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



The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford of NASA and his Russian crewmates, Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy and Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin, put down safely on the Kazakh steppes to complete their successful mission aboard the International Space Station.

Left by Ford to command the orbital laboratory was Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian Space Agency astronaut so entrusted, who received a congratulatory call from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Voice of Stephen Harper, Canadian Prime Minister:
“Commander I just want to congratulate you on this historic achievement. You’re the first Canadian ever to command the International Space Station -- we’re all very proud of you here.”

Chris Hadfield, Expedition 35 Commander:
“I ask every Canadian from the machine shops that helped build this place to the software labs, to the inventors – the creative minds that made all this possible – when they look up and see the point of light that is the International Space Station, all Canadians should take pride in what we can do together.”

Hadfield and Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn of NASA and Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency are scheduled to be joined on March 29 by Expedition 35/36 crew members Pavel Vinogradov, NASA Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin of Russia.



John Grunsfeld, NASA Associate Administrator for Science:
“When we think about the Mars Science Laboratory event that we had last August, the landing of Curiosity on the planet Mars, often what comes to mind is the seven minutes of terror.”

“Touchdown confirmed … we’re safe on Mars … (applause). “

John Grunsfeld, NASA Associate Administrator for Science:
“Well since then, we've had seven months of anticipation for the results you're going to hear about today.”

A news briefing Tuesday at NASA Headquarters focused on analysis of the first ever sample of rock powder collected on Mars by the Curiosity rover and the big news resulting from that analysis – an answer to the fundamental question on which the rover’s prime mission is based – Was the Gale Crater area of the Red Planet ever capable of supporting microbial life?

David Blake, Principal Investigator, Curiosity Chemistry and Mineralogy Investigation:
“I think the answer is yes! I think this is probably the only definitively habitable environment that we’ve described and recorded.”

John Grotzinger, Mars Curiosity Project Scientist:
“We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that probably if this water was around and you had been on the planet you would have been able to drink it.”

Here, now in this week’s Curiosity Rover Report – the details of the work behind this big discovery …

CURIOSITY ROVER REPORT – JPL (CP) Joel Hurowitz, Scientist, Curiosity Surface Sampling System

Hi, I'm Joel Hurowitz, a scientist with the surface sampling system team and this is your Curiosity rover report.

This week the Curiosity science team released its initial findings from its first ever drilled sample on Mars. This sample was collected from the “John Klein” drill site, which is located about 500 meters east of where we landed about 7 months ago.

Curiosity obtained her first drill sample and passed that sample on to her onboard analytical lab instruments, called CheMin and SAM. These powerful instruments tell us about what minerals are present in these rocks and whether they contain the ingredients necessary to sustain life as we know it.

What the Curiosity team has found is incredibly exciting. When we combine what we have learned from our remote sensing and contact science instruments with the data that’s coming in from CheMin and SAM, we get a picture of an ancient watery environment, which would have been habitable had life been present in it.

As an example, the information that we’re getting from the CheMin instrument, tells us that the minerals that are present in this lakebed sedimentary rock at John Klein are very different from just about anything we’ve ever analyzed before on Mars. And they tell us that the John Klein rock was deposited in a fresh water environment.

This is an important contrast with other sedimentary environments that we‘ve visited on Mars, like the Meridiani Planum landing site where the Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, has been operating since 2004.

At that site, the sedimentary rocks record evidence of an environment that was only wet on a very intermittent basis, and when it was, the waters that were there were highly acidic, very salty, and not favorable for the survival of organic compounds.

This is in direct contrast to the fresh water environment we’re seeing here at the John Klein Site.

The SAM instrument is telling us that these rocks contained all of the ingredients necessary for a habitable environment. We found carbon, sulfur and oxygen, all present and a number of other elements in states that life could have taken advantage of.

All in all, these few tablespoons of powder from a Martian rock have provided the Curiosity science team with an exciting new dataset that tells us that Gale Crater, and perhaps all of Mars, contained habitable environments. This is an incredible success for the Curiosity mission to Gale, and the science team is looking forward to digging deeper into Mars’ ancient watery past in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

This has been your Curiosity rover report. Please check back for more updates.



