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What's Next For NASA?
September 4, 2013
"As a former astronaut and the current NASA Administrator, I'm here to tell you that American leadership in space will continue for at least the next half-century because we have laid the foundation for success - and failure is not an option."

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
National Press Club, July 1, 2011

› View Speech Video | › Speech Text (82 KB PDF)

[image-12]NASA's missions, programs and projects are ensuring the United States will remain the world's leader in space exploration and scientific discovery for years to come, while making critical advances in aerospace, technology development and aeronautics. Here is what's next for NASA:

Exploration
NASA is designing and building the capabilities to send humans to explore the solar system, working toward a goal of sending humans to a captured, relocated asteroid in the next decade and landing humans on Mars in the 2030s. We will build Orion with a capacity to take four astronauts on three week missions.

NASA also is making progress with the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) - an advanced heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth's orbit. SLS  takes advantage of heritage hardware while also using modern manufacturing process such as friction-stir welding and adaptive manufacturing.

We are developing the technologies we will need for human exploration of the solar system, including solar electric propulsion, refueling depots in orbit, radiation protection and high-reliability life support systems.
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International Space Station
The International Space Station is the centerpiece of our human spaceflight activities in low-Earth orbit. The space station is fully staffed with a crew of six, and American astronauts will continue to live and work there in space 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Part of the U.S. portion of the station has been designated as a national laboratory, and NASA is committed to using this unique resource for wide-ranging scientific research.

The space station is a test bed for exploration technologies such as autonomous refueling of spacecraft, advanced life support systems and human/robotic interfaces. U.S. commercial companies working with NASA are well on their way to providing cargo and crew transportation to the orbiting laboratory, allowing the agency to focus its attention on sending astronauts on deep space missions, including to an asteroid and Mars.

Aeronautics[image-94]

Based on a fresh look at the future of aviation – as well as global trends in technology, the environment and economics – NASA's aeronautical innovators have chartered a new strategic vision for its aviation research programs. The vision ensures the agency's aeronautical research projects will enable the United States to maintain its leadership in the sky and sustain aviation so that it remains a key economic driver and cultural touchstone for the nation.

What this means for the flying public is that NASA's contributions to aviation will be even more relevant as ongoing research leads to new aircraft, improved mobility and safety, less strain on the environment, and an all-around better experience in the sky. From developing new air traffic management tools and designing quieter aircraft that fly at supersonic speeds, to writing innovative problem solving software that improves aviation safety, NASA's legacy of nearly a century of aviation research continues.[image-126]

Technology

NASA is developing the technologies to enable human and robotic exploration within our solar system and beyond. These range from advanced solar electric propulsion and large-scale solar sails to new green propellants and composite cryogenic storage tanks for refueling depots in orbit. We are demonstrating the space technologies that will spawn new knowledge and capabilities to sustain our future missions.

Science

NASA is conducting an unprecedented array of missions that will seek new knowledge and understanding of Earth, the solar system and the universe. NASA has observatories in Earth orbit and deep space, spacecraft visiting the moon and other planetary bodies, and robotic landers, rovers, and sample return missions.[image-110] NASA's science vision encompasses questions as practical as hurricane formation, as enticing as the prospect of lunar resources, and as profound as the origin of the universe.

NASA leads the nation on a great journey of discovery, seeking new knowledge and understanding of our sun, Earth, solar system, and the universe out to its farthest reaches and back to its earliest moments of existence. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and the nation’s science community use space observatories to conduct scientific studies of the Earth from space, to visit and return data and samples from other bodies in the solar system, and to peer out into the vast reaches of the universe and beyond.

See a list of NASA's current missions, and find out what we're launching next.

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Artist's concept of the new Space Launch System rocket launching with the Orion spacecraft.
Artist's concept of the new Space Launch System rocket launching with the Orion spacecraft.
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NASA
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The International Space Station in May 2011.
The International Space Station in May 2011.
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NASA
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NASA is introducing a new blueprint for transforming global aviation.
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NASA
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The Juno mission will arrive at Jupiter in 2016.
The Juno mission will arrive at Jupiter in 2016
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NASA
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Artist's concept of solar electric propulsion for deep-space exploration.
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NASA
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Page Last Updated: September 5th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator