Vision for Space Exploration

The Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) was a plan for space exploration announced on January 14, 2004 by President George W. Bush. It was conceived as a response to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the state of human spaceflight at NASA, and as a way to regain public enthusiasm for space exploration. It was replaced by the space policy of the Barack Obama administration in June 2010.

Cover page of report of Aldridge Commission, Report of the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, 2004


The Vision for Space Exploration sought to implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond; extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations; develop the innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and to promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.[1]

In pursuit of these goals, the Vision called for the space program to complete the International Space Station by 2010; retire the Space Shuttle by 2010; develop a new Crew Exploration Vehicle (later renamed Orion) by 2008, and conduct its first human spaceflight mission by 2014; explore the Moon with robotic spacecraft missions by 2008 and crewed missions by 2020, and use lunar exploration to develop and test new approaches and technologies useful for supporting sustained exploration of Mars and beyond; explore Mars and other destinations with robotic and crewed missions; pursue commercial transportation to support the International Space Station and missions beyond low Earth orbit.[1][2]

Outlining some of the advantages, U.S. President George W. Bush addressed the following:[2]

Establishing an extended human presence on the moon could vastly reduce the costs of further space exploration, making possible ever more ambitious missions. Lifting heavy spacecraft and fuel out of the Earth's gravity is expensive. Spacecraft assembled and provisioned on the moon could escape its far lower gravity using far less energy, and thus, far less cost. Also, the moon is home to abundant resources. Its soil contains raw materials that might be harvested and processed into rocket fuel or breathable air. We can use our time on the moon to develop and test new approaches and technologies and systems that will allow us to function in other, more challenging environments.

One of the stated goals for the Constellation program is to gain significant experience in operating away from Earth's environment,[3] as the White House contended, to embody a "sustainable course of long-term exploration."[4] The Ares boosters are a cost-effective approach[5] — entailing the Ares V's enormous, unprecedented cargo-carrying capacity[6] — transporting future space exploration resources to the Moon's[5] weaker gravity field.[7] While simultaneously serving as a proving ground for a wide range of space operations and processes, the Moon may serve as a cost-effective construction, launching and fueling site for future space exploration missions.[8] For example, future Ares V missions could cost-effectively[5] deliver raw materials for future spacecraft and missions to a Moon-based[5] space dock positioned as a counterweight to a Moon-based space elevator.[9]

SDLV rockets
Two planned configurations for a return to the Moon, heavy lift (left) and crew (right)

NASA has also outlined plans for manned missions to the far side of the Moon.[10] All of the Apollo missions have landed on the near side. Unique products may be producible in the nearly limitless extreme vacuum of the lunar surface, and the Moon's remoteness is the ultimate isolation for biologically hazardous experiments. The Moon would become a proving ground also toward the development of In-Situ Resource Utilization, or "living off the land" (i.e., self-sufficiency) for permanent human outposts.

In a position paper issued by the National Space Society (NSS), a return to the Moon should be considered a high space program priority, to begin development of the knowledge and identification of the industries unique to the Moon. The NSS believes that the Moon may be a repository of the history and possible future of our planet, and that the six Apollo landings only scratched the surface of that 'treasure'. According to NSS, the Moon's far side, permanently shielded from the noisy Earth, is an ideal site for future radio astronomy (for example, signals in the 1-10 MHz range cannot be detected on Earth because of ionosphere interference.[11])

When the Vision was announced in January 2004, the U.S. Congress and the scientific community gave it a mix of positive and negative reviews. For example, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) said, "I think this is the best thing that has happened to the space program in decades." Though physicist and outspoken manned spaceflight opponent Robert L. Park stated that robotic spacecraft "are doing so well it's going to be hard to justify sending a human,"[4] the vision announced by the President states that "robotic missions will serve as trailblazers — the advanced guard to the unknown."[2] Others, such as the Mars Society, have argued that it makes more sense to avoid going back to the Moon and instead focus on going to Mars first.[12]

Vsfe ship

Throughout much of 2004, it was unclear whether the U.S. Congress would be willing to approve and fund the Vision for Space Exploration. However, in November 2004, Congress passed a spending bill which gave NASA the $16.2 billion that President Bush had sought to kick-start the Vision. According to then-NASA chief Sean O'Keefe, that spending bill "was as strong an endorsement of the space exploration vision, as any of us could have imagined."[13] In 2005, Congress passed S.1281, the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, which explicitly endorses the Vision.[14]

Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin is a big supporter of the Vision, but modified it somewhat, saying that he wants to reduce the four-year gap between the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the first manned mission of the Crew Exploration Vehicle.[15]

Lunar Architecture

NASA's "Lunar Architecture" forms a key part of its Global Exploration Strategy, also known as the Vision for Space Exploration. The first part of the Lunar Architecture is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launched in June 2009 on board an Atlas V. The preliminary design review was completed in February 2006 and the critical design review was completed in November 2006. An important function of the orbiter will be to look for further evidence that the increased concentrations of hydrogen discovered at the moon's poles is in the form of lunar ice. After this the lunar flights will make use of the new Ares I and Ares V rockets.[16]

Critical perspectives

NASA-Main budget chart 14-01-2004
NASA's 2004 budget projections for the Vision for Space Exploration

In December 2003, Buzz Aldrin voiced criticism for NASA's vision and objectives, stating that the goal of sending astronauts back to the moon was "more like reaching for past glory than striving for new triumphs".[17]

In February 2009, the Aerospace Technology Working Group released an in-depth report asserting that the Vision had several fundamental problems with regard to politics, financing, and general space policy issues and that the initiative should be rectified or replaced.[18]

Another concern noted is that funding for VSE could instead be harnessed to advance science and technology, such as in aeronautics, commercial spacecraft and launch vehicle technology, environmental monitoring, and biomedical sciences.[19] However, VSE itself is poised to propel a host of beneficial Moon science activities, including lunar telescopes, selenological studies and solar energy beams.

With or without VSE, human spaceflight will be made sustainable. However, without VSE, more funds could be directed toward reducing human spaceflight costs sufficiently for the betterment of low Earth orbit research, business, and tourism.[19] Alternatively, VSE could afford advances in other scientific research (astronomy, selenology), in-situ lunar business industries, and lunar-space tourism.

The VSE budget required termination the Space Shuttle by 2010 and of any US role in the International Space Station by 2017. This would have required, even in the most optimistic plans, in a period of years without human spaceflight capability from the US. Termination of the Space Shuttle program, without any planned alternatives, in 2011 ended virtually all US capability for reusable launch vehicles. This severely limited any future of low earth orbit or deep space exploration. Ultimately, the lack of proper funding caused the VSE to fall short of its original goals, leaving many projects behind schedule as President George W. Bush's term in office ended.

"The damage done to America and the rest of the world by unsustainable deficits is real, and any lack of zeal in facing this problem would be a mistake. In that context, this would be a good time for Congress to look again at Bush's plans for NASA to re-establish a human presence in deep space. The outgoing Republican Congress gave its Republican president too much benefit of the doubt on this undertaking. The new Congress must, at the very least, articulate more convincing reasons than have yet been heard for such a colossal expenditure."[20]

"A large portion of the scientific community" concurs that NASA is not "expanding our scientific understanding of the universe" in "the most effective or cost-efficient way."[Tumlinson 1] Proponents for VSE argue that a permanent settlement on the moon would drastically reduce costs for further space exploration missions. President George W. Bush voiced this sentiment when the vision was first announced (see quote above), and the United States Senate has re-entered testimony[Tumlinson 1] by Space Frontier Foundation founder Rick Tumlinson offered previously to the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation advocating this particular perspective.[Tumlinson 1] The reason that the National Space Society regards a return to the Moon as a high space program priority is to begin development of the knowledge and identification of the industries unique to the Moon, because "such industries can provide economic leverage and support for NASA activities, saving the government millions."[Tumlinson 2]

As Tumlinson additionally notes, the goal is to "open space ... to human settlement ... to create ways to harvest the resources ... not only saving this precious planet, but also ... assuring our survival."[Tumlinson 3] Regarding "the Moon, NASA should support early exploration now. ... "[Tumlinson 4]

Mars vision

Manned mission to Mars (artist's concept)
Concept art by NASA of two people in suits on Mars setting up weather equipment.[21]
NASA concept of Mars-crew analyzing a sample (2004).[22]
An artist's conception, from NASA, of an astronaut planting a US flag on Mars.

