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This Week @ NASA, August 31, 2012
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This Week at NASA…
Remembering Neil Armstrong – HQ
Armstrong on Moon: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
History will remember Neil Armstrong, foremost, as the first human to step foot on another heavenly body.
But his NASA family and many admirers worldwide will forever appreciate the self-effacing Ohioan for more than just that one, albeit world-changing, accomplishment.
Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator: “What an incredible feat it was, for the nation first of all. This was during the days of the Civil Rights Era, the war in Vietnam, you know fighting in the streets and everything and here was an American stepping foot on the moon and even then, although I did not know him his humble comments for what was being done for mankind.” (15:16:39)
John Grunsfeld, NASA Associated Administrator for Science: “It woke me up to the universe and it’s a universe where people can explore and here was a man stepping foot on the surface of the moon.”
Whether he was flying Navy fighters in Korea, the X-15 at Edwards Air Force Base in California, or training at the Johnson Space Center for the lunar landing he’d later make, Armstrong was “cool-as-a-cucumber” competent, a talent necessary in his chosen fields of work.
Armstrong’s strong and analytical intellect also served him well as NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics; after leaving the agency, as an engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati; and, later, in corporate America.
But, after Apollo 11, what many will remember most about Neil Armstrong was the grace and humility with which he conducted his life after his return to Earth and its attendant celebrations ceased.
Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator: “ I don’t think you’ll ever see a history book in which there’s not something about Neil Armstrong. I just hope we can live up to his legacy, because that’s what he would want us to do right now.”
GLENN TRIBUTE – GRC
“Neil was a great patriot, an activist in every sense of the word and a close and personal friend and he’ll be missed. Please join us in a moment of silence as we remember Neil .”
Before throwing out the first pitch at a Cleveland Indians baseball game, fellow Ohioan, astronaut and former Senator John Glenn asked for a moment of silence to mark Armstrong’s passing a day earlier.
Glenn was honored with a plaque and Indians jersey to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his orbital flight in Friendship 7 in 19-62.
VOICES FROM MARS – JPL
Voice of: Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator: "The knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet.”
A message from NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden marked the first time a recorded human voice was sent from Earth to another planet and back.
Sent to the Mars Curiosity rover and back via NASA’s Deep Space Network, Bolden’s message noted the difficulty of landing a rover on Mars. And, with members of the Curiosity team listening at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Bolden congratulated them, NASA employees, and the agency's commercial and government partners for their achievement.
“Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not too distant future,"
The next day students at an educational event listened as Curiosity played back a new song by musician will.i.am – making it the first interplanetary song in history. “Reach for the Stars”, was penned by the Black-Eyed Peas star to inspire students to dream big, strive for excellence and embrace exploration.
The students learned about Curiosity’s mission and the technology behind the song's interplanetary transmission. will.i.am's “i.am.angel Foundation”, which helps provide digital resources for students K-12, announced a $10 million classroom education initiative that will incorporate NASA content and space exploration themes in its curriculum.
Also released -- new views of the Martian landscape that show a scene of eroded knobs and gulches on a mountainside, with geological layering clearly exposed. The new views were taken by the 100-millimeter telephoto lens and the 34-milllimeter wide angle lens of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument.
Another image shows track marks from a successful drive by Curiosity to the scour mark known as Goulburn, an area of bedrock exposed by thrusters on the rover's descent stage. Researchers plan to use a neutron-shooting instrument on Curiosity to check for water molecules bound into minerals at this partially-excavated target.
CURIOUS ABOUT MARS – SSC
Among many Curiosity-related celebrations was this post-landing party at Stennis Space Center’s INFINITY Science Center, where the public learned about the rover, its mission and other NASA space exploration efforts. Visitors not only viewed the latest images sent home by Curiosity, but also collected space-related items and enjoyed hands-on activities, such as building their own Mars rovers.
SPACE WEATHER PROBES LAUNCHED – KSC
NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission is underway following an early morning launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
RBSP are twin spacecraft designed to investigate the extremes of space weather by measuring the particles, radiation and other elements found in Earth’s Van Allen Radiation belts.
Richard Fitzgerald, RBSP Project Manager: “Our fifty-nine and a half days now of commission in front of us and we’re very happy with our progress to date. JPL had their 7 minutes of terror and I had my hour and fifty-five minutes of terror tonight. I had black hair when we started. Glad to say we’re on orbit and everybody’s happy.”
Using two spacecraft to take measurements along the same path will help scientists better understand how conditions in the belts change in both space and time.
EYE ON ISAAC - JSC
As for extreme weather here on Earth, NASA satellites helped meteorologists keep a close eye on Isaac, the tropical storm that grew into a slow-moving, rain-drenching Category 1 hurricane. Aboard the International Space Station, external cameras provided multiple looks at the huge storm from its unique vantage point of 253 miles above the Earth.
Also aboard the world’s orbiting research laboratory, Expedition 32’s Suni Williams of NASA and Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency ventured outside for an 8-hour 17 minute spacewalk – the third longest in EVA history. The pair successfully rigged two power cables for the future arrival of a Russian laboratory, but were not able to replace a faulty power relay unit on the s-zero truss, after having difficulties driving the bolts to secure it. They temporarily secured the Main Bus Switching Unit to a handrail while ISS managers assess a future course of action.
