasm, which translated into Congressional support, for the space program was waning as Apollo neared its climax, and vetoed most of these plans, except for the
Earth orbital shuttle, and a deferred Earth space station.
Soviet and American crews with spacecraft model, 1975
On May 24, 1972, US President
Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Premier
Alexei Kosygin signed an agreement calling for a joint crewed space mission, and declaring intent for all future international crewed spacecraft to be capable of docking with each other. This authorized the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), involving the rendezvous and docking in Earth orbit of a surplus
Apollo command and service module with a
Soyuz spacecraft. The mission took place in July 1975. This was the last US human spaceflight until the first orbital flight of the
Space Shuttle in April 1981.
The mission included both joint and separate scientific experiments and provided useful engineering experience for future joint US–Russian space flights, such as the Shuttle–Mir program and the International Space Station.
Space Shuttle was the only vehicle in the Space Transportation System to be developed, and became the major focus of NASA in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Originally planned as a frequently launchable, fully reusable vehicle, the design was changed to use an
expendable external propellant tank to reduce development cost, and four Space Shuttle orbiters were built by 1985. The first to launch,
Columbia, did so on April 12, 1981, the 20th anniversary of the
first human spaceflight.
The Shuttle flew 135 missions and carried 355 astronauts from 16 countries, many on multiple trips. Its major components were a
spaceplane orbiter with an external fuel tank and two solid-fuel launch rockets at its side. The external tank, which was bigger than the spacecraft itself, was the only major component that was not reused. The shuttle could orbit in altitudes of 185–643 km (115–400
miles) and carry a maximum payload (to low orbit) of 24,400 kg (54,000 lb). Missions could last from 5 to 17 days and crews could be from 2 to 8 astronauts.
On 20 missions (1983–1998) the Space Shuttle carried
Spacelab, designed in cooperation with the
European Space Agency (ESA). Spacelab was not designed for independent orbital flight, but remained in the Shuttle's cargo bay as the astronauts entered and left it through an
airlock. On June 18, 1983,
Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, on board the Space Shuttle ChallengerSTS-7 mission. Another famous series of missions were the
launch and later
successful repair of the
Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 and 1993, respectively.
In 1995, Russian-American interaction resumed with the
Shuttle–Mir missions (1995–1998). Once more an American vehicle docked with a Russian craft, this time a full-fledged space station. This cooperation has continued with Russia and the United States as two of the biggest partners in the largest space station built: the
International Space Station (ISS). The strength of their cooperation on this project was even more evident when NASA began relying on Russian launch vehicles to service the ISS during the two-year grounding of the shuttle fleet following the 2003
Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
The Shuttle fleet lost two orbiters and 14 astronauts in two disasters: Challenger in 1986, and
Columbia in 2003. While the 1986 loss was mitigated by building the Space ShuttleEndeavour from replacement parts, NASA did not build another orbiter to replace the second loss. NASA's Space Shuttle program had 135 missions when the program ended with the successful landing of the
Space Shuttle Atlantis at the
Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011. The program spanned 30 years with 355 separate astronauts sent into space, many on multiple missions.
An artist's conception, from NASA, of an astronaut planting a US flag on Mars. A
human mission to Mars has been discussed as a possible NASA mission since the 1960s.
Concepts for how the first human landing site on Mars might evolve over the course of multiple human expeditions
President Obama's plan was to develop American
private spaceflight capabilities to get astronauts to the International Space Station, replace Russian Soyuz capsules, and use Orion capsules for ISS emergency escape purposes. During a speech at the Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010, Obama proposed a new heavy-lift vehicle (HLV) to replace the formerly planned
Ares V. In his speech, Obama called for a crewed mission to an asteroid as soon as 2025, and a crewed mission to Mars orbit by the mid-2030s. The
NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was passed by Congress and signed into law on October 11, 2010. The act officially canceled the Constellation program.
The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 required a newly designed HLV be chosen within 90 days of its passing; the launch vehicle was given the name
Space Launch System. The new law also required the construction of a beyond low earth orbit spacecraft. The
Orion spacecraft, which was being developed as part of the Constellation program, was chosen to fulfill this role. The Space Launch System is planned to launch both Orion and other necessary hardware for missions beyond low Earth orbit. The SLS is to be upgraded over time with more powerful versions. The initial capability of SLS is required to be able to lift 70 t (150,000 lb) (later 95 t or 209,000 lb) into
LEO. It is then planned to be upgraded to 105 t (231,000 lb) and then eventually to 130 t (290,000 lb). The Orion capsule first flew on
Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1), an uncrewed test flight that was launched on December 5, 2014, atop a
Delta IV Heavy rocket.
NASA undertook a feasibility study in 2012 and developed the
Asteroid Redirect Mission as an uncrewed mission to move a boulder-sized
near-Earth asteroid (or boulder-sized chunk of a larger asteroid) into lunar orbit. The mission would demonstrate
ion thruster technology and develop techniques that could be used for
planetary defense against an asteroid collision, as well as a cargo transport to Mars in support of a future human mission. The Moon-orbiting boulder might then later be visited by astronauts. The Asteroid Redirect Mission was cancelled in 2017 as part of the FY2018 NASA budget, the first one under President
NASA has conducted many uncrewed and robotic spaceflight programs throughout its history. Uncrewed robotic programs launched the first American artificial
satellites into Earth orbit for scientific and
communications purposes and sent scientific probes to explore the planets of the Solar System, starting with
Mars, and including "
grand tours" of the outer planets. More than 1,000 uncrewed missions have been designed to explore the Earth and the Solar System.
