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.
For millennia, people have wondered if life exists elsewhere in the universe. To answer this question, we need to directly image exoplanets (planets orbiting stars other than the Sun) and search them for signs of life. Many nearby stars, however, reside in multi-star systems (i.e., systems with more than one star). In fact, Sun-like stars are more likely to be in multi-star systems—such as Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to the Sun—than be single stars like our Sun. Therefore, to detect life we will likely need to image exoplanets in these multi-star systems. A newly developed technology, Multi-Star Wavefront Control (MSWC), provides just this kind of capability.