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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, March 19
03.19.10
 
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This Week At NASA...

DOWN TO EARTH - JSC

Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Max Suraev made a safe return to Earth in a Soyuz spacecraft which landed on the remote steppes of Kazakhstan.

Russian recovery teams worked in frigid temperatures to help the crew exit the spacecraft and begin their readjustment to Earth’s gravity.

As members of the Expedition 21 and 22 crews, Williams and Suraev spent 169 days in space, presiding over the completion of the assembly of the U.S. segment of the complex. Williams has now logged 362 days in space, placing him fourth on the all-time U.S. list of space travelers, led by Peggy Whitson with 377 days in space.

Remaining on the station is Expedition 23 Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers Soichi Noguchi and T.J. Creamer. Three Expedition 23 flight engineers, Alexander Skvortsov, Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mikhail Kornienko, are scheduled to join them early next month.

STUDENT CUBESATS

Students from universities in California and Kentucky built satellites that will fly on a NASA suborbital sounding rocket. The satellites are designed to gather data for possible use in the development of small Earth-orbiting space vehicles.

The students, from a consortium of Kentucky universities and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, designed then built the "cubesats" using mostly off-the-shelf components. The standard "cubesat" that’s used for space research is a 4-inch cube weighing about two pounds.

Anthony Karem: "What we're trying to do is create a mission that merges the seventeen inch ascending rocket diameter, sounding rockets at NASA Wallops with 'cubesats,' which have been flown by educational university programs for several years."

The student cubesats will fly on a rocket similar to this one from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The two spacecraft will be ejected 72 seconds into the suborbital flight at an altitude of some 77 miles. NASA is flying the cubesats as secondary experiments on the flight that’ll test improvements to its rocket's motor.

KEPLER'S FIRST ANNIVERSARY

It’s been a year since the launch of NASA's Kepler mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, to begin a continuing survey of our Milky Way galaxy for signs of Earth-size planets.

Since then, the Kepler spacecraft has helped scientists discover five planets beyond our solar system, and detect the atmosphere of another. Kepler uses a photometer containing the largest camera ever flown in space to document changes in a star's light as a planet orbiting nearby crosses in front of it. From measurements of these changes, scientists can determine whether these so-called "exoplanets" warrant focused investigation into their suitability for maintaining life forms.

Jon Jenkins: "In this past year, it’s like Kepler is a seven-course meal'; we've just served hors d'orderves. We announced our first five planets. Now, you've just got to keep your eyes peeled and ears tuned to the news because the smaller planets are going to be rolling out the pipeline. We just have to have patience to find those small planets."

The Kepler spacecraft, nicknamed "the planet-finder," will continue its scouting mission until at least 2012.

WOMEN'S SCIENCE FORUM

NASA's next space-based observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, was the featured topic at this year's Women's Science Forum hosted in Baltimore by the Space Telescope Science Institute. The event encourages middle and high school girls to further their education in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. 46 public, private, and homeschooled students from the area participated in activities and demonstrations centered on the JWST. Planned for launch in 2014, JWST's instruments will work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Speakers included former astronaut and Institute Deputy Director John Grunsfeld and JWST scientist Tracy Beck.

3-D EXPLORATION

Informing youngsters and the general public about NASA's space communication systems is the goal of a new interactive 3-D computer simulation available on NASA’s Website.

The SCaN sim, for Space Communication and Navigation, allows virtual explorers to "flythrough" a 3-D tour of NASA’s three space communication networks and how they help scientists and engineers "talk" with the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and other spacecraft.

Barbara Adde: "Space communication and navigation sends all of the information that a spacecraft needs from the earth to the spacecraft in order to operate, and then transfers the data the spacecraft is collecting -- whether it's the Mars Rover, or the space station, or others. It sends all that data back to earth so the scientists and engineers here on earth can use that.

Visitors can also try a variety of virtual space experiences, from docking the space shuttle at the International Space Station, to taking a virtual trip to Mars, even exploring images of star formations taken by the Hubble Space Telescope – all spacecraft that rely on SCaN for their success.

"It’s like the cell phone of space."

Check out the 3-D SCaN sim, at:

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/3d_resources/spacecomm.html

LITTLE “SHRIMP”, BIG SURPRISE

NASA scientists drilling through the thick ice of Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf last November didn't expect to see this shrimp-like thing swimming underneath. The creature, a three-inch long Lyssianasid amphipod, was captured 600 feet below the West Antarctic ice sheet by a borehole camera lowered through the ice. This was the view looking upwards. The critter was about 12-and-a-half miles away from open water. Scientists say this is the first time such a sophisticated life form was found in this type of sub-glacial environment.
And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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