NASA Podcasts

This Week @ NASA, January 14, 2011
› Listen Now
› View Now
STS-133 is now targeted to begin on February 24 at 4:50 p.m.

Shuttle program managers believe that, by then, modifications to support beams on Discovery's external tank will have been completed. Cracks in these support beams, called stringers, were discovered after STS-133's launch attempt on November 5. A combination of material and assembly stresses have since been identified as their root cause.

John Shannon: "The engineering teams at Kennedy, at Marshall, at JSC, the point contractor on the tank, Lockheed Martin, they're all in synch with our fix; they agree that we're on the road to bringing this tank to 100!"

The six-member crew of STS-133, the next-to-last scheduled space shuttle mission, will deliver logistics and supplies to the International Space Station, as well as perform maintenance and outfitting of the orbiting complex.

Steve Lindsey: "Our primary objective, the way I describe it for people in a nutshell is to, basically leave space station in the best possible shape for the next era which is the era when we're no longer flying space shuttles and have huge amounts of up-mass we can take up to space station."

Translator: "Good Day, Prime Minister Putin. The crew of Expedition 26 welcomes you to the ISS."

The Expedition 26 crew aboard the International Space Station received a call from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Translator: "I would like to greet everybody at Mission Control."

Putin offered his condolences to ISS Commander Scott Kelly for the tragedy in Tucson and assured Kelly "all Russians were touched by the news."

Translator: "We express our deepest condolences to your family and to all those who were touched by this terrible crime."

Putin also passed along his best wishes and prayers to Kelly's brother, Mark, and for the recovery of Mark's wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Scott Kelly: "Thank you very much. Of course, I will pass on your words to my brother."

Putin then invited the crew to Moscow in April for a series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961. The prime minister chairs the national commission helping organize the celebration.

Speaker: "From anywhere where water is involved."

As in past years, NASA research findings took front and center at the 2011 meeting of the American Astronomical Society, held this year in Seattle.

Among them: confirmation that NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered its first rocky planet. Named Kepler-10b, it's 1-point-4 times the size of Earth, and is the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system.

Natalie Batalha: "Kepler 10B is orbiting a star very much like our own Sun, but with an age longer than 8 million years, at a distance of 560 light years, and we know that this is one of the best known stars harboring an exoplanet that exists to date."

The discovery of this so-called exoplanet is based on more than eight months of data collected by Kepler from May 2009 to early January 2010. Using Kepler's detection of changes in a star's brightness as a planet orbits in front of it, astronomers can measure the distance between the planet and the star. Since Kepler 10-b orbits its star in less than a day, it's deemed too hot to support life as we know it.

Dr. John Grant: "There's been some very exciting results related to Mars research in the past ten years or so."

A Mars Exploration Program event was held at the Moving Beyond Earth Gallery at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington. Entitled "From Follow the Water' to 'Seeking Signs of Life,' prominent scientists from NASA, the European Space Agency and academia took part in a discussion that highlighted milestones achieved in the exploration of the Red Planet.

Doug McCuistion: "Following the water; we've been trying to understand the history of water on this planet and why our sister planet looks so different today than the earth looks. We've learned a lot about that, but we're ready to move to a new phase about whether life ever existed on that planet or does it exist today."

Presenters also talked about upcoming missions, such as the Mars Science Laboratory slated to launch this year, and new discoveries anticipated in the years ahead.

Airplane passengers and people living near airports are all too familiar with the noise associated with air travel. After years of work and research with partners in industry and academia, NASA has developed a noise-reduction technology called chevrons. Chevrons, the sawtooth pattern on this jet engine's trailing edges, can significantly reduce the noise caused by commercial jet airplanes. One commercial airliner with chevron-equipped jet engines is the new Boeing 787.

James Bridges: "The chevrons are the sawtoothed patterns that you can see, and that is a change from just the regular smooth round lip that most nozzles have. That change, modifies how the flow downstream of the engine makes it so that it doesn't make as much noise, which is obviously what we all want, the aircraft to be quieter."

NASA is also exploring noise-reduction technology for helicopters, notoriously loud due to the air turbulence kicked up by their spinning blades. Like chevron technology for jets, finding a solution for helicopter noise will be one of trial and error.

James Bridges: "The development of Chevrons is one good example of the kind of work it requires in this country to bring ideas from fundamentals all the way to product."

A display of chevrons and how they work is on public display in the lobby of NASA Headquarters in Washington.

With the construction of the Langley Research Center's Hydro Impact Basin complete, one million gallons of water were pumped into the new, 115-foot long, 20-foot deep and 90-foot wide facility. This time-lapse video documents the two-day process of filling the Gantry. The basin is located at the west end of Langley's historic Landing and Impact Research Facility. Nicknamed the Gantry, it's where Neil Armstrong once trained for the Apollo 11 lunar mission. The Gantry measures and controls the orientation of a test vehicle or equipment while obtaining information on its impact velocity. Data obtained here will be used to validate and certify space vehicles – such as the Orion capsule – for water landings.


Teen-agers around the world are ramping up their engineering skills with the start of the 2011 FIRST Robotics competition. High school teams from southeast Virginia filed into the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton January 8 to learn this year's challenge. They watched as speakers, and a live broadcast on NASA TV, unveiled the requirements for Logomotion: build a robot and mini-bot that can move and climb.

Each team, including Team 122 – the NASA Knights mentored by engineers at the nearby Langley Research Center, receive the same kit of parts: a battery, nuts, bolts, and cables –everything the would need to build their creations, except imagination and skill.

2-thousand-73 teams in nine countries will design solutions for this 20th annual FIRST Robotics competition.

The first step: transporting the kit to its home turf, New Horizons Regional Education Center. More than 50 team members and mentors, representing a number of local schools and home schools, waited there ready to get to work on the new game.

Jordan Marlins: "This one I think is going to be a little challenging. I don't know if it's maybe more challenging. Some of the older ones were pretty complicated, but I think we should be able to make this one pretty well."

The ultimate goal: to design robots that will get the team to the finals in St. Louis in April.

Marissa Arager: "I really like the competition and everyone just working together and when you go to the regionals and the championships everyone's just so nice and they're easy to work with and they're a lot of fun."

Team members will be spending a lot of time together --- they have only six weeks to complete their robots.

NASA sponsors more than 275 FIRST Robotics teams. We'll follow the NASA Knights of Langley to update their progress.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: Stardust Capsule Return, January 15, 2006
Five years ago, on January 15, 2005, the return capsule from NASA's Stardust spacecraft completed its 2.9-billion-mile round-trip journey to collect dust samples from the tail of comet Wild 2. Research done on these particles gathered in the capsule's aerogel collector revealed some surprises, including the samples' closer resemblance to a meteorite from an asteroid than that of an ancient comet. Stardust is the first spacecraft to safely make it back to Earth with cometary dust particles in tow.

And that's This Week @NASA.

For more on these and other stories, log onto
› Listen Now
› View Now