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Michael Mewhinney
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Dec. 17, 2007
Fires, Moon, High Tech Collaborations Highlight 2007
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MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. – Devastating wildfires, moon research and high tech Silicon Valley collaborations were top stories for NASA Ames Research Center in 2007.

California Wildfires:
NASA helped firefighters battle some of the worst wildfires in the state’s history. In September, NASA flew the remotely piloted Ikhana airplane and its instruments that can see through smoke over the Lick wildfire near Gilroy, Calif. NASA Ames developed the Autonomous Modular Sensor-Wildfire instrument to look through the smoke to see hot spots, flames and temperature differences. The data is then overlaid on maps and made available to fire incident commanders to assist them in allocating resources. In October, NASA pilots again flew the Ikhana over numerous raging wildfires in Southern California. The flights were part of the Western States Fire Mission that demonstrated improved wildfire imaging and mapping capabilities of the sophisticated sensor and real-time data communications equipment developed at NASA Ames. To view and download images and for additional information, visit:

Lunar Exploration:
NASA announced that the new Lunar Science Institute would be based at NASA Ames, ensuring that the center will play a key role in future exploration as NASA returns to the moon and later travels to Mars. Next year, NASA Ames is going to have a mission that will slam into the moon. The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission will provide scientists with a wealth of data that will tell us a great deal about the lunar surface and help prepare NASA to put boots on the moon by the end of the next decade. As evidence of the significant interest in the moon by the American public, a ‘Return to the Moon Family Night” held at NASA Ames drew more than 6,000 local residents.

For more information and images, visit:

NASA Ames forged key partnerships with some of the best and brightest companies on the planet, including its Silicon Valley neighbors, Google and Microsoft. Under an agreement with Google, NASA Ames is helping make NASA’s vast archives of images and planetary data more accessible to the public. Ames is working with Google to develop Google Moon so that that everyone can take a virtual trip to the lunar surface. New higher resolution lunar imagery and maps that include NASA multi-media content are available on the Google Moon Web site.

NASA Ames also collaborated with Microsoft to develop Photosynth, a new immersive imaging technology that enables viewers to see detailed images of NASA. In August 2007, NASA and Microsoft released an interactive, 3-D photographic collection of the space shuttle Endeavour preparing for a mission to the International Space Station. The software uses photographs from standard digital cameras to construct a 3-D view that can be navigated and explored online. The software combines hundreds or thousands of regular digital photos of a scene to present a detailed 3-D model of a subject, giving viewers the sensation of smoothly gliding around the scene from every angle. A collection can be constructed using photos from a single source or multiple sources.

The NASA images can be viewed at Microsoft's Live Labs at:

For more information on Google Moon, visit:

For more information on Google Earth, visit:

NASA Ames continues to play a major role to support the space shuttle program with its work in thermal protection systems and the heat shields that protect the space shuttle during its fiery re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

This year, NASA Ames developed a new space shuttle tile inspection method using wireless scanners to replace manual inspection. NASA first used the new method in August 2007 to look for cracks and other imperfections in some of the 24,000 tiles that cover space shuttle Endeavour. In the past, workers at NASA Kennedy Space Center, Fla., visually analyzed tiles and measured dings and cracks with small hand-held scales. Each scanner weighs approximately 2.9 pounds and is about the size and shape of a small teapot. Technicians place the machine on the tile's flaw to scan it. In about three seconds, the data are computerized and archived.

Engineers can scrutinize computerized 3-D pictures of the flaws. The images show the length, width and depth of the flaws on the surface of the tiles. Ames engineers developing a heat shield system for NASA's new spaceship Orion already are using a larger, desktop version of the scanner to study heat shield samples tested at Ames.

For high-resolution images of the scanner, visit:

The Year Ahead:
Next year promises to be even more exciting for NASA Ames. NASA will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. In the fall, Ames will launch the LCROSS on its mission to the moon in search of water ice at one of the lunar poles.

In 2009, the Kepler mission will begin its search for habitable planets. Kepler is NASA's first mission capable of finding Earth-size and smaller planets. The Kepler mission will monitor the brightness of stars to find planets that pass in front of them during the planets' orbits.

For more information about NASA Ames, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:


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