Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shuttle Crew Completes Landing Systems Tests

Thursday, July 30, 2009 0 comments
The shuttle crew earlier this morning checked out two systems for tomorrow’s landing. The astronauts completed a test of the Reaction Control System steering thrusters that will help control Endeavour’s attitude and speed after the deorbit burn. During that test, one of the jets, F2F, failed. This will not be an issue for landing. The crew also tested the shuttle aerosurfaces and flight control system that will be used once the shuttle enters the atmosphere.

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Moon and Mars at Kennedy - Ares Processing Update 0 comments
The Constellation Program's Ares I-X rocket has transformed during the past few weeks for its targeted flight test in late August.

The four motor segments were stacked on the Mobile Launcher Platform and tested, in addition to tests on the vehicle's instruments.

The Super Stack 1 assembly is complete. Stack one is made up of eight pieces: interstages 1 and 2, the frustum, the forward skirt extension, the forward skirt and the aft, center and forward segments of the fifth segment simulator. It also includes two internal elements: the roll control system and the first stage avionics module.

The next processing milestones will include stacking of the upper stage, flight instrument testing and modifications to Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39B. The vehicle stabilization system is being built at the base of the launch pad.

The Ares I-X flight test will provide NASA an early opportunity to check and prove hardware, analysis and modeling methods, as well as facilities and ground operations needed to develop the Ares I, which is NASA's next crew launch vehicle. The test also will allow NASA to gather critical data during the ascent of the integrated stack, which will help with the design of the Ares I rocket and the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The data will ensure the entire vehicle system is safe and fully operational before astronauts begin traveling to the International Space Station and moon.

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Harnessing the Sun 0 comments

This image, taken during the fifth and final spacewalk of the STS-127 mission, is of one of the International Space Station's solar panels intersecting Earth's horizon. Eleven astronauts and cosmonauts remained inside the orbital outpost and the shuttle to which it was docked, while Tom Marshburn and Christopher Cassidy made their spacewalk on July 24, 2009.

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NASA's Shuttle Discovery Moves to Launch Pad, Practice Liftoff Set 0 comments
Reporters are invited to cover space shuttle Discovery's move to the launch pad on Aug. 3 and the mission crew's dress rehearsal activities Aug. 5 to Aug. 7 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The first motion of Discovery from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A is scheduled for 12:01 a.m. EDT. The 3.4 mile journey is expected to take approximately six hours. Activities include a 6 a.m. photo opportunity of the shuttle's move and an interview availability with Discovery Flow Director Stephanie Stilson at 7 a.m. Reporters must arrive at Kennedy's news center by 5:30 a.m. Monday for transportation to the viewing area.

Live coverage of the move will be shown on NASA Television starting at 6 a.m. Video highlights of the move will air on NASA TV Video File.

International media accreditation for these events is closed. U.S. reporters without permanent Kennedy credentials must apply for accreditation online by 4 p.m. Thursday, July 30, at:

Badges must be picked up before 4 p.m. Friday, July 31, at the Kennedy Space Center Badging Office on State Road 405.

Discovery's astronauts and ground crews will participate in the practice countdown, known as the terminal countdown demonstration test. The test provides each shuttle crew with an opportunity to participate in various simulated countdown activities, including equipment familiarization and emergency training.

The following media events are associated with the test. All times are Eastern.

- Aug. 5 - STS-128 crew arrival. The astronauts will arrive at approximately 11:30 a.m. at the Shuttle Landing Facility and make a statement. The arrival will be broadcast live on NASA TV.

- Aug. 6 - STS-128 crew media availability. The crew will take questions from reporters at Launch Pad 39A at 8:40 a.m. The session will be carried live on NASA TV.

-Aug. 7 - STS-128 crew walkout photo opportunity. The astronauts will depart from the Operations and Checkout Building at 8:15 a.m. in their flight entry suits in preparation for the countdown demonstration test at the launch pad. The walkout will not be broadcast live, but will air on NASA TV Video File.

For information about covering these events, including proper attire and meeting locations, credentialed journalists should visit:

Updates for all events are available at 321-867-2525.

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

For more information about the STS-128 mission and crew, visit:

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Space Shuttle Crew Set To Return To Earth Friday 0 comments
Space shuttle Endeavour and its seven-member crew are scheduled to return to Earth on Friday after a 16-day mission. There are two landing opportunities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:48 a.m. and 12:23 p.m. EDT.

NASA will evaluate weather conditions at Kennedy before permitting Endeavour and its crew to land. If weather prevents a return to Kennedy on Friday, the backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California will be activated Saturday for consideration as well. For recorded updates about landing, call 321-867-2525.

Approximately two hours after landing, NASA officials will hold a media briefing to discuss the mission. The participants will be:

- Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington

- Keiji Tachikawa, president, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

- Benoit Marcotte, director genenal, operations, Canadian Space Agency

- Mike Moses, space shuttle launch integration manager

- Pete Nickolenko, STS-127 launch director

After touchdown in Florida, the astronauts will undergo physical examinations and meet with their families. The crew is expected to hold a news conference at approximately 3:15 p.m. Both news events will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s Web site.

The Kennedy news center will open for landing activities at 7 a.m. Friday and close at 7 p.m., or one hour after the last media event. STS-127 media badges are in effect through landing. The media accreditation building on State Road 3 will be open Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. The last bus will depart from the news center for the Shuttle Landing Facility one hour before landing.

If the landing is diverted to Edwards on Saturday, news media should call the Dryden public affairs office at 661-276-3449 for additional information. Dryden has limited facilities available for use by previously accredited journalists.

The NASA News Twitter feed is updated throughout the shuttle mission and landing. To access the feed, visit:

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

For the latest information about the STS-127 mission and accomplishments, visit:

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New Spin On Saturn's Rotation 0 comments
New meteorological data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft indicates the value for Saturn's rotation period could be more than 5 minutes shorter than previously believed - and that Saturn is more like its larger neighbor Jupiter than previously considered. The rate at which Saturn spins provides important data for planetary scientists interested in the ringed world. Obtaining an accurate fix on that number is critical to enhancing scientist's understanding of the planet's evolution, formation and meteorology. The report on this finding, led by Cassini scientist Peter Read of Oxford University, England, is published in the July 30 issue of the journal Nature.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. JPL manages the mission for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

More information about the Cassini mission is available at


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NASA to Provide Web Updates on Objects Approaching Earth 0 comments
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is introducing a new Web site that will provide a centralized resource for information on near-Earth objects – those asteroids and comets that can approach Earth. The "Asteroid Watch" site also contains links for the interested public to sign up for NASA's new asteroid widget and Twitter account.

"Most people have a fascination with near-Earth objects," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. "And I have to agree with them. I have studied them for over three decades and I find them to be scientifically fascinating, and a few are potentially hazardous to Earth. The goal of our Web site is to provide the public with the most up-to-date and accurate information on these intriguing objects."

The new Asteroid Watch site is online at .