NASA has announced the creation of a new Space Technology Mission Directorate. STMD will be a catalyst for creating cross-cutting, advanced technologies and innovations needed for future space missions and bettering life here on Earth.

Michael Gazarik, Associate Administrator for Space Technology:
“To do the things that we want to go do – we need to solve some problems. We need technology to be able to help us go do these things. We are a focal point right now of change for the agency. We unleash the talent and the innovation that exists in the agency to go work on these tough problems.”

The Space Technology Mission Directorate will employ a portfolio approach, spanning a range of discipline areas and technology readiness levels. Research and technology development will take place within NASA centers, in academia, and industry, and leverage collaboration with other government and international partners.

Michael Gazarik, Associate Administrator for Space Technology:
“We are tapping into the nation’s brightest and best. (56:27) (56:30)We’re all harnessing those folks and it’s really the people that are a key to go solve these problems.”

The formation of STMD is in keeping with the Obama Administration's recognition of the critical role of space technology and innovation in maintaining U.S. leadership in space while benefiting our economy here at home.



At the Johnson Space Center, with NASA’s next spacecraft, Orion, as their backdrop, Administrator Charlie Bolden, Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin and officials from the spacecraft’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, unveiled details about the agency’s new Exploration Design Challenge. The unique, STEM-based program seeks K through 12 students around the world to play a role in the future of human spaceflight.

The students are to think and act like scientists to overcome one of the major hurdles of long-duration exploration.

Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator:
“This will require new technology. Including new ways to keep our astronauts safe from deep space radiation. That is the purpose of this challenge and we’re excited that American students will be helping us solve that problem.”

Leland Melvin, NASA Associate Administrator for Education:
“The things that we’re trying to do with Orion and the Exploration Design Challenge will help you find that curiosity, will help you solve problems – to help our astronauts and maybe even you one day to fly on Orion to Mars.”

NASA also highlighted the Exploration Design Challenge with a Google+ hangout. Melvin was joined by fellow astronaut Rex Walheim inside an Orion mockup, to discuss the spacecraft’s capabilities and answer questions about the future of human space exploration.



Lori Garver, NASA Administrator:
“As the World’s leading Space Agency, NASA is a major employer of STEM educated workers and we need to be even more committed to full participation of women in STEM fields.”

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver provided the opening remarks for “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination,” a Women’s History Month program at headquarters. Named for this year’s Women’s History Month theme, the presentation celebrated women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator:

“We have a lot of very amazing women here at NASA and they’ve been helping us to create a brighter future from our earliest days.”

Donna Brazile, CNN contributor:
“These women clearly made contributions in science, technology, engineering and math and also transcend that particular moment in time.”

Featured were several speakers and a video tribute to the late, great NASA astronaut and space pioneer, Sally Ride.



Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana:
“And it’s a great day for both New Orleans and our entire State.”

NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the agency's only large-scale advanced manufacturing facility, will soon be building liquefied natural gas tanks with commercial applications on Earth. At a ceremony that included Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Lockheed Martin Corporation announced it will tap the unique experience and equipment at Michoud to manufacture the LNG tanks. As prime contractor for NASA's Orion spacecraft being built at Michoud, Lockheed Martin is familiar with the facility's capabilities.

Roy Malone, Director Michoud Assembly Facility:

“Michoud has been a place where so many of the nation’s proud, unequaled accomplishments in space literally came together.”

This new deal represents another innovative use of the assembly facility, which has a 37-year history of producing the giant external tanks used by the space shuttle.

2013 ICEBRIDGE PREPS – GSFC (CP) Michelle Handleman Reporting


NASA's Operation IceBridge is preparing for another season of Arctic research. Instrument and aircraft teams at Wallops Flight Facility have been readying the P-3B airborne laboratory for its March 18 through May 3 campaign. During that series of flights researchers aboard the aircraft will survey ice in Greenland and the Arctic Ocean. Operation IceBridge has been gathering detailed data on ice elevation and thickness in the Arctic and Antarctic since NASA’s ICESat mission stopped collecting data from orbit in 2009. IceBridge will take measurements until the ICESat -2 satellite is up and running in 2016.

