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This Week @ NASA, February 10, 2012
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This Week @NASA...

A full-scale test version of the Orion spacecraft got the once-over from visitors to Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center. It was Orion’s third scheduled stopover on its cross-country journey from White Sands, New Mexico after similar stops in Oklahoma City and Dallas. Not only were museum guests able to meet Orion and Space Launch System team members – they also could sign their names to a piece of flight hardware.

Larry Gagliano, Deputy Project Manager, Orion Launch Abort System: “It’s a very unique opportunity for the folks here in Huntsville to see the program that we’re off and developing for the next generation of space exploration that NASA is working on.”

The Orion model’s final destination was the Kennedy Space Center; there, it’ll be one of several used by NASA to test and develop the future spacecraft. This multi-purpose crew capsule and the SLSs heavy-lift launch vehicle will enable deep-space human exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit. Orion's first orbital flight test is scheduled for 2014.

Responding to public demand, NASA has created a companion image to its new “Blue Marble” picture of Earth in stunning High Definition. “Blue Marble 20-12” is a composite image captured during six separate orbits by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, or Suomi NPP. The separate swaths stitched together to form both of the new Blue Marble images were taken by the satellite’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS instrument, over an eight-hour period on January 23.

The original “Blue Marble” was photographed by the crew of Apollo 17 as they traveled to the moon in 19-72.

Some more eye-catching imagery from another NASA science mission. The MoonKAM camera aboard “Ebb”, one of NASA's twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL spacecraft, has returned its first unique view of the far side of the lunar surface. MoonKAM, for Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students, will be used by students nationwide to study lunar images. In lunar orbit together since New Year’s Day, “Ebb” and its twin, “Flow,” have been collecting data to create a gravity map of the moon.

At least one object rover Curiosity is slated to photograph on Mars later this year will be immediately recognizable to most, if not all Americans… a Lincoln penny.

This one-cent piece, struck in 19-09 when the coin was first issued to commemorate Lincoln’s 100th birthday, is on a smart phone-sized plaque attached to the rover. When the Mars Science Laboratory lands in early August, a camera at the end of the rover’s robotic arm will use the penny to help its calibration. The Mars Hand Lens Imager or MAHLI will show details of Martian rocks and soil so tiny that the calibration target includes reference lines finer than a human hair.

Ken Edgett, MAHLI Principal Investigator: “We can position that camera up next to a rock or some soil and we can take pictures of it like close-up or we can pull it back and we can take pictures of a broader scene of the landscape. We can even look back down at the rover itself.”

Curiosity also carries four other science cameras, a dozen black-and-white engineering cameras and other research instruments. MSL will deliver Curiosity to a landing site on Mars known as Gale Crater where the rover will conduct a two-year investigation of whether that area of the Red Planet may have ever sustained microbial life.

Administrator Charlie Bolden headed a NASA delegation visiting this year’s White House Science Fair. The annual event held in the East Wing highlights and applauds student excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM disciplines.

NASA has developed a wide variety of STEM education programs in support of the president’s Educate to Innovate campaign.

Aligned with NASA’s STEM education mission is a newly-released game app with an air traffic control theme developed for Apple iPhone and iPad devices. The “Sector 33” application challenges students in middle school and above to use basic math and problem-solving skills. The player acts as an air traffic controller of a portion of Nevada and California, guiding airplanes’ paths and speed to safely reach specific spots in the sky in the fastest time possible.

Rebecca Green, Asst. Lead Smart Skies Project – Ames Research Center: “What’s been fun about working on this project is not only exploring the world of mobile apps, but tying education into the game. Students can’t just video game their way through these problems and solve them correctly. They actually have to understand the mathematics.”

The latest edition of NASA’s “Spinoff” is now available. The annual publication follows the journeys of 44 innovative technologies, from their origins in NASA missions and programs, to use in commercial products and practical benefits to society.

