NASA Announces New Organization To Invest In Space

NASA is investing in space technology. The agency has announced a new NASA “organizational entity” that will fund commercial space technologies.

Announced by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on its blog Thursday Feb. 21, the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) will invest in space technologies that further space exploration. This new directorate joins NASA’s other four directorates, the Space Operations Mission Directorate, the Aeronautics Research Mission, the Science Mission Directorate and the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

“By investing in bold, broadly applicable, disruptive technology that industry cannot tackle today, STMD seeks to mature the technology required for NASA’s future missions in science and exploration while proving the capabilities and lowering the cost for other government agencies and commercial space activities,” Bolden wrote. “A robust technology development program is vital to reaching new heights in space — and sending American astronauts to new destinations like an asteroid and Mars.”

The new directorate is a response to President Obama’s call for innovation and space technology for new space missions. The president called on NASA to invest in “a broad spectrum of space and aviation technology research grants and demonstrations of high-priority technologies, from laser space communications to unmanned aerial systems to in-space transportation.”

The new organization will have multiple functions, including advancing “broadly applicable, transformational technology,” competitively selecting “research by academia, industry and the NASA Centers based on technical merit,” leveraging “the technology investments of our international, other government agency, academic and industrial partners,” coordinating with internal and external stakeholders in academia and industry, and the big one politically, growing “the nation’s innovation economy and creates high-tech jobs.”

Obama’s 2013 budget request calls for the new STMD to receive $699 million. Whether or not NASA’s new entity will actually receive this money is up to Congress' passing that budget, or an alternate, compromising budget.

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