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This Week @ NASA, March 29, 2013
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This Week at NASA…


Astronaut Cassidy:
“Launch Key inserted”

Ground Control:
“Onboard systems have now been switched to onboard control to commanders cockpit displays and controls have been activated.”)

Astronaut Cassidy:
“We feel great, everything is in order, we are ready for launch… Ignition.”

Ground Control:
“And lift off…”

Following their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, NASA Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy and his Expedition 35/36 crewmates, Soyuz Commander Pavel Vinogradov, and Russian Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin, are now safely aboard the International Space Station.

The trio was welcomed by ISS Commander Chris Hadfield, Tom Marshburn of NASA and Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency. The three newcomers begin a six-month residence of the world’s only laboratory in microgravity.


The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship is seen here moments before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California after its fiery reentry of Earth’s atmosphere. Among the two tons of cargo returning with Dragon are investigations that could aid in food production; help develop more efficient solar cells, detergents and semiconductor-based electronics; and help scientists continue to examine how the human body reacts to long-term spaceflight.



Engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center completed assembling and welding two identical pieces of hardware for NASA’s new Space Launch System, or SLS. One of the two identical adaptors will undergo strenuous structural testing to ensure its twin can successfully connect the Orion spacecraft to its Delta IV launch vehicle. Slated for its first flight test next year, the new SLS rocket will enable human missions farther into space than ever before.


After being loaded onto NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft, the heat shield for the first Orion spacecraft was flown to the Textron Corporation in Boston, where it will receive its special thermal protective coating. The Avcoat, named for the company that originally developed the honeycomb-like material, will help protect the spacecraft from temperatures up to 4000 degrees Fahrenheit as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere during that first test flight scheduled for next year.


That Super Guppy also transported two retired T-38s from the Dryden Flight Research Center to El Paso, Texas. There, they’ll be dismantled for parts for NASA’s fleet of T-38s flown out of the Johnson Space Center. Only the wingtips had to be removed for the two aircraft to squeeze into the Guppy's 25-foot-diameter cargo bay. This Super Guppy is the last aircraft of its kind still flying.



A new analysis of movies from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveals previously unseen waves inside Jupiter. The gas giant’s bright Equatorial Zone swirls with dark patches, dubbed “hot spots” for their infrared glow. The new analysis by scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Jet Propulsion Lab shows that these hot spots are not just local weather phenomena, but are in fact linked to large-scale atmospheric structures called Rossby waves. Here on Earth, Rossby waves can affect the paths of the jet streams and lead to dramatic day-to-day changes in weather.

CALIFORNIA AEROSPACE DAY – ARC (CP) Jesse Carpenter Reporting


The second annual California Aerospace Day at the Capitol in Sacramento became a rare opportunity for Ames, JPL and Dryden to show some of NASA’s latest projects and achievements in the Golden State.

Presentations included the evolution of Mars rovers featuring a mock-up of the Curiosity rover currently making discoveries on Mars.

A version of Ames’ CheMin or Chemical and Mineralogy instrument operating on Curiosity was demonstrated by team members who were available to answer questions about laboratory science on Mars.

There was also information about upcoming NASA missions such as LADEE which will study the thin atmosphere around the Moon, and IRIS which will study the shifting temperature of heat that radiates from within the Sun.


Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer held a town hall question-and-answer session with employees at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Hoyer, who represents the center’s district, thanked the men and women of Goddard for their contributions to the scientific community advancing our understanding of the Earth, the solar system and beyond.

Steny Hoyer:
“ You continue to enrich the life of our nation, and indeed advance the cause of human understanding, of the universe, and our place in it. I want to thank all of you for all you do, all of the time.”




NASA held its first-ever Google+ Hangout en Espanol. Earth scientist Erika Podest and principal investigator and systems engineer Michela Munoz Fernandez, both of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, shared stories and answered questions about their career paths and contributions to America’s space program. This Google+ Hangout en Espanol was sponsored by Science4Girls, a NASA partnership with libraries for National Women's History Month.



