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.
“Are we alone in the universe?” may be one of the most compelling questions of our generation. Direct imaging of planetary systems around other stars to detect and characterize Earth-like planets that could potentially sustain life requires telescopes that are large and extremely stable. NASA has developed a series of telescopes to detect and characterize Earth-like planets, including the retired Kepler mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), and the new James Webb Space Telescope (Webb).