Journey to Mars

Journey to Mars


[ Music ]>>This is Gene, and
I’m on the surface. And as I take man’s last step
from the surface back home for some time to come but
we believe not too long into the future, I’d like to
just let what I believe history will record that
America’s challenge of today has forged man’s
destiny of tomorrow. And as we leave the
moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God
willing, as we shall return: With peace and hope
for all mankind.>>With those words, humans
left the moon for last time. In fact, it was the time that humans have
left low-earth orbit. That was Apollo 17
in December of 1972. Space exploration is hard. It was hard when the goal
was to walk on the moon. It’s even harder
now that the goal is to put footprints on Mars. Here’s a typical
picture of the night sky. The moon is pretty easy to find. It’s relatively close to us. It’s a journey of
about three days. Can you find Mars? If you’re looking
at the bright spot on the lower right-hand
corner, you’ve found Venus. Mars is actually here. It’s a small speck
in the night sky. It’s a journey of
about six months. It’s a pretty difficult
target to get to, especially when you want
to send people there, but that’s exactly what
we’re planning to do. There are many barriers
in getting there, including technical,
physiological, and political. But NASA has a plan for human
exploration comprising the world’s largest and
most powerful rocket, the most capable
human spacecraft, an upgraded launch facility, and
a mission plan that culminates in a crewed journey to Mars. We will, for the first time
since the end of Apollo, send people away from the
relative safety of Earth to explore a foreign world. Apollo launched on the
top of a Saturn V rocket. And the Saturn V
remains the largest and most powerful
rocket ever launched. The rocket that NASA
is currently developing to launch the Orion
spacecraft is referred to as the Space Launch
System or the SLS. To give you an idea of
the size of these rockets, if you were to put the first
SLS down on a football field, the bottom of the rocket would
be in one end zone and the top of the rocket would stretch
someplace the Cleveland Browns often have trouble finding [ Laughter ] — the other end zone. The SLS is being developed through a block upgrade
approach. The first SLS for Exploration
Mission 1 is referred to as Block 1. The Block 1 rocket will
be able to deliver more than double the payload of current launch vehicles
to low-earth orbit. And it’s this first rocket that will deliver an uncrewed
Orion spacecraft around the moon and back again for
Exploration Mission 1, which will be the
furthest we’ve ever tested human-rated spacecraft. Rockets are typically staged to
reduce weight as they burn fuel, and the SLS is no different. The core stage is the
main body of the rocket and houses the fuel for
its four main engines and the avionics for the rocket. The core stage will be the
tallest rocket stage ever built. The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion
Stage is the upper stage for the Block 1 rocket, and
it will provide the thrust to lift Orion out
of low-earth orbit onto its historic first
journey to the moon. The solid rocket boosters
are heritage technology from the Space Shuttle era
with a little extra kick. These boosters are each
taller in size than the Statue of Liberty, and they
will provide the majority of the thrust for the
rocket at liftoff. Two full-scale tests of these
boosters have already occurred, paving the way for
the first flight. For the first crewed mission of the Orion spacecraft
NASA will upgrade the rocket to what is referred
to as Block 1B. The primary difference
between the Block 1 and Block 1B vehicles
is the addition of the exploration upper stage. With this enhanced upper
stage, the SLS will be able to deliver more than
triple the payload of current launch vehicles
to low-earth orbit. And it’s with this enhanced
upper stage that we will be able to carry not just people
on the Orion spacecraft, but NASA’s also planning
a series of payloads that we will deliver to
the area around the moon. These payloads make up what
we’re calling the Deep Space Gateway, a kind of mini
space station around the moon that will be our jumping
off point to go to Mars. The NASA Glenn Research Center
is playing a critical role in all this. We are tasked with managing
and developing the structures at the top of the rocket,
whether it’s carrying crew or cargo off the planet. Earlier this year we awarded
a contract to Dynetics with their partners
RUAG, Systima, and local Cleveland companies
in technologies to develop and build the Universal
Stage Adapter or the USA. Its primary function is to
adapt the larger diameter of the SLS upper stage to the smaller diameter
Orion spacecraft. It provides the structure to safely carry the Orion
from ground to orbit. In addition to carrying
the Orion, the USA will also house
the payloads that make up the Deep Space Gateway. As you can imagine, a rocket
of this size produces a lot of heat, noise, and vibration. And the USA will provide
a reasonable environment for those payloads to
survive their trip to orbit. In addition to the
Universal Stage Adapter, which will be used on
crewed missions of the SLS, the Glenn Research Center
also leads the development of payload fairings,
which will be used on planned cargo
missions of the SLS. Fairings are used
to house spacecraft when the crewed Orion
capsule isn’t riding on top. The SLS will allow us
the opportunity to dream of large space telescopes
and planetary explorers that wouldn’t be possible
on other launch vehicles. It could also cut the transit
time to distant locations. It could cut the time to travel
to the Jovian moon Europa from around seven and a
half years to a little over two and a half years. This reduction in time is
important to both the robustness of the probes that have to
survive the harsh environments of space and to the researchers who traditionally
have long wait times from launching their
science instruments to actually collecting
science data. Let me transition a little
bit to talk about how we plan to use the SLS and Orion to build the capability
to go to Mars. Earlier I touched on what we’re
calling the Deep Space Gateway. It will be a structure around
the moon with power, propulsion, a docking capability,
and a small place for the crew to live in. It will allow astronauts
to begin building and testing the systems
needed for critical missions to deep space destinations. In addition to activities
around the moon, the gateway can also be used
as a jumping off point to go to other destinations,
like Mars. The Glenn Research Center
is leading the development of the first element of the Deep
Space Gateway, which will launch on Exploration Mission 2 and
begin this exciting new chapter of deep space exploration. And all of the gateway elements
will launch underneath either a USA or a payload fairing lead
out of Glenn out of Glenn. So it’s a very exciting time for space flight
development at the center. I’d like to leave you
with what I think is one of the most important
impact of the SLS and Orion. This is my son with
Peggy Whitson at the Neutral Buoyancy
Lab in Houston. My kids are lucky to be exposed to the work that
we do every day. But each one of us here
has the ability to inspire and educate future generations. No matter what you do and
for whatever reason you’re in attendance tonight,
we all have the ability and the responsibility to
inspire the imagination and creativity of young
people in this country. Apollo 17, that last
mission to the moon that I began this
presentation with, gave us this iconic picture. It was a picture that showed
everyone how beautiful and fragile our planet is. Apollo inspired a generation
of entrepreneurs and inventors. I grew up in the
Space Shuttle era, and that’s what inspired me. Much like Apollo,
the Space Shuttle, and the Space Station
have inspired kids from around the world to pursue
science and technical careers, the SLS and Orion have the
opportunity to do the same. This is a picture of people in Times Square watching the
landing of the Curiosity rover. These are the faces of people
inspired by the landing of a robot on Mars — a robot. Imagine what these
faces will look like when we land
people on Mars. NASA and the work that
we do is inspiring. And I hope that our work
will inspire my children and future generations
around the world. [ Applause ]

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