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This Week @ NASA, January 18, 2013
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This Week at NASA…



Two Open Houses at Headquarters in Washington kicked off NASA’s participation in the city’s Presidential Inaugural activities. Public visitors to the James Webb Auditorium could hear from Administrator Charles Bolden, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and other agency officials about NASA’s current and future plans, programs and missions.

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator: “I especially hope that all the young people who are here go back home with a heightened passion and a greater understanding of the importance of science, technology, engineering and math. The STEM disciplines are not only essential to the growth of NASA; they are your gateway to the jobs of the future and the keys to American competiveness in the 21st. Century.”

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator: “NASA is on a bold course. We have all been challenged to reach farther than ever before. The President has challenged us to go next to an asteroid for the first time and then on our way to Mars. These are exciting times.”

NASA astronauts and exhibits at Saturday’s National Day of Service event on the National Mall highlighted the President’s priorities for the agency, including the International Space Station, Commercial Space activities, technology development programs and new plans for research on Mars.

And Monday’s Inaugural Parade featured full-scale models of two of the agency’s highest-profile vehicles: the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle that will take astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, and the Mars Curiosity Rover which is exploring the surface of the Red Planet for signs of past or present life.

Orion and Curiosity are examples of NASA’s effort to help give the nation the technological boost the President called for in his inaugural speech.

POTUS: “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries; we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure. Our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet.”



NASA has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace to provide a new addition to the International Space Station. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, will demonstrate how this type of habitat could be used by future space explorers.

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator: “It will provide insight into radiation transmission properties and thermal and structural performance compared to traditional aluminum modules.”

Robert T. Bigelow, President-Bigelow Aerospace: “We look at this as a stepping stone with expandable technologies. We are hoping and looking forward to the possibility of doing other things for NASA, with NASA with expandable systems.”

The expandable habitat represents cutting-edge technology that will enable humans to thrive in space safely and affordably and heralds important progress in U.S. commercial space innovation.



NASA and the European Space Agency have reached an agreement on plans for ESA to provide a service module for the Orion spacecraft's Exploration Mission-1 flight scheduled for 2017.

William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations: “To make a commitment this big there needs to be a lot of engineering done behind the scenes to make sure this is really the right thing to go do. Can we really integrate these two vehicles together? Where do you define the interfaces? How do you make this happen? And the teams have done just a tremendous job over the past several months of figuring out all of those technical interfaces.”

The service module will sit directly behind Orion and provide the capsule's power, thermal control and propulsion. The agreement expands on the agencies’ successful partnership on the International Space Station and other activities, and ensures international collaboration on future missions as humans explore new frontiers in the solar system.



Hello, I am Justin Maki and I am the engineering camera lead for the Mars Science Laboratory mission and a member of the MSL Science Camera Team and this is your Curiosity Rover Report.

The rover has been investigating the YellowKnife bay area as part of an effort to pick the exact location of our first drill activity on Mars.

The images being returned by Curiosity show a diverse collection of interesting features, including sedimentary rocks, pebbles, cracks, nodules, and veins.

The vein features are seen as a bright white material, and we see them just about everywhere we look in Yellowknife bay. The Chemcam instrument has found that these veins contain elevated levels of calcium sulfate, likely in the form of bassanite or gypsum. Gypsum veins are also seen here on Earth and associated with water percolating through cracks and fractured rocks.

The exciting news from all of this analysis is the candidate site where Curiosity will conduct its first drilling activity.

This site is located only a few meters away from the rover’s current location, and lies in a flat area, suitable for drilling.

The team hopes to drill directly into one of the veins and place the powder into the SAM and ChemMin analytical instruments. These instruments will give us detailed information about the composition of the material. We’ll be driving over there in the next few days.

On our way over to the drill site, we’re planning on using the rover’s wheels to crush some of these nearby veins and examine the freshly broken material. This image from Sol 135 shows an example of how the rover can break open soft rocks with its wheels, revealing the freshly exposed material.

