NASA Podcasts

This Week @ NASA, March 2, 2012
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This Week at NASA…

Astronomers using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have, for the first time, discovered buckyballs in a solid form in space: around a pair of stars 65-hundred light-years from Earth. Until now, the microscopic carbon spheres had been found only in gas form.

Named for their resemblance to the geodesic domes drawn by late architect Buckminster Fuller, buckyballs are made up of 60 carbon molecules arranged into a hollow sphere, like a soccer ball. Their unusual structure makes them ideal candidates for electrical and chemical applications on Earth, including superconducting materials, medicines, water purification and armor.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden joined his counterparts from Europe, Japan, Russia, and host Canada for the annual International Space Station Heads of Agencies meeting held this year in Quebec City. Among topics discussed were the scientific, technological, and social benefits of their collaboration, the promise of continued scientific research aboard the ISS, and the further advancement of human exploration of space.

NASA’s top leaders continued with their field center visits after rollout of the president’s proposed 2013 budget. Bolden met with employees at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, the Ames Research Center in northern California, and the Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California, at each stop touting how NASA’s budget request supports an ambitious program to reach farther into the solar system than ever before.

At the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver spoke about that site’s important work on NASA projects, such as the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and the new Space Launch System.

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator: “This is a very successful multi-use facility where we are working to get the taxpayer’s cost down and be able to fully utilize the unique workforce and infrastructure that is available here.”

The 50th anniversary celebration of John Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 flight continued at the NASA center bearing his name. Cleveland’s Glenn Research Center hosted several events to commemorate the first orbital spaceflight by an American half a century ago.

“Every bit of progress ever made by human beings has been because somebody was curious about what was up there. Not just me, but in every field, not just up there but in medicine, in fabric, in steel and in just a hundred different areas. Somebody has to be curious about how you can do things different or new and better. NASA fits that role exactly.” - John Glenn

Once known as the Lewis Research Center, its name was changed in 1999 to honor the Mercury 7 astronaut who later spent four terms in the U.S. Senate representing his home state of Ohio.

Advanced development of the Space Launch System was the focus of an Industry and Academia Day hosted by the Marshall Space Flight Center. Representatives from more than forty companies and universities learned about NASA’s need for innovative proposals in concept development, propulsion, structures, materials, manufacturing and avionics, and software. The Marshall Space Flight Center is leading the agency’s design and development of the SLS.

CAMPOUT ON AN ASTEROID– JSC (CP) Brandi Dean Reporting
An astronaut and a geologist recently spent three days camping out on an asteroid – or at least camping out as though they were on an asteroid. In reality, they were inside the newest generation of NASA’s Space Exploration Vehicle prototypes parked at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The view out the window was out of this world.

Zack Crues, SEV Simulation Lead: “We really can’t be in deep space. We’ve never been there before. In order to set up an environment which we can get information about the next missions which we’re going to go for, we need to set that up in a digital environment.

In an asteroid’s microgravity, wheels aren’t needed. Instead, the SEV could be used on a propulsive platform that would allow astronauts to fly around an asteroid, and by flying it virtually or on an air bearing floor, NASA gathers information on how it might perform in space.

Mike Gernhardt, NASA Astronaut: “We’re measuring handling qualities of the vehicle; we’re looking at prop usage; we’re looking at the viewing out the windows, the kinds of rendezvous tools we need.” Of course, there’s more to exploring than just driving around, so various methods of simulating spacewalks on an asteroid were also added to the agenda.

James Johnson, RATS Test Director: “When you go to an asteroid or any type of near earth object, the main driver is going to be science, of course, so most geologist will take a rock chip sample to be able to get a piece of a full story as to what the local geology is telling them.

A similar round of tests, though on a larger scale, will be conducted at Johnson Space Center in the summer as part of the annual RATS, or Research and Technology Studies, tests.

“I would just like to thank you for inspiring these kids to be the next generation of explorers.”

NASA Education chief and former astronaut Leland Melvin presented Washington, DC’s Bruce Monroe Elementary School at Parkview with a tile from a space shuttle’s Thermal Protection System. The TPS tiles helped protect the shuttle upon reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.