Interplanetary human transport

A human-spaceflight interplanetary spacecraft arrives near planet Mars.

See also


  1. ^ a b "The Vision for Space Exploration" (PDF). NASA. February 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 25, 2004. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c "President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program". NASA. January 14, 2004. Retrieved June 17, 2009.
  3. ^ Connolly, John F. (October 2006). "Constellation Program Overview" (PDF). Constellation Program Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 10, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "FAQ: Bush's New Space Vision". Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d "NASA - Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle". NASA. April 29, 2009. Archived from the original on November 5, 2008. Retrieved May 13, 2009.
  6. ^ Creech, Steve and Phil Sumrall. "Ares V: Refining a New Heavy Lift Capability". NASA.
  7. ^ Williams, Dr. David R. (February 2, 2006). "Moon Fact Sheet". NASA (National Space Science Data Center). Retrieved December 31, 2008.
  8. ^ P. J. Van Susante; B. Imhof; S. Mohanty; H.J. Rombaut; J. Volp (December 1, 2002). "Highlights on Lunar Base Designs" (PDF). . Archived from the original (PDF) on July 4, 2010. Retrieved February 16, 2010.
  9. ^ Pearson, Jerome; Eugene Levin; John Oldson & Harry Wykes (2005). "Lunar Space Elevators for Cislunar Space Development Phase I Final Technical Report" (PDF).
  10. ^ Leake, Jonathan (March 19, 2006). "Nasa to put man on far side of moon". Times Online. Times Newspapers. Retrieved February 16, 2010.
  11. ^ LIFE on Moon Archived 2010-03-25 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "The Mars Society Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on January 26, 2008. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  13. ^ "Congress Grants $16.2 Billion Budget for NASA". Archived from the original on September 13, 2005. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  14. ^ "NASA Authorization Act" (PDF). Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  15. ^ "A Message From Administrator Michael Griffin". Archived from the original on September 13, 2005. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  16. ^ "NASA Unveils Global Exploration Strategy and Lunar Architecture". NASA. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-08-23.
  17. ^ Aldrin, Buzz (December 5, 2003). "Fly Me To L1". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 23, 2009. Retrieved November 14, 2009.
  18. ^ Hsu, Feng; Cox, Ken (February 20, 2009). "Sustainable Space Exploration and Space Development - A Unified Strategic Vision". Aerospace Technology Working Group. Retrieved October 9, 2009. External link in |publisher= (help)
  19. ^ a b Woodard, Daniel (2009). "Practical Benefits for America" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 28, 2009. Retrieved November 28, 2009.
  20. ^ Cowing, Keith. "Nature of Funding the VSE". NASA Watch. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ [2]
  1. ^ a b c p. 8.
  2. ^ p. 13.
  3. ^ pp. 6-7.
  4. ^ p. 14.

External links

American Astronautical Society

Formed in 1954, the American Astronautical Society (AAS) is an independent scientific and technical group in the United States dedicated to the advancement of space science and space exploration. AAS supports NASA's Vision for Space Exploration and is a member of the Coalition for Space Exploration and the Space Exploration Alliance. The AAS also focuses on strengthening the global space program through cooperation with international space organizations.

AAS members include: engineers, scientists, administrators, institutions and corporations working in support of the nation's space activities, as well as military space specialists, physicians, lawyers, educators, historians, journalists, artists and other professionals.

The AAS runs national meetings, symposia and publications. Members meet with leaders in their field and in related disciplines, exchange information and ideas, discuss career aspirations and expand their horizons.

The AAS sponsors professional, scientific and engineering meetings and maintains a publications program.


