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December 6, 2013
This Week @ NASA, December 6, 2013

“Here’s some of the stories trending This Week at NASA!”

ISON update

With a more than ninety percent probability that Comet ISON broke apart from a major heating event on its approach to the sun Thanksgiving Day, the search is on for what’s left of it. NASA will use a variety of space and Earth based telescopes to monitor the comet over the next several weeks, before the fate of ISON can be confirmed.

Orion’s heat shield

The Orion spacecraft’s protective heat shield was transported from New England where it’s been under construction to Kennedy Space Center – in preparation for Orion's first test mission in September of next year. The heat shield will protect Orion from temperatures as high as five-thousand degrees Fahrenheit as it reenters our atmosphere at 22-thousand miles an hour from a high altitude orbit. It’s the world's largest ablative heat shield for a spacecraft and is critical for crew safety.

Blue Origin milestone

Blue Origin recently test fired a new hydrogen and oxygen-fueled rocket engine at the company's West Texas facility. The test of the BE-3 engine simulated various stages of flight – including launch, final burn and landing. In partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Blue Origin is developing vehicles that could provide transportation services for humans and cargo to low-Earth orbit.

Rover Challenge

NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race is now the Human Exploration Rover Challenge. This new engineering design challenge focuses on the agency’s current plans to explore not just the moon – but planets, asteroids and other bodies in the solar system … encouraging students to design, construct and test technologies for mobility in these environments. The event takes place April 10-12, next year at the U. S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. More details are at www.nasa.gov/roverchallenge.

Stone awarded medal

NASA scientist Ed Stone – the principal investigator of the Voyager mission stopped by the Steven Colbert show to discuss the mission – which has seen Voyager 1 surprise the world by becoming the first human-made object to reach interstellar space. But Colbert teamed up with NASA to give Stone another surprise. The former Jet Propulsion Laboratory directory was presented the NASA Distinguished Service Medal – the agency’s highest award for those who have personally made a contribution representing substantial progress to the NASA mission.

Celebrating Centaur

NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot and others in the aerospace community attended a celebration at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Science Center to mark the 50th anniversary of the first successful Atlas-Centaur launch back on November 27, 1963. The Centaur upper stage - the world’s first liquid hydrogen-fueled rocket was developed at Glenn Research Center -- then known as Lewis. The Centaur has sent spacecraft to every planet in the solar system. Voyager and most recently MAVEN were launched by a Centaur.

And that’s what’s up … This Week at NASA.

For more on these and other stories follow us on social media and visit www.nasa.gov/twan

Page Last Updated: December 6th, 2013
Page Editor: Gary Daines