Tuesday, January 27, 2009

NASA-Derived Technology Captures Unique Inaugural Image

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
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WASHINGTON -- NASA spinoff technology from the Mars exploration rovers was used to capture a unique panoramic image of President Obama's inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20.

A photographer at the inauguration, David Bergman, used the Gigapan camera system to generate an image from a press platform. The resulting picture is a combination of 220 images with an overall size of 1,474 megapixels.

The Gigapan system is a NASA spinoff technology that can capture thousands of digital images and weave them into a uniform high-resolution picture of more than a billion pixels. The technology is based on the panoramic camera system that the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity have used to explore the Red Planet for more than five years. The Gigapan system was developed through a two-year collaboration between NASA and Carnegie Mellon University.

To read a 2008 Spinoff story about the Gigapan technology, visit:


To see the inaugural image, visit:


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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Space Shuttle Crew Visits Troops On Overseas Trip

Thursday, January 22, 2009
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WASHINGTON -- NASA astronauts of the STS-126 space shuttle mission will begin a new journey next week -- an 11-day trip to greet U.S. military personnel serving overseas. Shuttle Endeavour's crew will pay a special visit to troops in Germany and the Middle East from Jan. 26 to Feb. 5.

The trip is sponsored by Armed Forces Entertainment, the lead Department of Defense agency for providing entertainment to U.S. military personnel serving overseas. The shuttle crew members visiting the troops are Navy Capt. Chris Ferguson, who commanded the flight, Air Force Col. Eric Boe, who served as the pilot, and Mission Specialists Donald Pettit, Navy Capt. Steve Bowen, Navy Capt. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Army Lt. Col. Shane Kimbrough.

"We are really looking forward to visiting the men and women who support and defend our country overseas," Ferguson said. "Although our jobs are different, we know it's tough being away from family and friends -- and being far from home. As a military family, we know that support and a pat on the back go a long way."

During their visit with the troops, the shuttle crew will present an overview of the STS-126 mission, which completed a 16-day flight in November 2008. The mission delivered equipment to the International Space Station that will allow the outpost to house up to six astronauts for long-duration stays.

"This is the first time in Armed Forces Entertainment's 55-year history that we have hosted astronauts on a tour to visit our troops overseas," said Air Force Col. Edward Shock, chief of Armed Forces Entertainment. "And with this crew, it makes it even more poignant -- since five of the six crew members are U.S. military themselves. They know the risks and the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make, and have a deep appreciation for their dedication."

For more information on the astronauts' overseas tour and updates, visit:


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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

NASA Tests Engine Technology for Landing Astronauts on the Moon

Wednesday, January 14, 2009
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NASA Tests Engine Technology for Landing Astronauts on the Moon

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- A technology development engine that may help NASA safely return astronauts to the lunar surface has successfully completed its third round of testing. The goal of these tests is to reduce risk and advance technology for a reliable and robust rocket engine that could enable America's next moon landing.

The tests by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in West Palm Beach, Fla., helped gather data on this concept engine that might play a role in the next stage of human exploration of the moon. Most rockets make spacecraft travel faster. The goal of a lunar lander descent engine is to slow the vehicle so astronauts can land safely.

The Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine, or CECE, is a deep-throttling engine, which means it has the flexibility to reduce thrust from 100 percent down to 10 percent -- allowing a spacecraft to gently land on the lunar surface. The 13,800-pound thrust engine uses extremely cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellants.

During the test, the engine was successfully throttled from a high of a 104 percent of the engine's potential down to eight percent, a record for an engine of this type. A cryogenic engine is needed to provide high performance and put more payload on the surface of the moon. The CECE demonstrator has evaluated two engine configurations during three rounds of hot-fire testing.

"The first test series in 2006 was a challenge but showed promise," said Tony Kim, Deep Throttling Engine project manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. "Testing in 2007 provided an in-depth examination of low-power-level throttling and engine performance characteristics. This third cycle we actively addressed and found solutions to the challenges we faced."