It provides information on NASA's missions to study comets, asteroids and near-Earth objects, and also provides the basic facts and the very latest in science and research on these objects. News about near-Earth object discoveries and Earth flybys will be available and made accessible on the site via a downloadable widget and RSS feed. And for those who want to learn about their space rocks on the go, a Twitter feed is offered. "Asteroid Watch" also contains a link to JPL's more technical Near-Earth Objects Web site, where many scientists and researchers studying near-Earth objects go for information.

"This innovative new Web application gives the public an unprecedented look at what's going on in near-Earth space," said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Objects Observation program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA supports surveys that detect and track asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near-Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," also plots the orbits of these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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Hometown Heroes 2009: Robert Shane Kimbrough Visits the Atlanta Braves 0 comments
NASA astronaut Robert Shane Kimbrough had two dreams growing up as a child; to be an astronaut and to play baseball. He grew up in the small town of Smyrna, Ga., just outside of Atlanta. Recently Kimbrough’s two passions came together while making a special appearance in his native Georgia. He spoke to the people of Atlanta about being an astronaut and was given the opportunity to participate in pregame activities for an Atlanta Braves’ game.

Kimbrough’s appearance in Atlanta marked the second stop of NASA’s Hometown Hero 2009 campaign. He is one of several astronauts returning to their home regions to spread knowledge about the importance of continuing space exploration. At each stop, the astronauts participate in pregame activities at a Major League Baseball game and do community outreach about NASA, the International Space Station, and why space exploration is so vital to the nation.

Kimbrough started his trip with an event-filled afternoon at the Fernbank Science Center. Sporting his blue flight suit, he did media interviews and presented his post-flight presentation to a group of aviation camp kids and the public. Kimbrough talked about the importance of education and raising the next generation’s interest in science and space exploration. The evening wrapped up with a free planetarium show for all who attended.

“It was a pleasure to host Lt. Col. Kimbrough at the Fernbank Science Center,” said Fernbank Science Center Director Doug Hrabe. “The groups were very appreciative of the time that he shared with them.”

The trip continued early next morning with three live interviews. Kimbrough stopped by WXIA-TV to talk with Karyn Greer about his recent mission, STS-126, and his time onboard the space station, where he performed two space walks. Kimbrough also had a radio interview with Kevin and Taylor in the Morning from 104.7 “The Fish.” He discussed the 10-year anniversary of the space station and how there are significant benefits derived from research conducted in space.

“All the things we do up there are to help people on Earth,” Kimbrough said. “We don’t do it for our sake or NASA’s sake—it’s to go up there and figure out how to live better on Earth.”

His last stop of the morning was at WAGA-TV. Kimbrough visited with Suchita Vadlamani. He recounted his days of growing up in Georgia and why he really became an astronaut.

“What first sparked your imagination and inspired you to be an astronaut?” Vadlamani asked.

“People my age were watching men walk on the moon, and that’s really what sparked the whole thing,” Kimbrough said.

After the early morning interviews, Kimbrough headed to Georgia Tech, where he made a post-flight presentation and signed autographs for students and summer campers. Kimbrough received a Master of Science degree in operations research from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1998, so his visit was somewhat of a welcome home party.

Kimbrough ended his two-day trip with a major strike! He participated in numerous pregame activities at the Atlanta Braves versus Boston Red Sox game. He presented the general manager with a special photo taken from the space station. Later, Kimbrough and his son Zack also gave the “Play ball” call to start the game. But his journey didn’t end there. He signed several autographs and gave a live interview in the Braves’ plaza.

In the end, Kimbrough enjoyed his Hometown Heroes trip and thought the diversity of his events helped educate people about NASA and its goals.

“I had a chance to speak to kids, college students, the public and athletes, which is a very broad spectrum of folks,” Kimbrough said. “I think we did a lot of good for NASA overall.”

For more information about the NASA Hometown Heroes 2009 campaign, visit:

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NASA astronaut Michael Barratt, Expedition Journal Entry 1 0 comments
As a flight surgeon and specialist in space medicine, I have awaited my own space flight experience with great anticipation. I have spent years practicing the craft of space medicine, studying the world’s literature and debriefing crew members following their flights. The prominent topics on my mind have been the specific physiologic problems associated with living in weightlessness – bone and muscle loss from disuse atrophy, cardiovascular deconditioning, neurovestibular reprogramming, etc. I have often said that humans essentially become extraterrestrials in space due to the global multi-system changes that define adaptation to weightlessness. Many physical and laboratory norms shift, and medical problems may present differently against this backdrop. But after 100 days on orbit, what has struck me most is the constellation of fundamental changes in behaviour and motion associated with deep adaptation to weightlessness. Learning to live and work here prompts a metamorphosis of sorts in habits, body awareness, motion control, and hygiene. This is in concert with a remote, expeditionary lifestyle with somewhat sparse provisions, which rather reminds me of being at sea. In some ways we degenerate as compared to what people expect. Let me paint a picture.

The neutral body posture assumed in weightlessness represents the sum resting flexion force of the major postural muscles. Put simply, you assume a posture somewhere between standing and fetal. You have to make a conscious effort to ‘stand straight’, and it is actually uncomfortable to be restrained out of this position for long periods. Shrug your shoulders and let them fall a little less than half-way, then keep them there. That’s us, a posture your mother would never approve of. As for your feet, as my Air Force buddies often remind their Army counterparts, we don’t walk; we fly. The calluses on the soles of your feet slough, part of the process we call the mid-mission molt, giving the word tenderfoot a new meaning after return to earth. Inflight, you go around in stocking feet or barefoot (my preference), and the prehensile nature of the toes rises to the surface. Your feet are used to stabilize the body, allowing you to fix yourself into position to optimize your work envelope, and toe holds are a key part of this. Calluses develop on the upper surface of the feet due to contact with foot restraints, particularly the dorsal aspect of the 1st metatarsal-phalangeal joint.

In weightlessness, every structural surface is used for work and stowage. The concept of walls and ceiling is a very gravocentric construct which we don’t have up here; we change this orientation frequently, sometimes appearing to be hanging from surfaces in the camera views. It has been surprisingly easy and natural to develop the three dimensional spatial awareness to work and move through the ISS, changing orientations quickly and frequently in the course of normal work. And finally, opposite our terrestrial counterparts, up here we locomote with our hands and arms, carrying big loads with our feet and legs.

Add a few behavioral changes that abound up here – letting hair grow, playing with food, and singing primitive chants – and I give you Cosmopithecus. The physiological changes I mentioned are certainly prominent but reside at a deeper level, most below a threshold of appearance or detection without medical imaging, biochemical analysis, or provocative physiologic testing. On the surface that extraterrestrial I have been describing for years is a hunched over, fast flying, spatially versatile creature that functions naturally in 3 dimensions. The pace of work here is quite brisk, and as you might guess the pressure to execute the plan without errors is high. The picture painted is the sum of several forces that result in an efficient worker in the weightless environment. And if there is any doubt, it is tremendous fun up here!

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Space Station's Tranquility 0 comments
The Node 3 module, also known as Tranquility, will be one of the last components added to the International Space Station.