CSTS (Crew Space Transportation System) or ACTS (Advanced Crew Transportation System) is a human spaceflight system proposal. It was originally a joint project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Space Agency (FKA), but is now solely an ESA project. It aims to design a spacecraft for low Earth orbit operations such as servicing the International Space Station but also capable of exploration of the Moon and beyond. This study was conceived as a basic strategic plan to keep a viable European human space program alive because NASA officials had announced that NASA's Vision for Space Exploration Orion spacecraft, subsequently cancelled, would be developed without participation of international partners.CSTS had completed an initial study phase, which lasted for 18 months from September 2006 to spring 2008, before the project was shut down before an ESA member state conference in November 2008. However, the head of the ESA denies that the ATV evolution plan is an alternative and talks are still ongoing as to whether or not to continue funding the ACTS plan. As of late November 2008, the project funding has been limited to a feasibility study with a launch of an actual vehicle possible no earlier than 2017.In 2009 Russia decided it would go with a version of the original design of the CSTS and renamed it the "PPTS" or Prospective Piloted Transport System. ESA decided to go with an ACTS (Advanced Crew Transportation System), an evolution of the CSTS craft that would be an upgraded crewed version of the ATV spacecraft. In mid-2009 EADS Astrium was awarded a €21 million study into designing a crewed variation of the European ATV vehicle which is believed to now be the basis of the ACTS design. Since early 2013, ESA and NASA have begun cooperation on developing the Orion service module for the current version of the Orion spacecraft. This has cast previous ESA efforts concerning a crewed derivative of the ATV spacecraft into uncertainty. As of summer 2015, no known new developments on the CSTS/ACTS project have been disclosed to the public.

Carl E. Walz

Carl Erwin Walz (Colonel, USAF, Ret.) (born September 6, 1955) is a former NASA astronaut currently working for Orbital Sciences Corporation's Advanced Programs Group as Vice President for Human Space Flight Operations. Walz was formerly assigned to the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. He was the Acting Director for the Advanced Capabilities Division in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, and was responsible for a broad range of activities to include Human Research, Technology Development, Nuclear Power and Propulsion and the Lunar Robotic Exploration Programs to support the Vision for Space Exploration.

Constellation program

The Constellation Program (abbreviated CxP) is a cancelled manned spaceflight program developed by NASA, the space agency of the United States, from 2005 to 2009. The major goals of the program were "completion of the International Space Station" and a "return to the Moon no later than 2020" with a crewed flight to the planet Mars as the ultimate goal. The program's logo reflected the three stages of the program: the Earth (ISS), the Moon, and finally Mars—while the Mars goal also found expression in the name given to the program's booster rockets: Ares (the Greek equivalent of the Roman god Mars). The technological aims of the program included the regaining of significant astronaut experience beyond low Earth orbit and the development of technologies necessary to enable sustained human presence on other planetary bodies.Constellation began in response to the goals laid out in the Vision for Space Exploration under NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. O'Keefe's successor, Michael D. Griffin, ordered a complete review, termed the Exploration Systems Architecture Study, which reshaped how NASA would pursue the goals laid out in the Vision for Space Exploration, and its findings were formalized by the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. The Act directed NASA to "develop a sustained human presence on the Moon, including a robust precursor program to promote exploration, science, commerce and US preeminence in space, and as a stepping stone to future exploration of Mars and other destinations." Work began on this revised Constellation Program, to send astronauts first to the International Space Station, then to the Moon, and then to Mars and beyond.Subsequent to the findings of the Augustine Committee in 2009 that the Constellation Program could not be executed without substantial increases in funding, on February 1, 2010, President Barack Obama announced a proposal to cancel the program, effective with the passage of the U.S. 2011 fiscal year budget. He later announced changes to the proposal in a major space policy speech at Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010. Obama signed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 on October 11, which shelved the program, with Constellation contracts remaining in place until Congress would act to overturn the previous mandate. In 2011, NASA announced that it had adopted the design of its new Space Launch System.

Crew Exploration Vehicle

The Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) was the conceptual component of the U.S. NASA Vision for Space Exploration that later became known as the Orion spacecraft. The Orion CEV was part of NASA's Constellation Program to send human explorers back to the Moon, and then onward to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.

Official planning for the vehicle began in 2004, with the final Request For Proposal issued on March 1, 2005, to begin a design competition for the vehicle. For the later design and construction phases, see Orion (spacecraft). NASA has posted project status notes at the website, under the name "Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle" (see External links, below).

Flexible path

The flexible path was a set of destinations for further crewed space exploration in the inner Solar System proposed in the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee of 2009 and was envisioned as alternative to the Moon-first and Mars-first approaches.In 2010 president Barack Obama announced change in the space policy from the Moon-first approach (adopted previously under the Vision for Space Exploration and Constellation program) to a variety of destinations resembling the flexible path approach.