The team carefully assessed test results that showed pressure oscillations in the engine at lower throttle levels called "chugging." Chugging may not be a concern for the engine itself, but the resulting vibrations could have the potential to resonate with the structure of the rocket and cause problems for the lander or crew.

Injector and propellant feed system modifications successfully eliminated engine chugging by controlling liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen flow to the combustion chamber. The latest engine configuration incorporates a new injector design and propellant feed system that carefully manages the pressure, temperature and flow of propellants.

"The technology developed from this effort will help engineers successfully design future cryogenic engines to meet the throttling requirements of the Constellation Program's Altair lunar lander," Kim said.

The CECE is based on the existing Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL10 upper stage rocket engine. Previous first-hand flight experience, as well as this data, will allow engineers to develop simulation models that can focus testing for efficiency and effectiveness.

The CECE collaboration includes engineers from Marshall, NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. NASA has invested in CECE technology since 2005 as part of the Propulsion and Cryogenics Advanced Development project at Glenn. The project is funded by the Exploration Technology Development Program in NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

For more information about the CECE, visit:


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NASA Sets Briefing With Next Space Station Crew

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NASA Sets Briefing With Next Space Station Crew
HOUSTON -- NASA will hold a media briefing Thursday, Jan. 22, at 1 p.m. CST, with the next resident crew of the International Space Station.

The briefing will originate from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's Web site. Questions will be taken from reporters at participating NASA locations.

The briefing participants are:
- Expedition 19 Commander and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka
- Expedition 19 Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Michael Barratt
- Expedition 19 Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra

On March 25, Padalka, Barratt and U.S. spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi will launch to the station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Simonyi will return to Earth with Expedition 18 Commander Michael Fincke and Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov April 5 in a Soyuz following a handover period.

Simonyi is training in Russia and will not be participating in the news conference.

Following the briefing, the crew members will be available for individual round-robin interviews, in person or by phone. There also will be a photo opportunity. To participate in the interviews, news media should contact the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 before 4 p.m. Jan. 20.

For the latest information about Expedition 19 and its crew, visit:


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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

NASA And Challenger Center Announce Name Of Antarctic Habitat

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
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NASA And Challenger Center Announce Name Of Antarctic Habitat

WASHINGTON -- NASA and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education have selected the winner of the Antarctic habitat naming contest. The name "Resolution" took top honors in the "Name that Habitat" competition. The winning name was submitted by 9th grade students at Holy Cross High School in Delran, N.J.

The exploration vessel Resolution was the first ship to cross the Antarctic Circle in January 1773 and was under the command of Captain James Cook. Holy Cross students said the new habitat represents an advance in technology, much as Cook's ship did. The students also pointed out that the word "resolution" aptly describes America's intent to explore space.

The contest, which began in the fall of 2008, gave students in the sixth through tenth grades the opportunity to submit entries to name an inflatable habitat designed to serve as a trailblazer for new construction methods on Earth and other worlds. NASA unveiled the inflatable habitat in November 2007. It is scheduled to be disassembled and returned to the United States later this month.

The development and deployment of the habitat was funded through NASA's Innovative Partnership Program's Seed Fund initiative, with in-kind resource contributions by the National Science Foundation and ILC Dover of Frederica, Del., the manufacturer of the structure.

The "Name that Habitat" contest was conducted through a Space Act Agreement between NASA and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. It continues NASA's tradition of investing in the nation's education programs and is directly tied to the agency's education goal of engaging Americans in NASA's mission. NASA is committed to building strategic partnerships and links between science, technology, engineering and mathematics education providers. Through hands-on, interactive educational activities, NASA is engaging students, educators, families, the public and agency stakeholders to increase Americans' science and technology literacy.