The first US uncrewed satellite was
Explorer 1, which started as an ABMA/JPL project during the early part of the
Space Race. It was launched in January 1958, two months after
Sputnik. At the creation of NASA, the Explorer project was transferred to the agency and still continues. Its missions have been focusing on the Earth and the Sun, measuring magnetic fields and the
solar wind, among other aspects.
The Ranger missions developed technology to build and deliver robotic probes into orbit and to the vicinity of the Moon.
Ranger 7 successfully returned images of the Moon in July 1964, followed by two more successful missions.
NASA also played a role in the development and delivery of early communications satellite technology to orbit.
Syncom 3 was the first geostationary satellite. It was an experimental geosynchronous communications satellite placed over the equator at 180 degrees longitude in the Pacific Ocean. The satellite provided live television coverage of the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan and conducted various communications tests. Operations were turned over to the Department of Defense on January 1, 1965; Syncom 3 was to prove useful in the DoD's Vietnam communications. Programs like Syncom,
Telstar, and Applications Technology Satellites (ATS) demonstrated the utility of communications satellites and delivered early telephonic and video satellite transmission.
Mars has been the goal of more than ten uncrewed NASA programs. The first was
Mariner in the 1960s and 1970s, which made multiple visits to
Mars and one to
Mercury. Probes launched under the Mariner program were also the first to make a planetary flyby (
Mariner 2), to take the first pictures from another planet (
Mariner 4), the first planetary orbiter (
Mariner 9), and the first to make a
gravity assist maneuver (Mariner 10). This is a technique where the satellite takes advantage of the gravity and velocity of planets to reach its destination.
Venus for four years in the early 1990s capturing radar images of the planet's surface.MESSENGER orbited
Mercury between 2011 and 2015 after a 6.5-year journey involving a complicated series of flybys of Venus and Mercury to reduce velocity sufficiently enough to enter Mercury orbit. MESSENGER became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury and used its science payload to study Mercury's surface composition, geological history, internal magnetic field, and verified its polar deposits were dominantly water-ice.
From 1966 to 1968, the Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor missions provided higher quality photographs and other measurements to pave the way for the crewed Apollo missions to the Moon.Clementine spent a couple of months mapping the Moon in 1994 before moving on to other mission objectives.Lunar Prospector spent 19 months from 1998 mapping the Moon's surface composition and looking for polar ice.
After Mars, Jupiter was first visited by Pioneer 10 in 1973. More than 20 years later Galileo sent a probe into the planet's atmosphere and became the first spacecraft to orbit the planet.Pioneer 11 became the first spacecraft to visit
Saturn in 1979, with Voyager 2 making the first (and so far, only) visits to
Neptune in 1986 and 1989, respectively. The first spacecraft to leave the Solar System was Pioneer 10 in 1983. For a time, it was the most distant spacecraft, but it has since been surpassed by both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.
Pioneers 10 and 11 and both Voyager probes carry messages from the Earth to extraterrestrial life. Communication can be difficult with deep space travel. For instance, it took about three hours for a radio signal to reach the New Horizons spacecraft when it was more than halfway to Pluto. Contact with Pioneer 10 was lost in 2003. Both Voyager probes continue to operate as they explore the outer boundary between the Solar System and interstellar space.
NASA continued to support in situ exploration beyond the asteroid belt, including Pioneer and Voyager traverses into the unexplored trans-Pluto region, and
gas giant orbiters Galileo (1989–2003) and Cassini (1997–2017) exploring the Jovian and Saturnian systems respectively.
The missions below represent the robotic spacecraft that have been delivered and operated by NASA to study the heliosphere. The Helios A and Helios B missions were launched in the 1970s to study the Sun and were the first spacecraft to orbit inside of Mercury's orbit. The
Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer (FAST) mission was launched in August 1996 becoming the second SMEX mission placed in orbit. It studied the auroral zones near each pole during its transits in a highly elliptical orbit.
International Earth-Sun Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) mission was launched in 1978 and is the first spacecraft designed to operate at the Earth-Sun L1 libration point. It studied solar-terrestrial relationships at the outermost boundaries of the Earth's magnetosphere and the structure of the solar wind. The spacecraft was subsequently maneuvered out of the halo orbit and conducted a flyby of the
Giacobini-Zinner comet in 1985 as the rechristened International Cometary Explorer (ICE).
Ulysses was launched in 1990 and slingshotted around Jupiter to put it in an orbit to travel over the poles of the Sun. It was designed study the space environment above and below the poles and delivered scientific data for about 19 years.
The Earth Sciences Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate leads efforts to study the planet Earth. Spacecraft have been used to study Earth since the mid-1960s. Efforts included the
Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS) and
Nimbus satellite systems of which there were many carrying weather research and forecasting from space from 1960 into the 2020s.
Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) was launched in 2003, operated for seven years, and measured ice sheet mass balance, cloud and aerosol heights, and well as topography and vegetation characteristics.
Long-duration missions to the ISS are referred to as
ISS Expeditions. Expedition crew members typically spend approximately six months on the ISS. The initial expedition crew size was three, temporarily decreased to two following the Columbia disaster. Since May 2009, expedition crew size has been six crew members. Crew size is expected to be increased to seven, the number the ISS was designed for, once the Commercial Crew Program becomes operational. The ISS has been continuously occupied for the past 22 years and 140 days, having exceeded the previous record held by Mir; and has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from
15 different nations.
