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This Week @ NASA, February 15, 2013
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This Week at NASA…



It may have been small, appearing so even in the best optical telescopes on Earth, but the flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 was anything but a minor event to astronomers. Never feared as a threat to anyone or anything on or around our planet, DA14, about the size of half a football field, did come within 17-thousand miles of Earth, about 5-thousand miles close than many of our satellites in geosynchronous orbit. And that gave astronomers and scientists something to see and learn about, relatively up close.



During Tuesday’s State of the Union, President Obama reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to inspire the next generation of innovators and empowering them with the STEM skills needed to take our nation into the future.

“We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math -- the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.”

Watching the president as a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama was Curiosity rover team member, Bobak Ferdowsi – better known in social media circles as Mohawk Guy. Watching him work during coverage of Curiosity’s landing on Mars has increased STEM’s “cool” factor among young Americans.

On the heels of the president’s address, NASA participated in several White House events aimed at interesting young minds in science, technology and space. Administrator Charlie Bolden was joined by Ferdowsi to connect with students at a Tweet-and-Chat session.

And NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Ferdowsi spoke at a STEM Q&A with middle and high school students.

SOT: Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator
“Being able to make discoveries is what exploration is all about, being able to learn things that we have not learned before that benefit humanity and society and advance our civilization and NASA is a place from the vantage point of space where we can do that.”

SOT: Bobak Ferdowsi, Curiosity Rover Team Member
“We just did a first drill on Mars within the last week, and that’s actually kind of the real cool part of this mission, we are actually going to get into the history of Mars … (BUTT) We are actually going to see that preserved Martian history and I think that’s when the really cool stuff is going to start showing up.”

CURIOSITY ROVER REPORT– JPL (CP) Scott McCloskey Reporting


SOT: Scott McCloskey, Drill Systems Engineer, MSL

Hi I'm Scott McCloskey, drill systems engineer on the Mars Science Laboratory and this is your Curiosity rover report.

Curiosity made history this week by being the first rover to ever drill on another planet.

We began our first drilling campaign at the site we named John Klein. John Klein has an area that has a set of flat plate rocks that are perfect for the first use of the drill.

We were able to place the arm safely and drill vertically down into the rock to collect as much sample as possible.

We were very cautious leading up to o our first use of the drill. We started by making a very small divot to test the hammering mechanism in the drill. This worked perfectly so we continued on with the making of the mini hole. The mini hole was 2 centimeters deep and allowed us to examined the tailings that the drill created by boring into the rock.

When we looked at those we compared the tailings created by the mini drill to the extensive set of test rocks that we drilled here on earth here at JPL and determine that the we see on mars are safe to ingest in the system.

After these drill tests we were all very excited to move on to ready to move on to the big event finally drilling a full hole and collecting sample.

We drilled 6 and a half centimeters down into the rock and collected sample. After drilling the first hole we used the camera at the end of the arm to take pictures. Here we see two holes first on the right is the mini drill hole... and in the center of the picture we have the full hole. Both of these holes generated grey tailings...

The grey tailings tells us that there’s something different about the inside of this rock than the surface of the rock.the drill collected some of this grey powder and we used it to clean the internal surfaces of the drill we also then processed that sample and will use it to deliver to the other instruments.

After using this powder to clean the drill we move it into the scoop and take a picture. This allows us to estimate how much sample the drill actually collected.

In the coming weeks we’ll process this sample and deliver it to the instruments inside of the rover.

That's your Curiosity rover report, check back for more updates.



At their latest test in Yuma, Arizona, Orion engineers demonstrated that the spacecraft can land safely if one of the crew capsule’s three main chutes fails to inflate during deployment. Before dropping the test article from a plane 25,000 feet above the desert, engineers rigged the parachutes so only two would work properly. The results are significant because Orion’s chute system will perform like no other landing system has done before: slow a spacecraft carrying humans from a 20-thousand mile-per-hour reentry into Earth's atmosphere to a speed gentle enough for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. This was the eighth drop test for Orion’s chute system. The next is scheduled for May.



Data from NASA's twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE satellites indicates that freshwater reserves in large areas of the arid Middle East were rapidly depleted during the past decade.

Scientists found that between 2003 and 2009, the Tigris and Euphrates river basins of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran lost 117 million-acre-feet of the total freshwater stored there. That’s almost as much H2O as in the Dead Sea. Researchers say about 60 percent of the loss was groundwater pumped from underground reservoirs.

Political tensions in the area limit how much ground-based data can be collected, so satellite data from GRACE and other Earth-observing spacecraft are essential to monitoring our home planet’s water systems.