The Challenger Center for Space Science Education is an international, nonprofit educational organization founded in 1986 by the families of the astronauts lost during the final flight of the space shuttle Challenger. The goal of the organization is to foster student interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

For information about NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program, visit:


For information about the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, visit:


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Monday, January 12, 2009

NASA Science Update to Discuss Mars Atmosphere Activity

Monday, January 12, 2009
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NASA Science Update to Discuss Mars Atmosphere Activity

WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a science update at 2 p.m. EST, Thursday, Jan. 15, to discuss analysis of the Martian atmosphere that raises the possibility of life or geologic activity. The briefing will take place in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St., S.W., Washington, and carried live on NASA Television.

The briefing participants are:

- Michael Meyer, Mars program lead scientist, NASA Headquarters in Washington
- Michael Mumma, senior planetary scientist and director, Goddard Center for Astrobiology, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
- Geronimo Villanueva, planetary scientist and astrobiologist, Goddard Space Flight Center
- Sushil Atreya, professor of atmospheric and space science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
- Lisa Pratt, professor of geological sciences, Indiana University in Bloomington.

Reporters may ask questions from participating NASA locations. They also may listen or ask questions by phone. To reserve a phone line, contact J.D. Harrington at 202-358-5241.

For more information about Mars missions, visit:


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Friday, January 9, 2009

NASA Selects Research Teams for Lunar Science Institute

Friday, January 9, 2009
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NASA Selects Research Teams for Lunar Science Institute

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA has selected seven academic and research teams as initial members of the agency's Lunar Science Institute.

The institute supports scientific research to supplement and extend existing NASA lunar science programs in coordination with U.S. space exploration policy. The selection of the members encompasses academic institutions, non-profit research institutes, private companies, NASA centers and other government laboratories. Selections were based on a competitive evaluation process that began with the release of a cooperative agreement notice in June 2008. The next solicitation opportunity for new members will take place in approximately two years.

"We are extremely pleased with the response of the science community and the high quality of proposals received," said David Morrison, the institute's interim director at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "The institute represents a big step forward in developing a new generation of lunar scientists."

The selected initial member teams are:

- The Moon as Cornerstone to the Terrestrial Planets: The Formative Years; principal investigator Carle Pieters, Brown University in Providence, R.I.

- Scientific and Exploration Potential of the Lunar Poles; principal investigator Ben Bussey, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

- Impact Processes in the Origin and Evolution of the Moon: New Sample-driven Perspectives; principal investigator David Kring, Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston

- Dynamic Response of the Environment at the Moon; principal investigator William Farrell, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

- Understanding the Formation and Bombardment History of the Moon; principal investigator William Bottke, Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.

- Lunar University Node for Astrophysics Research: Exploring the Cosmos from the Moon; principal investigator Jack Burns, University of Colorado in Boulder.

- NASA Lunar Science Institute: Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies; principal investigator Mihaly Horanyi, University of Colorado in Boulder

"We look forward to solid contributions from these teams," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These are some of the key individuals who will be vital to NASA successfully conducting the ambitious activities of returning to the moon with robots and humans."

Teams were selected from 33 proposals. Based and managed at Ames, the lunar facility is a virtual institute, enabling the newly selected members to remain at their home institutions. Partnerships and collaborations among members are highly encouraged and facilitated through a variety of proven networking tools, such as frequent videoconferences.

Opened in April 2008, the facility is modeled after the NASA Astrobiology Institute, also based at Ames. That institute is a virtual facility that has successfully sustained a productive research program for more than a decade. The newly selected Lunar Institute teams, along with the international associate and affiliate teams, have members working together throughout the world.

The institutes are supported by the Science Mission Directorate and Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

For further information on the institute and lunar science visit:


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Thursday, January 8, 2009

New NASA Balloon Successfully Flight-Tested Over Antarctica

Thursday, January 8, 2009
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New NASA Balloon Successfully Flight-Tested Over Antarctica

WASHINGTON -- NASA and the National Science Foundation have successfully launched and demonstrated a newly designed super pressure balloon prototype that may enable a new era of high-altitude scientific research. The super-pressure balloon ultimately will carry large scientific experiments to the brink of space for 100 days or more.