The pressurized section will provide additional room for crew members and many of the space station's life support and environmental control systems already on board. These systems include air revitalization, oxygen generation and water recycling. A waste and hygiene compartment and a treadmill also will be relocated from other areas of the station.

Tranquility's connection point on the station will be on the Earth-facing side of the Unity node. The new component will provide an additional docking point for space shuttles and other crew vehicles visiting the station. Attached to the node will be Cupola, a unique work module with six windows on the sides and one on top.

Tranquility was built for NASA by Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, under contract to the European Space Agency. Spanning 21 feet in length, 14 feet in diameter, and weighing more than 27,000 pounds, the node was delivered to Kennedy Space Center aboard an Airbus "Beluga" aircraft in May 2009.

Both Tranquility and Cupola will be joined to the station during space shuttle Endeavour's STS-130 mission, as construction of the orbiting outpost draws to a close.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Past and Present: Field Testing For the Moon

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 0 comments
“We Choose to Go to the Moon.”

When President Kennedy announced on Sept. 12, 1962, that the United States would go to the moon before the end of the decade, life and work at NASA changed in monumental ways.

By then, NASA had four manned spaceflights under its belt. A trip to the moon would leverage years of spaceflight knowledge, but traveling out of low Earth orbit, past Geosynchronous orbit to the moon, would demand increased launch and crew vehicle capabilities.

The 4-year-old space agency would need to simultaneously develop lunar surface systems – extravehicular space suits, tools, communication systems and lunar rovers. NASA would also have to train its astronauts to land on the moon, navigate the surface and gather samples – all while documenting each step as the world anxiously waited.

But how on Earth – literally – would NASA prepare its astronauts for the three-day, 250,000-mile trip and subsequent landing, exploration and extravehicular activities on the lunar surface?

The answer was Geology Field Trips (GFTs). GFTs were conducted at remote locations that were chosen because geology, terrain or climate characteristics were similar to the moon’s surface. In 1963, NASA sent Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins on a preliminary GFT at Cinder Lake near Flagstaff, Arizona. The three former military pilots practiced sample collection with special tools and used state-of-the-art communication systems.

The GFTs continued until 1972 and included locations such as Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, the Grand Canyon, Canada, Iceland and Panama. Each GFT had unique objectives, including rock formation identification, sample cultivation, survival training and communication techniques.

In 1969, just six years and ten months after President Kennedy’s monumental announcement, NASA sent three well-trained astronauts to the moon and returned them safely back to Earth.

“Embody a Sustainable Course of Long-term Exploration.”
In 2004, another historic presidential announcement declared that the United States would not only go back to the moon, but would also establish a sustained human presence there in preparation for further exploration into our solar system.

NASA engineers, scientists and astronauts once again began to evaluate vehicle architectures and surface systems that would enable this new goal to become a reality.

Apollo GFTs and lunar missions provided valuable data as NASA began preparation for the next generation of space exploration. New requirements and technological advances, however, demanded a new era of GFTs, called analog missions this time around.

Present-day analog missions are conducted to test long- and short-range mobility, advanced communication and relay systems, spacesuits, surface operations, and local resource power generation and storage.

Many of the same Apollo GFT locations are used for today’s analog missions. To date, analog locations include Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, Washington, Antarctica and Canada.

List of Current Analog Field Tests:

Advanced Navigation and Communication Submarine Field Tests
Key Largo, Florida
NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) Team has conducted 13 analogs at The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aquarius Undersea Laboratory.

During these long-duration missions, NASA executes a range of undersea “moon walks” that provide astronauts with a realistic approximation of situations they will likely encounter on the moon. These simulations help astronauts understand how to execute daily operations in a simulated partial gravity environment.

Pavilion Lake, British Columbia, Canada
The Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP), conducted in British Columbia, Canada by the Canadian Space Agency in collaboration with NASA, is a multi-disciplinary science and exploration mission to explain the origin of freshwater microbialites. NASA conducts analog missions at Pavilion Lake because the extreme, remote location provides a challenging setting to test and develop research and exploration methods. Collecting microbialite samples will help improve techniques for future space exploration missions and scientific research on the lunar surface.

Habitat Evaluation
NASA completed a range of analog tests in Antarctica to evaluate the inflatable lunar habitat. The tests were conducted at McMurdo Station in the cold, isolated landscape of Antarctica to provide information about the structure’s power consumption and resilience. The analog also evaluated how easily a suited astronaut could assemble, pack and transport the habitat. If selected for future missions, the structure will reduce the amount of hardware and fuel necessary for transportation and logistics on the moon.

Surface Mobility Field Tests
Moses Lake, Washington – Phase 1
The sand dunes of Moses Lake provide a lunar-like environment of rugged terrain, soil inconsistencies, sandstorms and temperature swings. Here, NASA tested a newly enhanced extravehicular activity suit and the new line of robotic rovers: ATHLETE Rover, K10, Lunar Truck, Lance Blade and Lunar Manipulator.

Black Point Lava Flow, Arizona – Phase 2
The terrain and size of Black Point Lava Flow provide an environment geologically similar to the lunar surface. It is here that NASA first introduced the Lunar Electric Rover, a conceptual vehicle with an extended range and the capability to travel rugged planetary terrain. The Black Point landscape enables the rover to undertake sorties (short field excursions) with ranges that extend greater than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). The sorties tests include a 3-day exploration mission.

In-situ Resource Utilization
The volcanic terrain, rock distribution and soil composition of the Hawaiian islands provide an ideal simulated environment to identify a process to harness local (in-situ) resources for use in human and robotic exploration. The demonstrations help reduce risk to lunar missions by demonstrating technologies for end-to-end oxygen extraction and separation from the volcanic material, oxygen storage, and other technologies that could be used to look for water or ice at the lunar poles.

Haughton Mars Project: Extravehicular Activity Traverses, Long-term High-data Communication, Complex Robotic Interaction, and Onboard Rover and Suit Engineering.
Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada
The rocky arctic desert setting, geological features and biological attributes of the Haughton Crater, one of Canada’s uninhabited treasures, provides NASA with an optimal setting to assess requirements for possible future robotic and human missions to Mars.

During the Haughton Mars Project, scientists, engineers and astronauts perform multiple representative lunar science and exploration surface activities using existing field infrastructure and surface assets.

To learn more about current analog field tests, visit

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EAA AirVenture: An Aviator's Dream World 0 comments
Aviation enthusiasts seek out certain destinations. There are Paris and Farnborough for the big international crowd, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. for the historians and Oshkosh, Wisc., for those who crave a look at aircraft that are a little different.

For a week every summer a small airfield in central Wisconsin is an aviator's dream world. It's been that way for more than half a century, since what is now called EAA AirVenture started as a way to celebrate men and women who fly experimental aircraft.

It's grown so much since 1953 that Wittman Regional Airport, the home of the Experimental Aircraft Association, becomes the busiest airport in the country for that week according to the Federal Aviation Administration. That's pretty amazing since it normally doesn't even have scheduled airline service.