I’m Justin Maki, and this has been your Curiosity Rover Report. Check back for more reports.



Operations for NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission are underway on the International Space Station. Managed by Goddard Space Flight Center, RRM aims to successfully demonstrate the tools, technologies and techniques needed to robotically refuel satellites in space, especially those not designed to be serviced.

Using DEXTRE, a two-armed Canadian robot on the station, ground controllers at the Johnson Space Center will simulate a refueling with a washing machine-size practice box outfitted with tools and connections similar to those found on a satellite.

A successful simulated fuel transfer could mark a revolution in spacecraft operation and design. The refueling simulation is scheduled to run through January 24. Other RRM tests are scheduled into next year.



The International Space Station’s upcoming Expedition 35 and 36 missions were previewed in a series of news briefings at the Johnson Space Center. Highlighted were scheduled visits to the station by several spacecraft , including the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule and the demo and supply flights of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft. The media also heard from NASA’s Chris Cassidy, and Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency – three of the six crew members slated for the missions.

Chris Cassidy, Expedition 35/36: ”It’s shaping up to be a very dynamic and a very busy Expedition. We welcome that. When you can deliver for people that work hard to produce all of those activities on the ground, that’s very satisfying.”

Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin are set to launch to the orbiting laboratory aboard a Soyuz spacecraft on March 27. Upon arrival, they’ll join NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield and Roscosmos cosmonaut Roman Romanenko.

MONITORING AIR QUALITY – LARC (CP) Katherine Barnstorff Reporting


Jim Crawford, NASA Atmospheric Scientist: “When you are trying to understand a problem you go where the problem is most obvious.”

For NASA atmospheric scientists like Jim Crawford and two NASA airplanes from Virginia that means a trip to California in early 2013. They are part of a team, called DISCOVER-AQ, that will study air quality by flying over the San Joaquin Valley, a location the Environmental Protection Agency says is known for pollution.

Jim Crawford, NASA Atmospheric Scientist: “We begin with an aircraft like the B200, which flies at high altitude over the central valley all day long looking downward with remote sensors. We have a second plane, which flies through the valley profiling moving up and down over various ground sites. The final component though is at the surface, because ultimately it is at ground level where the air quality monitoring stations are located.”

What the science team, its instruments and its government and university partners are trying to do is prepare for when the U.S. can monitor air pollution in the lowest part of the atmosphere from space.

Jim Crawford, NASA Atmospheric Scientist: “We don't have a satellite right now that can do that. We do though have on the books a geostationary satellite in the future called TEMPO that will be able to look at North America throughout the day to look at air quality. We're taking observations that will prepare us to both make better observations from a geostationary orbit as well as you have to recognize a satellite does not work in isolation. It still needs information from the ground for validation and interpretation.

That information will come from the five-year DISCOVER-AQ mission. It will be used to help the satellite paint a more consistent picture of air quality so that scientists can make better forecasts.



William Borucki, science principal investigator for NASA's Kepler mission at the Ames Research Center, is the recipient of the 2013 Henry Draper Medal for outstanding contribution to astrophysical research.

Borucki is honored for his pioneering work with Kepler, the first NASA mission capable of finding other planetary systems whose Earth-size planets could have water on their surface.

Awarded every four years by the National Academy of Sciences, the Draper Medal will be presented to Borucki this spring. Last June, Borucki celebrated 50 years of service at NASA.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: Launch of STS-89 – January 22, 1998


Fifteen years ago on January 22, 1998, space shuttle Endeavour rose skyward from the Kennedy Space Center to meet up with the Russian Space Station Mir. Endeavour and her crew delivered more than eight thousand pounds of equipment and supplies as well as NASA astronaut Andy Thomas. He replaced Dave Wolf, who’d spent 119 days aboard the complex. Thomas became the last U.S. astronaut to serve on Mir.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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