The station can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye and, as of 2023, is the largest artificial satellite in Earth orbit with a mass and volume greater than that of any previous space station. The Russian
Soyuz and American
Dragon spacecraft are used to send astronauts to and from the ISS. Several uncrewed cargo spacecraft provide service to the ISS; they are the Russian
Progress spacecraft which has done so since 2000, the European
Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) since 2008, the Japanese
H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) since 2009, the (uncrewed)
Dragon since 2012, and the American
Cygnus spacecraft since 2013. The Space Shuttle, before its retirement, was also used for cargo transfer and would often switch out expedition crew members, although it did not have the capability to remain docked for the duration of their stay. Between the retirement of the Shuttle in 2011 and the commencement of crewed Dragon flights in 2020, American astronauts exclusively used the Soyuz for crew transport to and from the ISS The highest number of people occupying the ISS has been thirteen; this occurred three times during the late Shuttle ISS assembly missions.
The ISS program is expected to continue to 2030, after which the space station will be retired and destroyed in a controlled de-orbit.
Commercial Resupply Services (2008–present)
Commercial Resupply Services missions approaching International Space Station
Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) are a contract solution to deliver cargo and supplies to the
International Space Station (ISS) on a commmercial basis. NASA signed its first CRS contracts in 2008 and awarded $1.6 billion to
SpaceX for twelve cargo
Dragon and $1.9 billion to
Orbital Sciences[note 2] for eight
Cygnus flights, covering deliveries to 2016. Both companies evolved or created their launch vehicle products to support the solution (SpaceX with The
Falcon 9 and Orbital with the
A second phase of contracts (known as CRS-2) was solicited in 2014; contracts were awarded in January 2016 to Orbital ATK[note 2]Cygnus,
Sierra Nevada CorporationDream Chaser, and SpaceX Dragon 2, for cargo transport flights beginning in 2019 and expected to last through 2024. In March 2022, NASA awarded an additional six CRS-2 missions each to both SpaceX and Northrop Grumman (formerly Orbital).
Northrop Grumman successfully delivered
Cygnus NG-17 to the ISS in February 2022. In July 2022, SpaceX launched its 25th CRS flight (
SpaceX CRS-25) and successfully delivered its cargo to the ISS. In late 2022, Sierra Nevada continued to assemble their Dream Chaser CRS solution; current estimates put its first launch in early 2023.
Commercial Crew Program (2011–present)
The Crew Dragon (left) and Starliner (right) approaching the
ISS on their respective missions
The spacecraft are owned and operated by the vendor, and crew transportation is provided to NASA as a commercial service. Each mission sends up to four astronauts to the ISS, with an option for a fifth passenger available. Operational flights occur approximately once every six months for missions that last for approximately six months. A spacecraft remains docked to the ISS during its mission, and missions usually overlap by at least a few days. Between the retirement of the
Space Shuttle in 2011 and the first operational CCP mission in 2020, NASA relied on the
Soyuz program to transport its astronauts to the ISS.
A Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched to space atop a
Falcon 9 Block 5 launch vehicle and the capsule returns to Earth via
splashdown in the ocean near Florida. The program's first operational mission,
SpaceX Crew-1, launched on 16 November 2020.Boeing Starliner operational flights will now commence after its
final test flight which was launched atop an
Atlas V N22 launch vehicle. Instead of a splashdown, a Starliner capsule returns on land with
airbags at one of four designated sites in the western United States.
NASA's next major space initiative is to be the construction of the
Lunar Gateway, a small space station in lunar orbit. This space station will be designed primarily for non-continuous human habitation. The first tentative steps of returning to crewed lunar missions will be
Artemis 2, which is to include the Orion crew module, propelled by the SLS, and is to launch in 2024. This mission is to be a 10-day mission planned to briefly place a crew of four into a
Lunar flyby. The construction of the Gateway would begin with the proposed Artemis 3, which is planned to deliver a crew of four to
Lunar orbit along with the first modules of the Gateway. This mission would last for up to 30 days. NASA plans to build full scale deep space habitats such as the Lunar Gateway and the
Nautilus-X as part of its
Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program. In 2017, NASA was directed by the congressional NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 to get humans to Mars-orbit (or to the Martian surface) by the 2030s.
On April 16, 2021, NASA announced they had selected the
SpaceX Lunar Starship as its Human Landing System. The agency's Space Launch System rocket will launch four astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft for their multi-day journey to lunar orbit where they will transfer to SpaceX's Starship for the final leg of their journey to the surface of the Moon.
In November 2021, it was announced that the goal of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024 had slipped to no earlier than 2025 due to numerous factors.
Artemis 1 launched on November 16, 2022 and returned to Earth safely on December 11, 2022. As of June 2022, NASA plans to launch
Artemis 2 in May 2024 and
Artemis 3 sometime in 2025. Additional Artemis missions,
Artemis 4 and
Artemis 5, are planned to launch after 2025.
Commercial LEO Development (2021–present)
The Commercial Low Earth Orbit Destinations program is an initiative by NASA to support work on commercial space stations that the agency hopes to have in place by the end of the current decade to replace the "International Space Station". The three selected companies are:
Blue Origin (et al.) with their
Orbital Reef station concept,
Nanoracks (et al.) with their
Starlab Space Station concept, and
Northrop Grumman with a station concept based on the HALO-module for the Gateway station.