Among the aircraft expected to fly into the airfield this year will be a research aircraft from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. A NASA Gulfstream III aircraft will land at EAA AirVenture and be parked for public viewing at Aeroshell Square, perhaps not far from a huge Airbus 380 or Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo spacecraft. The G-III serves as multi-role testbed for a variety of flight research experiments. The aircraft's pilot will be available to answer questions.

And they aren't the only NASA researchers and engineers who will talk to members of the public at the air show about everything from uncrewed air vehicles, past and future moon missions to how the space shuttle flies.

This year marks a special anniversary for NASA and the rest of the world — 40 years since humans first walked on the moon. To commemorate the occasion visitors to EAA AirVenture will be able to see a piece of the lunar surface in person. A moon rock picked up by astronaut Edgar Mitchell in 1971 during the Apollo XIV mission is a star attraction at the NASA pavilion.

This year we're celebrating not only our historic landing on the moon 40 years ago, but looking forward to the next generation of moon missions," said Jim Hull, NASA exhibits manager. "Last month we launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. It's circling the moon right now, transmitting images. Then this fall the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite will impact the moon looking for water ice."

The Oshkosh exhibit reflects the country's plans to return to the moon. Outside the building are two huge inflatables that represent a lunar habitat concept and the Orion crew capsule. Inside visitors can learn more about robotic moon missions and the systems that will rocket astronauts to the lunar surface from engineers from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

From the moon, air show participants are able to move onto Mars and a full-scale replica of one of the Mars Exploration Rovers in front of a three-dimensional Martian landscape.

No NASA presentation at an air show is complete without a look at NASA's contributions to aeronautics. Not only do exhibits feature a number of NASA-developed aviation technologies that are now common in airplanes, a special education area allows youngsters to make and take their own ring wing gliders and offer other hands-on activities.

But by far one of the most popular stops at the NASA building is the area known as the NASA craftsmen. Technicians from NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Langley Research center in Hampton, Va., show off some of the models and tools researchers use to advance aerospace design.

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Postcards From the Field 0 comments

Horacio Munoz Lopez (Mexico) at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

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First Image from GOES-14 0 comments

From approximately 35,786 km (22,236 miles) in space, NOAA's newest Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – GOES-14 – took its first full-disk visible image of the earth on July 27, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. EDT. GOES-14, launched on June 27, 2009, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., joins three other NOAA operational GOES spacecraft that help the agency's forecasters track life-threatening weather and solar activity that can impact the satellite-based electronics and communications industry. After five more months of tests, GOES-14 will be placed in orbital storage mode, ready for activation if any of NOAA's operational GOES spacecraft experiences trouble.

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Warmed Up and Ready to Go 0 comments

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has put its infrared eyes back on the sky to observe the cold and dusty universe. The telescope ran out of liquid coolant on May 15, 2009, after more than five-and-a-half years of observations. Two of its infrared channels are working at full capacity at the observatory's new "warm" temperature of approximately 30 Kelvin (minus 406 degrees Fahrenheit) -- still quite chilly by our Earthly standards.

Engineers and scientists have been busy recalibrating the telescope and making preparations for Spitzer's new era of science. Routine science operations begin today, July 27, 2009. More information about the warm mission can be found at

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Late Heat Shield Inspections for Shuttle 0 comments
The seven-member crew was awakened Wednesday morning to the song “Yellow” by the band Coldplay, uplinked for Pilot Doug Hurley in honor of his International Space Station fly-around.

Space shuttle Endeavour undocked Tuesday from the International Space Station at 1:26 p.m. EDT. After completing a fly-around of the space station, Endeavour performed a maneuver to separate from the station.

Shuttle astronauts will inspect Endeavour’s heat shield one more time today as they begin to set their sights on a Friday landing.

Endeavour’s thermal protection system was cleared for landing earlier in the flight. This late inspection will ensure that there has been no impact damage from micrometeoroids or space junk during its docked operations or fly-around of the station.

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NASA Increases Value of Engineering Support Contract 0 comments
NASA has increased the maximum ordering value of the Multidisciplinary Engineering and Technology Support, or METS, services contract with Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies (SGT) Inc. of Greenbelt, Md. The maximum value increased by $40 million to approximately $339 million. The ordering period remains from Feb. 5, 2005, through Feb. 4, 2010.

Under the contract, SGT Inc. performs tasks that are necessary for the formulation, design, development, flight and non-flight fabrication, integration, testing, and verification of space flight and ground system hardware and software. This includes development and validation of new technologies to enable future space and science missions for the Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

Task orders under the contract provide critical support to a wide range of NASA's missions and projects, including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, the Geostationary Environmental Operational Satellites-R, Polar Operational Environmental Satellites, the Magnetospheric Multi-Scale Satellites, the Global Precipitation Measurement Observatory, the Glory Observatory and others.

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NASA Changes Date for Briefings on Next Space Shuttle Mission 0 comments
A series of media briefings to preview NASA's STS-128 space shuttle mission has been rescheduled for Thursday, Aug. 13.

NASA Television and the agency's Web site will provide live coverage of the mission briefings from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston beginning at 8 a.m. CDT. Questions will be taken from reporters at participating NASA centers and journalists in Europe. A feed of video and animation of the mission and crew training will precede the briefings at 7 a.m.

U.S. reporters planning to attend the briefings in Houston must contact the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 by 5 p.m., Aug. 6, for credentials. Journalists representing foreign news organizations, regardless of citizenship, must contact the Johnson newsroom by 5 p.m., July 30.

Discovery's seven astronauts will be available for round-robin interviews at Johnson on Aug. 13. Reporters must contact Gayle Frere at 281-483-8645 by Aug. 6 to reserve an interview opportunity.

For the latest information about the STS-128 mission and its crew, visit:

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In Tandem Final Spacewalk For The STS-127 Mission.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 0 comments

During Monday's 4-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, astronauts Tom Marshburn (left) and Christopher Cassidy secured multi-layer insulation around the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator known as Dextre, split out power channels for two space station Control Moment Gyroscopes, installed video cameras on the front and back of the new Japanese Exposed Facility and performed a number of get ahead tasks, including tying down some cables and installing handrails and a portable foot restraint to aid future spacewalkers. The spacewalk on July 27, 2009, was the fifth and final spacewalk for the STS-127 mission.

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NASA Honors Apollo Astronaut Al Worden with Moon Rock 0 comments
NASA will honor Apollo astronaut Al Worden with the presentation of an Ambassador of Exploration Award for his contributions to the U.S. space program.

Worden will receive the award during a ceremony Thursday, July 30, at 4 p.m. EDT. The ceremony will be held at the Apollo Saturn V Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, where the moon rock will be displayed.

Reporters interested in covering the ceremony should contact Andrea Farmer at 321-449-4318 or Jillian McRae at 321-449-4273.

