United States : NASA Transforms Access to Low-Earth Orbit, Touches Interstellar Space, Makes Unprecedented Discoveries and Develops Cutting-Edge Technologies in 2013
In 2013, NASA helped U.S. commercial companies transform access to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station even as one of the agency's venerable spacecraft was confirmed to have reached interstellar space, and engineers moved ahead on technologies that will help carry out the first astronaut mission to an asteroid and eventually Mars.
"Even in a time of great change and transition, NASA employees stayed focused on what it takes to get the job done -- returning space station resupply launches and the jobs they support back to the United States, developing cutting-edge technologies that will help us send American astronauts to an asteroid and Mars, uncovering new knowledge about our home planet and the universe and helping develop cleaner and quieter airplanes," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "It's all the hard work and dedication from the NASA folks on the frontlines that keep the United States the world s leader in space exploration."
The following are some of NASA's top stories this year: Commercial Space Progress A little more than two years after the end of the Space Shuttle Program, NASA has returned the International Space Station resupply missions to the United States in a powerful partnership with U.S. companies SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, who are investing here and creating good-paying jobs for American workers.
NASA remains committed to launching American astronauts from U.S. soil within the next four years. Recent progress includes key milestones in commercial crew development met by three American companies: Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation; a Nov. 19 request for proposals on the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract (CCtCap), designed to ensure commercial companies meet NASA s safety requirements for transporting NASA and international partner crews to the International Space Station; unfunded Space Act Agreements with other potential commercial providers; and creation of a Space Technology Program focused on breakthrough innovations that will change future transportation options. These accomplishments have been bolstered by the extension of International Space Station operations to 2020, enabling expanded commercial and research opportunities.
The primary destination of these commercial launches, the International Space Station, celebrated 15 years in orbit in November, and crew members have lived and worked aboard the station non-stop since October 2000.
Interest in human spaceflight remains extremely high, and this year NASA welcomed new astronaut candidates from a near-record applicant pool of more than 6,000. Half of the class is women, which is the highest percentage in any class to date. These astronaut candidates are the explorers who will first fly on commercial rockets to low-Earth orbit and help us execute missions to an asteroid and Mars.