Direction, Goals Focus of NASA Retreat
At NASA's senior leadership retreat Oct. 13-14 at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., NASA leaders met to discuss the future, define goals and discuss the agency's mission statement and vision, Center Director David McBride said at an Oct. 19 town hall meeting.
The president's plan for NASA, which is supported in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, is for the agency to pioneer new frontiers of innovation and discovery. For NASA to do that, the new plan invests more in NASA, extends the life of the International Space Station to 2020, adds another space shuttle flight and calls for launching a commercial space transportation industry, McBride explained.
In addition, the president's plan calls for the development of path-breaking technologies, is designed to create thousands of new jobs and gives NASA a roadmap for the future course of human space exploration and development.
The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 spells out what Congress and the president want the agency to do. Still to come is the appropriations legislation that is expected to equal about $19 billion for NASA.
In fact, just prior to the congressional recess, the Senate unanimously approved the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and the House voted 304-118 in favor of the legislation.
"In an era where we're seeing political disagreement across the country, NASA still has huge bipartisan support. Congress sees NASA and technology as a driver of the economy," McBride said.
During the retreat, McBride said NASA's new vision was unveiled: NASA leads scientific and technological advances in aeronautics and space for a nation on the frontier of discovery. The mission calls for NASA to drive advances in science, technology and exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality and stewardship of the Earth.
Along those lines, NASA's draft 2010 Strategic Plan goals also were listed:
- Goal 1: Extend and sustain human activities across the solar system. Dryden's work with Johnson Space Center, Houston, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., with the Pad Abort-1 test to validate an escape system for a future space vehicle is one example of how Dryden can assist with that goal, McBride said.
- Goal 2: Expand scientific understanding of the Earth and the universe in which we live. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, a NASA 747SP carrying the world's largest airborne infrared telescope, is set to begin science missions later this year and be a part of that goal. Also, the recent hurricane studies with the Global Hawk and DC-8 and the DC-8's work on the IceBridge mission are examples of how Dryden is assisting with that goal.
- Goal 3: Create the innovative new space technologies for our exploration, science and economic future. Dryden has a big role and California and west coast-based companies have presented a number of technology development proposals, McBride said.
- Goal 4: Advance aeronautics research for societal benefit. Demonstrating technology will be part of Dryden's task as flight research projects and programs are developed, he added.
- Goal 5: Enable program and institutional capabilities to execute NASA's aeronautics and space activities. Dryden is operated efficiently and the institution and facilities are about the right size and the employees have the right core skills, McBride said.
- Goal 6: Share NASA with the public, educators and students to highlight opportunities for participating in our mission, foster innovation and contribute to a strong national economy. Outreach has traditionally been strong at Dryden and information and photos and videos of aircraft are frequently requested on the Web, he said.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden released his goals, all of which McBride said contain elements that Dryden supports:
Concerning safely flying the remaining shuttle missions, McBride said Dryden will be ready to assist with shuttle support and landings if required for the final orbiter missions.
A second point is to assure that a cohesive senior leadership team is in place to implement the priorities for the agency, while ensuring that the workforce stays engaged and motivated about their work achieving NASA's mission, and making NASA the number one place to work in government. Dryden will mirror that with its leadership team and workforce, McBride said.
Ensuring an energized, innovative program of technology development and scientific and aeronautics research to support exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and make life better here on Earth are goals Dryden will work to achieve through flight research.
Another goal is to facilitate the success of a viable commercial space industry to provide assured U.S. access to low-Earth orbit for cargo and crew and acquire, mature and infuse commercial capabilities across all NASA activities. Dryden's airworthiness and flight safety review is considered a solid approach for commercial space activities, McBride said.
A continuing goal is to promote enhanced cooperation with international, industry, other U.S. government agency and academic partners in the pursuit of our missions. Dryden has a number of agreements in place, including those with industry partner Northrop Grumman on Global Hawk; Lockheed Martin on Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology; international partner DLR with the SOFIA; and The Boeing Company and Cranfield Aerospace on the X-48B and C.
One new direction has peaked McBride's optimism. A new focus on flight research will require Dryden to return to activity that constitutes one of its main contributions to NASA aeronautics. Flight research is expected to validate emerging technologies and raise their readiness level for use by the private sector through commercialization, McBride said.
"You never know how something is going to work, or if it will work, until you take it to flight. Ultimately, you have to take it to flight to get the technology to the level of confidence high enough for our customers to take that technology forward," McBride said.
Regardless of the complexion of NASA and how the goals are carried out, one thing seems certain - the outlook for NASA appears solid.
By Jay Levine