NASA is giving the Ambassador of Exploration Award to the first generation of explorers in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs for realizing America's goal of going to the moon. The award is a moon rock encased in Lucite, mounted for public display. The rock is part of the 842 pounds of lunar samples collected during six Apollo expeditions from 1969 to 1972. Those astronauts who receive the award will then present the award to a museum of their choice, where the moon rock will be placed for public display.

Worden served as command module pilot for the Apollo 15 mission, which set several moon records for NASA, including the longest lunar surface stay time, the longest lunar extravehicular activity and the first use of a lunar roving vehicle. Worden spent 38 minutes in a spacewalk outside the command module and logged a total of 295 hours, 11 minutes in space during the mission.

Worden was born in Jackson, Mich. He received a bachelor of military science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1955, and master of science degrees in astronautical and aeronautical engineering and instrumentation engineering from the University of Michigan in 1963.

For more biographical information about Worden, visit:

NASA Television will broadcast a Video File of the event.

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

For more information about the Apollo Saturn V Center, visit:

For information about and pictures of the NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award, visit:

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009 0 comments

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Flight Day 8 Third Spacewalk of the STS-127 Mission 0 comments

With Earth below, astronaut Christopher Cassidy participates in the third spacewalk of the STS-127 mission. This was the first of Cassidy's three scheduled spacewalks during the 16-day mission.

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STS-128 Payload Readied 0 comments
In the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a crane lowers the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo toward the payload canister.

The canister will transport the module to Launch Pad 39A for installation in space shuttle Discovery's payload bay for the STS-128 mission. The module will carry science and storage racks to the International Space Station.

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Images of Solar Eclipse as seen by Hinode Satellite 0 comments
The Hinode satellite observing our sun captured images of the moon traversing the face of the sun during a solar eclipse this week.

On Wednesday, July 22, 2009, a total eclipse of the Sun was visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses half of Earth. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow began in India and crossed through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. After leaving mainland Asia, the path crossed Japan's Ryukyu Islands and curved southeast through the Pacific Ocean where the maximum duration of totality reached 6 minutes and 39 seconds. A partial eclipse is seen within the much broader path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes most of eastern Asia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Ocean. (NASA/JAXA)

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Opportunity's Surroundings on Sol 1950 0 comments
Opportunity's Surroundings on Sol 1950 (Vertical)

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take the images combined into this 360-degree view of the rover's surroundings on the 1,950th Martian day, or sol, of its surface mission (July 19, 2009). North is at the top.

Opportunity had driven 60.8 meters (199 feet) that sol, moving backward as a strategy to mitigate an increased amount of current drawn by the drive motor in the right-front wheel. The rover was traveling a westward course, skirting a large field of impassable dunes to the south.

Much of the terrain surrounding the Sol 1950 position is wind-formed ripples of dark soil, with pale outcrop exposed in troughs between some ripples. A small crater visible nearby to the northwest is informally called "Kaiko." For scale, the distance between the parallel wheel tracks is about 1 meter (about 40 inches).

The site is about 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) south-southwest of Victoria Crater.

This view is presented as a vertical projection with geometric seam correction.

Opportunity's Surroundings on Sol 1950

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take the images combined into this 360-degree view of the rover's surroundings on the 1,950th Martian day, or sol, of its surface mission (July 19, 2009). South is in the middle; north at both ends.

Opportunity had driven 60.8 meters (199 feet) that sol, moving backward as a strategy to mitigate an increased amount of current drawn by the drive motor in the right-front wheel. The rover was traveling a westward course, skirting a large field of impassable dunes to the south.

Much of the terrain surrounding the Sol 1950 position is wind-formed ripples of dark soil, with pale outcrop exposed in troughs between some ripples. A small crater visible nearby to the northwest is informally called "Kaiko." For scale, the distance between the parallel wheel tracks is about 1 meter (about 40 inches).

The site is about 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) south-southwest of Victoria Crater.

This view is presented as a cylindrical projection with geometric seam correction.

Opportunity's Surroundings on Sol 1950 (Stereo)

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take the images combined into this stereo, 360-degree view of the rover's surroundings on the 1,950th Martian day, or sol, of its surface mission (July 19, 2009). The view appears three-dimensional when viewed through red-blue glasses with the red lens on the left. South is in the middle; north at both ends.

Opportunity had driven 60.8 meters (199 feet) that sol, moving backward as a strategy to mitigate an increased amount of current drawn by the drive motor in the right-front wheel. The rover was traveling a westward course, skirting a large field of impassable dunes to the south.

Much of the terrain surrounding the Sol 1950 position is wind-formed ripples of dark soil, with pale outcrop exposed in troughs between some ripples. A small crater visible nearby to the northwest is informally called "Kaiko." For scale, the distance between the parallel wheel tracks is about 1 meter (about 40 inches).

The site is about 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) south-southwest of Victoria Crater.

This panorama combines right-eye and left-eye views presented as cylindrical-perspective projections with geometric seam correction.

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Japanese Experiment Module - Exposed Facility 0 comments

This image shows the Japanese Experiment Module - Exposed Facility as it looks from inside Kibo. The Japanese Experiment Module, or JEM, called Kibo -- which means "hope" in Japanese -- is Japan's first human space facility and enhances the unique research capabilities of the International Space Station. Experiments in Kibo focus on space medicine, biology, Earth observations, material production, biotechnology and communications research. Kibo experiments and systems are operated from the Mission Control Room at the Space Station Operations Facility, or SSOF, at Tsukuba Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, just north of Tokyo.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Putting Plankton in Perspective, from Sea to Sky

Saturday, July 25, 2009 0 comments
From the time he was 21 and working toward his Ph.D., Mike Behrenfeld has been observing phytoplankton -- floating ocean plants that have a global impact. Observing these tiny plants under a microscope, Behrenfeld discovered early on that how you set up an experiment matters.

Researchers had previously observed that "fat and happy" plankton in a sterile laboratory dish suffer considerably when exposed to ultraviolet radiation. But perform the same experiment while simulating the abundance of real-world stresses that phytoplankton face every day in the ocean, and the impact of ultraviolet radiation is much smaller, Behrenfeld found.

Now a phytoplankton ecologist and physiologist at Oregon State University, Behrenfeld studies phytoplankton in the lab but also makes a point of regularly going out to sea to stay grounded in the "real world."

He also employs a big-picture tool: the view from space.

Behrenfeld's introduction to satellite data came during his tenure at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he learned how space-based instruments can measure ocean color and detect phytoplankton's green pigment.

"That's when I began thinking in earnest about the global aspects of phytoplankton ecology," Behrenfeld said. "I was able to combine physiological knowledge of processes at the cellular level that I learned from the lab with the big picture of looking at global systems from space."

Now, with more than ten years of ocean color data from NASA's Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) instrument, Behrenfeld has developed a new theory about the timing and cause of the North Atlantic Bloom. This annual bloom of phytoplankton spans the entire ocean at northern latitudes, and is responsible for feeding marine birds and mammals, as well as soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Behrenfeld found that the classic understanding of the bloom -- that warm spring temperatures and abundant sunlight drive its onset -- may be mistaken. Instead, satellite data show that the bloom begins in winter, when phytoplankton habitat extends deeper below the ocean surface. Phytoplankton are diluted over a larger habitat volume, decreasing their chance of encountering a predator, allowing the population to grow, and initiating a bloom. Only later, in spring, do favorable growth conditions at the surface contribute to the bloom.