Dan Lockney, Program Executive, NASA Technology Transfer: “Over the years NASA Spinoffs have generated billions of dollars of revenue for our partner companies, created tens of thousands of jobs and saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Your “Spinoff” is available online, at

Ever dream of sending a satellite into space? NASA is seeking proposals for flight demonstrations of small satellite technologies in hopes of increasing the technical capabilities and uses for this emerging category of spacecraft.

Small satellites typically weigh less than 400 pounds and are generally launched as secondary payloads on rockets carrying larger spacecraft. They include the softball-sized “CubeSats”, which can carry small payloads, and even smaller experimental spacecraft.

Explore the possibilities at

In recognition of the contributions by African-Americans to the cause of space exploration, This Week @NASA profiles Larry Cliatt, aerospace engineer at the Dryden Flight Research Center.

Larry Cliatt, Aerospace Engineer, Dryden Flight Research Center: “Aerodynamics is fascinating to me; just the philosophy of aerodynamics and that led me to aeronautics. And, of course, the faster things go, the cooler it is. My name is Larry Cliatt. I’m an Aerospace Engineer at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.”

Larry Cliatt, Aerospace Engineer, Dryden Flight Research Center: “I work in the research aerodynamics branch doing mostly supersonic research in supersonic flight and specifically sonic boom research.”

Larry Cliatt, Aerospace Engineer, Dryden Flight Research Center: “Sonic boom research is towards the ongoing effort to mitigate the sonic boom to allow over the land supersonic transportation for civilians. Both of my parents were in the Air Force and as far as I can remember, the day my Mom and Dad brought me home a model toy replica of a B-2 bomber was the day I first got any interest in aeronautics of aerospace period. I became a graduate student at Georgia Tech and there, decided to do a Co-op rotation somewhere. The first place on my list, of course, was NASA.”

Larry Cliatt, Aerospace Engineer, Dryden Flight Research Center: “Everybody knows about these big centers – Johnsons, Kennedys and everything and found out that there was a center that actually, specifically did what I was wanting to do. My focus, at the time was high speed aerodynamics, which is aeronautics and Dryden did just that.”

Larry Cliatt, Aerospace Engineer, Dryden Flight Research Center: “NASA Dryden, this is NASA ground. I’d like to know whether you had any fuel left for perhaps a Fox Trot run?”

Larry Cliatt, Aerospace Engineer, Dryden Flight Research Center: “Just this past year, I was the principal investigator for the Whisper Project (WSPR) on a community response test for sonic booms.”

Larry Cliatt, Aerospace Engineer, Dryden Flight Research Center: “In that time frame we tried to do a range of sonic booms. Not only in that range but we also tried to startle you a little bit with some louder sonic booms.”

Larry Cliatt, Aerospace Engineer, Dryden Flight Research Center: “NASA-2 this is NASA-ground, heard boom on the ground.”

Larry Cliatt, Aerospace Engineer, Dryden Flight Research Center: “So it was really fulfilling to see it out. To see it to its end and to see how successful it was. One of the things that brought me here is that I wanted to be an innovator and I think that nearly anybody that works at NASA kind of keeps their mind open to pursue goals and tasks that no other company is doing, no other agency is doing. So if you keep an open mind and if you have the desire to work outside of the box, not just think outside of the box but to do things that, literally, no one else is doing, I think that’s important.”

“3-2-1 ignition and liftoff Discovery now on its way to service NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.”

Fifteen years ago, on February 11, 1997, Space Shuttle Discovery lit up the pre-dawn sky at the Kennedy Space Center to begin STS-82, the second planned servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. During the almost 10-day mission, astronauts Ken Bowersox, Scott Horowitz, Mark Lee, Steve Hawley, Greg Harbaugh, Steve Smith, and Joe Tanner upgraded Hubble with new imaging devices – including the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, or STIS – an instrument designed to seek out super-massive black holes, and NICMOS, The Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer, which astronomers would use to capture near-infrared views of the universe. Discovery and crew landed safely at KSC on February 21.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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