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Master Plan for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Receives Approval

An aerial photograph of the NASA Goddard Visitor Center, with white and brick rectangular buildings peeking out from among dense green trees behind a tall white rocket. The rocket stands in the center of a tan paved circle and is shaped like a pencil with a long, slim tower and a slight bulge at the top. Several smaller red, white, and yellow rockets are displayed on their sides around the paved circle, with another rocket standing in a smaller, white paved circle near the trees.
Aerial view of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in 2010. Building 29, containing the campus’s high bay clean room, appears in the foreground. Goddard was established in 1959 as the agency’s very first spaceflight complex. Named for rocketry pioneer Robert H. Goddard, the center is home to the nation’s largest organization of scientists, engineers, and technologists who build spacecraft, instruments, and new technology to study Earth, the Sun, our solar system and the universe.
Credit: NASA Goddard/Bill Hrybyk

The master plan that lays out infrastructure aims for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center over the next two decades received approval from the agency’s Office of Strategic Infrastructure, following a presentation on Feb. 1.

Through a combination of demolitions, renovations, and other moves, the plan charts a path to a 25% reduction in building square footage by 2038. Amounting to roughly 1.4 million square feet in total, the bulk of the reduction (almost 1.2 million square feet) would occur at Goddard’s principal campus in Greenbelt, Maryland, with the balance realized across the center’s five remote facilities and other sites.

“Goddard is NASA’s premier center for science, and our master plan gives us the blueprint to ensure we remain on the cutting edge of discovery over the next generation,” said Ray Rubilotta, Goddard’s associate center director. “I’m incredibly proud of our civil servant and contractor workforce, who are hard at work transforming Goddard and preparing us for the future.”

The master plan also addresses infrastructure changes beyond square footage goals. Environmental improvements result from energy-efficient construction and replacing some paved surfaces with green space. At the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, launch range infrastructure would be elevated and hardened against potential severe storms and sea level rise.

Aerial view of the coastal launch range of Wallops Flight Facility, showing a blue Atlantic Ocean on the right; white buildings along a tan coastline back up to a green, marshy landscape.
This June 2021 aerial photograph shows the coastal launch range at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Atlantic Ocean is at the right side of this image, and nearby Chincoteague and Assateague islands are at upper left and right, respectively. A subset of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops is the agency’s only owned-and-operated launch range. Shore replenishment and elevated infrastructure at the range are incorporated into Goddard’s recently approved master plan.
Credits: courtesy Patrick J. Henderson; used with permission
Officials from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center host guests from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and its nearby Patuxent Research Refuge on Feb. 16, 2022.
Credit: NASA Goddard/Taylor Mickal

Known as Area 400, a 100-acre parcel of Goddard’s Greenbelt campus is identified in the master plan as candidate property for divestment.

Goddard used the site for propellant research beginning in the 1960s, when the surrounding area was more remote; Area 400 itself still remains largely wooded. NASA’s propellant work has since mainly shifted to other NASA centers or been commercialized, and the 11 structures at Area 400 are used now mainly for storage and other support functions.

“Our climate and our environment are extremely important to NASA, but even more so to us at Goddard, where so much of the agency’s Earth science research takes place,” Rubilotta said. “Although we no longer need the Area 400 site, it is our hope that environmental considerations will be given utmost weight as the site is dispositioned.”

two people walking through the woods
The Feb. 16 meeting was the second visit for the group concerning Area 400, a 100-acre parcel of Goddard’s Greenbelt, Maryland, campus.
Credits: NASA Goddard/Taylor Mickal
small buildings in a clearing, surrounded by trees
A propellant research site for Goddard beginning in the 1960s, today Area 400 is used mainly for storage and other support functions.
Credits: NASA Goddard/Taylor Mickal

Goddard’s master plan (along with those developed at other centers) resulted from NASA’s Mission Support Council, which set infrastructure affordability goals to reach by 2038. The council’s direction followed 2015 policies set by the Office of Management and Budget regarding federal property footprints.

Development of Goddard’s master plan began with site visits and stakeholder interviews in 2017.

By Robert Garner
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.