Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Don't Forget Why NASA is Funding This Project

NASA conducts its work in four principal organizations, called mission directorates:
  • Aeronautics: pioneers and proves new flight technologies that improve our ability to explore and which have practical applications on Earth.
  • Exploration Systems: creates capabilities for sustainable human and robotic exploration.
  • Science: explores the Earth, solar system and universe beyond; charts the best route of discovery; and reaps the benefits of Earth and space exploration for society.
  • Space Operations: provides critical enabling technologies for much of the rest of NASA through the space shuttle, the International Space Station and flight support.

The Science Mission Directorate (SMD) engages the Nation’s 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. SMD seeks to understand the origins, evolution, and destiny of the universe and to understand the nature of the strange phenomena that shape it. SMD also seeks to understand:
  • the nature of life in the universe and what kinds of life may exist beyond Earth;
  • the solar system, both scientifically and in preparation for human exploration; and
  • the Sun and Earth, changes in the Earth-Sun system, and the consequences of the Earth-Sun relationship for life on Earth.
The Science Mission Directorate 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.
NASA has defined a set of space and Earth Science questions that can best be addressed using the Agency’s unique capabilities.  NASA works with the broader scientific community, considers national initiatives, and the results of decade-long surveys by the National Research Council in defining these questions.
See also the Science Strategy section for more information about how NASA Science is pursuing these questions.


  1. Ok, not sure how this answers the title

  2. The original title of the blog entry was "Relating Science Education and NASA Science." NASA has funded this grant because they want us to help them reach their goals. The directorate that we are following is Science. Under Science, we are focused in on the Earth. Under Earth, we can see the big questions that NASA has been asking and some of the answers they have found.

    As we all work on ICCARS we tend to think about our own curriculum. I think it is just interesting to relate our curriculum with the goals of Science in NASA. Hopefully it just helps as a reminder that we really know what Science is to NASA.