As NASA’s space odyssey for 2001 comes to an end, the Agency faces a
year of transition and new challenges as it prepares to continue its
mission of discovery into the new millennium.

In the last year, the International Space Station, the largest and most
sophisticated spacecraft ever built, celebrated its first full year of
human habitation. The successful arrival of NASA’s Mars Odyssey at the
red planet energized space scientists and, for the first time, NASA was
able to create a complete biological record of Earth.

In 2001, the Space Shuttle turned 20 as NASA launched a new initiative
to find better and cheaper access to space, all while facing new fiscal
realities that could fundamentally change the way the agency does

“The people of NASA have much of which to be proud as we reflect on the
agency’s accomplishments in 2001,” said Acting Administrator Dr. Daniel
R. Mulville. “Our future challenges are formidable, but our resolve to
overcome those challenges is equally intense. In 2002, NASA will
continue its mission to expand air and space frontiers with renewed


For the first time in nearly a decade, NASA will have new leadership.
President George W. Bush nominated Sean O’Keefe, the Deputy Director of
the Office of Management and Budget, to be the agency’s new
Administrator. Daniel S. Goldin, the longest-serving Administrator in
NASA’s history, resigned in November after serving more than nine years
under three American presidents. During the transition, Mulville, NASA’s
Associate Deputy Administrator was appointed Acting Administrator.


The tragic events of September 11 brought the nation together with a new
sense of pride and determination. Expedition Three commander Frank
Culbertson was the only American not on Earth the day of the attacks and
documented visible signs of the destruction from the International Space
Station. To honor those heroes killed and seriously hurt in New York,
Washington and Pennsylvania, NASA sent more than 6,000 American flags
into space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The flags will be
distributed to the victims and their families.


The agency’s Mars exploration program rebounded in 2001 when Mars
Odyssey successfully entered orbit around the red planet following a
six-month, 286-million mile journey. NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor sent
back its 100,000th image of the Martian surface. The orbiter has been
snapping dramatic and images for four years. In 2001, Mars Global
Surveyor, in tandem with the Hubble Space Telescope, had a ringside seat
to the largest global dust storm on the Martian surface seen in decades.


Is there life on another world? In 2001, astronomers using the Hubble
Space Telescope measured the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar
system. Astronomers funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation
discovered eight new extrasolar planets that have circular orbits,
similar to the orbits of planets in our own solar system. Also, NASA’s
Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite provided the first evidence that
there are water-bearing worlds beyond our solar system.


NASA announced the creation of the first complete “biological record of
Earth” by using data from NASA’s Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View sensor.
Researchers also suggested the Earth is becoming a greener greenhouse,
determining that plant life in the northern latitudes has been growing
more vigorously since 1981. In February, NASA released a new map of
Antarctica made from Radarsat data. Using the new maps and comparing
them to maps produced in 1981, scientists will track Antarctic ice
changes, a key to understanding our global environment and climate
change. In 2001, NASA research also suggested that desert dust in the
atmosphere over Africa might actually inhibit rainfall in the region,
contributing to drought conditions.


In 2001, NASA announced a commercial partnership that will allow
placement of advanced global positioning technologies in farm equipment.
The technology will be used to help farmers navigate fields in poor
weather and at night. Throughout the summer of 2001, NASA satellites
tracked the devastating spread of wildfires around the western United
States, helping federal, state and local governments mitigate these
natural disasters.


Using lasers developed by NASA, researchers discovered a way to bring a
beam of light to a stop, store it, and then send it on its way. The
discovery could lead to next-generation technologies, such as increasing
the speed of computers. A revolutionary early breast cancer detection
tool based on NASA technology began human clinical trials in November.
The technology may one day allow physicians to diagnose tumors without
surgery. In 2001, NASA and the National Cancer Institute began a three-
year program to explore new biomedical technologies to develop and study
microscopically small sensors that can detect changes at the cellular
and molecular level.


NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Shoemaker spacecraft did something
it wasn’t designed to do when mission managers gently landed the
spacecraft on the asteroid Eros after a yearlong orbital mission. In a
risky fly-by maneuver, the Deep Space 1 spacecraft successfully
navigated past a comet, giving researchers an unprecedented view inside
the glowing core of icy dust and gas. During 2001, a NASA-funded
research team presented evidence that Earth’s most severe mass
extinction, an event 250 million years ago that wiped out 90 percent of
life, was triggered by a collision with a comet or an asteroid.


Celebrating its first full year of human habitation, the International
Space Station’s research odyssey began in 2001 with the launch of the
Destiny module, the first science lab delivered to the station. The
space station is now the most complex and powerful spacecraft ever
built. Facing financial challenges in the coming years, an independent
task force produced a report that is expected to help managers get the
program back on track. The construction of the International Space
Station is made possible by NASA’s robust fleet of Space Shuttles. The
Shuttle celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2001, having carried more
than three million pounds of cargo and more than 600 passengers into


In 2001, NASA launched an ambitious multi-billion-dollar initiative
designed to develop the technologies needed to build a second-generation
reusable launch vehicle. NASA’s Space Launch Initiative, or SLI, will
also identify 21st-century designs that can provide safer, more reliable
and less expensive access to space. Instead of rocket fuel, NASA’s
propeller-driven Helios aircraft used solar energy to help set a world
record altitude of 96,500 feet. NASA researchers also tested a
revolutionary cockpit display that will offer pilots an electronic
picture of what is outside their windows, no matter the weather or time
of day. This Synthetic Vision will show terrain, ground obstacles, air
traffic and other important data to the flight crew.


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