By Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Explorations and Operations
Space exploration has always created benefits for humankind -- from new technologies and discoveries, to deepening international relationships and inspiring young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
For more than 50 years, NASA has led the world in space with missions to extend human reach and transform our capabilities and understanding. We're currently implementing an ambitious plan that integrates NASA's activities across exploration and science. It focuses on new technologies to carry out robotic and human missions to the moon, an asteroid and Mars, while enabling us to live and work in space for the long term. This week, I will join with others in government, industry and academia at the AIAA 2013 conference in San Diego to discuss NASA's plans for the future and present a paper that captures the meaning of the phrase Off the Earth, For the Earth from the International Space Station Expedition 34 patch.
As we prepare to explore farther into our solar system, we have to do things differently. That’s why we’re partnering with American companies to conduct routine flights to the International Space Station, so that NASA can focus on developing the spacecraft and technology to carry out deep space missions. And it’s why we’ve worked so hard to create a vision of shared exploration objectives with our international partners, recently detailed in the Global Exploration Roadmap.
Advances we've made in robotics and human spaceflight enable us to begin developing a mission to capture and redirect an asteroid closer to Earth so astronauts can visit it, but this is only a beginning. Our new asteroid mission and many related activities will not only take us to new destinations -- more importantly, they'll lay the groundwork for exploration achievements for years to come.
Off the Earth, For the Earth offers an animating title for the framework for America’s space program based on today’s needs and tomorrow’s opportunities. The pieces to begin implementing this framework exist – starting with the full realization of the potential of the International Space Station. It also includes the groundbreaking work now taking place at NASA and around the world to accelerate the pace of technology development and solidify the role of commercial providers of cargo and soon, crew, transportation to low Earth orbit.
Our efforts need to benefit humanity and also increase space capabilities that align with U.S. strategic interests. We need to build on the potential of the ISS and the asteroid mission, expanding into cislunar space on the path to Mars. We need to solve space challenges and address threats to Earth from space debris, asteroids, solar storms, and climate change. All of these efforts are interrelated. All of this can be done in a way that's globally relevant, and with international cooperation.
With a framework based on strategic engagement and objectives that resonate with the challenges and opportunities presented by today’s world, tangible, achievable near-term activities can expand our capabilities and develop operational experience. This integrated approach will unleash a great wave of growth and discovery and keep us on our human journey in space.
Read the full paper (PDF, 350 Kb)