"With space-based tools, we can go back and look at these old paradigms in a new way," Behrenfeld said. "The satellite measurements were the absolute central piece of the work, but their interpretation required background knowledge from the laboratory and field techniques."

Behrenfeld encourages the next generation of young scientists -- whether they are focused on satellite data, computer models, laboratory experiments or optics -- to take a diversified approach to scientific inquiry and to get out into the real world as much as possible.

"Getting away from the computer and simply thinking about things for awhile opens up new questions you want to ask," he said, "and feeds our scientific curiosity about how organisms and natural ecosystems work."

Related Links:

› Earth System Science at 20 Media Briefing: Rethinking What Causes Spring Phytoplankton Blooms

› NASA Satellite Detects Red Glow to Map Global Ocean Plant Health

› Michael Behrenfeld at Oregon State University

› The Ocean Chromatic: SeaWiFS Enters Its Second Decade

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Sandbox Tracks from Rover Testing 0 comments

Rover team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., on July 24, 2009, discuss the next step in preparing for a new phase in testing of possible moves for getting NASA's Mars rover Spirit out of a sandtrap on Mars. From left: Matt Van Kirk, Joseph Carsten, Kim Lichtenberg, Pauline Hwang.

The team members removed the rover from the soft soil of the test setup at JPL using some aids not available on Mars, such as plywood ramps. A series of tests had been completed for evaluating various individual maneuvers, such as driving straight ahead, turning in place or crabbing to the side. The next step was to renew the simulated Martian soil in the sandbox. Then the rover would drive in again, backwards, the way Spirit drove into the location where it became embedded. Upcoming tests will use combinations of the individual maneuvers and longer-duration drives, to evaluate a full escape strategy for Spirit.

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STS-127 MCC Status Report #19 0 comments
Mission specialists Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn finished replacing batteries on the International Space Station’s oldest solar arrays during a seven-hour, 12-minute spacewalk – the fourth of five planned during space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-127 mission.

They installed four of six new batteries for the P6 Truss structure, where a pair of solar array wings collects sunlight for power generation. They stored four more of the old batteries onto a cargo carrier for return to Earth. That completed the work with all 12 new and old batteries, which was begun on the mission’s third spacewalk by Cassidy and Mission Specialist Dave Wolf. Higher than expected carbon dioxide levels in Cassidy’s suit limited that spacewalk’s duration, so the remaining battery tasks were deferred until today.

Inside the complex, Tim Kopra choreographed the activities. Mission specialists Koichi Wakata and Julie Payette used Canadarm2 – the station’s robotic arm – to hand the Integrated Cargo Carrier with the old batteries to the shuttle’s arm. Pilot Doug Hurley and Commander Mark Polansky then secured the carrier in Endeavour’s cargo bay at 5:52 p.m. for return home.

This was the fourth of five STS-127 spacewalks, the 129th in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, totaling 805 hours, 42 minutes. It was the 101st spacewalk conducted out of space station airlocks and the 217th American spacewalk in history. It was the second for Cassidy and Marshburn.

The mission’s final planned spacewalk is Monday, performed by Marshburn and Cassidy together again to work on various tasks around the outside of the station.

The station crew is scheduled to begin its sleep period about 7 p.m., followed 30 minutes by the shuttle crew. Mission Control’s musical wake up is scheduled for 3:33 a.m. Saturday.

The next mission status report will be issued after crew wake, or earlier if warranted.

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Veteran Astronaut Pam Melroy Leaves NASA 0 comments
NASA astronaut Pam Melroy is leaving the agency to take a job in the private sector. Melroy, a retired Air Force colonel, is a veteran of three space shuttle flights and the second woman to command one.

"Pam has performed superbly as an astronaut," said Steve Lindsey, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "She has flown three highly successful space shuttle missions and contributed in several other technical areas during her 14 years of service with the Astronaut Office. Her leadership as the commander of the STS-120 space shuttle mission paved the way to six-person crew operations on the International Space Station."

"As a classmate and a friend, I feel privileged to have served beside her. We wish Pam the best of luck in her new career -- she will be missed," Lindsey added.

Melroy flew on shuttle missions STS-92 in 2000, STS-112 in 2002 and STS-120 in 2007. She served as pilot on her first two flights and commanded the third. She has logged more than 924 hours in space, contributing to the construction of the space station on every mission. She was selected as an astronaut in December 1994.

Melroy made history with Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson in October 2007 when the hatches between the space shuttle and space station were opened. They became the first female spacecraft commanders to lead space shuttle and space station missions concurrently.

For Melroy's complete biography, visit:

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STS-127 MCC Status Report #18 0 comments
STS-127 Mission Specialists Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn will tackle a challenging 7 ½-hour spacewalk today to finish swapping out batteries for the International Space Station’s oldest set of solar arrays. The joint crew of Endeavour and the station was awakened at 4:03 a.m. CDT by Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” offered up for lead spacewalker Dave Wolf.

Endeavour’s spacewalkers are scheduled to float out the Quest airlock hatch at 8:58 a.m. Their outing will be devoted entirely to finishing the work started on the third spacewalk of the mission – removing old batteries from the Port 6 truss structure and transferring new batteries from the Integrated Cargo Carrier on the end of the station’s robotic arm to the empty sockets on the truss.

Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialist Julie Payette will position Canadarm2 near the truss for the spacewalk and, once all of the battery swaps are complete, maneuver the carrier back into Endeavour’s cargo bay. That maneuver will require them to hand off the carrier to the shuttle’s arm for re-berthing by Hurley and Commander Mark Polansky.

The Progress 34 cargo ship launched on time today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:56:56 a.m. (4:56:56 p.m. Baikonur time) to begin its five-day journey to the International Space Station. Less than 9 minutes later, the unpiloted cargo ship reached orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas. Two rendezvous burns of the Progress engines are scheduled today and another burn is planned for tomorrow to fine-tune the Progress’ path to the station.

At the time of launch, the shuttle/station complex and its 13 crew members were flying 218 statute miles over Sapporo, Japan.

Carrying 2 ½ tons of food, fuel and supplies for the station crew, the Progress is scheduled to dock to the aft port of the Zvezda service module at 6:16 a.m. Wednesday, July 29, one day after Endeavour undocks from the outpost.

Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Mike Barratt, Tim Kopra, Roman Romanenko, Bob Thirsk and Frank De Winne will continue to maintain station systems and work with onboard experiments.

The station crew is scheduled to begin its sleep period about 7 p.m., and the shuttle crew at 7:30 p.m.

The next mission status report will be issued at the conclusion of the spacewalk, or earlier if warranted.

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NASA Presents Coins Flown in Space to National Federation of the Blind 0 comments
During a ceremony July 31, senior NASA officials will present the National Federation of the Blind with two Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollars that flew on space shuttle Atlantis's mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in May 2009. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, will accept the coins on behalf of the organization. The ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. EDT at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington.