Video of many of the uncrewed missions used to explore the outer reaches of space
NASA has conducted many uncrewed and robotic spaceflight programs throughout its history. More than 1,000 uncrewed missions have been designed to explore the Earth and the Solar System.
Mission selection process
NASA executes a mission development framework to plan, select, develop, and operate robotic missions. This framework defines cost, schedule and technical risk parameters to enable competitive selection of missions involving mission candidates that have been developed by principal investigators and their teams from across NASA, the broader U.S. Government research and development stakeholders, and industry. The mission development construct is defined by four umbrella programs.
The Explorer program derives its origin from the earliest days of the U.S. Space program. In current form, the program consists of three classes of systems -
Small Explorers (SMEX),
Medium Explorers (MIDEX), and
University-Class Explorers (UNEX) missions. The NASA Explorer program office provides frequent flight opportunities for moderate cost innovative solutions from the heliophysics and astrophysics science areas. The Small Explorer missions are required to limit cost to NASA to below $150M (2022 dollars). Medium class explorer missions have typically involved NASA cost caps of $350M. The Explorer program office is based at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
The NASA Discovery program develops and delivers robotic spacecraft solutions in the planetary science domain. Discovery enables scientists and engineers to assemble a team to deliver a solution against a defined set of objectives and competitively bid that solution against other candidate programs. Cost caps vary but recent mission selection processes were accomplished using a $500M cost cap to NASA. The Planetary Mission Program Office is based at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and manages both the Discovery and New Frontiers missions. The office is part of the Science Mission Directorate.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced on June 2, 2021, that the DAVINCI+ and VERITAS missions were selected to launch to Venus in the late 2020s, having beat out competing proposals for missions to Jupiter's volcanic moon Io and Neptune's large moon
Triton that were also selected as Discovery program finalists in early 2020. Each mission has an estimated cost of $500 million, with launches expected between 2028 and 2030. Launch contracts will be awarded later in each mission's development.
The New Frontiers program focuses on specific
Solar System exploration goals identified as top priorities by the planetary science community. Primary objectives include Solar System exploration employing medium class spacecraft missions to conduct high-science-return investigations. New Frontiers builds on the development approach employed by the Discovery program but provides for higher cost caps and schedule durations than are available with Discovery. Cost caps vary by opportunity; recent missions have been awarded based on a defined cap of $1 Billion. The higher cost cap and projected longer mission durations result in a lower frequency of new opportunities for the program - typically one every several years. OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons are examples of New Frontiers missions.
NASA has determined that the next opportunity to propose for the fifth round of New Frontiers missions will occur no later than the fall of 2024. Missions in NASA's New Frontiers Program tackle specific Solar System exploration goals identified as top priorities by the planetary science community. Exploring the Solar System with medium-class spacecraft missions that conduct high-science-return investigations is NASA's strategy to further understand the Solar System.
Large strategic missions (formerly called Flagship missions) are strategic missions that are typically developed and managed by large teams that may span several NASA centers. The individual missions become the program as opposed to being part of a larger effort (see Discovery, New Frontiers, etc.). The
James Webb Space Telescope is a strategic mission that was developed over a period of more than 20 years. Strategic missions are developed on an ad-hoc basis as program objectives and priorities are established. Missions like Voyager, had they been developed today, would have been strategic missions. Three of the Great Observatories were strategic missions (the
Chandra X-ray Observatory,
Compton, and the
Hubble Space Telescope). Europa Clipper is the next large strategic mission in development by NASA.
Planetary science missions
NASA continues to play a material in exploration of the Solar System as it has for decades. Ongoing missions have current science objectives with respect to more than five extraterrestrial bodies within the Solar System – Moon (
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter), Mars (Perseverance rover), Jupiter (Juno), asteroid
Bennu (OSIRIS-REx), and Kuiper Belt Objects (New Horizons). The Juno extended mission will make multiple flybys of the Jovian moon Io in 2023 and 2024 after flybys of
Ganymede in 2021 and
Europa in 2022. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continue to provide science data back to Earth while continuing on their outward journeys into interstellar space.
On November 26, 2011, NASA's
Mars Science Laboratory mission was successfully launched for Mars. The Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars on August 6, 2012, and subsequently began its search for evidence of past or present life on Mars.
NASA's Europa Clipper, planned for launch in October 2024, will study the Galilean moon Europa through a series of flybys while in orbit around Jupiter. Dragonfly will send a mobile robotic
rotorcraft to Saturn's biggest moon,
Titan. As of May 2021, Dragonfly is scheduled for launch in June 2027.
NASA astrophysics spacecraft fleet, credit
NASA GSFC, 2022
The NASA Science Mission Directorate Astrophysics division manages the agency's astrophysics science portfolio. NASA has invested significant resources in the development, delivery, and operations of various forms of space telescopes. These telescopes have provided the means to study the cosmos over a large range of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The Great Observatories that were launched in the 1980s and 1990s have provided a wealth of observations for study by physicists across the planent. The first of them, the
Hubble Space Telescope, was delivered to orbit in 1990 and continues to function, in part due to prior servicing missions performed by the Space Shuttle. The other remaining active great observatory include the
Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO), launched by
STS-93 in July 1999 and is now in a 64-hour
elliptical orbit studying X-ray sources that are not readily viewable from terrestrial observatories.
Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) is a space observatory designed to improve the understanding of X-ray production in objects such as neutron stars and pulsar wind nebulae, as well as stellar and supermassive black holes. IXPE launched in December 2021 and is an international collaboration between NASA and the
Italian Space Agency (ASI). It is part of the NASA
Small Explorers program (SMEX) which designs low-cost spacecraft to study heliophysics and astrophysics.
James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), launched in December 2021 on an
Ariane 5 rocket, operates in a
halo orbit circling the Sun-Earth
L2 point. JWST's high sensitivity in the infrared spectrum and its imaging resolution will allow it to view more distant, faint, or older objects than its predecessors, including Hubble.
Earth Sciences Program missions (1965–present)
Schematic of NASA Earth Science Division operating satellite missions as of February 2015
In addition to systems already in orbit, NASA is designing a new set of Earth Observing Systems to study, assess, and generate responses for climate change, natural hazards, forest fires, and real-time agricultural processes. The GOES-T satellite (designated
GOES-18 after launch) joined the fleet of U.S. geostationary weather monitoring satellites in March 2022.
NASA also maintains the Earth Science Data Systems (ESDS) program to oversee the life cycle of NASA's Earth science data — from acquisition through processing and distribution. The primary goal of ESDS is to maximize the scientific return from NASA's missions and experiments for research and applied scientists, decision makers, and society at large.
The Earth Science program is managed by the Earth Science Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate.
Space operations architecture
NASA invests in various ground and space-based infrastructures to support its science and exploration mandate. The agency maintains access to suborbital and orbital space launch capabilities and sustains ground station solutions to support its evolving fleet of spacecraft and remote systems.
The NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) serves as the primary ground station solution for NASA's interplanetary spacecraft and select Earth-orbiting missions. The system employs ground station complexes near Barstow California in the United States, in Spain near Madrid, and in Australia near Canberra. The placement of these ground stations approximately 120 degrees apart around the planet provides the ability for communications to spacecraft throughout the
Solar System even as the Earth rotates about its axis on a daily basis. The system is controlled at a 24x7 operations center at JPL in Pasadena California which manages recurring communications linkages with up to 40 spacecraft. The system is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
The Near Space Network (NSN) provides telemetry, commanding, ground-based tracking, data and communications services to a wide range of customers with satellites in low earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous orbit (GEO), highly elliptical orbits (HEO), and lunar orbits. The NSN accumulates ground station and antenna assets from the Near-Earth Network and the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRS) which operates in geosynchronous orbit providing continuous real-time coverage for launch vehicles and low earth orbit NASA missions.
The NSN consists of 19 ground stations worldwide operated by the US Government and by contractors including Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), and South African National Space Agency (SANSA). The ground network averages between 120 and 150 spacecraft contacts a day with TDRS engaging with systems on a near-continuous basis as needed; the system is managed and operated by the Goddard Space Flight Center.
The NASA Sounding Rocket Program (NSRP) is located at the
Wallops Flight Facility and provides launch capability, payload development and integration, and field operations support to execute suborbital missions. The program has been in operation since 1959 and is managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center using a combined US Government and contractor team. The NSRP team conducts approximately 20 missions per year from both Wallops and other launch locations worldwide to allow scientists to collect data "where it occurs". The program supports the strategic vision of the Science Mission Directorate collecting important scientific data for earth science, heliophysics, and astrophysics programs.
The NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) is responsible for procurement of launch services for NASA uncrewed missions and oversight of launch integration and launch preparation activity, providing added quality and mission assurance to meet program objectives. Since 1990, NASA has purchased
expendable launch vehicle launch services directly from commercial providers, whenever possible, for its scientific and applications missions. Expendable launch vehicles can accommodate all types of orbit inclinations and altitudes and are ideal vehicles for launching Earth-orbit and interplanetary missions. LSP operates from Kennedy Space Center and falls under the NASA Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD).
The NASA X-57 Maxwell is an experimental aircraft being developed by NASA to demonstrate the technologies required to deliver a highly efficient all-electric aircraft. The primary goal of the program is to develop and deliver all-electric technology solutions that can also achieve airworthiness certification with regulators. The program involves development of the system in several phases, or modifications, to incrementally grow the capability and operability of the system. The initial configuration of the aircraft has now completed ground testing as it approaches its first flights. In mid-2022, the X-57 was scheduled to fly before the end of the year. The development team includes staff from the NASA Armstrong, Glenn, and Langley centers along with number of industry partners from the United States and Italy.
Next Generation Air Transportation System (2007–present)
NASA is collaborating with the
Federal Aviation Administration and industry stakeholders to modernize the United States
National Airspace System (NAS). Efforts began in 2007 with a goal to deliver major modernization components by 2025. The modernization effort intends to increase the safety, efficiency, capacity, access, flexibility, predictability, and resilience of the NAS while reducing the
environmental impact of aviation. The Aviation Systems Division of NASA Ames operates the joint NASA/FAA North Texas Research Station. The station supports all phases of NextGen research, from concept development to prototype system field evaluation. This facility has already transitioned advanced NextGen concepts and technologies to use through technology transfers to the FAA. NASA contributions also include development of advanced automation concepts and tools that provide air traffic controllers, pilots, and other airspace users with more accurate real-time information about the nation's traffic flow, weather, and routing. Ames' advanced airspace modeling and simulation tools have been used extensively to model the flow of air traffic flow across the U.S., and to evaluate new concepts in airspace design, traffic flow management, and optimization.
