From: Department of Energy
Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Thank you for that introduction and thank you Mr. Vice President for the invitation to share a few thoughts with the National Space Council.
It’s a pleasure and honor to be amongst such distinguished company committed to America’s resurgence on the next great frontier.
Because this is my first formal participation at a National Space Council meeting, I will keep my comments at a high level, but I have provided you each with a summary of DOE’s historical space contributions and our capabilities that will be leveraged to aid U.S. space priorities moving forward. I want to be clear – space is a strategic focus for the Department. DOE is your partner in innovation … in exploration … in excellence.
DOE’s predecessor organization, the Atomic Energy Commission, was a key collaborator during the Apollo missions, and we are eager to join you in returning Americans to the Moon, establishing a permanent base there, and then developing the technologies needed to power us to Mars and far beyond.
Secretary Perry likes to say that given the breadth of our efforts, DOE stands for the “Department of Everything.”
There is a lot of truth to that.
DOE’s 17 National Laboratories discovered dark energy, helped kick-start the development of the World Wide Web, accelerated America’s ongoing energy revolution, and perhaps most importantly for today, powered spacecraft to explore other planets.
So I would also argue that DOE stands for the Department of Exploration.
We are proud to have partnered with NASA and other members of the Space Council in a number of important endeavors.
For almost 60 years, scientists at our National Labs have built the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators, knowns as RTGs, which powered our deep space missions – like Pioneer and Voyager, Pathfinder and Curiosity, Cassini-Huygens (Cass-ee-knee – High-ginz) and New Horizons. We provided detectors and sensors for studying Earth and exploring space. And, our scientific user facilities engaged in a range of space-related research, from modeling plasmas and testing materials for radiation hardness, to analyzing comet and asteroid samples.
Last year we joined NASA in the iTech Cycle II forum, an event devoted to solving tough energy challenges on Earth and in space. We collaborated on the KRUSTY experiment, which stands for Kilowatt Reactor Using Stirling Technology. Under this project, we demonstrated heat conversion concepts that will provide the basis for future fission power system designs, an effort so successful that, in May, it received the Gears of Government President’s Award for making a profound difference in the lives of the American people.
Today, we are working with NASA on a number of major initiatives to enable nuclear power space exploration over the next decade including powering the Mars 2020 Rover, demonstrating nuclear thermal propulsion and fission surface power, and developing the Dragonfly Rotorcraft, which in the 2030s will explore Saturn’s moon Titan.
We are also exploring another frontier which may be of great import to space exploration, exascale computing and artificial intelligence.
DOE’s laboratories are home to many of the world’s fastest supercomputers, including four of the top ten, and we are working on developing three next-generation, exascale machines that will launch us into the next generation of computing.
A.I. technologies being developed at our National Labs are already being used for many applications, from cybersecurity to developing better treatments for cancer and traumatic brain injury. We look forward to applying these capabilities to positively impact the many challenges in space exploration.
By working with our interagency partners, industry, and members of the Space Council, we can push the boundaries, overcome greater challenges, dream bigger, and reach further horizons.
And in the future, I’m confident we’ll see more spacecraft exploring the great frontier, enabled by the Department of Energy, and destined for greatness.
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