NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to visit CU-Boulder April 18

April 14, 2014 •

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will give a free public talk at the University of Colorado Boulder April 18 on America’s space program and the challenges and opportunities the space agency will encounter as it moves through the 21st century.

The talk, titled “NASA’s Roadmap to Tomorrow’s Missions,” will be held at CU-Boulder’s East Stadium Club on the east side of Folsom Field from 2:45 to 3:30 p.m. The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience.

Bolden will address the current and future capabilities of the orbiting International Space Station, as well as the growing opportunities for commercial providers in the space industry. He also will address new rocket and crew vehicle systems under development to extend the human reach into the solar system, as well as current and future NASA space missions.

Because seating for the CU-Boulder event is limited, those who would like to attend must register at

CU-Boulder is the No. 1 public university in the nation in NASA funding, with nearly $500 million in sponsored research awards from the space agency in the past decade. LASP currently is involved with a number of NASA planetary and solar science missions, including spacecraft now en route to Mars, Jupiter and Pluto, as well as a $32 million instrument package flying on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory to help scientists better understand and mitigate damage from severe space weather.

CU-Boulder’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy designed a $70 million instrument now flying on the Hubble Space Telescope to gather information from ultraviolet light emanating from distant objects, allowing scientists to look back in time and space and reconstruct the physical condition and evolution of the early universe.

The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, a joint venture of CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has been involved with NASA on a number of collaborative research efforts. NASA chose the CIRES/CU-Boulder National Snow and Ice Data Center, for example, to manage the nation’s data on sea ice, ice shelves, ice sheets and snow cover, data often critical for decision makers. Water managers and farmers in the arid West, for example, rely on up-to-date snowpack conditions, since melting snow feeds thirsty cities and crops.

In 2013, CU-Boulder led a NASA airborne science campaign staged out of Houston using satellites, a NASA DC-8 airliner, jets and ground-based instruments that probed weather patterns and air pollution over a vast expanse of North America that have potential global climate consequences. The campaign also involved CIRES, NOAA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and 15 universities, including CU-Boulder, Harvard, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Innsbruck.

Bolden, who has been the NASA administrator since 2009, has overseen the transition from 30 years of space shuttle missions to a new era of exploration focused on the space station and the development of space and aeronautics technology. During his tenure, NASA has made significant progress toward returning to launching astronauts from American soil, which is now expected to occur by 2017.

A retired major general, Bolden had a 34-year career with the Marine Corps, including 14 years as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Office, flying four space shuttle missions to the space station during that period.

NASA’s $671 million MAVEN mission to Mars, led by LASP and launched in November 2013, is slated to slide into Mars orbit in September to begin gathering data about how the planet’s climate changed, where its water went and what happened to its atmosphere during the past several billion years.

April 14, 2014


• CU-Boulder is the only university in the world to have designed, built and launched instruments to every planet in the solar system. LASP currently has a $12.5 million instrument on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft now at Saturn, an $8.7 million instrument on NASA’s MESSENGER mission now at Mercury and a student-built dust counting instrument on the New Horizons mission launched in 2006 and now en route to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

• A mission control team at LASP, primarily composed of students, operated NASA’s Kepler spacecraft from 2009 until 2013. Kepler observations led to the discovery of 167 confirmed planets outside our solar system and more than 3,500 planet candidates. The primarily student team also controls three other NASA satellites from campus.

• LASP has operated more spacecraft than all other university-based organizations combined and employs about 150 undergraduate and graduate students in all areas of science, engineering and mission operations.

• The identical Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft launched by NASA in 1977 each carried a CU-Boulder instrument for the “Grand Tour of the Solar System,” one of the most exciting and fruitful interplanetary missions ever flown. Each spacecraft is carrying a “Golden Record” – a gold-plated copper phonograph record with greetings in 54 languages, the sounds of surf, thunder, birds and whales and music snippets ranging from Bach and Beethoven to rock-and-roll legend Chuck Berry.

• CU-Boulder has been selected to host the headquarters of the National Solar Observatory, the nation’s top ground-based scientific research program studying solar physics and space weather. The mission of SNO is to advance knowledge of the sun both as an astronomical object and as the dominant external influence on Earth.

• A $100 million satellite designed, built and operated by LASP and launched by NASA in 2003 known as the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment, or SORCE, has helped scientists learn how and why variations in the sun affect Earth’s atmosphere and climate.

 • CU-Boulder will receive $18 million from NASA over the lifetime of the Van Allen Belt Probe mission launched in 2012 to study the belts, which are filled with high-energy electrons and protons that can damage spacecraft, GPS and communications systems.

•NASA, CIRES and CU-Boulder scientists use GRACE, a space-based gravity experiment, to better understand phenomena like changes in sea level, glaciers, ice sheets and groundwater.

•The $6 million CU-Boulder Lunar Dust Experiment launched into moon orbit in September 2013 aboard NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer was used to discover that a cloud of dust permanently engulfs the moon and that the dust density dramatically increases toward its surface.

• In 2010 CU-Boulder was named one of eight partners of the Center for Excellence in Commercial Space Transportation by the Federal Aviation Administration. The center will focus on four major research areas: space launch operations and traffic management; launch vehicle systems; commercial human space flight; and space commerce including law, insurance, policy and regulation.

• BioServe Space Technologies, a NASA-sponsored center in CU-Boulder’s aerospace engineering sciences department, has designed, built and flown more than 50 payloads on more than 40 spaceflight missions on space shuttles, the International Space Station, Russia’s Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and Russia’s Mir Space Station.  Bioserve was formed in 1989 to develop products through space and life science research in partnership with industry, academia and government.

•Eighteen CU-Boulder astronaut-affiliates have flown 43 missions in space, spanning NASA’s Mercury, Apollo and space shuttle programs. Two former NASA astronauts – Jim Voss and Joe Tanner – are currently on the faculty at CU-Boulder.

•NOAA, CIRES and CU-Boulder scientists collaborated with NASA colleagues to produce the exquisite Earth at Night (Black Marble) images released in December 2012. These stunning views of people’s activities on the planet enable diverse science: studies of electricity consumption over time, emergency work to pinpoint power outages from natural disasters, identification of brightly lit squid fishing fleets and changing patterns of oil and gas field flaring. 

•This summer, NASA’s DiscoverAQ mission, involving NCAR, NOAA, CIRES, CU-Boulder and other scientists from around the nation will deploy instruments to better understand why lung-damaging episodes of air pollution occur here so often, and how those changes relate to climate too. As part of the effort, aircraft will land and take off from Colorado’s Front Range.

•CIRES Director Waleed Abdalati was NASA’s chief scientist for a two-year appointment in 2011 and 2012.

Daniel Baker, 303-492-0591
Jim Scott, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3114



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