In July 2021, NASA announced contract awards for development of
nuclear thermal propulsion reactors. Three contractors will develop individual designs over 12 months for later evaluation by NASA and the
U.S. Department of Energy. NASA's space nuclear technologies portfolio are led and funded by its Space Technology Mission Directorate.
Free Space Optics. NASA contracted a third party to study the probability of using Free Space Optics (FSO) to communicate with Optical (
laser) Stations on the Ground (OGS) called laser-com
RF networks for satellite communications.
Water Extraction from Lunar Soil. On July 29, 2020, NASA requested American universities to propose new technologies for extracting water from the
lunar soil and developing power systems. The idea will help the space agency conduct
sustainable exploration of the Moon.
Human Spaceflight Research (2005–present)
SpaceX Crew-4 astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti operating the rHEALTH ONE on the
ISS to address key health risks for space travel
Human Research Program (HRP) is designed to study the effects of space on human health and also to provide countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration. The medical effects of space exploration are reasonably limited in low Earth orbit or in travel to the Moon. Travel to Mars, however, is significantly longer and deeper into space and significant medical issues can result. This includes bone loss, radiation exposure, vision changes, circadian rhythm disturbances, heart remodeling, and immune alterations. In order to study and diagnose these ill-effects, HRP has been tasked with identifying or developing small portable instrumentation with low mass, volume, and power to monitor the health of astronauts. To achieve this aim, on May 13, 2022, NASA and
SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts successfully tested its rHEALTH ONE universal biomedical analyzer for its ability to identify and analyzer biomarkers, cells, microorganisms, and proteins in a spaceflight environment.
NASA established the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) in 2016 to catalog and track potentially hazardous
near-Earth objects (NEO), such as
comets and develop potential responses and defenses against these threats. The PDCO is chartered to provide timely and accurate information to the government and the public on close approaches by
Potentially hazardous objects (PHOs) and any potential for impact. The office functions within the Science Mission Directorate Planetary Science division.
The PDCO augmented prior cooperative actions between the United States, the European Union, and other nations which had been scanning the sky for NEOs since 1998 in an effort called
Near Earth object detection (1998–present)
From the 1990s NASA has run many NEO detection programs from Earth bases observatories, greatly increasing the number of objects that have been detected. However, many asteroids are very dark and the ones that are near the Sun are much harder to detect from Earth-based telescopes which observe at night, and thus face away from the Sun. NEOs inside Earth orbit only reflect a part of light also rather than potentially a "full Moon" when they are behind the Earth and fully lit by the Sun.
In 1998, the
United States Congress gave NASA a mandate to detect 90% of near-Earth asteroids over 1 km (0.62 mi) diameter (that threaten global devastation) by 2008. This initial mandate was met by 2011. In 2005, the original USA Spaceguard mandate was extended by the
George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act, which calls for NASA to detect 90% of NEOs with diameters of 140 m (460 ft) or greater, by 2020 (compare to the 20-meter
Chelyabinsk meteor that hit Russia in 2013). As of January 2020[update], it is estimated that less than half of these have been found, but objects of this size hit the Earth only about once in 2,000 years.
In January 2020, NASA officials estimated it would take 30 years to find all objects meeting the 140 m (460 ft) size criteria, more than twice the timeframe that was built into the 2005 mandate. In June 2021, NASA authorized the development of the
NEO Surveyor spacecraft to reduce that projected duration to achieve the mandate down to 10 years.
Involvement in current robotic missions
NASA has incorporated planetary defense objectives into several ongoing missions.
In 1999, NASA visited
433 Eros with the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft which entered its orbit in 2000, closely imaging the asteroid with various instruments at that time.NEAR Shoemaker became the first spacecraft to successfully orbit and land on an asteroid, improving our understanding of these bodies and demonstrating our capacity to study them in greater detail.
OSIRIS-REx used its suite of instruments to transmit radio tracking signals and capture optical images of
Bennu during its study of the asteroid that will help NASA scientists determine its precise position in the solar system and its exact orbital path. As Bennu has the potential for recurring approaches to the Earth-Moon system in the next 100–200 years, the precision gained from OSIRIS-REx will enable scientists to better predict the future gravitational interactions between Bennu and our planet and resultant changes in Bennu's onward flight path.
WISE/NEOWISE mission was launched by NASA JPL in 2009 as an infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope. In 2013, NASA repurposed it as the NEOWISE mission to find potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids and comets; its mission has been extended into 2023.
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHAPL) jointly developed the first planetary defense purpose-built satellite, the
Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) to test possible planetary defense concepts. DART was launched in November 2021 by a SpaceX Falcon 9 from California on a trajectory designed to impact the
Dimorphos asteroid. Scientists were seeking to determine whether an impact could alter the subsequent path of the asteroid; a concept that could be applied to future planetary defense. On September 26, 2022, DART hit its target. In the weeks following impact, NASA declared DART a success, confirming it had shortened Dimorphos' orbital period around Didymos by about 32 minutes, surpassing the pre-defined success threshold of 73 seconds.
