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NASA Chat: NASA's Blueprint for the Future
02.16.11
 
NASA Fiscal Year 2012 Budget› Learn About NASA's Budget

Bobby Braun Bobby Braun speaks to participants about the future of NASA technology at the two-day STS-132 Launch Tweetup at Kennedy Space Center, on Thurs., May 13, 2010, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Credit: NASA

Waleed Abdalati Waleed Abdalati gives a presentation during a Climate Change seminar at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in 2008. Credit: NASA

President Obama submitted the Fiscal Year 2012 budget request to Congress on Mon., Feb. 14. This blueprint for future spending gives NASA its direction for existing and new programs and projects.

NASA’s science and technology programs are a critical part of NASA’s mission, including programs such as exploration technology, planetary probes and Earth-observation satellites.

On Wed., Feb. 16, NASA's Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati and Chief Technologist Bobby Braun answered your questions about NASA’s direction over the next few years.

A transcript of the chat has been posted below.

More about Chat Experts Waleed Abdalati and Bobby Braun

Abdalati became NASA’s chief scientist on Jan. 3, 2011. He serves as the principal adviser to the NASA administrator on agency science programs and represents all the NASA scientific endeavors. Prior to being chief scientist, he was director of the Earth Science and Observation Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is also an associate professor in the University's geography department.

Braun was named NASA's chief technologist on Feb. 3, 2010. He serves as the principal advisor and advocate on matters concerning agency-wide technology policy and programs. Braun has more than 20 years experience performing design and analysis of planetary exploration systems as a member of the technical staff at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Transcript

Jason: Welcome to the "NASA’s Future" Chat. We're chatting with NASA’s Chief Technologist and Chief Scientist about NASA’s future. This is a moderated chat. To submit your own question, please type it in the box at the bottom of the window and click the 'Ask' button on the right side of the box. Thanks for your patience as we answer your questions.

Jason: We're getting all set up to take your questions and get answers here starting at the top of the hour.

Rick: Hello. Thanks for having this!

NASA: Hi. We're happy to be talking with everyone today.

Jason: We're working on answering the first questions right now.

Rick: I'd like to know the amount of funds allocated in the budget to study space weather effects on the physiologcal and psychological effects of solar and cosmic energy and radiation on the human organism and what's going on in heliobiology please. :)

NASA: Waleed: Space weather is a significant component of the heliophysics portfolio. The primary issue is the effect on telecommunications on Earth. Radation effects on humans is a seperate aspect of our human research program in Exploration. We continually solicit research proposals to investigate the effects.

Akarsh_Valsan: Will Nasa hold any new missions to Moon in the forthcoming years?

NASA: Waleed: In 2013, NASA will launch the LADEE mission to measure the lunar environment. This is an exciting mission that we've been working towards the last 3-4 years. We expect to learn new things about the moon in ways we never have before.

Akarsh_Valsan: Will NASA give more chance to students from abroad;say India, for better participation with Science?

NASA: Bobby: NASA is extremely interested in inspiring and engaging today's students in the development of tomorrow's missions. This is something we do across the agency. Waleed: Toward that end, NASA data is freely available to anyone in the world who is interested in learning about our world and our place in the universe.

Akarsh_Valsan: Which will be the forthcoming missions for the year 2012?

NASA: Waleed: There are several science missions coming in 2012. In spring 2012, we plan to launch NuSTAR which is a high energy X-Ray mission. Also, Dawn, which will rendezvous with one of the biggest asteroids in the solar system. And the Mars Science Laboratory -- Curiosity -- will land on the surface of Mars. The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) will also launch towards the end of the year providing for observing changes in the land cover of Earth. Bobby: There will also be a number of commercial test flights and launches in 2012 to pave the way for future human exploration of space.

heathernaut88: I have people questioning if I should change careers bc NASA doesn't have current plans to send humans to the moon any time soon. What should I tell them?

NASA: Bobby: Absolutely not. NASA's future missions are bold in nature and grand in scope. University students will have the ability and the opportunity to contribute in a significant way in these future aerospace endeavours. The International Space Station is the centerpiece of our human exploration strategy which places us on a pathway to deep space destinations. Waleed: I totally agree. The skills and capabilities requried for going to the moon have direct applicability to our other ambitious undertakings, including our inspirational science activities.

David_Gump: OCT’s technology demo missions require a cost-share from other parts of NASA or external sources. The new budget puts the vast majority of ESMD R&D into your shop. Doesn’t this eliminate a prime source of non-OCT cost sharing?

NASA: Bobby: The Technology Demonstration Missions include those that are both Exploration specific and Cross-cutting. The cost share requirements are different for these two classes of missions. Exploration Systems will continue to provide the prioritized requirements for Exploration Technology Development projects in Space Technology.

adcunningham: Looking forward to hearing from BB. I met him at the STS132 Tweetup...great talk!

NASA: Bobby: Thanks! Glad to be here.

JeffE: Why does NASA advertise the Presidents "proposals" but then completely seem to ignore the actual budget when it is mandated by Congress? NASA has no future if it will not listen to the People and Congress that fund it.

