Science & Technology
The role of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is to enable NASA to achieve its science goals in the context of the national science agenda. SMD’s strategic decisions regarding future missions and scientific pursuits are guided by Agency goals, input from the science community, and a commitment to preserve a balanced program across the major science disciplines. Toward this end, each of the four SMD science divisions—Heliophysics, Earth Science, Planetary Science, and Astrophysics — develops fundamental science questions upon which to base future research and mission programs. Often the breakthrough science required to answer these questions requires significant technological innovation— e.g., instruments or platforms with capabilities beyond the current state of the art. SMD’s targeted technology investments fill technology gaps, enabling NASA to build the challenging and complex missions that accomplish groundbreaking science.
To land accurately and avoid hazardous terrain, NASA has developed an autonomous, vision-based system for landmark recognition, spacecraft position estimation, and spacecraft retargeting, which will be used on Mars 2020 and potentially other future missions.