Photograph by NASA

What NASA’s Doing With $17.7 Billion

  1. Travel Budget
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    Travel Budget

    NASA's budget for fiscal year 2014 will be $17.7 billion -- enough to fund measurement of Earth's polar ice, upkeep of unmanned data missions as far away as Saturn, and preparations for asteroid search-and-relocate and the launch of a manned trip to Mars. This image shows the intense gravity of a supermassive black hole in a galaxy some 850 million light-years from Earth, in a composite made on May 15 as a culmination of three NASA projects -- Chandra X-Ray Observatory, launched in 1999; Hubble Telescope, launched in 1990; and the earthbound Very Large Array of astronomical radio observatories in New Mexico, finished in 1980.

    Photograph by NASA
  2. Mars Curiosity
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    Mars Curiosity

    Curiosity, the rover on Mars, uses a drill to collect a powdered sample from the interior of a rock for analysis done by laboratory instruments inside the rover itself. Since its landing on Mars on Aug. 6, 2012, it has traversed 2,385 feet, at a cost of $2.5 billion.

    Photograph by NASA/JPL-Caltech
  3. Watching Earth
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    Watching Earth

    Launched on Feb. 11, Landsat 8 is the latest satellite in a 41-year project to monitor Earth. Originally a joint project between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, but now under USGS control, the satellite circles the planet 14 times a day, taking at least 400 images.

    Rendering by NASA/USGS
  4. International Space Station Visitors
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    International Space Station Visitors

    A Soyuz rocket with Expedition 36/37 launched from Kazakhstan on May 28 with a commander from the Russian Federal Space Agency and flight engineers from the European Space Agency and NASA onboard. They arrived at the International Space Station six hours later and will remain until mid-November.

    Photograph by Bill Ingalls/NASA
  5. The Current ISS Occupant
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    The Current ISS Occupant

    Expedition 35 NASA Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy, who is living and working aboard the International Space Station, in the Quest Airlock prior to a spacewalk on May 16. He will hand over leadership of the ISS to the Russian commander, Fyodor Yurchikhin, and depart for Earth in September.

    Photograph by NASA
  6. Orion Up Next
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    Orion Up Next

    Astronaut Don Pettit watches as a technician works on the Orion crew module inside the Operations and Checkout Building's high bay at Kennedy Space Center on March 21. Orion, designed to carry humans farther into space than ever before, is scheduled to launch in 2014.

    Photograph by Dimitri Gerondidakis/NASA
  7. Supersonic Aircraft
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    Supersonic Aircraft

    (Corrects information about NASA's efforts to create a quieter supersonic jet engine.)

    Engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland recently completed testing on the Twin Rectangular Jet Model in the center’s Aero-Acoustic Propulsion Laboratory. They were measuring how the rectangular twin nozzle configuration, as well as the distance between the nozzles, potentially affects the noise level of supersonic aircraft engines during take-off. The program’s goal is to develop and test technologies for a new generation of supersonic aircraft that will be quiet on take-off, exhaust fewer emissions and reduce sonic boom while cruising at supersonic speeds.
    Photograph by Bridget R. Caswell/NASA
  8. Asteroid Initiative
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    Asteroid Initiative

    NASA's 2014 budget proposal includes a plan to robotically capture a small near-Earth asteroid and redirect it safely to a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system where astronauts can visit and explore it. It uses current and developing capabilities such as ground target detection from telescopes and solar electric propulsion in space to find both large asteroids that pose a hazard to Earth and small asteroids that could be candidates for the initiative.

    Photograph by NASA/Advanced Concepts Lab
  9. The Engine Burns Blue
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    The Engine Burns Blue

    This image shows a cutting-edge solar electric propulsion thruster in development at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., that uses xenon ions for propulsion. An earlier version of this solar electric propulsion engine has been flying on NASA's Dawn mission to the asteroid belt. This image was taken through a porthole in a vacuum chamber at JPL where the ion engine is being tested.

    Photograph by NASA/JPL-Caltech
  10. Balloons Launched to Study Space Weather
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    Balloons Launched to Study Space Weather

    In Antarctica in January -- summer at the South Pole -- NASA scientists released 20 balloons, each eight stories tall, to help answer an enduring space weather question: When the giant radiation belts surrounding Earth lose material, where do the extra particles go? The balloons floated from three to 40 days, measuring X-rays produced by fast-moving electrons high in the atmosphere. Scientists need to understand the radiation, and even provide forecasts of such space weather, in order to protect our satellites and spacecraft.

    Photograph by NASA
  11. Greenland Exploration
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    Greenland Exploration

    GROVER, which stands for both Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, is an autonomous, solar-powered robot that carries ground-penetrating radar to examine the layers of Greenland’s ice sheet. Its findings will help scientists understand how the massive sheet gains and loses ice.

    GROVER’s team began the robot’s tests on the ice on May 8, defying winds of up to 23 mph and temperatures as low as -22F, and will continue its testing through June 8.

    Photograph by Lora Koenig/NASA Goddard
  12. IceBridge Survey
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    IceBridge Survey

    In March 2013, NASA's Operation IceBridge scientists began a six-year airborne survey of Earth's polar ice. The largest ever, it will yield a three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice, and an annual, multi-instrument look at the behavior of the rapidly changing features of the Greenland and Antarctic ice.

    This image of Saunders Island and Wolstenholme Fjord with Kap Atholl in the background was taken during an Operation IceBridge survey flight in April. Sea ice coverage in the fjord ranges from thicker, white ice seen in the background, to thinner "grease ice" and fractures that show open ocean water in the foreground.

    Photograph by Michael Studinger/NASA
  13. Saturn’s Rose
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    Saturn’s Rose

    The spinning vortex of Saturn's north polar storm resembles a deep red rose of giant proportions surrounded by green foliage in this false-color image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Nov. 27, 2012. The eye is estimated to be 1,250 miles across (about the distance from San Diego to Seattle) with cloud speeds of up to 330 mph.

    Cassini has been capturing images of the solar system since after its launch in 1997. Originally intended as a four-year mission, Cassini is still circling, at a total cost of $3.26 billion.

    Photograph by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI