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What We Do

This vertical treadmill is used to develop exercise countermeasures for keeping astronauts healthy in microgravity. It is also used to study human mobility in partial gravity environments on the moon and Mars.

The Advanced Capabilities Division (ACD) provides the knowledge, technology, and innovation that will enable current and future exploration missions. ACD is composed of three major programs: the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program (LPRP), Human Research Program (HRP), and the Exploration Technology Development Program (ETDP). These ACD programs and their projects provide knowledge as a result of ground-based research and technology development, research conducted in space, and observations from robotic flight missions. ACD also develops and matures advanced technology, integrates that technology into prototype systems, and transitions knowledge and technology to the Constellation Program. Through its activities, ACD provides operational and technical risk mitigation for Constellation Projects.

When astronauts journey to the moon and beyond, they will be exposed to the microgravity, radiation, and isolation for long periods of time. Because of this, keeping crews physically and mentally healthy and productive during such long-duration missions will require new technologies and capabilities. NASA studies how the space environment, close quarters, heavy workloads, and long periods of time away from home contribute to physical and psychological stresses, and will develop technologies that can prevent or mitigate these effects. NASA pursues innovative ways to meet the basic needs of oxygen, water, food, and shelter with exploration systems that can operate dependably for weeks on the moon, and eventually, for months on Mars.

The LRO will provide detailed mapping for human landing site selection. A secondary payload, the LCROSS, will observe the impact of its rocket stage into the Moon to determine if water is present in the plume of ejected material.

Maturing relevant new technologies will allow NASA to place Orion, the crew vehicle, into service as soon as possible after the Space Shuttle's retirement. These technologies include structures, thermal protection systems, propulsion, life support systems, capabilities for using localized resources, and many others that will enable future human and robotic exploration missions. Both ground-based and ISS-based research will support these development efforts.

In support of the lunar return effort, NASA has established the LPRP Office at Marshall Space Flight Center. In 2009, NASA launched a robotic mission to the moon with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Luna Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). The LRO provides detailed mapping of human landing site selection and the LCROSS provides additional data on lunar resources.