The six-year IceBridge mission will yield an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice. IceBridge is managed for NASA by Goddard Space Flight Center. The P3-B aircraft is based at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

SLS AT TENNESSEE TECH – MSFC (CP) Bill Hubscher Reporting


Engineers working on NASA's new Space Launch System at the Marshall Space Flight Center visited their alma mater of Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville during the school's Engineers Week. There, they discussed with area students the value of science, technology, engineering and math.

These Tennessee Tech alumni took questions from hundreds of grade school STUDENTS over a distance learning network hosted at the university's STEM Center.

Gail Gentry, Outreach Coordinator, Millard Oakley STEM Center:
“It has allowed us to reach so many more students than we normally would be able to. There are so many restrictions on bus travel right now. To be able to get you all into the classroom with the flip of a switch is very powerful.”

A traveling SLS exhibit was unveiled that allowed students to check out the different parts of the next generation rocket that will allow humans to travel farther into space than ever before. The new exhibit helped triple attendance records at the STEM Center's "FAB Friday" event.

The NASA group also talked with Tennessee Tech engineering students about space-related careers during a panel discussion.

Also in Cookeville, SLS Program Manager Todd May visited nearby Flexial Corporation, where he gave details on the overall vehicle to employees who in turn updated May on the progress of the J-2X engine part being built there.

Gary Cummings, Flexial Corporation:
“Having Todd May here talking to our employees of corse is a really strong enthusiasm booster. Now looking forward on SLS for the Space Launch System these are exciting things.”

Even Cosmo the astronaut got in on the action, visiting with TN Tech fans during a basketball game, where outreach volunteers answered questions about For more information on the Space Launch System, visit

CAREER DAY – LARC (CP) Sasha Congiu Reporting


It was a day filled with duct tape boats and coffee filter lunar landers at NASA’s 2013 Career Days.

The event was a joint collaboration between NASA Langley and the Newport News shipbuilding, where 600 high schoolers from Virginia took on two design challenges.

Voice of Bonnie Murray, NASA Education Specialist:
“So, you are designing a capsule to land on Mars, just like NASA did in August.”

The second challenge was to build a boat made out of duct tape and make it float in water, all while piling weights in it.

As the day went on, students expressed excitement over what they were learning.

Kiran Bagalkotkar, High School Junior:
“You really need hands on experience – you have to talk to people and ask questions to learn about it.”

And most of all, they learned what it means to be an explorer.

Chris Giersch, NASA Edge Host:
“Because we need you, because you’re the next generation of explorers”

NASA ANNIVERSARY: Gemini Titan 8 - 1st Manned Docking Mission, March 16, 1966


Forty-seven years ago, on March 16, 1966, the Gemini Titan 8 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on its way to becoming NASA’s first manned docking mission. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott successfully hooked up with an unmanned Agena target vehicle, but a thruster malfunction caused the combined vehicles to go into a violent yaw and tumble. The crew managed to disengage from the target vehicle and eventually stabilize their spacecraft. However, that maneuver left them short of fuel – requiring an immediate return to Earth, the first emergency landing of a manned U.S. spacecraft. Just over 10 hours after launch, Gemini 8 safely splashed down in the western Pacific Ocean about 500 miles west of Okinawa. Gemini served as a bridge between the Mercury and Apollo programs -- testing equipment and procedures, and preparing astronauts and ground crews for future missions to the moon.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: Launch of 1ST Liquid-Fuel Rocket – March 16, 1926


On that same day 40 years earlier, Robert Goddard successfully launched the world’s first liquid-fuel rocket from a field in Auburn, Massachusetts. Goddard continued his rocket development work throughout the remainder of his life, achieving numerous milestones, and helping pave the way for contemporary spaceflight. Established in 1959, the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland is named in his memory.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: The Launch of the Women @ NASA Website - March 16, 2011


And, two years ago, in a different kind of launch, the Women @ NASA Website was first published. The site includes a collection of videos and essays from women who contribute to NASA’s mission in different ways and whose stories illuminate the vibrant community of dedicated employees playing a vital role across the agency.

Visit the Women @ NASA website at

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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