Roe Sets Course for Langley's Future

Langley is a research, science, technology and development center that provides game-changing innovations to enable NASA to make significant contributions to the nation.

We are a first stop for systems innovation for expanding air mobility, exploring space and definitively characterizing the Earth's changing climate.

Our work spans fundamental research to mission development and operations with an eye toward the next generation of cutting-edge ideas that provide new capabilities or significantly improve performance of cost.

--NASA Langley's new mission statement

By: Jim Hodges

Declaring NASA Langley's former mission accomplished, Lesa Roe, the center's director, outlined a new mission Monday and proposed bold, longer-term goals for the future.

"As part of the NASA picture, here's what we want to reach for," Roe said: "On-demand air mobility … space is open to everyone … climate change concerns are resolved … and we are NASA's innovation engine."

Roe and Langley Vision.

Lesa Roe, NASA Langley's director, outlines a vision for a future that includes personal air vehicles for every home, routine space flight and climate change concerns that are resolved. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

Click on the image for a larger view

She explained during "A New Vision for NASA Langley" at the Reid Conference Center.

"On-demand air mobility is a personal air vehicle in every home, supersonic air travel is routine and there is routine robotic air deliv ery to all locations," Roe said. "Space is open to everyone is a future in which space travel is routine, landing on other planets is routine, we have solved entry-descent and landing issues, there is on-demand spacedelivery with hypersonic air breathing propulsion and everyone can explore virtually from Earth.

"Climate change concerns are resolved is where our climate models are understood, we understand the impact of humans on the climate and the models and understanding have enabled future generations to thrive."

Roe summarized four years of operating under the mission: "Deliver on today's commitments and prepare for tomorrow's opportunities."

"We've done a huge amount of work in the areas of customer relations, technical excellence and efficient operations," Roe said of the mission's three legs.

Much of that work, she added, is leading into the new vision and new mission for the center. Both are part of a strategy to secure the center's place in a new NASA, which focuses on innovation, science, space flight and aeronautics.

"We've been doing the work for the last couple of years to position Langley for whatever changes come," Roe said. "What we're doing now is taking some of that content that's been developed over the last couple of years and actively talking with all of the stakeholders at the headquarters level to say, 'here are some of the important ideas that we have to roll forward into your new plan.' "

She added that Bobby Braun, the agency's new chief technologist, and others at NASA headquarters have been receptive to the ideas.

Ten teams have been set up to position Langley in the forefront of efforts involving NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Under the overall charge of Dave Bowles, the teams deal with new and expanded programs, including heavy lift propulsion technology and human research; transitioning from Constellation; and exploring international opportunities and participatory exploration.

Bowles also will lead a team to explore proposals for use of the International Space Station.

Rich Antcliff will lead a space technology effort made up of four teams, including one to explore game-changing technology and another to develop partnerships and strategic integration.

Bowles and Antcliff are part of Langley's Space Technology and Exploration Planning (STEP) core team, which is led by Steve Jurczyk, Langley's deputy director, as will leaders of other efforts, including Greg Stover's in proposal prioritization.

There are other teams, such as the Facility Strategy Team, which is exploring how the 21st Century Laboratory fits in Langley's New Town building program.

Some of the teams will face quick deadlines. For example, the Facility Stretegy Team will have only a month to report its findings.

"We have an update to our Master Plan due to headquarters by June, and that Master Plan update will drive future budget decisions," Jurczyk explained. "So we need to meet that deadline."

Other short-fuse deadlines are driven by the times.

"The agency is undergoing a significant new direction," Jurczyk said. "There's cancellation of the Constellation program, and the agency has stood up a lot of new programs in exploration. And there are a lot of new technology programs that are going to ramp up in 2011.

"There is a lot to do between now and the beginning of FY 2011 (in October), and that includes things like procurements in place and partners and contracts on board."

For all of that, though, Jurczyk reiterated the value of the preparation that has been ongoing with Langley's "Revolutionary Technical Challenges," which are about four years old.

"These are the next steps," he said.

Another step toward achieving the vision is Roe's effort to find more money for Langley's wind tunnels. The agency funds 40 percent of the tunnels' annual operating cost, leaving the center to find work for the rest. Roe is concerned that the push for aeronautics innovation could be hindered by a decline in available wind tunnels for testing at Langley.

"The model isn't working," Roe said. "It's a big problem. I've been pushing it hard at the headquarters level."

The funding falls under the aegis of new Mission Support Directorate head Woodrow Whitlow.

Roe urged the assembly in the Reid Center and those watching on center television to get on board Langley's efforts to "embed innovation in our DNA."

It's essential, she added, "to operate at the pace of innovation" and essential to NASA's success.


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NASA Langley Research Center
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