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NASA creates, and fills, high-level position dedicated to exploration

Steve Clarke, NASA's new Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration, will be responsible for developing the strategies for a variety of the agency's exploration programs. Image Credit: NASA

Steve Clarke, NASA’s new Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration, will be responsible for developing the strategies for a variety of the agency’s exploration programs. Image Credit: NASA

One of NASA‘s principal functions is to provide leadership in space exploration, and now the agency has a position that is the embodiment of that responsibility. Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s new Administrator, recently named Steve Clarke as the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration.

In a release issued by the agency on Monday June 11, 2018, Bridenstine provided a broad outline of Clarke’s responsibilities, something for which the new Deputy Associate Administrator may be well-suited.

Steve Clarke, Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Photo credit: NASA

“He’ll help integrate near-term and long-term lunar exploration with science missions and other destinations, including Mars,” noted the NASA Administrator. Clarke will facilitate interaction between different departments within the agency, as well as with commercial partners and the scientific community.

Clarke returns to NASA after a stint as a senior policy analyst with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Executive Office of the President, and assumes his role at a time when the agency has a renewed interest in lunar exploration, with an eye to eventually sending humans to Mars.

Prior to sending astronauts back to the Moon, however, Clarke will oversee NASA’s plans to launch robotic lunar missions as soon as 2019. Those precursor missions will see uncrewed mid-sized landers — built through the cooperation of public/private partnerships — delivered to the lunar surface before eventually evolving into larger, crew-capable vehicles.

Clarke, who earned both a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering — and a Master of Science degree in engineering management — from the University of Central Florida (UCF), has held several positions within the agency since he joined NASA in 2000 as an integration engineer responsible for NASA’s scientific robotic missions. Prior to leaving NASA to work at the OSTP, he served as SMD’s Director of the Heliophysics Division.

As far as Bridenstine is concerned, Clarke’s new position is a natural fit.

“Steve returns to a position ideally suited for him and the agency as we return to the Moon,” stated the  NASA Administrator. Clarke assumes his new role immediately.

His appointment comes at a time when the U.S. space agency is poised to return to objectives that it had been given back in 2004 by then-President George W. Bush. Under the Bush Administration’s Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) the agency had been directed to send astronauts to the “Moon, Mars and Beyond.”

The edicts of this program were scrapped by President Barack Obama, who opted to support the commercial programs instituted under President Bush. The Commercial Resupply Program took its first steps in December of 2008, with the Commercial Crew Program beginning in December of 2009. The Trump Administration announced its “Space Policy Directive 1” in April of this year (2018). 

Under the latest change to NASA’s objectives, rather than support the Obama Administration’s directive for the agency to tow either an asteroid or part of an asteroid into lunar orbit – Space Policy Directive 1 has as its mantra to send astronauts to the “Moon, Mars and Worlds Beyond.”





Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting - and safer - career field. He's worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

Reader Comments

James Lunar Miner

If President Donald Trump, Jim Bridenstine, Steve Clarke, and the rest of NASA’s leadership and America are going to efficiently and affordably implement the mantra to send astronauts and cargo to the “Moon, Mars and Worlds Beyond”, then we need to get really serious about super high 9,000+ Isp electric space propulsion systems such as HiPEP.


“Ion thrusters (based on a NASA design) are now being used to keep over 100 geosynchronous Earth orbit communication satellites in their desired locations, and three NSTAR ion thrusters that utilize Glenn-developed technology are enabling the Dawn spacecraft (launched in 2007) to travel deep into our solar system.”
“Ion Propulsion”

See also:
“The High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPEP) Ion Thruster”
By John E. Foster, Tom Haag, Michael Patterson, George J. Williams, Jr., James S. Sovey, Christian Carpenter, Hani Kamhawi, Shane Malone, and Fred Elliot 2004

James Lunar Miner

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s ion engine powered Hayabusa spacecraft was the first to ‘mine’ and return a sample to Earth of material from an asteroid.

“The spacecraft’s xenon ion engines (four separate units), operating near-continuously for two years, slowly moved Hayabusa toward a September 2005 rendezvous with Itokawa.”

“Hayabusa” Wikipedia

Upcoming life extension and cargo hauling spacecraft will make use of efficient high Isp Xeon electric space propulsion systems.

“The Mission Robotic Vehicle is designed to come up behind the client satellite and use its robotic arm to install an MEP. MEPs are equipped with Xenon propulsion modules plus the power and communications systems they need to operate.”

“Future vehicles equipped with highpower solar electric propulsion systems could transport supplies to cis-lunar orbit or other destinations. “We’ll propose for the power and propulsion element of the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway,” Anderson said. “That is in our technology roadmap.”

“Orbital ATK’s giant leap into satellite servicing begins with baby steps” By Debra Werner 6/11/2018

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