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This Week @ NASA, March 8, 2013
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This Week at NASA…



NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and his Expedition 35/36 crewmates have completed final training for their upcoming mission to the International Space Station. Conducted at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside Moscow, this qualification training all but clears the way for Cassidy, and Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency, to launch to the orbiting laboratory later this month aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.

The trio also took questions from news media at Star City in one of several traditional pre-launch activities. Also included was a visit to Moscow’s Red Square where the crew and its backups laid flowers at the Kremlin wall and paid tribute to iconic Russian space heroes. Cassidy, Vinogradov, and Misurkin are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station from Kazakhstan on March 29, local time.



By that March 29 milestone, the SpaceX Dragon capsule now berthed at the International Space Station is scheduled to be back on Earth, having safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean four days earlier, on Mar. 25. In a satellite interview conducted the morning of Dragon’s March 1st launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver spoke about some of the science experiments Dragon’s brought up to the world’s only laboratory in microgravity.

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator:
“Experiments on materials research, combustion, life sciences, as well as making solar sails and semi-conductor chips more efficiently are all benefits that we are working on on this mission.”



Inside the Kennedy Space Center’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building, crane operators, technicians and engineers practiced lifting and placing a six-ton replica of the Launch Abort System’s escape rocket atop a mockup of the Orion capsule.

Although a Space Launch System flight is still a few years away, practicing stacking procedures now will help the team perfect the task ahead of mission-critical operations.

The Launch Abort System has solid-fueled engines that can lift Orion and its crew away from the rocket in the unlikely event a booster fails during initial launch. A test flight in 2010 saw the LAS produce a half-million pounds of thrust, about the same as the Titan II rockets that launched Gemini spacecraft into orbit.



A newly-released image taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn shows a distant world visible through the planet’s rings. The bright dot just above and to the right of the image’s center is none other than Earth’s twin planet, Venus. This view looks toward the non-illuminated side of the rings from about 17 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light last November by Cassini’s wide-angle camera.



Scientists from the Ames Research Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Goddard Space Flight Center returned to the rugged terrain of California's Death Valley National Park for NASA’s second annual MarsFest.

The event -- held in a vast area of wind-swept sand dunes and other Mars-like terrain, gave park visitors a chance to see how NASA studies exotic environments similar to those on the Red Planet.

Sample items and materials used on the Mars Curiosity rover were displayed, and JPL scientists demonstrated how the rover's CheMin X-ray diffraction instrument, developed at Ames, is currently analyzing drilling samples on the Martian surface.



NASA researchers from the Langley, Glenn and Dryden Flight research centers are teaming up to study the effects of alternate biofuel on engine performance, emissions and aircraft-generated contrails. Cruising at altitudes up to 40-thousand feet, the agency’s DC-8 flying laboratory is followed at varying distances by an instrumented NASA HU-25 Falcon aircraft.

Bruce Anderson, ACCESS Principal Investigator:
“Our instruments sweep will measure the ‘nox’ components – carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide plus a lot of different aspects of the particles that come out of the aircraft.”

The project, called ACCESS, for Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions, will provide important data for NASA’s continuing effort to make air travel not only safer, but cleaner.

SONIC BOOM TEST – LARC (CP) Katherine Barnstorff Reporting


Many of us have never heard a sonic boom.

It is a noise created by shock waves from a supersonic jet as it travels through the air faster than the speed of sound.

Jonathan Rathsam, Research Aerospace Engineer:
“If you were listening to the Concorde which stopped flying in 2003 you would definitely know that it had passed overhead and you might wonder if a car had backfired just outside.”

How much noise is too much noise … that's one question NASA researchers like Jonathan Rathsam are trying to answer as NASA and industry work to develop a supersonic passenger jet that is quiet enough to fly over land. To quantify objectionable noise levels NASA invites test subjects –regular people from the community - to listen to sounds similar to aircraft sonic booms. The subjects sit in what looks like a living room at the Langley Research Center. It is called the Interior Effects Room.

Alexandra Loubeau, Research Aerospace Engineer:
We do a lot of tests for not only supersonic, but subsonic etc. where we have people come in, listen to sounds and tell us how annoying they think the sounds are and this will then impact future designs of aircraft.

Two of the outside walls of the room contain subwoofers and mid-range speakers … 52 of each. They create synthesized booms. Seven satellite speakers and a subwoofer inside the room mimic the rattle sounds.

Jonathan Rathsam, NASA Researcher:
“The subjects are asked to place an x on a scale according to their annoyance. The very low end of the scale says not at all annoyed and the high end of the scale says extremely annoyed.”

The goal of the research is to come up with acceptable sonic boom noise standards that regulators and designers can use to develop supersonic jets that could fly anywhere – not just over water like previous supersonic airliners.



Aquarius -- NASA’s first satellite instrument built to measure the concentration of salt at the ocean’s surface now has just over a year of data under its belt. Data collected from December 2011 to December 2012 show a variety of salinity patterns -- from a very salty patch in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to pools of less salty water in the Pacific. By measuring ocean salinity from space, Aquarius is providing new insights into how freshwater moves between the ocean and atmosphere, and how that influences ocean circulation, weather and climate around the world. Launched in June 2011, Aquarius is managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center in collaboration with the Space Agency of Argentina.



Counselors from Hampton Roads-area middle schools attended an engineering workshop co-hosted by Langley Research Center. The group received tips and information from Langley STEM professionals about math courses, internship programs and other opportunities they could share with students interested in pursuing STEM careers.

Cindy Jones, International Technology Engineering Education Assoc.:
“I’m very excited to be here because I feel like NASA can be the catalyst to communicate to our educators what it is they need to know to help encourage students to go into these STEM careers.”



Erisa Hines, Mobility Systems Engineer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory:
I am Erisa Hines and I am a Mobility Systems Engineer here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

I had an opportunity to come onto the Mars Science Laboratory mission about two years before we launched and I came on as part of the Cruise Operations Team so I was testing the attitude control system as a System Engineer and there was an opportunity to come work on the surface side of the mission. I get to work with the rover and watch it drive around the Mars Yard and help understand and develop some of that new capability. It’s pretty exciting to know that’s going to be used on Mars to further science.

There’s a little bit of development going on so certain capabilities the rover doesn’t have yet on the surface we use this rover Maggie to test any of those new capabilities in the software.

I think because of my personality and because of how I was supported by the women in my life growing up I’ve never really felt any real challenges when it came to the idea of there being fewer women in certain fields or in the filed I choose to pursue. And I certainly see a change in that happening as I see more women coming into the science and technology fields.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: Launch of STS-123 – March 11, 2008


“4-3-2-1 liftoff …”

On March 11, 2008 Space Shuttle Endeavour rose skyward from Kennedy Space Center on STS-123 – an assembly flight to the International Space Station. Delivered to the station was Kibo, the Japanese Experiment Module, and the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre robotics system. The mission also facilitated a change of station crewmembers -- delivering NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman and returning to Earth with European Space Agency astronaut Léopold Eyharts.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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