Franzeska Houtas, Meteorologist, Dryden Flight Research Center

I am very proud to be a part of the work that’s being done here at Dryden with all the different flight research as well as the role that I feel like meteorology plays in all of it.

My name is Franzeska Houtas, and I’m a meteorologist at NASA Dryden.

We forecast for specifically, not only the type of aircraft, but exactly where they are going to be flying. We give them what we call a pinpoint forecast.

We cover projects from X-48, which is a small UAV. Then we get things as large as the 747 SOFIA project which, uh, flies all the way up to Northern California, across the Pacific, half way to Hawaii and back in eight or nine hours which requires looking at, uh, if they’re going to encounter any clouds or turbulence and things of that nature, as well as the conditions when they get back. We do a lot of work with the F-18’s and the F-15’s as well. A lot of the supersonics projects.

Being a pilot myself has definitely given me a better understanding of what the pilots are looking for.

What I really like about being at Dryden, uh, is that everyday is different and every project is different, and we not only get to do the operational side of meteorology, but we also get to do some of the research side and the data analysis and things like that.

… where the turbulence is, but sometimes there’s little signals. This right here…

So, it was uh, fifth grade science class that initially got me interested in meteorology. It’s always fun to go and work with the kids from various levels, from elementary schools, all the way up to high schools. It’s one of those things that goes, relates back to how I got interested in meteorology, and how it was one little thing that got me interested. So, to me it’s showing them what I love, and if one, even one of them happens to get even remotely interested in not just meteorology, but any of the sciences or the math, technology, and engineering, that would just make my day.



Five…four…three….two….one….and a flock of animated birds have descended on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The grand-opening celebration welcomed the new Angry Birds Space Encounter amid excitement and fanfare. NASA astronaut Don Pettit, who helped launch Angry Birds Space while aboard the International Space Station, introduced the new attraction and its six interactive stations designed to inspire children to explore science, technology, engineering and math.

MARS BOWLING – LARC (CP) Kathy Barnstorff Reporting


nat sound: Bowling

A group of fourth and fifth graders from Hampton, Virginia came to a movie entertainment complex for a class in geometry and Newton's Laws of Motion.

It all started with a bowling demonstration. An iPad beamed the action from the lanes into a nearby theatre where education specialists from NASA's Langley Research Center presented lessons to the students and an audience on the Web.

David Way, Aerospace Engineer:
“We model all of the forces that are acting on the vehicle on the computer and then we fly it in the computer and we see if we can land safely or not and we do that literally millions of times.”

These are the kinds of lessons that stick in a kid's head – including one rocking a haircut made famous by a NASA Mars engineer.

Kolby Davis, 5th Grader:
“Before I bowl I will be thinking of all the equations in my head to see what would be the best places.”

Bowling and Mars – a unique way to capture students' attention



Two years ago, on March 29, 2011, the first image taken of Mercury by an orbiting spacecraft was released by NASA. The MESSENGER spacecraft, which eleven days earlier had become the first spacecraft to achieve orbit around Mercury, captured this picture of previously unseen terrain near the small, rocky planet's South Pole.

In the two years since, MESSENGER has imaged 100 percent of Mercury, revealing new data about the planet’s topography, core and the abundant water ice and other frozen materials in its permanently- shadowed polar craters.



Thirty-one years ago, on March 30, 1982, Space Shuttle Columbia made a successful landing at the White Sands Space Harbor near Las Cruces, New Mexico to end NASA’s

NASA's third space shuttle mission. STS-3 was one of several test missions to qualify the spacecraft’s systems for operational flights. Commander Jack Lousma and Pilot C. Gordon Fullerton tested the Canadarm Remote Manipulator System and gathered data on how Columbia handled the sun’s heat in various attitudes. STS-3 was the first and only shuttle mission to land at White Sands.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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