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birthday, Congress authorized the minting of the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar. NASA flew one proof and one uncirculated commemorative coin on the recent Hubble servicing mission. The coins are the first to feature tactile, readable Braille, which enables the blind to read and learn, just as Hubble allows people to learn about the universe.

NASA astronaut Gregory H. Johnson will speak at the celebratory closing of the National Federation of the Blind's 2009 Youth Slam. At the Youth Slam, 200 blind high school students from across the nation will participate in five days of activities to help encourage the blind youth of America to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Reporters planning on attending the event must contact Chris Danielsen at 410-659-9314, ext. 2330, or by 5 p.m. on July 30.

NASA and the National Federation of the Blind have been collaborating for more than five years to inspire and engage blind students to lend their unique talents to disciplines critical to the nation's engineering, scientific and technical missions.

NASA Television will broadcast a Video File of the event.

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

For more information about NASA's education programs, visit:

For more information about the Hubble Space Telescope, visit:

For more information about the National Federation of the Blind, visit:

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Hubble Space Telescope Captures Rare Jupiter Collision 0 comments
This Hubble picture, taken on July 23, by the new Wide Field Camera 3, is the sharpest visible-light picture taken of the atmospheric debris from a comet or asteroid that collided with Jupiter on July 19. This is Hubble's first science observation following its repair and upgrade in May. The size of the impactor is estimated to be as large as several football fields.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the sharpest visible-light picture yet of atmospheric debris from an object that collided with Jupiter on July 19. NASA scientists decided to interrupt the recently refurbished observatory's checkout and calibration to take the image of a new, expanding spot on the giant planet on July 23.

Discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley, the spot was created when a small comet or asteroid plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere and disintegrated. The only other time such a feature has been seen on Jupiter was 15 years ago after the collision of fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

"Because we believe this magnitude of impact is rare, we are very fortunate to see it with Hubble," said Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Details seen in the Hubble view shows a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere."

The new Hubble images also confirm that a May servicing visit by space shuttle astronauts was a big success.

"This image of the impact on Jupiter is fantastic," said U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. "It tells us that our astronauts and the ground crew at the Goddard Space Flight Center successfully repaired the Hubble telescope. I'm so proud of them and I can't wait to see what's next from Hubble."

For the past several days, Earth-based telescopes have been trained on Jupiter. To capture the unfolding drama 360 million miles away, Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, gave observation time to a team of astronomers led by Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

"Hubble's truly exquisite imaging capability has revealed an astonishing wealth of detail in the impact site," Hammel said. "By combining these images with our ground-based data at other wavelengths, our Hubble data will allow a comprehensive understanding of exactly what is happening to the impact debris."

Simon-Miller estimated the diameter of the impacting object was the size of several football fields. The force of the explosion on Jupiter was thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded over the Siberian Tunguska River Valley in June 1908.

The image was taken with the Wide Field Camera 3. The new camera, installed by the astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis in May, is not yet fully calibrated. While it is possible to obtain celestial images, the camera's full power has yet to be seen.

"This is just one example of what Hubble's new, state-of-the-art camera can do, thanks to the STS-125 astronauts and the entire Hubble team," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "However, the best is yet to come."

To view the image and obtain more information about Jupiter's new spot, visit:

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Apollo 11 Comes Home 0 comments

The Apollo 11 crew await pickup by a helicopter from the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic lunar landing mission. The fourth man in the life raft is a United States Navy underwater demolition team swimmer. All four men are wearing biological isolation garments.

The Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin aboard splashed down at 11:49 a.m. CDT, July 24, 1969, about 812 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii and only 12 nautical miles from the USS Hornet.

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Human Space Flight Review Committee Announces Meeting Agendas 0 comments
The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee will hold public meetings July 28, 29, 30, Aug. 5 and 12. The meetings are open to news media representatives. No registration is required, but seating is limited to the location's capacity. Agenda times are approximate and subject to change.

The first meeting will be July 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT at the South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center, 2500 South Shore Blvd. in League City, Texas.

The agenda is:
10 a.m.: Committee chairman Norm Augustine opening remarks
10:30 a.m.: Mike Coats, director, NASA's Johnson Space Center
11 a.m.: Congressional perspective (presenters TBD)
Noon: Lunch break
12:30 p.m.: NASA Constellation projects managed at Johnson
1:30 p.m.: International Space Station/space shuttle subgroup (Sally Ride, moderator)
3:30 - 4: p.m.: Public comment period

The second session will be July 29 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT at the Davidson/U.S. Space and Rocket Center, 1 Tranquility Base, in Huntsville, Ala.

The agenda is:
8 a.m.: Robert Lightfoot, director, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
8:30 a.m.: Low Earth Orbit Access subgroup briefing (Bo Bejmuk, moderator)
10 a.m.: NASA Constellation projects managed at Marshall
11a.m.: Congressional perspective (presenters TBD)
Noon: Lunch break
1 p.m.: NASA Constellation projects continued
2 p.m.: Integration subgroup briefing (Lester Lyles, moderator)
3:30 - 4 p.m.: Public comment period

The third public session will be July 30 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront Grand Ballroom, 1550 North Atlantic Ave., in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

The agenda is:
8 a.m.: Bob Cabana, director, NASA's Kennedy Space Center
8:30 a.m.: Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit subgroup (Ed Crawley, moderator)
11 a.m.: Congressional perspective (presenters TBD)
Noon: Lunch break
1 p.m.: NASA Constellation projects managed at Kennedy
2:30 p.m.: Public comment period
3 - 4 p.m.: Committee public deliberations

Following each meeting, committee chairman Norman Augustine will be available to answer questions from reporters. NASA Television will carry the meetings and news conferences live on the agency's media channel. The events also can be viewed on NASA's Web site.

The committee is planning two public meetings in Washington on Aug. 5 and 12. The Aug. 5 meeting is planned from 8 a.m. to noon EDT at the Carnegie Institution for Science, 1530 P St. NW.

The Aug. 12 session is expected to be the committee's final public meeting. It is planned from 1 to 5 p.m. EDT at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Agendas will be released when finalized.

To watch the events online, select the NASA TV media channel at:

Viewers also can watch and participate in the meeting online via Ustream at:

For committee information, agendas, charter, biographies and schedules, visit:

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Giants Among Us- Apollo 11 astronauts 0 comments

Apollo 11 astronauts, from left, Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stand in recognition of astronaut John Glenn during the U.S House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology tribute to the Apollo 11 astronauts at the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, July 21, 2009, in Washington. The committee presented the three Apollo 11 astronauts with a framed copy of House Resolution 607 honoring their achievement, and announced passage of legislation awarding them and John Glenn the Congressional Gold Medal.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

New Cargo Craft Heads Toward Station

Friday, July 24, 2009 0 comments

Image Above: A moon rock brought to Earth by Apollo 11, humans' first landing on the moon in July 1969, floats aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

The Progress 34 cargo ship launched on time today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:56:56 a.m. EDT (4:56:56 p.m. Baikonur time) to begin its five-day journey to the International Space Station. Less than 9 minutes later, the unpiloted cargo ship reached orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas. Two rendezvous burns of the Progress' engines are scheduled today and another burn is planned for tomorrow to fine-tune the Progress’ path to the ISS.