Interplanetary mission

An interplanetary mission is a voyage or trip through outer space involving more than one planet. As of 25 April 2018, there have been no manned interplanetary missions. So far, all manned missions have been in Earth's orbit or to its Moon. A large number of robotic interplanetary missions have been performed by the NASA, the Soviet Union (and later by Roscosmos), Indian Space Research Organisation, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the European Space Agency.

The Apollo Applications Program planned a three-month interplanetary mission to Venus using Apollo hardware in the 1970s. The American space agency NASA intends to be able to launch a manned interplanetary mission to Mars by some time after 2030 under the Vision for Space Exploration. The European Space Agency has the long-term vision of sending a human mission to Mars by 2030 under the Aurora Programme.The first interplanetary mission to fly past another planet was the Soviet Union's Venera 1. The robotic spacecraft was intended to enter into orbit around Venus, but suffered a malfunction and radio contact with the spacecraft was lost. The defunct Venera 1 passed within 100,000 km (62,000 mi) of Venus before entering a heliocentric orbit. The United States' Mariner 2 became the first successful interplanetary mission in December 1962 when it collected data within 35,000 km (22,000 mi) of Venus.

The Soviet Union's Venera 3 crashlanded on Venus in March 1966 without returning any data on the planet, although technically becoming the first manmade object to land on another planet. In October 1967, the Soviet Union's Venera 4 became the first successful interplanetary mission to land on another planet.

The United States' Mariner 10 became the first successful interplanetary mission to visit more than one planet outside Earth's planetary system. Mariner 10 flew by Venus once, in February 1974, and flew by Mercury three times, in March and September 1974, and March 1975.

There are currently five spacecraft on trajectories which either will or have already taken them out of the Solar System, depending on the definition used to determine the Solar System's boundary. These probes are Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11 and New Horizons, all launched by the United States.

Of that group Voyager 1, Voyager 2, and New Horizons are still functioning as of 2018 and supported by active missions, with New Horizons being directed to pass by another body. The announcement of a possible Planet Nine opens the possibility of future spacecraft making transneptunian journeys to new planets, although beyond Neptune there is only known to be exoplanets. Journey's to exoplanets are usually covered under the topic of interstellar travel, although the possibility of a rogue planet closer to Earth but not orbiting star may put an exoplanet more in reach.

List of Administrators and Deputy Administrators of NASA

The Administrator and Deputy Administrator of NASA are the highest-ranked officials of NASA, the space agency of the United States Federal Government. The Administrator serves as the senior space science advisor to the President of the United States. According to NASA, the role of the Administrator is to "lead the NASA team and manage its resources to advance the Vision for Space Exploration." The Deputy Administrator of NASA "serves as the agency’s second in command and is responsible to the administrator for providing overall leadership, planning, and policy direction for the agency. They represent NASA to the Executive Office of the President, Congress, heads of federal and other appropriate government agencies, international organizations, and external organizations and communities. They also oversee the day to day work of NASA’s functional offices, such as the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of General Counsel and Strategic Communications", according to NASA (referring to Shana Dale).The first Administrator of NASA was Dr. T. Keith Glennan; during his term he brought together the disparate projects in space development research in the US. Daniel Goldin held the post for the longest term (nearly 10 years), and is best known for pioneering the "faster, better, cheaper" approach to space programs. The only person to hold the post twice is James C. Fletcher, who returned to NASA following the Challenger disaster.The longest-running (acting) Deputy Administrator was John R. Dailey, who held the post following his retirement from the United States Marine Corps. The longest-running full Deputy Administrator was Hugh Latimer Dryden, who was the first Deputy Administrator. William R. Graham has held the post of Deputy Administrator twice, and was the acting Administrator in between, as did Frederick D. Gregory. Dr. Daniel Mulville served as the acting Deputy Administrator twice, and was acting Administrator in between.The current Administrator is Jim Bridenstine, who was nominated by President Donald Trump on September 1, 2017. Bridenstine was confirmed on April 19, 2018, and was sworn in four days later on April 23, 2018.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. Data collected by LRO has been described as essential for planning NASA's future human and robotic missions to the Moon. Its detailed mapping program is identifying safe landing sites, locating potential resources on the Moon, characterizing the radiation environment, and demonstrating new technologies.Launched on June 18, 2009, in conjunction with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), as the vanguard of NASA's Lunar Precursor Robotic Program, LRO was the first United States mission to the Moon in over ten years.

