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NASA Makes Unprecedented Return To Mars, Advances Commercial Spaceflight And Adds To Its Amazing Research And Discoveries In 2012

Rebuilding the bridge to new ideas and the nation's top talent, Space Technology is engaging in more than 350 activities with approximately 100 universities and academic institutions through fellowships, direct competitive awards and partnerships with NASA centers, and commercial contractors for its technology developments and demonstrations.

In addition, NASA technologies continue to create thousands of jobs and revenue while significantly improving the quality of life for millions of people here on Earth.


NASA's 2012 Summer of Innovation program continued to offer a variety of programs to provide summer learning opportunities to students and teachers. The program reached approximately 42,000 students in grades 4-9 across the country, many of whom fell within the agency's target audience of underrepresented and underserved students. The program also provided professional development for more than 3,200 middle school teachers nationwide to help them improve their ability to teach STEM content in the classroom.


NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft provided compelling support for the long-held hypothesis the planet harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials within its permanently shadowed polar craters.

The spacecraft's onboard instruments have been studying Mercury in unprecedented detail since its historic arrival there in March 2011. Scientists are seeing clearly for the first time a chapter in the story of how the inner planets, including Earth, acquired their water and some of the chemical building blocks for life.

The new data announced in December indicated the water ice in Mercury's polar regions, if spread over an area the size of Washington, D.C., would be more than 2 miles thick. Given its proximity to the sun, Mercury would seem to be an unlikely place to find ice, however, there are pockets at the planet's poles that never see sunlight.


NASA announced in January its Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft captured the best and most complete glimpse yet of what lies beyond the solar system -- observations that show our solar system is different than the space right outside it. The new measurements give clues about how and where our solar system formed, the forces that physically shape our solar system, and the history of other stars in the Milky Way.

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