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NASA Administrator gives annual “State of NASA” update

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By Richard Tew

NASA/JSC correspondent for The Post Newspaper

Last weekend, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson spoke on a published video highlighting the agency’s accomplishments in the last year while previewing things to come.

Dubbing the current era in space exploration the “Artemis Generation,” Nelson heralded NASA’s new space exploration program and its potential to return astronauts to our closest celestial neighbors.

With Artemis 1 in the books, the program is now preparing for Artemis II, which will send a crewed mission back around the Moon, though only for a test flight to prepare for the future landing mission set for Artemis III still a few years away. 

“The Artemis generation stands ready.  Ready to return humans to the Moon, then take us further than ever before to Mars,” said Nelson.

Some of the achievements in the past year include the launch of Artemis I, which sent the Orion SpaceCraft around the Moon, taking readings and collecting data for future Artemis II and III missions.  Other accomplishments were the successful DART mission which sent a refrigerator-sized probe head-long into an asteroid called Dimorphous to see if the collision would have a measurable effect on the asteroid’s travel path.  Though small, the 14,000-mile-per-hour impact did slightly alter the trajectory of Dimorphic.  There were also resupply missions, crewed missions, and other related research into and aboard the International Space Station in 2022.

“The Biden Administration has requested $27.2 billion for NASA, that’s a 7.1 percent increase over last year’s 2023 historic budget,” said Nelson.  “And this budget request reflects the administration’s confidence in NASA and its faith in the world’s finest workforce.”

Nelson says the budget will help ongoing research and development for future space exploration, much of which happens on the ISS. The ISS also serves as a catalyst for future proposed commercialization of low Earth orbit.  It will serve as a springboard for crewed missions to the Moon and beyond. 

“The space station has taught us how to live and work in space, and is providing ground-breaking research to improve life here on the face of the Earth,” said Nelson.

Nelson also said the Biden administration is increasing funding to NASA some $1.39 billion dollars to further develop both nuclear electrical and nuclear thermal propulsion system technology.

Other upcoming research involves receiving soil samples of Mars’ soil which will be sent back to Earth for study to see if there are any signs of life.  This will help researchers in their efforts to plan future missions to Mars.

“Developing new technology is key for us to explore deep space,” said Nelson. 

NASA also has a goal developing newer, greener technology, with a goal of having a Net-Zero emissions status by 2050.  According to the NASA video presentation, an “Earth Information Center” will serve as “A Mission Control for climate.”  It will rely on satellites and sensors to track weather patterns to be used for climate research. 

“The goal is to make climate data more understandable for all people everywhere,” said Nelson.  “We want to protect our planet by better understanding it.”

There are also future plans to launch a comet and asteroid-monitoring telescope called the Neo Surveyor which will help locate possible celestial threats to Earth. 

“If we can put them out there far enough away, we can protect our planet,” said Nelson.

Other research involves super-sonic flight back here on Earth.  The last time there was a commercially-viable super-sonic aircraft was the fabled Concord, which would see its last flight in 2003 thanks to noise-related legislation which restricted the routes the Concorde could fly. The technology is continuing to be tested on the X59 aircraft, a joint project between NASA and Lockheed Martin with hope of less window-rattling sonic booms associated with breaking the sound barrier. 

Nelson says the research over the last year is helping NASA tool up for a future not limited to life on Earth, but beyond.

“Last year was one for the history books,” said Nelson.  “We did what was hard and we achieved what was great.  The task now is to keep NASA heading onward and upward.”

When he is not writing about NASA and related technology, Richard Tew teaches Irish dance to ages three through adults in Clear Lake.  More info at http://www.tewirishdance.wordpress.com.

Photo cutline: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.  NASA photo. 

Richard Tew

NASA/technology correspondent/The Post Newspaper. 

http://www.thepostnewspaper.net

Cell 713-301-9835

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