42 U.S. Code § 18312 - Goals and objectives
(a) Long term goal
The long term goal of the human space flight and exploration efforts of NASA shall be to expand permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and to do so, where practical, in a manner involving international partners.
(b) Key objectives
The key objectives of the United States for human expansion into space shall be—
(1) to sustain the capability for long-duration presence in low-Earth orbit, initially through continuation of the ISS and full utilization of the United States segment of the ISS as a National Laboratory, and through assisting and enabling an expanded commercial presence in, and access to, low-Earth orbit, as elements of a low-Earth orbit infrastructure;
(2) to determine if humans can live in an extended manner in space with decreasing reliance on Earth, starting with utilization of low-Earth orbit infrastructure, to identify potential roles that space resources such as energy and materials may play, to meet national and global needs and challenges, such as potential cataclysmic threats, and to explore the viability of and lay the foundation for sustainable economic activities in space;
(3) to maximize the role that human exploration of space can play in advancing overall knowledge of the universe, supporting United States national and economic security and the United States global competitive posture, and inspiring young people in their educational pursuits; and