This seven-million-cubic-foot super-pressure balloon is the largest single-cell, super-pressure, fully-sealed balloon ever flown. When development ends, NASA will have a 22 million-cubic-foot balloon that can carry a one-ton instrument to an altitude of more than 110,000 feet, which is three to four times higher than passenger planes fly.

"This flight test is a very important step forward in building a new capability for scientific ballooning based on sound engineering and operational development," said W. Vernon Jones, senior scientist for suborbital research at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The team has further work to do to enable the super pressure balloon to lift a one-ton instrument to a float altitude of 110,000 feet, but the team has demonstrated they are on the right path."

Ultra-long duration missions using the super pressure balloon cost considerably less than a satellite and the scientific instruments flown can be retrieved and launched again, making them ideal very-high altitude research platforms.

The test flight was launched Dec. 28, 2008, from McMurdo Station, which is the National Science Foundation's logistics hub in Antarctica. The balloon reached a float altitude of more than 111,000 feet and continues to maintain it in its 11th day of flight. The flight tested the durability and functionality of the scientific balloon's unique pumpkin-shaped design and novel material. The material is a special lightweight polyethylene film, about the thickness of ordinary plastic food wrap.

"Our balloon development team is very proud of the tremendous success of the test flight and is focused on continued development of this new capability to fly balloons for months at a time in support of scientific investigations," said David Pierce, chief of the Balloon Program Office at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va. "The test flight has demonstrated that 100 day flights of large, heavy payloads is a realistic goal."

In addition to the super pressure test flight, two additional long-duration balloons have been launched from McMurdo during the 2008-2009 campaign. The University of Hawaii Manoa's Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna launched Dec. 21, 2008, and is still aloft. Its radio telescope is searching for indirect evidence of extremely high-energy neutrino particles possibly coming from outside our Milky Way galaxy.

The University of Maryland's Cosmic Ray Energetics and Mass, or CREAM IV, experiment launched Dec. 19, 2008, and landed Jan. 6, 2009. The CREAM investigation was used to directly measure high energy cosmic-ray particles arriving at Earth after originating from distant supernova explosions elsewhere in the Milky Way galaxy.

The super-pressure balloon was highlighted in the National Research Council's decadal survey "Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium," and will play an important role in providing inexpensive access to the near-space environment for science and technology.

NASA and the National Science Foundation conduct an annual scientific balloon campaign during the Antarctic summer. The National Science Foundation manages the U.S. Antarctic Program and provides logistic support for all U.S. scientific operations in Antarctica.

The Wallops Flight Facility is a division of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Wallops manages NASA's scientific balloon program for the Science Mission Directorate. Launch operations are conducted by the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility of Palestine, Texas, which is managed for NASA by the Physical Science Laboratory of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

Track the balloons online at:


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NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery to Move to Launch Pad Wednesday

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NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery to Move to Launch Pad Wednesday

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to roll out to Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, Jan. 14, as preparations for the STS-119 mission move forward. Discovery is targeted to lift off Feb. 12 to the International Space Station.

The first motion of the shuttle out of Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building is scheduled for 4 a.m. EST. The fully assembled space shuttle, consisting of the orbiter, external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters, will be delivered to the pad atop a crawler transporter that will travel slower than 1 mph during the 3.4-mile journey. The process is expected to take approximately six hours.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of Discovery's rollout to the launch pad beginning at 6:30 a.m. Video highlights of the rollout will air on NASA TV's Video File.

News media are invited to photograph the shuttle's move to the pad and interview Discovery Flow Director Stephanie Stilson at 8:30 a.m., Wednesday. Dates and times of this event are subject to change. Updates are available by calling 321-867-2525.

News media must arrive at Kennedy's news center by 6 a.m., Wednesday, for transportation to the viewing area. Foreign news media accreditation for the event is closed. Foreign media with credentials must arrive at the Pass and I-D Building on State Road 3 by 6 a.m. for transportation to the news center.