Mike Suffredini, ISS Program Manager: “If we can figure out a plan that requires us to go EVA to go solve this problem in the near future, the advantage to us is saving crew time and getting ready to go outside and the crew’s immediate experience having already dealt with this for some time. This is not a configuration we want to stay in for a long period of time but even in this configuration we’re robust to many failures still.”
The spacewalkers did not attempt a third scheduled task – replacement of a camera on the Canadarm 2 robotic arm. This was the fifth for spacewalk for Williams and the first for Hoshide, who became the third Japanese astronaut to go EVA.
ORION DROP TEST – LARC
Meanwhile, the Orion spacecraft continued undergoing its series of vertical drop tests at the Langley Research Center. One week after engineers released the test article two-and-a-quarter feet, they dropped it into Langley’s Hydro Impact Basin from a height of nine feet. These tests help predict Orion’s landing loads. Orion’s Exploration Flight Test-1 is scheduled for 2014, when it will travel 15-times farther from the Earth than the International Space Station before making its water-landing return.
SHRINKING ARCTIC ICE – GSFC
Scientists say the extent of the sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean has shrunk. Researchers from NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., say the amount of Arctic ice is the smallest observed in the three decades since consistent satellite observations of the polar cap began.
The sea ice cap naturally grows during the cold Arctic winters and shrinks when temperatures climb in the spring and summer. But over the last three decades, satellites have observed a 13 percent decline per decade in the minimum summertime extent of the sea ice. The thickness of the sea ice cover also continues to decline.
WISE DISCOVERIES – JPL
NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer or WISE mission has detected a bonanza of newfound super-massive black holes and extreme dusty galaxies called hot DOGs, or Dust-Obscured Galaxies.
The millions of dusty black hole candidates and the thousand or so even dustier objects are thought to be among the brightest galaxies ever found. These extreme objects can pour out more than 100 trillion times as much light as our sun. They are so dusty, however, that they appear only in the longest wavelengths of infrared light captured by WISE.
The latest findings are helping astronomers better understand how galaxies and the enormous black holes at their centers grow and evolve together.
Young Virginia Scholars – LARC (CP) Sasha Congiu Reporting
144 rising high school seniors from across Virginia spent a week of their summer at NASA Langley Research Center planning a mission to Mars. The students took part in the Virginia Aerospace Science Technology Scholars academy, also known as VASTS, and this summer marks its fifth year anniversary.
“You guys have to deal with an atmosphere, so that means …”
With much success, the VASTS program started with just 48 scholars and has expanded to a total of 1400 scholars over the past five years. The program gives the students the opportunity to engage in an online NASA based course that uses a space exploration theme to teach science, technology, engineering and math skills.
But their learning experience doesn’t stop at the VASTS program. Many go on to intern at NASA as college students, such as Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholar, Kelly Thomas.
Because of her connections made through her VASTS experiences, Thomas has worked with projects relating to Google and the Android smartphone. She also had the opportunity to attend a luncheon with NASA Langley Center Director, Lesa Roe and Congressional representatives.
Kelly Thomas, Student: “It also gives a perspective, it outlays the need for scientists and engineers and then it also sparks an interest. Which can even spark a passion.”
Thomas is one of the many students who will excel because of the VASTS program.
WISH TO EXPLORE – JSC (CP) Rachel Kraft Reporting
More than 80 high school girls from across the country convened at the Johnson Space Center for an inside look at the life of a problem solver, engineer or scientist as part of the wish program.
LINDA SMITH, NASA AEROSPACE SCHOLARS PROGRAM MANAGER: “Wish stands for Women In Stem High school aerospace scholars … the girls are going to be working on a human space exploration mission to Mars. So they’ve been placed on teams … and each team is mentored by a NASA scientist or engineer.”
ANGELA WHITE, BETHESA-CHEVY CHASE HIGH SCHOOL, CHEVY CHASE, MD.: “There are people here who are interested in art, there are people here who are interested in biology and then there are people like me who are interested in physics and it’s interesting how we all come together and on this one mission, on this one project and we use our different backgrounds to come up with solutions.”
The participants also connected with NASA astronauts to learn what it takes to be an explorer. They heard from Shannon Walker, who lived and worked on the International Space Station in 2010, and also had a conversation via ham radio with current space station resident Joe Acaba.
NASA Anniversary: Launch of Voyager 1 September 5, 1977
Thirty-five years ago on September 5, 1977 – Voyager 1 launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral -- sixteen days after its twin, Voyager 2, to begin the pair’s planned journey of exploration to Jupiter and Saturn. Their mission, eventually extended to the outer planets and beyond, continues today. Both are providing data about the “Heliosheath,” the outermost region of our solar system, as they make their way deeper into space. Should either spacecraft be found by intelligent life, each has an audio-visual disc called a Golden Record onboard containing common imagery and sounds from Earth – including various life forms, sounds of a baby crying and music by Mozart and Chuck Berry.
And that’s This Week @NASA.
For more on these and other stories, or to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, log on to www.nasa.gov.
We’ll miss you, Commander.
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