Why We Explore

why do we explore?
Why Do We Explore?

From the time of our birth, humans have felt a primordial urge to explore -- to blaze new trails, map new lands, and answer profound questions about ourselves and our universe.

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Exploring the Next Steps

    Fiscal Year 2012 Budget

    On Feb. 1, 2010, the President released the FY 2011 Budget Request. The budget proposes several exciting new programs that seek to foster a sustainable human space exploration enterprise. Although our philosophy and approach to exploration will change, our fundamental goal remains the same: to send human explorers into the solar system to stay.

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    This new era in human exploration will propel the nation on a new journey of innovation and discovery. Groundbreaking new technologies will enable exploration of new frontiers and increase our understanding of the Earth, our solar system and the universe beyond. Further collaboration with international partners on the International Space Station will increase NASA's return on investment and provide a technology test-bed and national laboratory for human health research.

    NASA does not intend to embark on this new journey alone. NASA and commercial and international partnerships will together benefit from a collective spirit of discovery and adventure, and will reduce the cost of space exploration by employing new business practices and leveraging common goals. NASA also invites citizen stakeholders to participate and share in the excitement of space exploration through upcoming initiatives designed to educate as well as glean new, creative ideas from standard and unconventional contributors.

    Read more about the new programs that are proposed to develop and implement the strategies for the new direction below. Plans will continue to evolve with the next step of House and Senate appropriations. To learn more about the FY 2012 budget and get the latest status updates, please visit www.nasa.gov/budget.

    The President's FY 2012 Budget Request to Congress ensures that Exploration Systems Mission Directorate's (ESMD) goals are consistent with the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which calls for expanding permanent human presence beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) to destinations such as the surface of the moon, near-earth asteroids, and Mars, while maintaining uninterrupted U.S. human spaceflight capability in LEO and beyond.

    The following proposed ESMD budget themes will provide the implementation structure to ensure an efficient, effective and sustainable future for human space exploration.

    They call for ESMD to develop the systems and capabilities required for human exploration of space beyond LEO, and for U.S. crew access to the International Space Station (ISS) after retirement of the Space Shuttle. These systems and capabilities developed by ESMD include launch and crew vehicles for missions beyond LEO, affordable commercial crew access to the ISS, technologies and countermeasures to keep astronauts healthy and functional during deep space missions, and technologies to reduce launch mass and cost of deep space missions.

Exploration Themes

  • Conceptual image depicting a deep space vehicle, an asteroid, the Earth, moon and Mars.

    Space Launch System (SLS) & Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV)

    The Space Launch System (SLS) & Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) theme will develop the launch and spaceflight vehicles that will provide the initial capability for crewed exploration missions beyond LEO.

  • Commercial Crew Transportation

    Commercial Spaceflight

    Exploration's Commercial Spaceflight theme creates incentives for commercial providers to develop and operate safe, reliable and affordable commercial systems to transport crew and cargo to and from the ISS and LEO.

  • Human Research Program image: spacesuit with human figure

    Exploration Research and Development (ERD)

    The Exploration Research and Development (ERD) theme expands fundamental knowledge that is key to human space exploration, and develops advanced exploration systems that will enable humans to explore space in a more sustainable and affordable way.

Forums and Workshops

  • Commercial Crew Transportation

    Commercial Crew Planning Status Forum At NASA HQ

    08.19.10: NASA presented an overview of themes from industry responses to NASA's Commercial Crew Initiative RFI. NASA has addressed questions from the forum; responses, briefings and video are available.

  • NEO Workshop illustration

    Exploration of NEOs Objectives Workshop

    09.20.10: NASA hosted a workshop with experts and key leaders in industry, academia, government, and the international community, to identify objectives for exploration missions to Near Earth Objects (NEOs).

  • NASA presenters at the Exploration Enterprise Workshop

    Exploration Enterprise Workshop

    05.26.10: NASA hosted an Exploration Enterprise workshop on May 25-26, with participants from industry, academia, and the U.S. government. Briefings and video are available.

Additional Information