45 Years After Apollo 11, NASA’s Next Giant Leap

By  //  July 19, 2014

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first orion flight test set for December

ABOVE VIDEO: It was 45 years ago on July 20 that Neil Armstrong took the small step onto the surface of the moon that changed the course of history.

The first humans who will step foot on Mars are walking the Earth today.

Artist's concept image of a boot print on the moon and on Mars. It was 45 years ago that Neil Armstrong took the small step onto the surface of the moon that changed the course of history. The years that followed saw a Space Age of scientific, technological and human research, on which we have built the modern era. We stand on a new horizon, poised to take the next giant leap—deeper into the solar system. The Apollo missions blazed a path for human exploration to the moon and today we are extending that path to near-Earth asteroids, Mars and beyond. (NASA.gov image)

An artist’s concept image of a boot print on the moon and on Mars.(NASA.gov image)

It was 45 years ago that Neil Armstrong took the small step onto the surface of the moon that changed the course of history.

The years that followed saw a Space Age of scientific, technological and human research, on which we have built the modern era.

We stand on a new horizon, poised to take the next giant leap—deeper into the solar system.

The Apollo missions blazed a path for human exploration to the moon and today we are extending that path to near-Earth asteroids, Mars and beyond.

Technology drives exploration and we’re building on the Apollo program’s accomplishments to test and fly transformative, cutting-edge technologies today for tomorrow’s missions.

An artist's concept portrays a NASA Mars Exploration Rover on the surface of Mars. Two rovers have been built for 2003 launches and January 2004 arrival at two sites on Mars. Each rover has the mobility and toolkit to function as a robotic geologist. (NASA.gov image)

An artist’s concept portrays a NASA Mars Exploration Rover on the surface of Mars. Two rovers have been built for 2003 launches and January 2004 arrival at two sites on Mars. Each rover has the mobility and toolkit to function as a robotic geologist. (NASA.gov image)

As we develop and test the new tools of 21st century spaceflight on the human Path to Mars, we once again will change the course of history.

The Path to Mars begins with research on Earth and extends beyond its bounds, aboard the orbiting laboratory of the International Space Station, with our international partners.

Some 250 miles above our heads, astronauts are conducting hundreds of experiments not possible on Earth, teaching us how humans can live, work and thrive for longer periods in space.

To help this nation send humans to deep space and return them to Earth safely, engineers across the country are developing a new space transportation capability, destined to travel far beyond our home planet.

In this concept image, the Orion spacecraft docks with the robotic asteroid redirect vehicle. (NASA.gov image)

In this concept image, the Orion spacecraft docks with the robotic asteroid redirect vehicle. (NASA.gov image)

The Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket will be the most advanced space vehicles ever built.

Together, they will take us farther into the solar system than humans have ever traveled. They are our spaceship to Mars and beyond.

As we build on the lessons of the space station and turn our eyes toward Mars, we are designing missions to take us to a “proving ground” around the moon called cis-lunar space, where some of the very building blocks of the solar system can be explored.

NASA astronauts Stan Love and Stephen Bowen practice microgravity techniques using the new space suits and tools in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at Johnson Space Center. (NASA.gov image)

NASA astronauts Stan Love and Stephen Bowen practice microgravity techniques using the new space suits and tools in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at Johnson Space Center. (NASA.gov image)

Near-Earth asteroids provide a unique opportunity to test the new technologies and capabilities we need for future human missions to Mars.

Around 2019, we’ll launch a robotic mission to rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid.

The spacecraft either will capture an asteroid in its entirety or retrieve a boulder off of a much larger asteroid, then redirect the asteroid mass to a stable orbit around the moon.

In the mid 2020s, astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft, launched by SLS, will explore that asteroid and return to Earth with samples.

ABOVE VIDEO: This animation depicts key events of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, which launched in late 2011 and landed a rover, Curiosity, on Mars in August 2012.

Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) technologies is an essential part of future missions into deep space with larger payloads. (NASA.gov image)

Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) technologies is an essential part of future missions into deep space with larger payloads. (NASA.gov image)

The new technologies we test through the Asteroid Redirect Mission, and the new human spaceflight capabilities we prove by sending astronauts to study the asteroid, will make important advances to safely send humans to Mars.

This includes tools like Solar Electric Propulsion, a highly efficient way to help us transport large objects and heavy cargo to support future Mars missions.

NASA will continue to make significant investments in new technologies vital to achieving exploration goals. This includes advancements in entry, descent and landing technologies such as Low Density Supersonic Decelerators.


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