In response to the
Apollo 1 accident, which killed three astronauts in 1967, Congress directed NASA to form an Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) to advise the NASA Administrator on safety issues and hazards in NASA's air and space programs. In the aftermath of the
Shuttle Columbia disaster, Congress required that the ASAP submit an annual report to the NASA Administrator and to Congress. By 1971, NASA had also established the Space Program Advisory Council and the Research and Technology Advisory Council to provide the administrator with advisory committee support. In 1977, the latter two were combined to form the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). The
NASA Authorization Act of 2014 reaffirmed the importance of ASAP.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NASA and NOAA have cooperated for decades on the development, delivery and operation of polar and geosynchronous weather satellites. The relationship typically involves NASA developing the space systems, launch solutions, and ground control technology for the satellites and NOAA operating the systems and delivering weather forecasting products to users. Multiple generations of NOAA Polar orbiting platforms have operated to provide detailed imaging of weather from low altitude.Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) provide near-real-time coverage of the western hemisphere to ensure accurate and timely understanding of developing weather phenomenon.
The instruments on the Landsat satellites have acquired millions of images. The images, archived in the
United States and at Landsat receiving stations around the world, are a unique resource for global change research and applications in
education, and can be viewed through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) "EarthExplorer" website. The collaboration between NASA and USGS involves NASA designing and delivering the space system (satellite) solution, launching the satellite into orbit with the USGS operating the system once in orbit. As of October 2022, nine satellites have been built with eight of them successfully operating in orbit.
NASA collaborates with the European Space Agency on a wide range of scientific and exploration requirements. From participation with the Space Shuttle (the Spacelab missions) to major roles on the Artemis program (the Orion Service Module), ESA and NASA have supported the science and exploration missions of each agency. There are NASA payloads on ESA spacecraft and ESA payloads on NASA spacecraft. The agencies have developed joint missions in areas including heliophysics (e.g.
Solar Orbiter) and astronomy (
Hubble Space Telescope,
James Webb Space Telescope).
Under the Artemis Gateway partnership, ESA will contribute habitation and refueling modules, along with enhanced lunar communications, to the Gateway.
NASA and ESA continue to advance cooperation in relation to Earth Science including climate change with agreements to cooperate on various missions including the
Sentinel-6 series of spacecraft
NASA and the
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) cooperate on a range of space projects. JAXA is a direct participant in the Artemis program, including the Lunar Gateway effort. JAXA's planned contributions to Gateway include I-Hab's environmental control and life support system, batteries, thermal control, and imagery components, which will be integrated into the module by the European Space Agency (ESA) prior to launch. These capabilities are critical for sustained Gateway operations during crewed and uncrewed time periods.
JAXA and NASA have collaborated on numerous satellite programs, especially in areas of Earth science. NASA has contributed to JAXA satellites and vice versa. Japanese instruments are flying on NASA's
Aqua satellites, and NASA sensors have flown on previous Japanese Earth-observation missions. The NASA-JAXA
Global Precipitation Measurement mission was launched in 2014 and includes both NASA- and JAXA-supplied sensors on a NASA satellite launched on a JAXA rocket. The mission provides the frequent, accurate measurements of rainfall over the entire globe for use by scientists and weather forecasters.
NASA and Roscosmos have cooperated on the development and operation of the International Space Station since September 1993. The agencies have used launch systems from both countries to deliver station elements to orbit. Astronauts and Cosmonauts jointly maintain various elements of the station. Both countries provide access to the station via launch systems noting Russia's unique role as the sole provider of delivery of crew and cargo upon retirement of the space shuttle in 2011 and prior to commencement of NASA COTS and crew flights. In July 2022, NASA and Roscosmos signed a deal to share space station flights enabling crew from each country to ride on the systems provided by the other. Current geopolitical conditions in late 2022 make it unlikely that cooperation will be extended to other programs such as Artemis or lunar exploration.
In September 2014, NASA and
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed a partnership to collaborate on and launch a joint radar mission, the NASA-ISO Synthetic Aperature Radar (NISAR) mission. The mission is targeted to launch in 2024. NASA will provide the mission's L-band synthetic aperture radar, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid-state recorder and payload data subsystem. ISRO provides the spacecraft bus, the S-band radar, the launch vehicle and associated launch services.
Artemis Accords have been established to define a framework for cooperating in the peaceful exploration and exploitation of the
comets. The Accords were drafted by NASA and the U.S. State Department and are executed as a series of bilateral agreements between the United States and the participating countries. As of September 2022, 21 countries have signed the accords. They are Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The Wolf Amendment was passed by the U.S. Congress into law in 2011 and prevents NASA from engaging in direct, bilateral cooperation with the Chinese government and China-affiliated organizations such as the China National Space Administration without the explicit authorization from Congress and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The law has been renewed annually since by inclusion in annual appropriations bills.
The exhaust gases produced by rocket propulsion systems, both in Earth's atmosphere and in space, can adversely affect the Earth's environment. Some
hypergolic rocket propellants, such as
hydrazine, are highly toxic prior to
combustion, but decompose into less toxic compounds after burning. Rockets using hydrocarbon fuels, such as
kerosene, release carbon dioxide and soot in their exhaust. However, carbon dioxide emissions are insignificant compared to those from other sources; on average, the United States consumed 803 million US gal (3.0 million m3) of liquid fuels per day in 2014, while a single
Falcon 9 rocket first stage burns around 25,000 US gallons (95 m3) of
kerosene fuel per launch. Even if a Falcon 9 were launched every single day, it would only represent 0.006% of liquid fuel consumption (and carbon dioxide emissions) for that day. Additionally, the exhaust from
LH2- fueled engines, like the
SSME, is almost entirely water vapor. NASA addressed environmental concerns with its canceled
Constellation program in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act in 2011. In contrast,
ion engines use harmless noble gases like
xenon for propulsion.