AJAX: FOR CLEANER AIR – ARC (CP) Jesse Carpenter Reporting


NASA Ames recently started a new partnership with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to study air pollution the San Francisco Bay region.

Using a specially equipped aircraft called the Alpha Jet Atmospheric Experiment or AJAX, the project will sample ozone and greenhouse gas levels at altitudes as low as 1,000 feet.

The study hopes to better understand how clean air over the Pacific Ocean moves into northern California and how pollution emissions develop and move on a broad scale.

The goal is to help Air District planners and meteorologists better forecast and simulate air pollution in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Projects like this Bay Area study will help scientists to make more refined air quality measurements with future satellites.

The AJAX project is also working with other partners to gather data in support of other air quality projects in California and the nearby Pacific region.



The Robotic Refueling Mission successfully completed a first-of-its-kind demonstration on the International Space Station. Engineers at Goddard Space Flight Center oversaw the operations as controllers at Johnson Space Center remotely commanded the station's robotic arm called Dextre to transfer simulated fuel into a specially designed practice box. It’s an important step in proving the feasibility of using robots to refuel satellites in space.

SOT: Ben Reed, Dep. Proj. Mgr., Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office, GSFC
“Robotics can do things that humans can’t do in terms of precision, control … holding a spot for six hours while engineers on the ground figure out what to do. We can’t ask a human to do that.”

NASA will continue development of technology to enable robots to refuel satellites on orbit – even those not designed to be serviced, with additional tests throughout the year.



NASA Astronaut Serena Aunon, a 1997 graduate of George Washington University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, was back at GW to share her path to the astronaut corps with those considering following in her footsteps.

SOT: Serena Aunon, NASA Astronaut
“You have to make sure that you have good team dynamics. That you know how to be both a leader and a follower, that you work well across multiple cultures. Because on the International Space Station we have astronauts from Russia, obviously the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan.”

Aunon, who holds an electrical engineering degree from GW, is also an experienced NASA Flight Surgeon, and currently serves as the medical/education branch chief for the Astronaut Office. Aunon was one of 14 people selected by NASA in 2009 for the agency’s 20th astronaut class.

NASA AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH PROFILE – Terry Edmonds – Senior Advisor/Speechwriter

SOT: Terry Edmonds – Senior Advisor/Speechwriter
My name is Terry Edmonds. I’m a senior advisor and speechwriter for Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver and I’ve been here at NASA for about a year and a half.

(At an early age I just fell in love with literature and writing and poetry. We didn’t have a lot of money but one thing that my mother made sure we had was a series of classic books.

Growing up I never imagined that the trajectory of my life would take me to the places that I’ve been and becoming the first African-American to write speeches for an American President is definitely a source of pride.

(President Clinton speaks)
“You have produced some of our nation’s finest leaders.”

He was the first President to deliver a commencement address, I believe at an HBCU, Historically Black College and University, which happened to be my Alma Mater, Morgan State University.

Unbeknownst to me – I did not write it into the speech – he pointed me out.

(President Clinton speaks):
“And on a very personal note, my fine assistant Terry Edmonds, Class of 1972 …the first African-American ever to serve as a speechwriter for the President of the United States.”

And that was quite a moment of pride and, yeah, satisfaction.

I would advise anyone who’s trying to go into speechwriting to write for somebody or for some cause or for some issue that you actually believe in.

I feel like I really, you know hit the jackpot when I came to NASA. When the opportunity presented itself, everybody kept telling me, ‘hey man, that’s a cool place. That’s the coolest place to go.’ It’s a great place, great leadership, great camaraderie. It’s very challenging work that we do here.

I believe that we should have workplaces that, quote/unquote look like America. America is becoming more diverse and the talents of all of our people are going to be necessary if we’re going to move forward in the twenty-first century.



February 18, 1977: NASA’s first space shuttle orbiter, Enterprise, conducted its first flight test at the Dryden Flight Research Center. Constructed without an engine, the craft was mounted atop a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft to measure structural loads, ground handling and other capabilities prior to atmospheric flight. While Enterprise never flew in space, its series of approach and landing tests that year proved the orbiter could fly in the atmosphere and land like a glider. Enterprise was named for the starship on the popular television series of that time “Star Trek.” Today, you can see Enterprise on display at New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Complex.



“3-2-1 …”

And February 20th is the fifty-first anniversary of John Glenn’s historic flight aboard Friendship 7. Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, circling the globe three times. As he passed over Perth, Western Australia, residents there turned on house lights and street lights, earning Perth the nickname, “The City of Light”. Despite some tense moments near the end of the 4 hour- 55 minute Mercury mission, when flight controllers could not determine if its heat shield was intact, the capsule returned to Earth safely. Glenn was celebrated as a national hero and given a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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