Melvin talked about his experiences in space and the opportunities available to students who pursue the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.

The space shuttle tile program is a NASA education mission to inspire student audiences.

Preparations are underway for the transport of space shuttle Enterprise to New York City from Virginia. Working at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington, NASA and United Space Alliance technicians installed a tail cone on the retired spacecraft. The tail cone will reduce aerodynamic drag and turbulence when Enterprise is ferried to New York’s Kennedy Airport this spring by NASA 905, the agency’s remaining Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Enterprise will eventually reside at the city’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

NASA 911, the other modified Boeing 747 capable of piggybacking a space shuttle, has flown its final flight. The converted jumbo jet's last mission was a short, 20-minute hop from the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, to the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.

Built in 1973, the big jetliner was flown in commercial airline service by Japan Air Lines before NASA obtained it in 1989. After modifications, NASA 911 flew as a shuttle carrier aircraft for the next 21 years, carrying space shuttles 66 times on ferry flights.

Henry Taylor, Chief Flight Engineer, Shuttle Carrier Aircraft: "There was a lot of work that went into the initial design of how to modify the airplane, how to attach it. Just goes to show what American ingenuity can do."

JOB SHADOW DAY – WFF (CP) Patrick Black Reporting
Linda Sherman, Wallops Education Specialist: “Job shadow day is really about the student. It’s allowing them an open experience in STEM Careers first hand. We have mentors who’ve volunteered from resources, GIS, Test Flight Directors, Engineers.”

National Groundhog Day was also Job Shadow Day at the Wallops Flight Facility. Eight area high school students got a close up look at occupations that these students are interested in.

Linda Sherman, Wallops Education Specialist: “The students are able to go in and see exactly what they do on a day to day basis as well as get an inside look at NASA and Wallops Flight Facility.”

Aran Teeling, North Hampton High Student: “I’m one of the people whose, I like to take the design and then put it into real life and that’s pretty much what people do here.”

The Wallops Education Office plans to make Job Shadow Day an annual event coinciding with Groundhog Day.

Actress and spaceflight activist Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek TV series, inspired an audience of her fans during a recent visit to the Goddard Space Flight Center. Nichols delivered the keynote address at a center celebration of African American History Month.

Following her role in “Star Trek,” Nichols helped NASA recruit women and minority astronaut candidates. Today, she remains an advocate for the agency and human exploration.

Nichelle Nichols, Actress: “My posterity, all our posterity will benefit from the growth of NASA. So now more than ever we must support NASA and understand just how important it is to our future.”

WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: (Jessica Harris) – STScI (CP)
In honor of Women’s History Month 20-12 – a celebration of Empowerment and Education, NASA recognizes the contributions of women to the cause of space exploration.

Jessica Harris, Outreach Assistant, Space Telescope Science Institute: “My name is Jessica Harris and I work at Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD. I work with Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope.

I do a lot of outreach to high schools and middle schools.

I bring them a lot of hands-on activities; things that they can do that will grasp their attention outside of just the regular, every day, classroom setting.

When I went off to school, I decided that, hey I wanted to do physics. Going through undergrad and going through grad school, I realized that I have more of a passion to share this with other people.

“I want someone to tell me what that is.”

Jessica Harris, Outreach Assistant, Space Telescope Science Institute: “I really want to impact students through my lifestyle, and being able to be an example towards them and one of the things I try to encourage them to do is follow their passion, most importantly, and one of my passions is miming. Miming is a non-verbal dance. It allows me to be more comfortable and just expressive of myself, a more complete whole person.

I'm so glad that I can work at Space Telescope Science Institute. I really enjoy the job that I have here and the impact that we have on students.

Forty years ago, on March 2, 1972, Pioneer 10 launched on what would prove to be a mission lasting more than three decades! Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the Asteroid belt, and the first spacecraft to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter and its moons. This historic event marked humans' first approach to the gas giant and opened the way for exploration of the outer solar system by future spacecraft like Voyager, Ulysses, Galileo and Cassini. After more than 8 billion miles traveled in more than 30 years, Pioneer 10 sent its last signal to Earth on January 23, 2003.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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