LRO and LCROSS were launched as part of the United States's Vision for Space Exploration program.

The probe has made a 3-D map of the Moon's surface at 100-meter resolution and 98.2% coverage (excluding polar areas in deep shadow), including 0.5-meter resolution images of Apollo landing sites. The first images from LRO were published on July 2, 2009, showing a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds).The total cost of the mission is reported as US$583 million, of which $504 million pertains to the main LRO probe and $79 million to the LCROSS satellite.

Lunar outpost (NASA)

A lunar outpost was an element of the George W. Bush era Vision for Space Exploration, which has been replaced with President Barack Obama's space policy. The outpost would have been an inhabited facility on the surface of the Moon. At the time it was proposed, NASA was to construct the outpost over the five years between 2019 and 2024. The United States Congress directed that the U.S. portion, "shall be designated the Neil A. Armstrong Lunar Outpost".On December 4, 2006, NASA announced the conclusion of its Global Exploration Strategy and Lunar Architecture Study. The Lunar Architecture Study's purpose was to "define a series of lunar missions constituting NASA's Lunar campaign to fulfill the Lunar Exploration elements" of the Vision for Space Exploration.

What resulted was a basic plan for a lunar outpost near one of the poles of the Moon, which would permanently house astronauts in six-month shifts. These studies were made before the discovery of water ice (5.6 ± 2.9% by mass) in a polar crater, which may substantially affect plans.

Mission to Mars (disambiguation)

Mission to Mars is a 2000 science fiction film directed by Brian De Palma.

Mission to Mars may also refer to:

Mission to Mars (attraction), a former attraction at Walt Disney theme parks

Mission to Mars (novel), a novel by Patrick Moore

Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration, a 2013 book by astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Leonard David

Exploration of Mars, the study of Mars by spacecraft, beginning in the late 20th century

List of missions to Mars

Human mission to Mars (crewed aka manned)

NASA Authorization Act of 2005

The NASA Authorization Act of 2005 is an act of the United States Congress. It was signed by the then President George W. Bush and became Public Law 109-155 on December 30, 2005.

The act requires NASA to carry out a balanced set of programs in human spaceflight, in aeronautics research and development and in scientific research. The act directs NASA to send robotic spacecraft to study the Moon and planets, and to study astronomy and astrophysics. The act directs NASA to use research satellites to conduct earth science research and research on the Sun-Earth connection. The act also directs NASA to support university research in a variety of fields.

In conducting its work, the act directs NASA to consult with other agencies, including the National Science and Technology Council, and to work closely with the private sector, and to "involve other nations to the extent appropriate."

Primary Atomic Reference Clock in Space

The Primary Atomic Reference Clock in Space or PARCS was an atomic-clock mission scheduled to fly on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2008, but cancelled to make way for the Vision for Space Exploration. The mission, to have been funded by NASA, involved a laser-cooled caesium atomic clock, and a time-transfer system using Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. PARCS was to fly concurrently with the Superconducting Microwave Oscillator (SUMO) a different type of clock that was to be compared against the PARCS clock to test certain theories. The objectives of the mission were to have been:

Test gravitational theory

Study laser-cooled atoms in microgravity

Improve the accuracy of timekeeping on earth

Science Mission Directorate

The Science Mission Directorate (SMD) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engages the United States’ science community, sponsors scientific research, and develops and deploys satellites and probes in collaboration with NASA’s partners around the world to answer fundamental questions requiring the view from and into space.

The Science Mission Directorate also sponsors research that both enables, and is enabled by, NASA's exploration activities. The SMD portfolio is contributing to NASA’s achievement of the Vision for Space Exploration by striving to:

Understand the history of Mars and the formation of the solar system. By understanding the formation of diverse terrestrial planets (with atmospheres) in the solar system, researchers learn more about Earth’s future and the most promising opportunities for habitation beyond our planet. For example, differences in the impacts of collisional processes on Earth, the Moon, and Mars can provide clues about differences in origin and evolution of each of these bodies.

Search for Earth-like planets and habitable environments around other stars. SMD pursues multiple research strategies with the goal of developing effective astronomically-detectable signatures of biological processes. The study of the Earth-Sun system may help researchers identify atmospheric biosignatures that distinguish Earth-like (and potentially habitable) planets around nearby stars. An understanding of the origin of life and the time evolution of the atmosphere on Earth may reveal likely signatures of life on extrasolar planets.

