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Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

POC: Bradley Carpenter

Human Research Program

The Human Research Program (HRP) is focused on investigating and mitigating the highest risks to human health and performance in order to enable safe, reliable, and productive human space exploration. The HRP budget enables NASA to resolve health risks in order for humans to safely live and work on missions in the inner solar system. HRP conducts research, develops countermeasures, and undertakes technology development to address human health risks in space and ensure compliance with NASA's health, medical, human performance, and environmental standards.

Space Life Sciences

The Space Life Sciences, Space Biology Program has three primary goals:

  • To effectively use microgravity and the other characteristics of the space environment to enhance our understanding of fundamental biological processes;
  • To develop the scientific and technological foundations for a safe, productive human presence in space for extended periods and in preparation for exploration;
  • To apply this knowledge and technology to improve our nation's competitiveness, education, and the quality of life on Earth.

These goals will be achieved by soliciting research using its three program elements:

  • Cell and Molecular Biology and Microbial Biology - studies of the effect of gravity and the space environment on cellular, microbial and molecular processes;
  • Organismal & Comparative Biology - studies and comparisons of responses of whole organisms and their systems; and
  • Developmental Biology – studies of how spaceflight affects reproduction, development, maturation and aging of multi-cellular organisms, as described in NASA's Fundamental Space Biology Science Plan

Further details about ongoing activities specific to Space Biology are available at: Space Biosciences website

Physical Science Research

The Physical Science Research Program, along with its predecessors, has conducted significant fundamental and applied research, both which have led to improved space systems and produced new products offering benefits on Earth. NASA's experiments in various disciplines of physical science reveal how physical systems respond to the near absence of gravity. They also reveal how other forces that on Earth are small compared to gravity, can dominate system behavior in space.

The Physical Science Research Program also benefits from collaborations with several of the International Space Station international partners—Europe, Russia, Japan, and Canada—and foreign governments with space programs, such as France, Germany and Italy. The scale of this research enterprise promises new possibilities in the physical sciences, some of which are already being realized both in the form of innovations for space exploration and in new ways to improve the quality of life on Earth.

Research in physical sciences spans from basic and applied research in the areas of:

  • Fluid physics: two-phase flow, phase change, boiling, condensation and capillary and interfacial phenomena;
  • Combustion science: spacecraft fire safety, solids, liquids and gasses, supercritical reacting fluids, and soot formation;
  • Materials science: solidification in metal and alloys, crystal growth, electronic materials, glasses and ceramics;
  • Complex Fluids: colloidal systems, liquid crystals, polymer flows, foams and granular flows;
  • Fundamental Physics: critical point phenomena, atom interferometry and atomic clocks in space

Implementing Centers: NASA's Physical Sciences Research Program is carried out at the Glenn Research Center (GRC), Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). Further information on physical sciences research is available at the Physical Science Research Program website.

Engineering Research

  • Spacecraft: Guidance, navigation and control; thermal; electrical; structures; software; avionics; displays; high speed re-entry; modeling; power systems; interoperability/commonality; advanced spacecraft materials; crew/vehicle health monitoring; life support.
  • Propulsion: Propulsion methods that will utilize materials found on the moon or Mars, “green” propellants, on-orbit propellant storage, motors, testing, fuels, manufacturing, soft landing, throttle-able propellants, high performance, and descent.
  • Robotic Systems for Precursor Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) Missions: Navigation and proximity operations systems; hazard detection; techniques for interacting and anchoring with Near Earth Asteroids; methods of remote and interactive characterization of Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) environments, composition and structural properties; robotics (specifically environmental scouting prior to human arrival and later to assist astronauts with NEA exploration); environmental analysis; radiation protection; spacecraft autonomy, enhanced methods of NEA characterization from earth-based observation.
  • Robotic Systems for Lunar Precursor Missions: Precision landing and hazard avoidance hardware and software; high-bandwidth communication; in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) and prospecting; navigation systems; robotics (specifically environmental scouting prior to human arrival, and to assist astronaut with surface exploration); environmental analysis, radiation protection.
  • Data and Visualization Systems for Exploration: Area focus on turning precursor mission data into meaningful engineering knowledge for system design and mission planning of lunar surface and NEAs. Visualization and data display; interactive data manipulation and sharing; mapping and data layering including coordinate transformations for irregular shaped NEAs; modeling of lighting and thermal environments; simulation of environmental interactions including proximity operations in irregular micro-G gravity fields and physical stability of weakly bound NEAs.
  • Research and technology development areas in HEOMD support launch vehicles, space communications, and the International Space Station. Examples of research and technology development areas (and the associated lead NASA Center) with great potential include:
    Processing and Operations
    • Crew Health and Safety Including Medical Operations (Johnson Space Center (JSC))
    • In-helmet Speech Audio Systems and Technologies (Glenn Research Center (GRC))
    • Vehicle Integration and Ground Processing (Kennedy Space Center (KSC))
    • Mission Operations (Ames Research Center (ARC))
    • Portable Life Support Systems (JSC)
    • Pressure Garments and Gloves (JSC)
    • Air Revitalization Technologies (ARC)
    • In-Space Waste Processing Technologies (JSC)
    • Cryogenic Fluids Management Systems (GRC)
    Space Communications and Navigation
    • Coding, Modulation, and Compression (Goddard Spaceflight Center (GSFC))
    • Precision Spacecraft and Lunar/Planetary Surface Navigation and Tracking (GSFC)
    • Communication for Space-Based Range (GSFC)
    • Antenna Technology (Glenn Research Center (GRC))
    • Reconfigurable/Reprogrammable Communication Systems (GRC)
    • Miniaturized Digital EVA Radio (Johnson Space Center (JSC))
    • Transformational Communications Technology (GRC)
    • Long Range Optical Telecommunications (Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL))
    • Long Range Space RF Telecommunications (JPL)
    • Surface Networks and Orbit Access Links (GRC)
    • Software for Space Communications Infrastructure Operations (JPL)
    • TDRS transponders for launch vehicle applications that support space communication and launch services (GRC)
    Space Transportation
    • Optical Tracking and Image Analysis (KSC)
    • Space Transportation Propulsion System and Test Facility Requirements and Instrumentation (Stennis Space Center (SSC)
    • Automated Collection and Transfer of Launch Range Surveillance/Intrusion Data (KSC)
    • Technology tools to assess secondary payload capability with launch vehicles (KSC)
    • Spacecraft Charging/Plasma Interactions (Environment definition & arcing mitigation) (Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC))