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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, September 25
09.25.09
 
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This Week At NASA...

MOON WATER MOLECULES– HQ

Jim Green: "What we’re going to talk about today is truly a major advancement in our knowledge of the water content on the surface of the moon."

The polar caps of the moon contain more water molecules than scientists had first believed. Researchers confirmed this discovery by comparing data collected by NASA instruments flying aboard three separate spacecraft: the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, M-cubed aboard Chandrayaan-1; Epoxy, the spacecraft re-purposed after its role of observer in the Deep Impact mission of 2005; and the VIMS instrument on Cassini.

Carle Pieters: "This is not what any of us expected a decade ago, but wide spread water has been detected on the surface of the moon."

Also found in the lunar soil was "hydroxyl," a molecule consisting of one oxygen and one hydrogen atom.

Roger Clarke: "This was thought to be impossible, to have water on the surface of the moon in hot sunlight, especially at the equator let alone the higher latitudes."

Water on the moon doesn’t mean lakes, or even puddles, but rather molecules of H20 and hydroxyl interacting with rock and dust in the top millimeters of the moon's surface. In fact, a thousand lbs of lunar surface material would yield only a 16 oz glass of water. But that’s still more than scientists had expected to find.

Jim Green: "Currently, there are no complete explanations for this phenomena and I’m sure that observations from Mcube and other spacecraft in the next several years will continue to bring out more questions that need to be answered about this phenomena."

BURIED ICE – JPL
New findings about frozen water on Mars come from scientists using instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – MRO. The orbiter discovered bright, subsurface ice exposed by meteorites at five new Martian crater sites. All five sites are located midway between the Martian equator and north pole, a latitude much lower than scientists predicted.

Mike Kelley: "It would be equivalent to finding permafrost in France, or Connecticut, or Washington state."

The craters ranged in depth from about 18 inches to 8 feet. The craters had not existed in earlier images of the same sites. Some of the meteorites punched right through a thin layer of bright ice to darker underlying material. Until now, findings of water on Mars have been limited to the diggings of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, the Phoenix Lander, and the Viking 1 and 2 Landers in 1976.

Mike Kelley: "What they’re showing is ice at a depth that the Viking 2 Lander could have reached with its digging arm, and had it reached that, we might have a very different Mars program today."

QUIRKY RINGS - JPL
The recent equinox on Saturn has produced features in the planet’s rings that have excited members of the Cassini mission team. For a week in August, the NASA spacecraft snapped photos of the rings when light from the sun shined exactly edge-on. It’s the extent of the ruffles, bumps, shadows and temperature changes the images show that have Cassini scientists marveling.

Curt Niebur: "We always knew that the structure in that flat two dimensional pancake, would be very complex when we got a look at it so that wasn’t too big of a surprise, but that extra third dimension, I think who took a look at it; not that it’s there but the extent of that third dimension. Sure, you could expect waves going by that would maybe add a few feet here, a few feet there, but we’re talking about structures stretching miles above the rings, and things of that magnitude were beyond our expectations."

Since Saturn’s year is about thirty times longer than ours, the ringed planet’s equinox happens approximately once every 15 Earth years. This Saturnian equinox was the first captured by the Cassini orbiter.

FINAL PASS – JHU/APL
NASA's Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft known as MESSENGER will fly by Mercury for the third and final time Sept. 29. The spacecraft will pass less than 142 miles above the planet's rocky surface. The flyby will give MESSENGER its final gravity assist to enter Mercury's orbit in 2011. That’ll begin MESSENGER’s main mission: observing Mercury from orbit for an entire year to determine its surface composition. The spacecraft already has imaged more than 90 percent of Mercury’s surface on its two previous flybys.

STS-127 TWEET-UP - HQ

"Elia Pedosa from Venezuela."

"My name is David. I’m from Pittsburgh."

"Atlanta, Georgia, My name is Britanny Neeler."

Mike Curie: "Welcome here to NASA Headquarters for TWEET-UP for Space Shuttle Mission STS-127."

Almost 200 space enthusiasts participated in a Tweetup at Headquarters featuring space shuttle Endeavour's STS-127 crew (applause). A Tweetup is an informal meeting of people who use Twitter, the social messaging medium. The 127 crew commanded by Mark Polansky participated in a special “meet and greet” session with the guests, many of whom followed Polansky’s Tweets about the mission from space.

Mark Polansky: "When I first got into this thing, believe it or not, I didn’t realize that I could read comments that you guys posted, so I just thought that you went on this thing, and I just made comments, and that somehow it got sent to you guys, and then it took me awhile and it’s like, oh wow, look, for weeks now people have been making things, and oh, I can read it; this is really cool!"

The crew also presented highlights from its successful mission to the International Space Station. Joining Polansky were STS-127 Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Chris Cassidy, Tom Marshburn, Dave Wolf, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette and Koichi Wakata, who returned on shuttle Endeavour after more than three months on the station.

CREW VISITS – SSC

Student: "Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome Commander Polansky."

The crew of STS-127 also shared highlights of their recent mission with other interested audiences. Commander Polansky and his five crew members visited the Stennis Space Center where employees watched video from the crew’s July trip to the International Space Station and thanked them for their role in providing the main engines that gave them a "beautiful ride" aboard Endeavour.

Mark Polansky: "Are they fantastic or what?"

And, at the Ann Beers Elementary School in Washington, D.C., young students got to ask questions of the astronauts.

Student: "If I want to be astronaut, what should I do now to start planning for my career?"

Chris Cassidy: "The first thing you should is focus on studying, asking questions, being inquisitive, being a great learner and just get as best of an education as you can."

And that's This Week At NASA!

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