NASA: Bobby: NASA is working very closely with Congress. In fact, I'm headed to Capitol Hill for meetings today and tomorrow. From a technology perspective, the FY 2012 President's Budget Request for NASA is consistent with the funding level projected for FY 2012 in the Authorization Act of 2010. Waleed: Similarly for science, the proposed priorities are consistent with the 2010 Authorization Act.

djadams: how long will a round trip to mars take

NASA: Bobby: When we send a robotic probe to Mars, the travel time is 9-12 months. For human exploration, we are working on technologies that may allow a shorter transfer time. However, orbital mechanics requires a long stay time on Mars. Current thinking is that a round trip mission would require 3 years with about 18 months on the surface.

Brandon: Will OCT focus on technologies at a high enough Technology Readiness Level (TRL) for them to be seen in regular use within a couple years? Is there a plan to push NASA-sponsored technologies out to the commerical sector as happened in with the 1960's space program?

NASA: Bobby: Yes. Space Technology consists of a set of 10 programs that span the technology readiness level of 1-7, from concepts to ground-based and laboratory testing to flight demonstration. Many of the projects are scaled for a 3 year lifecycle and will then be infused into NASA's future missions, those of other government agencies and the commercial sector.

JR_NYC: As science progresses, the gap in understanding between the average citizen and those at the foreront continues to grow. What steps is NASA taking to bridge the gap?

NASA: Waleed: NASA makes significant investments in educating students and the general public about how our world works and the complexity and beauty of our Earth, solar system and universe. By providing critical information that is easily accessible to the public, we are working to improve the overall awareness and understanding of our world and the universe around us. We do partnerships with schools, investing in K-12 education and we provide grants and scholarships for university students. One example of our efforts to communicate to the public is this web chat. There are many, many others -- most of which you can find on www.nasa.gov.

the_real_mccoy: so what can the college students of today look forward to in the space industry of tomorrow?? an explosion of the space industry as a whole (from research to tourisim)

NASA: Bobby: I believe that there are a large host of grand challenges that our society is on the cusp of solving. These include the ability to forecast major storms and natural disasters in time to move people out of harm's way, the search for life in our solar system and the identification of Earth-like world around other stars. These are some of the challenges that will be met by the science and engineering students in universities today. The opportunities for the exploration and utilization of space increase every day.

Matthew: Will the NASA OCT provide significant transparency into the "Game Changing" program? I don't think anyone is expecting matter transmission or warp drives, but will you allow the public to see how revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, ideas/ products are developing at NASA?

NASA: Bobby: Yes. We plan to be transparent and open with all the work being done across NASA -- and this has always been a guiding principle of NASA.

JR_NYC: Who is the next Carl Sagan?

NASA: Waleed: It might be you.

Mark_Lake: Bobby, you probably know more about the problem of space vehicles entering the Martian atmosphere than anyone else in the world. Can you comment on the technical and engineering challenges of missions to Mars, in general. And provide some insights into if and when we might expect to see an acceleration in the rate of missions to Mars?

NASA: Bobby: Hi Mark. Safely landing on Mars is one of the hardest things that NASA does. The agency's experts make it look easy -- It's not. It takes a combination of engineering expertise, scientific insight, and systems engineering rigor to accomplish these missions. I'm looking forward to the Mars Science Laboratory landing in 2012.

JR_NYC: Is NASA 100% government sponsored or do private donations help direct studies?

NASA: Waleed: NASA is fully supported by the American taxpayer. The median U.S. family pays $33 a year for NASA (far less than we spend on pizza!). NASA's funding is less than one-half of one percent of the federal budget. We strongly believe the return on this investment in science, technology, engineering and the motivation of the human spirit is well worth the investment.

JeffE: I'm way excited about Juno! Any updates on its mission status?

NASA: Waleed: Juno is scheduled to launch in August of 2011and we are very excited about the discoveries that await Juno on Jupiter.

JR_NYC: What are the better general population websites available explaining NASAs iniatives or the universe? hard question....

NASA: Waleed: NASA's science missions can all be found at http://science.nasa.gov. I encourage you to visit it.

JR_NYC: Are there really that many astronauts willing to go to mars? sounds like one heck of a mission. If you see them, thank them!

NASA: Bobby and Waleed: Our astronauts are deeply motivated and committed to the mission of NASA. They take great risks and endure many challenges. They and their families should be considered as heroes. Every day, our astronauts demonstrate their passion and commitment to venturing into space -- be it the Space Station, the moon, an asteroid, Mars or beyond.

TG: I'd like to commend NASA on their efforts to communicate with the public. I see you as a leader in this area. Thank you.

NASA: Waleed and Bobby: We're happy to be sitting down with you all today. Thank you for your time and interest.

Jason: Thanks for taking time out of your schedules to sit down with us today. Our chat is now over. A transcript will be posted within the next few business days. Thanks to Waleed and Bobby for taking time to answer your questions. Have a great day.