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This Week @ NASA, January 30, 2012
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This Week @NASA...


After a two day trip that began with its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, an unpiloted Russian Progress cargo ship successfully mated with the International Space Station's Pirs Docking Compartment. The docking occurred as the two spacecraft were traveling about 240 miles above the northeast coast of Brazil. The supply ship delivers about 2.9 tons of food, fuel and equipment to the six crewmembers onboard the ISS. The Progress spacecraft is scheduled to remain docked to Pirs until late April.

The biggest storm on the sun in years erupted on January 22 with a huge solar flare, an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection, or CME, and a burst of fast moving, highly energetic protons. According to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, these “solar energetic particles” caused the strongest solar radiation storm since September 2005.

Antti Pulkkinen, NASA Solar Scientist: “We’re expecting to reach the solar maximum in terms of activity, sometime around next year. So we’re expecting to have more of these kinds of solar eruptions in the coming two or three years.”

Closely monitored by NASA scientists, the storm caused no major disruptions to operating technological systems in space or on the ground, such as satellite communications or high voltage power transmission.

The warming of the Earth’s surface continues. That, according to scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, who say the average global surface temperature in 20-11 was the ninth warmest since 1880. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the ten warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since 2000. GISS monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, and has found that the average temperature around the globe in 20-11 was 0.92 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was around 19-50.

Waleed Abalati, NASA Chief Scientist: “To say that this is a problem that we don’t need to concern ourselves with until a few years from now is a mistake. We need to concern ourselves with it now so that the outcome a few years from now is something that we’re well positioned to deal with.” NASA DAY IN MISSISSIPPI – SSC
Former astronaut Scott Altman addressed Mississippi State legislators during NASA Day at the Capitol in Jackson. The event included exhibits highlighting the Stennis Space Center’s role in the past, present and future of America’s space program, as well as the center’s contributions to Mississippi’s economy and quality of life.

There’s nothing new about satellites in space. But flying them inside the International Space Station? That’s what teams of high school students from the U.S. and abroad did in the Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge 2011 Finals. Televised live on NASA TV, the event featured these bowling ball-sized devices, called Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, being flown on the station using software programs developed by the students.

Operated and maintained by the Ames Research Center, the SPHERES National Laboratory Facility onboard the ISS is exploring whether these mini-satellites can affordably test spacecraft navigation in a microgravity environment.

The SPHERES competition is a collaboration of NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

YOUNG ASTRONAUT DAY – GRC About 350 students celebrated the 19th annual Young Astronaut Day at the Glenn Research Center. A variety of activities appealed to their interest in aeronautics, space science and engineering. The younger children enjoyed challenges like balancing marbles on a plate in a vacuum chamber, while the older members of our next generation of explorers investigated the building of robotic vehicles able to travel across a simulated planetary surface.

Selected as a NASA astronaut after seven rejections, Cleveland-area native, Mike Foreman, spoke of how persistence can help realize your dreams.

Mike Foreman, NASA Astronaut: “If you fail at a goal the first time, the second time, maybe event the third time, I would hope that you guyts would get back up and keep trying, you know to reach the goal. It might be just to make the soccer team.”

The crowning activity of the day: the use of some two thousand cans of food to build a mini-space shuttle, later donated to a Cleveland food bank.

An engaging new NASA program brings the excitement of space exploration to children while teaching them to live a healthy lifestyle. Inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, NASA's Train Like an Astronaut program aims to increase opportunities for kids to become more physically and mentally active.

The program uses activities similar to those astronauts perform before, during and after spaceflights to help 8-to-12 year olds develop good fitness and nutrition habits.

Charles Lloyd, NASA Human Research Program Education and Outreach Project Manager: “But it could also be for us older kids, because we always need the adults to team in and work with our children to improve their physical fitness as well as help them learn about how to live a healthier lifestyle and good nutrition.”

The activities in Train Like an Astronaut align with national education standards and were developed in cooperation with NASA scientists and fitness professionals who work directly with our astronauts.

LT. UHURA BEAMS UP TO DRYDEN – DFRCbr/> Actress and spaceflight activist Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek TV series, found many friendly fans during a recent warp-speed visit to NASA Dryden Flight Research Center's facilities in Southern California. Nichols related her experiences, both as a member of the Star Trek cast, and as an advocate for human exploration of space, to an appreciative audience of Dryden employees.

Nichelle Nichols: “That's what our tax dollars are doing…gaining us the future, gaining us beyond our wildest dreams. What humankind can dream of, humankind can do…and much more.”

Nichols considers one of her greatest accomplishments was helping open the door for the first women and persons of minority ethnicity to become NASA astronaut candidates, including Mae Jemison and current NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. She stressed that Americans not only have the opportunity, but the duty to ensure that NASA's space exploration program remains viable, as it seeks to go where no man or woman has gone before.

Nichelle Nichols: “I was always talking to Star Trek fans, about "Why space?"… why it's important. It's our space, but do you understand that that's not them doing that, that's ours…it belongs to us…NASA belongs to me … say it, everybody – NASA belongs to me!”

Forty-one years ago, on January 31, 1971, the Apollo 14 mission began with its launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell manned NASA’s third mission to land on the moon. Shepard and Mitchell spent nearly 33 hours in the Fra Mauro highlands, the same area to have been explored by the aborted Apollo 13 mission. They conducted two lunar EVAs and collected more material and scientific data than Apollo 11 and 12 combined. And famously, Commander Shepard swung the first golf club in space, sending two balls across the lunar frontier.

Alan Shepard: “Miles, miles and miles.”

Apollo 14 touched down safely in the Pacific Ocean on February 9, 1971.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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