NASA revealed ambitious plans for future space exploration this March in its 2015 budget proposal. The agency is utilizing private companies to work in a joint partnership that is mutually beneficial for both parties. OSIRIS-REx is one of those projects, where an asteroid will be retrieved and its samples sent back to Earth for study.
NASA’s partner in this mission is Deep Space Industries, a mining company that envisions using asteroids to harvest resources for sustaining Earth, rather than stripping the planet of all its natural resources. Deep Space Industries is a private company, whose investors have the means to fund its budgets. Its main goal is to advance technologies and processes to not only sustain Earth, but to explore and colonize space. Deep Space Industries also has plans to launch a craft for mining research and sample analysis in 2015.
NASA’s 2015 budget allots close to four billion dollars for manned exploration, which consists of 3 major initiatives, the Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems. NASA estimates the cost will be a little over a billion dollars for development of the crew vehicle.
The Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle will receive its first spaceflight test in December of this year. The vehicle’s parachute systems were successfully tested this week. The Orion vehicle will carry four crew members on missions that range from 21 to 210 days. The test in December will send the module 3000 miles into space, reaching speeds of 20,000 miles per hour.
NASA’s ambitious 2015 budget has revealed innovative and much-needed avenues for future space exploration. In light of these new programs, the Space Shuttle has become obsolete. NASA’s partnering with such companies as Deep Space Industries and SpaceX was the solution needed to continue to reach for the stars while keeping NASA relevant and cost-effective.
NASA is also continuing its operation of the International Space Station well into the third decade of the 21st century. It will continue to support development of technologies that will ensure the success of deep space operations through such things as designing and testing life support systems and re-engineering space suits.
NASA’s Space Launch System is currently in the midst of research and development. The engine for the Space Launch rocket has just begun testing. The goal of the Space Launch System is to create a vehicle that can take astronauts into unexplored frontiers in space, by providing a power source to lift the Orion Crew Capsule Vehicle into space.
The SLS can also be used as a backup plan should NASA’s current partnership with SpaceX’s commercial transport of goods to the International Space Station fail. NASA has allotted more than one billion dollars for the SLS’s development, integration and support.
NASA is reinventing itself by investing in research partnerships with private companies. This is a critical point in time for NASA, partly due to their complete reliance on the Russian Soyuz for transporting American astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Keeping in mind the current political climate between the US and Russia, as well as the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, it is high time that alternative transport solutions be found. Some possible solutions are revealed at the heart of NASA’s ambitious 2015 budget. These plans for future space exploration are reviving the vision and image of NASA.
By Adrianne Hill