U.S. media without permanent Kennedy Space Center credentials must apply for accreditation online by 4 p.m., Monday, Jan. 12, at:


News media must pick up badges by 4 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 13, at the new Kennedy Badging Office on State Road 405, west of Gate 3, just past the Kennedy Visitor's Complex.

During Discovery's 14-day mission, the crew will install the S6 truss segment and its solar arrays to the starboard side of the station, completing the station's backbone, or truss. Discovery's crew members are Commander Lee Archambault, Pilot Tony Antonelli and Mission Specialists Joseph Acaba, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold, John Phillips and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata.

For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:


For more information about the STS-119 mission and crew, visit:


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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

NASA Astronauts Connect With Lucky Las Vegas School Students

Tuesday, January 6, 2009
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NASA Astronauts Connect With Lucky Las Vegas School Students

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- Journalists are invited to join a group of Las Vegas students who "struck it rich" and have an opportunity to chat with NASA Expedition 18 astronauts Mike Fincke and Sandra Magnus, who are aboard the International Space Station. The live chat will take place on Thursday, Jan. 8, from 10:10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. PST, at the Jim Bridger Middle School, 2505 North Bruce Street, in Las Vegas.

A live educational downlink will connect an auditorium filled with hundreds of middle school students and teachers with the space station crew members to learn more about what life is like in space and how gravity affects our lives on Earth.

Jim Bridger Middle School is an alumnus of the NASA Explorer Schools Program. The program offers a three-year partnership between NASA and school teams, consisting of teachers and education administrators from diverse communities across the country. Focusing on underserved populations, the program is designed for education communities at the fourth to ninth grade levels to help middle schools improve teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and math education.

The downlink event is one in a series with educational organizations in the U.S. and abroad. It is an integral component of NASA's Teaching from Space Program. The program promotes learning opportunities and builds partnerships with the education community using the unique environment of human spaceflight.

The downlink will air live on NASA Television and be streamed on the NASA Web site at:


For information about NASA's education programs, visit:


For more information about Jim Bridger Middle School, visit:


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Monday, January 5, 2009

NASA Ares V Heavy Lift Rocket

Monday, January 5, 2009
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NASA Seeks Concept Proposals for Ares V Heavy Lift Rocket

WASHINGTON -- On Monday, Jan. 5, NASA issued a request for proposal for the Ares V rocket that will perform heavy lift and cargo functions as part of the next generation of spacecraft that will return humans to the moon. The request is for Phase I concept definition and requirements development for the Ares V rocket. Proposals are due to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., no later than 1 p.m. CDT on Feb. 9.

The request for proposal defines the procurement approach for Phase I of the Ares V acquisition. The contract work will include developing products to enable NASA to successfully complete the system requirements review and system definition review, critical milestones in the development of the rocket. Completion of the system definition review will verify the design concept and demonstrate mission objectives can be met.

The solicitation includes five separate work packages available for bid. Work packages one through four include the payload shroud that will protect the Altair lunar lander during launch, the Earth Departure Stage, the core stage, and avionics and software. The products for these work packages include assessing point of departure architecture, assessing risks and opportunities, trade studies and analysis, assessment of NASA requirements and a final report. The fifth work package includes a first stage concept for an upgraded solid rocket fueled booster.

Marshall will manage the contracts, which will be awarded through a full and open competition. The selections will be made in the spring of 2009. The period of performance for each contract is 18 months with two, one-year options.

For information about NASA's Ares rockets, visit:


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NASA-Funded Study

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NASA-Funded Study Reveals Hazards of Severe Space Weather

WASHINGTON -- A NASA-funded study describes how extreme solar eruptions could have severe consequences for communications, power grids and other technology on Earth.

The National Academy of Sciences in Washington conducted the study. The resulting report provides some of the first clear economic data that effectively quantifies today's risk of extreme conditions in space driven by magnetic activity on the sun and disturbances in the near-Earth environment. Instances of extreme space weather are rare and are categorized with other natural hazards that have a low frequency but high consequences.