In 2018, NASA along with other companies including
Sensor Coating Systems,
Pratt & Whitney, Monitor Coating and
UTRC launched the project CAUTION (CoAtings for Ultra High Temperature detectION). This project aims to enhance the temperature range of the
Thermal History Coating up to 1,500 °C (2,730 °F) and beyond. The final goal of this project is improving the safety of jet engines as well as increasing efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions.
Cubes in Space. NASA started an annual competition in 2014 named "Cubes in Space". It is jointly organized by NASA and the global education company I Doodle Learning, with the objective of teaching school students aged 11–18 to design and build scientific experiments to be launched into space on a NASA rocket or balloon. On June 21, 2017, the world's smallest satellite, KalamSAT, was launched.
In August 2007, NASA stated that all future missions and explorations of the Moon would be done entirely using the SI system. This was done to improve cooperation with space agencies of other countries that already use the metric system. As of 2007, NASA is predominantly working with SI units, but some projects still use US units, and some, including the International Space Station, use a mix of both.
Approaching 40 years of service, the
NASA TV channel airs content ranging from live coverage of crewed missions to video coverage of significant milestones for operating robotic spacecraft (e.g., rover landings on Mars for example) and domestic and international launches. The channel is delivered by NASA and is broadcast by satellite and over the Internet. The system initially started to capture archival footage of important space events for NASA managers and engineers and expanded as public interest grew. The
Apollo 8 Christmas Eve broadcast while in orbit around the Moon was received by more than a billion people. NASA's video transmission of the
Apollo 11 Moon landing was awarded a
primetime Emmy in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the landing. The channel is a product of the U.S. Government and is widely available across many television and Internet platforms.
NASAcast is the official audio and video
podcast of the NASA website. Created in late 2005, the podcast service contains the latest audio and video features from the NASA web site, including
NASA TV'sThis Week at NASA and educational materials produced by NASA. Additional NASA podcasts, such as Science@NASA, are also featured and give subscribers an in-depth look at content by subject matter.
NASA EDGE is a
video podcast which explores different missions, technologies and projects developed by NASA. The program was released by NASA on March 18, 2007, and, as of August 2020[update], there have been 200 vodcasts produced. It is a
public outreach vodcast sponsored by NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and based out of the Exploration and Space Operations Directorate at
Langley Research Center in
Hampton, Virginia. The NASA EDGE team takes an insiders look at current projects and technologies from NASA facilities around the United States, and it is depicted through personal interviews, on-scene broadcasts,
computer animations, and personal interviews with top scientists and engineers at NASA.[note 3]
The show explores the contributions NASA has made to society as well as the progress of current projects in materials and
space exploration. NASA EDGE vodcasts can be downloaded from the NASA website and from
In its first year of production, the show was downloaded over 450,000 times. As of February 2010,[update] the average download rate is more than 420,000 per month, with over one million downloads in December 2009 and January 2010.
NASA and the NASA EDGE have also developed interactive programs designed to complement the vodcast. The Lunar Electric Rover App allows users to drive a simulated
Lunar Electric Rover between objectives, and it provides information about and images of the vehicle. The NASA EDGE Widget provides a
graphical user interface for accessing NASA EDGE vodcasts, image galleries, and the program's Twitter feed, as well as a live NASA news feed.
Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is a
website provided by NASA and
Michigan Technological University (MTU). According to the website, "Each day a different image or
photograph of our
universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional
The photograph does not necessarily correspond to a celestial event on the exact day that it is displayed, and images are sometimes repeated.
However, the pictures and descriptions often relate to current events in astronomy and
space exploration. The text has several hyperlinks to more pictures and websites for more information. The images are either
visible spectrum photographs, images taken at non-visible
wavelengths and displayed in
false color, video footage, animations, artist's conceptions, or
micrographs that relate to space or cosmology. Past images are stored in the APOD Archive, with the first image appearing on June 16, 1995. This initiative has received support from NASA, the
National Science Foundation, and MTU. The images are sometimes authored by people or organizations outside NASA, and therefore APOD images are often
copyrighted, unlike many other NASA image galleries.
When the APOD website was created, it received a total of 14 page views on its first day. As of 2012[update], the APOD website has received over a billion image views throughout its lifetime. APOD is also translated into 21 languages daily.
^The descent stage of the LM stayed on the Moon after landing, while the ascent stage brought the two astronauts back to the CSM and then was discarded in lunar orbit.
abcOrbital Sciences was awarded a CRS contract in 2008. In 2015, Orbital Sciences became
Orbital ATK through a business merger. Orbital ATK was awarded a CRS-2 contract in 2016. In 2018, Orbital ATK was acquired by
^NASA EDGE Cast and Crew: Chris Giersch (Host); Blair Allen (Co-host and senior producer); Franklin Fitzgerald (
News anchor and "everyman"); Jaqueline Mirielle Cortez (Special co-host); Ron Beard (Director and "set
therapist"); and Don Morrison (Audio/
^From left to right: Launch vehicle of Apollo (Saturn 5), Gemini (Titan 2) and Mercury (Atlas). Left, top-down: Spacecraft of Apollo, Gemini and Mercury. The
Saturn IB and
Mercury-Redstone launch vehicles are left out.
abBilstein, Roger E. (1996).
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^"Short-Term Energy Outlook"(PDF). U.S. Energy Information Administration. February 9, 2016.
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