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This Week @ NASA, January 21, 2011
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This Week at NASA…

Astronaut Steve Bowen will replace Tim Kopra on the next space shuttle mission. Kopra, a mission specialist on STS-133, was injured in a bicycle accident. Bowen began training this week with the STS-133 crew, which includes Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe, and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott. Bowen also will train to perform the mission’s two planned spacewalks. A veteran flyer, Bowen has walked in space five-times. His two new excursions will take place when he partners with Drew to move a failed ammonia pump and perform other external configurations to the International Space Station. STS-133 will deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module, an external platform that holds large equipment and critical spare components for the station. It will also deliver Robonaut 2, or R2, the first human-like robot in space. The mission’s target launch date is February 24.

On Valentine’s Day the Stardust spacecraft, which finished one history-making mission five years ago, will now complete another, getting up close and personal with the Comet Tempel 1. You may recall that Comet Tempel 1, was deliberately smashed into in 2005 as part of the Deep Impact mission to study the comet’s interior. Now Tempel 1 will be revisited by the Stardust spacecraft for what is called the Stardust-Next mission. At a news briefing held at NASA Headquarters, Stardust scientists discussed the important landmark voyage.

Tim Larson: "The last targeting maneuver, as we approach the comet, is two days out; that is the last maneuver that will be fully designed to target to our 200 kilometer flyby distance and that will be executed two days before we arrive at the comet. Right after that maneuver, we will be taking our last optical navigation images, and those are the images that we’ll use to build our best prediction of our actual flyby point and the path of the trajectory of the comet relative to the spacecraft."

This is the first-ever follow-up visit to a comet, and it will allow scientists to look for changes on a comet's surface caused by a close flyby.

Tim Larson: "All out major uncertainties and challenges, we’ve addressed all of them. So, I’m frankly, very confident that we’re going to get a good flyby and good images of the comet."

On January 15, 2006, the Stardust spacecraft returned from a rendezvous with Comet Wild 2, and jettisoned its capsule containing particles collected directly from the comet, as well as interstellar dust.

Also at headquarters the agency's next Earth-observing satellite mission, Glory, was detailed at another briefing held in the James Webb auditorium. Glory, scheduled to launch February 23, will study the impact of the sun and airborne particles on Earth’s climate.

Joy Bretthauer: "This will serve as a resource for making scientifically-based economic, health, and policy decisions related environmental change."

Both programs were broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency's website.

The American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics presented NASA’s Chief Technologist, Bobby Braun, with the Von Karman Lectureship in Astronautics award. Braun was recognized for significantly advancing the understanding of the challenge of Mars entry, descent, and landing, and for developing systems concepts and technologies enabling Martian exploration programs.

The von Karman award, named for astronautics pioneer Theodore von Karman, is given annually by the AIAA to an individual who has distinguished themselves technically in the field of astronautics. The presentation was made at the AIAA's 49th Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Orlando.


Julian Bond: "Martin Luther King was the most famous. He was the best known of all the modern movement personalities. We should remember this was a people’s movement."

NASA helped commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a special celebration at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Guest speaker was Dr. Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, and well-known civil rights leader and social activist.

Julian Bond: "We can’t forget that Dr. King stood before and with thousands -- the people that made that mighty movement what it was. From Jamestown slave pens, to Montgomery’s boycotted buses, these ordinary women and men labored in obscurity and from Montgomery forward they provided the foot soldier of the freedom army."

Students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the District of Columbia rounded out the event with songs and dances selected for the occasion.

Julian Bond: "I think if Dr. King were here today, he’d be amazed that we’ve sent 20 black astronauts into space and he’d be amazed that I had met one of them just two days ago, Dr. Satcher, in Nashville, by coincidence we happened to be together, and I think he’d just be overcome at the notion that black Americans are doing things that many Americans never thought anybody would every do and that is to go into space."

Landing an ER-2, NASA’s civilian version of the high-altitude U-2S plane used by the Air Force, can prove tricky. Its wings have glider-like qualities that make the aircraft sensitive to crosswinds; ascent and descent rates are fast and steep. Also, the ER pilot who may be confined by a pressure suit for prolonged periods of time can find even normal operations inside the ER-2 anything but.

Tom Ryan: "It’s hard for him to judge altitude with this particular aircraft and he has to actually stall the aircraft on every landing so the plane has to be in a full stall. Basically, I’m his co-pilot in a car."

That's where NASA’s new Dodge Charger safety chase car comes in. The specially-designed vehicle "charges" down the runway at high speeds as the driver calls out data to the ER-2 pilot. Things like distance in feet to the runway, taxing details and any other critical information to help facilitate a smooth and safe landing.

Tom Ryan: "4-3-2-1 -- little right rudder, inches."

The Air Force has a history of relying on chase vehicles for landing safety. Following their lead, Dryden's Airborne Science program has leased the government-owned Charger for five years and managers say the car has added an extra value of safety to ER-2 flight operations.

NASA Anniversary: 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF VOYAGER 2’S URANUS FLYBY - January 24, 1986

Lifting off aboard its Titan-Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 20, 1977, Voyager 2 was one of a pair of NASA spacecraft bound to explore the planets and interplanetary environment of the outer solar system. Its companion, Voyager 1, followed a month later. Eight-and-a-half years after launch, on January 24, 1986, Voyager 2 made a successful flyby of Uranus, returning about 8,000 images of the planet and its moons. Between them, Voyager 1 and 2 have explored all the giant planets of our outer solar system, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune; 48 of their moons; and the unique system of rings and magnetic fields surrounding those planets. Decades, and many billions of miles later, both Voyagers are continuing their journeys to the boundaries of the solar system.

And that's This Week @NASA.

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