Achieving the Science Mission Directorate’s groundbreaking science goals often requires significant technological innovation—e.g., new instruments or cutting-edge capabilities. Each SMD science division—Astrophysics, Biological and Physical Sciences, Earth Science, Heliophysics, and Planetary Science—develops new technologies targeted to enable SMD science. Often, these efforts are accomplished via division-sponsored technology development or mission programs. The directorate also sponsors collaborative workshops where stakeholders examine how innovative technologies can enable Agency missions. In addition, SMD coordinates with other NASA directorates, government agencies, industry, and academia to ensure its research programs and missions have the technology they need to accomplish revolutionary science.
How did the first stars and galaxies form after the big bang? How did they evolve to produce the chemical elements that we observe in our world today? The answer is encoded in the starlight that is emitted by galaxies. Astronomers use large telescopes in space and on the ground to capture this light in order to extract the information it contains. The sharpest tool in the shed for extracting information from starlight is a technique called spectroscopy. This technique enables scientists to identify the atoms and molecules that produce the light from galaxies, stars, and planets. It also reveals the velocity at which these objects are moving relative to Earth.