Attending the State of NASA

State of NASA blog coverI recently had the privilege of attending the State of the NASA address given by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

The day was full of exciting news and details about NASA’s 2016 budget, captivating science, technology, engineering, and math enthusiasts across the nation.

The SpaceX Dragon, Orion spacecraft, and Boeing CST-100 were on display behind Bolden as he addressed plans for future missions beyond low Earth orbit, with destinations including Mars and Europa. Bolden also described the excitement surrounding student involvement in NASA innovation and STEM research.

Interacting with students around the world who are excited about the future and the possibilities of space travel boosts his confidence and enthusiasm about what is to come. “We’re inspiring a whole new generation of scientists, engineers, and astronauts,” he said. “That’s why we’re dedicated to STEM education and broadening the pipeline to develop the leaders of the future.” He also commended high school students from the Governor’s School of Science and Technology in Hampton, Virginia who designed the radiation shield used on Orion’s December 2014 test flight for the Lockheed-Martin NASA Exploration Design Challenge.

During his address, a number of exciting initiatives were highlighted:

  • Astronaut Scott Kelly to spend a year in space while his twin remains on Earth in 2015 (follow him on Instagram at StationCDRKelly for updates about the twin study!)
  • Commercial Crew transportation contracts to be finalized as KSC becomes a full-service spaceport
  • Three NASA payloads to launch from Florida in the 2016 fiscal year
  • Continued NASA contributions to aviation technology (learn more about how NASA technology helps us on Earth)
  • Anticipated launch of the James Webb Telescope, Hubble’s successor, to provide deeper insight into the history of the universe and our solar system in 2018
  • Plans to send a probe to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, to examine its potential for life (view beautiful photos of Europa’s ancient craters and icy exterior)

Upgrades to the Vehicle Assembly Building

As part of the social media group in attendance, I was also able to tour the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Here, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is currently under development, where Orion will be prepped for its first mission. The SLS is a heavy-lift rocket more powerful than any of its predecessors that will power travel to deep-space destinations including asteroids and Mars. According to NASA, “The journey to Mars remains a primary NASA goal, designed to answer some of humanity’s fundamental questions about life beyond Earth and what it can teach us about Earth’s past, present and future.” Orion’s test flight in December was the first test of a craft designed for human space travel since the shuttle program began in the 1980s.

Modifications are also underway for a sophisticated movable platform system that will allow for work on future vehicles – not just Orion. Renovations are beginning in High Bay 3 in the VAB with new cabling and water pipes. Learn more about all of the work taking place here.

Full of exciting news and experiences, the day was certainly one to remember. Interested in attending a future event yourself? Visit the NASA Social website! The program exists to provide opportunities for the administration’s social media followers to learn and share information about NASA’s missions through behind-the-scenes, in-person experiences at NASA.

Want to see more? View pictures of the event on our Facebook page here and check out NASA’s video of the event below!

“NASA is an incredible investment for our nation because what we do not only uncovers new knowledge, it helps raise the bar of human achievement. People everywhere are attracted to what we do, because exploration embodies our values as a nation – resilience, hope, and overcoming the challenges faced.”  — Administrator Charles Bolden

Image Credit: ‘Reach for New Heights’ – NASA Budget Unveiled for Fiscal Year 2016

Post by Marissa Draeger, FLVS Digital Content & Strategy 

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