Explore the solar system for scientific purposes while supporting safe robotic and human exploration of space. For example, large-scale coronal mass ejections from the Sun can cause potentially lethal consequences for improperly shielded human flight systems, as well as some types of robotic systems. SMD’s pursuit of interdisciplinary scientific research focus areas will help predict potentially harmful conditions in space and protect NASA’s robotic and human explorers.

Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicle

Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicle, or simply Shuttle-Derived Vehicle (SDV), is a term describing one of a wide array of concepts that have been developed for creating space launch vehicles from the components, technology and infrastructure of the Space Shuttle program. SDVs have also been part of NASA's plans several times in the past. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, NASA formally studied a cargo-only vehicle, Shuttle-C, that would have supplemented the crewed Space Shuttle in orbiting payloads.

In 2005, NASA decided to develop the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles, based in part on highly modified Shuttle components to replace the Space Shuttle, and enable exploration of the Moon and Mars. The agency also studied a third such vehicle, the Ares IV. As of April 2011, NASA's replacement vehicle for the Space Shuttle is an SDV, the Space Launch System and multiple commercial vehicles. Over the course of the 2010 two different commercial vehicles were developed that use man-rated heavy lift launcher. In the meantime NASA has continued to use the Russian Soyuz, which it also used during the Shuttle program as part of the International Space Station program.

Space Exploration Alliance

On June 3, 2004, thirteen of the United States' premier space advocacy groups, industry associations and space policy organizations teamed up to form an umbrella organization known as the Space Exploration Alliance. The primary purpose of the SEA is to support the White House's plan to refocus NASA's human space activities toward exploration beyond low Earth orbit.This effort, officially known as the Vision for Space Exploration was announced on January 15, 2004 by President George W. Bush at NASA Headquarters. The VSE includes plans for a return to the Moon by U.S. astronauts with the intent of establishing a permanent lunar base before follow-on efforts are made to move on to the planet Mars and beyond.The organizations involved in supporting the Space Exploration Alliance include:

Aerospace Industries Association

Aerospace States Association

American Astronautical Society

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

California Space Authority

Federation of Galaxy Explorers

Florida Space Authority

Global Space Travelers

The Mars Society

The Moon Society

NASA Alumni League

National Coalition of Spaceport States

National Society of Black Engineers

National Space Society

The Planetary Society


Space Generation Foundation

Space Studies Institute

X PRIZE FoundationCollectively these groups total almost one million Americans as members or as employees of member companies.

Space Launch Initiative

The Space Launch Initiative (SLI) was a NASA and U.S. Department of Defense joint research and technology project to determine the requirements to meet all the nation’s hypersonics, space launch and space technology needs. It was also known as the 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) program. The program began with the award of reusable launch vehicle study contracts in 2000.The primary goal of this research was to increase safety and reliability and to reduce overall costs associated with building, flying and maintaining the nation’s next generation of space launch vehicles. NASA anticipated that these advances would revitalize the nation’s space transportation capabilities, and dramatically improve NASA’s ability to conduct science and exploration missions in space. This program was ended with the cancellation of the X-33 and X-34 in 2001 along with the conclusion of the X-43 program. In November 2002 it was evolved into the Orbital Space Plane Program and the Next Generation Launch Technology Program.Around 2004 NASA changed its focus to Constellation Program, as part of the Vision for Space Exploration.

The Space Launch Initiative Propulsion Office, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, sought to advance technologies and explore new avenues of space propulsion to develop safer, more reliable and affordable propulsion solutions. Four main engine candidates for a second generation reusable launch vehicle emerged, including two hydrogen-fueled (COBRA, RS-83, TR-106) and two kerosene-fueled (RS-84, TR-107) staged combustion cycle engines.

Space policy of the George W. Bush administration

The space policy of the George W. Bush administration is mainly associated with the Vision for Space Exploration, announced in 2004. A formal National Space Policy was released in 2006.

21st-century proposals
20th-century proposals
Mars analogs (list)
Hardware concepts
Policy and history
Robotic programs
Human spaceflight
Individual featured
(human and robotic)
and navigation
NASA lists
NASA images
and artwork

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