"Obviously, the sun is Earth's life blood," said Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "To mitigate possible public safety issues, it is vital that we better understand extreme space weather events caused by the sun's activity."

Besides emitting a continuous stream of plasma called the solar wind, the sun periodically releases billions of tons of matter called coronal mass ejections. These immense clouds of material, when directed toward Earth, can cause large magnetic storms in the magnetosphere and upper atmosphere. Such space weather can affect the performance and reliability of space-borne and ground-based technological systems.

Space weather can produce solar storm electromagnetic fields that induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines, causing wide-spread blackouts and affecting communication cables that support the Internet. Severe space weather also produces solar energetic particles and the dislocation of the Earth's radiation belts, which can damage satellites used for commercial communications, global positioning and weather forecasting. Space weather has been recognized as causing problems with new technology since the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century.

A catastrophic failure of commercial and government infrastructure in space and on the ground can be mitigated through raising public awareness, improving vulnerable infrastructure and developing advanced forecasting capabilities. Without preventive actions or plans, the trend of increased dependency on modern space-weather sensitive assets could make society more vulnerable in the future.

NASA requested the study to assess the potential damage from significant space weather during the next 20 years. National and international experts from industry, government and academia participated in the study. The report documents the possibility of a space weather event that has societal effects and causes damage similar to natural disasters on Earth.

"From a public policy perspective, it is quite significant that we have begun the extremely challenging task of assessing space weather impacts in a quantitative way," said Daniel Baker, professor and director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Baker chaired the panel that prepared the report.

"Whether it is terrestrial catastrophes or extreme space weather incidents, the results can be devastating to modern societies that depend in a myriad of ways on advanced technological systems," said Baker. "We were delighted that NASA helped support bringing together dozens of world experts from industry and government to share their experiences and begin planning of improved public policy strategies."

The sun is currently near the minimum of its 11-year activity cycle. It is expected that solar storms will increase in frequency and intensity toward the next solar maximum, expected to occur around 2012.

The Heliophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington provided funding for the study. The division seeks to understand the sun, its solar processes and the interaction of solar plasma and radiation with Earth, other planets and the universe. Understanding the connections between the sun and its planets will allow better prediction on the impacts of solar activity on humans, technological systems and even the presence of life itself in the universe.

The National Academies are chartered by Congress to provide independent technical and scientific advice to the federal government.

For images related to the study and more information about the Heliophysics Division, visit:


To view the National Academy of Sciences' complete report, visit:


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Friday, January 2, 2009

NASA Science On Display

Friday, January 2, 2009
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NASA Science On Display At American Astronomical Society Meeting

WASHINGTON - NASA researchers will present new findings on a wide range of astrophysics topics during the 213th American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting. The meeting runs from Sunday, Jan. 4, through Thursday, Jan. 8, at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, 300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, Calif.

News briefings held during the meeting will feature the latest results from NASA missions. In addition, NASA scientists and their colleagues using NASA research capabilities will present noteworthy findings during scientific sessions that are open to registered media representatives. NASA also will hold two town hall meetings open at all AAS attendees.

The AAS Press Office will be located in Room 202C of the Long Beach Convention Center. Press room phone numbers are: 562-628-8401, 8402 and 8405. Press conferences will be held in Room 204. The press room will open at 8 a.m. PST daily.

Monday, Jan. 5, beginning 9:20 a.m. PST (12:20 p.m. EST)
NASA Ames' Jean Chiar and Alexander Tielens and their colleagues will present the first clear detections of a feature associated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from the Spitzer Space Telescope Infrared Spectrometer in the cold space between stars. PAHs are normally observed near an exciting source, such as stars, rather than in the cold interstellar medium dust. The observations yield crucial information on PAHs and carbon in cold interstellar dust. (Session 412: Dust II, Exhibit Hall A)