At the time of launch, the shuttle/station complex and its 13 crew members were flying 218 statute miles over Sapporo, Japan.

Carrying 2 ½ tons of food, fuel and supplies for the station crew, the Progress is scheduled to dock to the aft port of the Zvezda service module on Wednesday, July 29 at 6:16 a.m., one day after Endeavour undocks from the outpost.

Space shuttle Endeavour and its STS-127 crew are currently at the International Space Station conducting joint operations with the Expedition 20 crew.

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Battery Work During Fourth Spacewalk 0 comments
The joint crew of Endeavour and the station was awakened at 5:03 a.m. EDT by Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” played for lead spacewalker Dave Wolf.

Spacewalkers Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn will head outside at 9:58 a.m. to swap out all four of the remaining P6 truss batteries, a task that is expected to take about seven and a half hours. Two of the six original P6 batteries were changed out during the mission’s third spacewalk on Wednesday, but work was stopped when carbon dioxide levels in Cassidy’s suit began to rise, unexpectedly.

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NASA DC-8 and the National Suborbital Education and Research Center 0 comments
NASA and the University of North Dakota have teamed to create the National Suborbital Education and Research Center (NSERC) located at the University of North Dakota. The NSERC’s purpose is to promote and support science operations of the Agency’s DC-8 Airborne Science Laboratory aircraft, making it available to Earth Science research organizations and providing the interface for this community. Included in this community are NASA, federal, state, academic, and foreign investigators.

Data gathered by the DC-8 at flight altitude and by remote sensing have been used for scientific studies in archeology, ecology, geography, hydrology, meteorology, oceanography, volcanology, atmospheric chemistry, soil science, and biology.

Those interested in the DC-8’s capability to accommodate instruments are encouraged to consult the ‘DC-8 Experimenter’s Handbook (see below). The DC-8 is one of several aircraft based at the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility that support NASA’s Airborne Science Program.

National Suborbital Education and Research Center (NSERC)

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NASA's Spitzer Images Out-of-This-World Galaxy 0 comments

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has imaged a wild creature of the dark -- a coiled galaxy with an eye-like object at its center.

The galaxy, called NGC 1097, is located 50 million light-years away. It is spiral-shaped like our Milky Way, with long, spindly arms of stars. The "eye" at the center of the galaxy is actually a monstrous black hole surrounded by a ring of stars. In this color-coded infrared view from Spitzer, the area around the invisible black hole is blue and the ring of stars, white.

The black hole is huge, about 100 million times the mass of our sun, and is feeding off gas and dust along with the occasional unlucky star. Our Milky Way's central black hole is tame by comparison, with a mass of a few million suns.

"The fate of this black hole and others like it is an active area of research," said George Helou, deputy director of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "Some theories hold that the black hole might quiet down and eventually enter a more dormant state like our Milky Way black hole."

The ring around the black hole is bursting with new star formation. An inflow of material toward the central bar of the galaxy is causing the ring to light up with new stars.

"The ring itself is a fascinating object worthy of study because it is forming stars at a very high rate," said Kartik Sheth, an astronomer at NASA's Spitzer Science Center. Sheth and Helou are part of a team that made the observations.

In the Spitzer image, infrared light with shorter wavelengths is blue, while longer-wavelength light is red. The galaxy's red spiral arms and the swirling spokes seen between the arms show dust heated by newborn stars. Older populations of stars scattered through the galaxy are blue. The fuzzy blue dot to the left, which appears to fit snuggly between the arms, is a companion galaxy.

"The companion galaxy that looks as if it's playing peek-a-boo through the larger galaxy could have plunged through, poking a hole," said Helou. "But we don't know this for sure. It could also just happen to be aligned with a gap in the arms."

Other dots in the picture are either nearby stars in our galaxy, or distant galaxies.

The galaxy's red spiral arms and the swirling spokes seen between the arms show dust heated by newborn stars. Older populations of stars scattered through the galaxy are blue. The fuzzy blue dot to the left, which appears to fit snuggly between the arms, is a companion galaxy. Astronomers say it is unclear whether this companion poked a hole in the larger galaxy, or just happens to be aligned in a gap in the arms.

Infrared light with a wavelength of 3.6 microns is blue; 4.5-micron light is green and 8.0-micron light is red. The contribution from starlight measured at 3.6 microns has been subtracted from the 8.0-micron image to enhance the visibility of the dust features.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. Spitzer's infrared array camera, which made the observations, was built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The instrument's principal investigator is Giovanni Fazio of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

For more information about Spitzer, visit .

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NASA Celebrates Chandra's 10th Anniversary 0 comments
Ten years ago, on July 23, 1999, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched aboard the space shuttle Columbia and deployed into orbit. Chandra has doubled its original five-year mission, ushering in an unprecedented decade of discovery for the high-energy universe.

With its unrivaled ability to create high-resolution X- ray images, Chandra has enabled astronomers to investigate phenomena as diverse as comets, black holes, dark matter and dark energy.

"Chandra's discoveries are truly astonishing and have made dramatic changes to our understanding of the universe and its constituents," said Martin Weisskopf, Chandra project scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The science that has been generated by Chandra -- both on its own and in conjunction with other telescopes in space and on the ground -- has had a widespread, transformative impact on 21st century astrophysics. Chandra has provided the strongest evidence yet that dark matter must exist. It has independently confirmed the existence of dark energy and made spectacular images of titanic explosions produced by matter swirling toward supermassive black holes.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Chandra, three new versions of classic Chandra images will be released during the next three months. These images, the first of which is available Thursday, provide new data and a more complete view of objects that Chandra observed in earlier stages of its mission. The image being released today is of E0102-72, the spectacular remains of an exploded star.

"The Great Observatories program -- of which Chandra is a major part -- shows how astronomers need as many tools as possible to tackle the big questions out there," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NASA's other "Great Observatories" are the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory and Spitzer Space Telescope.

The next image will be released in August to highlight the anniversary of when Chandra opened up for the first time and gathered light on its detectors. The third image will be released during "Chandra's First Decade of Discovery" symposium in Boston, which begins Sept. 22.

"I am extremely proud of the tremendous team of people who worked so hard to make Chandra a success," said Harvey Tananbaum, director of the Chandra X-ray Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. "It has taken partners at NASA, industry and academia to make Chandra the crown jewel of high-energy astrophysics."

Tananbaum and Nobel Prize winner Riccardo Giacconi originally proposed Chandra to NASA in 1976. Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra is in a highly elliptical orbit that takes it almost one third of the way to the moon, and was not designed to be serviced after it was deployed.

Marshall manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center.

A list of Chandra's major scientific highlights is available at:

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