NASA Podcasts

NASA TV's This Week @NASA, May 29
05.22.09
 
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This Week At NASA...

SPIRIT’S SANDY STATUS – JPL

In a testing facility at the Jet Propulsion Lab, NASA's rover project team continues to develop the best maneuvers for getting the Spirit rover rolling again

John Callas: "We have a test rover which is identical to Spirit and Opportunity here in a lab at JPL; it's in a sand box. What we're going to do is landscape the sand box here at JPL to be just like the location where Spirit is on Mars. We're going to imbed the engineering rover in the soil the same way Spirit is imbedded and we’re going to try to match the soil to what we think the soil is like on Mars and then practice getting out."

Spirit has been stuck in soft Martian soil for more than three weeks. Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Lab had decided to suspend driving the vehicle after its left middle wheel stalled and other wheels had dug themselves in about hub-deep.

The rover's team also fears its belly may have been lowered enough to get hung up on a small mound of rocks. Engineers are using Spirit's twin, Opportunity, to see whether the microscopic imager camera mounted on the end of each rover's arm could inspect under the vehicle and help provide a solution. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is also helping by relaying imaging data taken by Spirit of the soil and its surroundings. Both rovers have been exploring the Red Planet for almost 5-and-a-half years.

John Callas: "The good news is that Opportunity has been driving and driving towards the south so then it will eventually turn toward the east. It recently passed ten miles of odometry which is an important milestone."

GOOD VIBRATIONS – DFRC

Engineers at the Dryden Flight Research Center have completed acoustic tests on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle's test module. Conducted in the weight and balance hangar at Edwards Air Force Base, the high-decibel testing generates mathematical models of how sound vibrations affect the structural integrity of the capsule, as well as its internal electronics. The sound testing reached 135 decibels: louder than a rock concert and equivalent to what you'd hear standing 100 feet from a jet engine at full throttle. The module will be used in an Orion launch pad abort systems test later this year.

ASTEROIDS ACCELERATED LIFE? - HQ

A massive asteroid bombardment nearly 4 billion years ago may have actually boosted life on Earth. A NASA-funded study by the University of Colorado indicates that during this cataclysmic, multi-million year event called the Late Heavy Bombardment, or LHB, the asteroids, some the size of Kansas, might have generated enough heat to sterilize Earth's surface. But the study's authors believe that microbes living underground and underwater almost certainly would have survived. These relatively "meek" microbes would then have emerged from their subsurface existence to inherit the Earth's land and oceans

Dr. Michael: "No matter how large an asteroid that hits the earth is, unless it's the size of say Mars, something as big as Kansas even, will not destroy all life on earth. Now the life that remains might well be bacteria, nothing that you or I would recognize as kin, but there will be life on earth. It says something about how robust life on earth is against these cosmic catastrophes."

TWO IN A ROW! - LaRC

NASA's Aviation Safety Program is among the winners of the prestigious Robert J. Collier Trophy. The Commercial Aviation Safety Team, CAST, an interagency consortium of which NASA is a member, was recognized by the National Aeronautics Association for its work in commercial aviation safety. Researchers at four NASA Centers -- Langley, Ames, Dryden and Glenn -- contribute to the Agency's Aviation Safety Program that develops advanced, affordable technologies to make flying safer. This is the second year in a row that a NASA team is sharing this award.

Doug Rohn: "The accident rate has always been low. Aviation is a safe form of transportation but to make it even lower that's quite an accomplishment."

Statistics show that 2008 was the safest year yet for commercial aviation.

CURIOSITY - HQ

Clara Ma Sot: "I heard my mom saying, well that’s wonderful, and she was really excited."

And we have a winner! 12-year-old Clara Ma of Lenexa, Kansas is the designated champion of the rover-naming contest. Her entry, "Curiosity," was selected from 9,000 names sent via the Internet during a nationwide student contest and will now be the official moniker of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory.

Clara Ma: "I chose that name because I was really curious about space and our planets and our solar system, and I wanted to learn more about it."

NASA selected the winner based on the name preferences of the Mars Science Project leaders and the quality of student essays.

Clara Ma: "Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder."

The naming contest was conducted in partnership with Disney-Pixar's WALL-E. More than 65,000 votes were cast worldwide. Ma wins a trip to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she'll be invited to sign her name directly onto the rover as its being assembled.

The Mars Science Laboratory is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2011 and will be larger and more capable than any craft previously sent to land on the Red Planet.

Clara Ma: "We will never know everything there is to know, but with our burning Curiosity we have learned so much."

And that's This Week At NASA!

For more on these and other stories, log onto : www.nasa.gov
 
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