Monday, Jan. 5, at 9:30 a.m. PST (12:30 p.m. EST)
Results from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope will be presented, including new observations of shredded asteroids around dead stars and evidence for rapidly forming planets. Participants include Michael Jura, University of California, Los Angeles, and Thayne Currie, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass. (Related Session: 333)
Monday, Jan. 5, at 10:45 a.m. PST (1:45 p.m. EST)

NASA Ames' Lou Allamandola and Charles Bauschlicher and their colleagues will unveil a new online database of the hundreds of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) spectra that will be made publicly available in 2009. For more than 18 years, scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center have worked to assemble the database that now contains the spectra of approximately 600 theoretically computed and 60 experimentally measured PAHs in different forms. This database will enable astronomers to fully analyze the infrared emission that comes from many astronomical objects. (Session 305: Dust I, Category 17, Room 104A)
Monday, Jan. 5, at 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST)

An upcoming NASA mission, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, is expected to find brown dwarfs, or "failed" stars, closer to Earth than our nearest stars. Researchers will discuss the mission and present current information from a multi-year survey of brown dwarfs, exoplanets, and stars within about 33 light years of the sun. Participants include Amanda Mainzer, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; and Todd Henry and Sergio Dieterich, Georgia State University, Atlanta. (Related Sessions: 459, 407)
Monday, Jan. 5, at 12:30 p.m. PST (3:30 p.m. EST)

Scientists will make the first public presentation of a new mosaic image of the center of the Milky Way galaxy from the Hubble Space Telescope. Participants include Q. Daniel Wang, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Elizabeth Humphreys and Mark Reid, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.
Monday, Jan. 5, at 12:45 p.m. PST (3:45 p.m. EST)

Senior representatives from NASA's Science Mission Directorate and Astrophysics Division will discuss NASA's science program and outlook. Topics will include the status of the research program, highlights of operating missions, the upcoming decadal survey, progress of missions in development, and anticipated opportunities for both non-flight basic research awards (grants) and flight mission investigations. (General Session Hall B, Session: 206)

Monday, Jan. 5, at 7:15 p.m. PST (10:15 p.m. EST)
The James Webb Space Telescope team passed several major milestones in 2008 toward an expected launch in 2013. Reporters will hear from astronomers whose science is enabled by Webb, the senior engineers who will describe the most up-to-date design features, and project leaders who will discuss the status of the program. A reception precedes the Town Hall. (Regency Ballroom ABC, 4th Floor, Hyatt Regency Long Beach)

Tuesday, Jan. 6, at 9 a.m. PST (noon EST)
A new movie of data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows changes in time never seen before in a supernova remnant. An unprecedented and dramatic three-dimensional visualization of the same famous remnant -- based on data from Chandra, Spitzer, and ground-based telescopes -- will be displayed. Participants include Daniel Patnaude, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Mass.; Tracey Delaney, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.; and Alyssa Goodman, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. (Related Sessions: 321.07, 359.01)

Tuesday, Jan. 6, at 11:30 a.m. PST (2:30 p.m. EST)
This briefing presents a first-ever observation from a star-forming region in a distant young galaxy made possible by NASA's Swift gamma-ray observatory and the Keck I Telescope, as well as the discovery of an unusual transient optical source by the Hubble Space Telescope. Participants include Jason X. Prochaska, University of California, Santa Cruz; Yaron Sheffer of the University of Toledo, Ohio; and Kyle H. Barbary, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Tuesday, Jan. 6, at 1 p.m. PST (4 p.m. EST)
This briefing highlights new results from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and Swift gamma-ray burst mission on pulsars and quasars, respectively. Participants include Roger Romani, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.; and Alice Harding and Richard Mushotzky from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Wednesday, Jan. 7, 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST)
All details are under wraps about this unexpected find in images from one of the most powerful telescopes. Raghvendra Sahai, principal research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (Related Session 485)

Wednesday, Jan. 7, at 12:30 p.m. PST (3:30 p.m. EST)
New findings from a NASA balloon mission. Participants include Michael Seiffert, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and Alan Kogut, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

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