There are many NASA facilities scattered across the United States, each dedicated to its own areas of research. Some are certainly more famous than others, but we at Thurman Co are willing to bet you can’t name them all! For the first installment of this two-part series, we are looking at the easternmost half of the ten NASA research facilities. Where are each of the NASA facilities, and what are they researching, testing or building in your state?
Glenn Research Center
NASA’s Glenn Research Center, located in Cleveland, Ohio, is focused on designing and testing new and innovative aerospace technology. They are constantly searching for the best technology to send astronauts further into space and to send them more safely. Glenn is currently working on the most efficient ways to power spacecraft, from solar power generation to batteries and fuel cells. Of course, reduced emissions, cost, and noise are also at the top of their priority list. Glenn is overall focused on improving space travel to make it more sustainable and safe in a world that is increasingly curious about our universe.
An important part of space travel is ensuring the health and safety of the astronauts. Glenn takes this seriously, and they continue to study the effects of space travel on human health. They want to make sure that the astronauts are both safe and healthy, prioritizing crew health monitoring, advanced fire safety technology, and life support systems.
Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Maryland is home to Goddard Space Flight Center. More than 50 spacecraft from Goddard are actively exploring Earth and our solar system. There is a vast array of disciplines researched by Goddard spacecraft and scientists, including the sun-Earth environment, astrophysics, planetary studies, Earth science, and solar science. The Hubble Space Telescope is perhaps the most widely-known spacecraft to come from Goddard Space Flight Center. It has been integral to the advancements we have made in our knowledge of the universe.
Climate change studies are important at Goddard as well. Aura is one spacecraft focused on ensuring the ozone has a chance to recover from the effects of climate change. Aura’s discoveries are helping scientists determine both the causes and effects of climate change. With this knowledge, they will be able to determine the best courses of action and predict their possible outcomes on the ozone.
Langley Research Center
This center is located in Hampton, Virginia. Langley Research Center is NASA’s oldest facility, founded in 1917. Scientists at Langley are driven to making improvements in aviation, developing space exploration technology, and researching Earth’s atmosphere. One current project at Langley is creating technology to more effectively monitor methane emissions from landfills. NASA’s System-Wide Safety (SWS) project is working in conjunction with Human Automation Teaming Solutions, Inc. (HATS) on the project. Their goal is to create technology that could lead to reducing landfill methane emissions by 60% by the year 2030.
In 1968, Langley Research Center led the first journey to land a rover on Mars, with spacecraft Viking 1 and Viking 2. Langley has been involved in many missions to Mars, including Mars Pathfinder, 2001 Mars Odyssey, Mars Exploration Rover, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Phoenix Mars Lander. 2001 Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are ongoing, with Langley’s scientists guiding the spacecraft into orbit using a technique called aerobraking.
Marshall Space Flight Center
Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA’s largest facility is found in Huntsville, Alabama. Marshall specializes in propulsion for spacecraft and has developed every major propulsion system in the history of NASA. One interesting project going on at Marshall is the Artemis Program. The goal of Artemis is to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024 and establish a long-term presence there by 2028. Marshall will play a vital role in returning humans to the moon and has been preparing for this for several years.
Marshall Space Flight Center also works closely with the International Space Station (ISS). Its Payload Operations Integration Center is in charge of the United States’ personal and partner experiments aboard the ISS. These experiments lend to a serious consideration of in-space manufacturing, with many possible partnerships on the horizon for NASA and manufacturers.
Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center in Florida is a premier spaceport and NASA’s main launch site. There are many facilities within the Kennedy Space Center, but the Visitor Complex in Merritt Island is its hub. Kennedy is home to many attractions, from the Hubble Space Telescope theater to the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex considers the importance of educating the next generation of astronauts and researchers. It makes the experience fun and educational for all ages.
Of course, research is important at Kennedy outside of the Visitor Complex. Kennedy is expanding into a large, new, energy-efficient campus fit for the spaceport as space exploration continues to boom. Its scientists plan to continue launching rockets, but their other focus areas include establishing long-term human presences on the moon and other planets. As NASA continues to grow and explore more and more of our universe, Kennedy is expected to be vital to its innovation.