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Transcript: This Week at NASA, Week Ending October 7, 2005

(launch nat)

After a two-day trip that began with their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur, Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Valery Tokarev and Spaceflight Participant Greg Olsen docked their Soyuz spacecraft to the international space station October 3rd, at 1:27 a.m. EDT.

(nat hatch opening)

They were welcomed to the station by the Expedition 11 crew members about three hours later. McArthur and Tokarev will spend six months aboard the international space station. Olsen will spend eight days on the station, and is scheduled to return to Earth with the Expedition 11 crew the night of October 10th.


A Proton-Exchange-Membrane Fuel Cell engineering model power plant is undergoing performance testing at NASA's Glenn Research Center. The PEMFC is an electrochemical power generation device that converts hydrogen and oxygen reactants into electrical power, heat and water. Fuel cells are an attractive power source for long-duration human space missions because the hydrogen and oxygen can be shared with population systems, and the water can be shared with crew life-support systems.


Researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center are developing cockpit displays that would virtually eliminate the deadliest aviation accidents. Synthetic Vision Systems, or SVS, would give pilots a clear electronic, 3D view of what's outside, no matter what the weather. SVS combines on-board terrain information, Global Positioning System and advanced sensors to draw a "picture" of topography and the airport surface.


Using satellite data dating back to 1978, researchers from NASA, the National Snow and Ice Data Center and others have detected a significant loss in Artic sea ice this year. On Sept. 21st, Arctic sea ice covered 2-point-oh-5 million square miles, the lowest extent yet recorded. This brings the estimated decline in Artic sea ice to 8-point-5 percent per decade over the 27 years of recorded satellite data.


Scientists have finished collecting data that will put Albert Einstein’s nearly 90 year-old Theory of Relativity, to a different kind of experimental test. NASA's Gravity Probe B satellite has been orbiting the Earth for more than a year, using four spherical gyroscopes to precisely measure two extraordinary effects predicted by Einstein's theory. One is the geodetic effect, the amount by which the Earth warps the local spacetime in which it resides. The other is frame-dragging, the amount by which the rotating Earth drags local spacetime around with it. Data has now been downloaded from the spacecraft and relayed to computers in the GP-B Mission Operations Center at Stanford University. Analyzing and validating the data is expected to take about a year.


September 24th and 26th, the Cassini satellite performed back-to-back flybys of Saturn's moons Tethys and Hyperion, coming closer to each than ever before. Tethys has a scarred, ancient surface, while Hyperion is a strange, spongy-looking body with dark-floored craters that speckle its surface.


They’re called gamma-ray bursts – powerful, split-second flashes of light brighter than a billion suns, yet lasting only a few milliseconds. Up until now, they have been simply too fast to catch to determine their origins. Now, scientists have solved the 35-year-old mystery with unprecedented coordinated observations from a multitude of ground-based telescopes and NASA satellites. They have determined that the flashes come from violent collisions, either between a black hole and a neutron star or between two neutron stars. Either way, the smash up creates a new black hole.


At Hawaii’s Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, NASA engineers have successfully suppressed the blinding light of three stars, including the well-known Vega, by 100 times. This breakthrough will enable scientists to detect the dim dust disks around stars, where earth-like planets might be forming


Workers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center gathered as the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s electrical system was partially powered up in the Orbiter Processing Facility. Full power-up is scheduled for later this month. Since December 2003, Endeavour has undergone more than 120 modifications.


NASA Ames Research Center has announced a collaborative partnership with Internet search engine, Google. The Memorandum of Understanding between the two, Mountain View, California-based organizations includes large-scale data management, encouragement of the entrepreneurial space industry, and Google's plan to develop up to 1 million square feet within the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field.


NASA Astronaut Carl Walz, a Cleveland native and lifelong Tribe fan, highlighted NASA Night at Jacobs Field September 29th by presenting manager Eric Wedge with a Cleveland Indians shirt he wore on board the international space station. Walz holds the U.S. Space endurance record with an unprecedented 190 consecutive days in space.