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This Week @ NASA, February 11, 2011
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This Week at NASA…

Technicians at the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A will inspect and replace a vent seal to ensure space shuttle Discovery's safe launch targeted for later this month. The 7-inch quick disconnect seal is located on the external tank's ground umbilical carrier plate, or GUCP. I t connects to a vent line that carries hydrogen gas away from the pad as the external tank, or ET, is loaded with liquid hydrogen for launch. A recent analysis moved engineers to replace the seal with the same enhancements that led to a successful tanking test in December. A GUCP seal leak caused the Nov. 5 scrub of Discovery. STS-133 is now targeted to begin on Feb. 24 with a launch at 4:50 pm Eastern.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was a guest speaker at the Federal Aviation Administration's 14th annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington.

Charles Bolden: "Industry has been our partner since our inception. We're ready to take this partnership to a new level and create the good jobs and economic opportunities that come with it."

The conference provided a forum for policymakers and technical experts to discuss developments in commercial space transportation and other related industries. The two-day event covered everything from suborbital Flight Vehicles and Pressure Suits to ground and launch systems processing. The event was co-sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

This engine test was one of several events at which NASA senior leaders showed support for their commercial spaceflight partners. At the Stennis Space Center, Administrator Charlie Bolden was joined by the Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Doug Cooke, for the successful test fire of Aerojet Corporation's AJ26 flight engine.

Charlie Bolden: "The whole NASA family is really proud whenever we're able to do something like this. We work every day to try to reach new heights because we look to reveal things that are previously unknown so that we can make life better here on earth."

The AJ26 will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II space launch vehicle. NASA has partnered with Orbital through the agency's ongoing Commercial Orbital Transportation Services initiative. Under COTS, Orbital is scheduled to provide eight commercial cargo flights to the International Space Station beginning early next year.

In Boulder, Colo., Deputy Administrator Lori Garver visited the Sierra Nevada Corporation, whose Dream Chaser vehicle is being developed with support from the agency's Commercial Crew Development Program. Dream Chaser would ferry astronauts to and from low Earth orbit.

Both Garver's and Bolden's trips supported the 2010 NASA Authorization Act which calls for the agency to work with commercial interests to develop new ways to access and explore space.

At the Ames Research Center, scientists held a three-day workshop to help local and regional communities better adapt to climate change.

Topics included how to manage storm water and energy demands; reduce the risk of wildfire; recover native, and control invasive species in tidal marshes; and protect supplies of potable water.

Ames followed the workshop by hosting a symposium on the impact of climate change specifically on Ames and the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA senior leaders and industry representatives met with members of the Virginia general assembly at the annual Aerospace Day held in Richmond. Virginia has four times more high-paying jobs in the aerospace research and technology industry than the national average. Langley Center Director Lesa Roe, Wallops Director William Wrobel, and space shuttle pilot Tony Antonelli were among those meeting with legislators and staff about how best to leverage this statistic into more prosperity for the Commonwealth's economy.

Lesa Roe: "Thank you all for joining us for our sixth annual Aerospace Day here in Richmond."

The two-day event also featured an interactive forum highlighting how education programs help prepare Virginia's future aerospace workforce. Antonelli and assembly members made live connections with elementary and middle school students from five Virginia schools.

Together, Langley Research Center and the Wallops Flight Facility provide more than 10-thousand jobs that bring more than $1.2 billion dollars a year to Virginia's economy. More than 300 aerospace firms annually contribute another $6 billion.

Students at the Ferebee-Hope Elementary School in Washington received a special visit from NASA Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin.

Leland Melvin: "Hello!"

Kids shout back: "Hello!"

The first-through-third graders were rapt as Melvin, a former space shuttle astronaut, read aloud to promote the national program, Reading is Fundamental. "The Moon Over Star" recounts how a young African-American girl named Mae Jemison was inspired by the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.

Leland Melvin: "…And Mr. Cronkite said, Neil Armstrong, 38-year-old American, standing on the surface of the moon on this July 20, 1969…"

The RIF event also featured Melvin talking about his flight experiences and the contributions of African Americans to the space program.

Leland Melvin: "Isn't that cool."

The students were also treated to a moon rock demonstration.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 14, Stennis Space Center planted a "moon tree" descended from one of the 500 tree seeds that flew on the 1971 NASA moon mission. The seeds, from an American sycamore, were planted near the nearly- completed Infinity Science Center on Stennis' campus. Elementary and high school students in attendance heard from Rosemary Roosa, daughter of the late Stuart Roosa, the Apollo 14 astronaut and former forest firefighter responsible for carrying the seeds into space.

Rosemary Roosa: "Daddy used to always teach young children to reach for the stars and tonight be deterred. So, I think with this tree growing here it'll be a symbol of always looking up, to reaching for the stars."

The students met and listened to Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise.

Fred Haise: "The sycamore tree that we plant here at Infinity will really be an inspiration for many years."

Moon Tree plantings have been held throughout the country and around the world. The American sycamore has been known to live for 300 years.

And that's This Week at NASA!

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