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This Week @ NASA, March 30, 2012
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This Week at NASA…

Administrator Charles Bolden joined other NASA officials on Capitol Hill for an agency showcase called, "NASA Technology: Imagine. Innovate. Explore." The event, hosted by members of Congress, included displays from various companies and six NASA centers that demonstrate how NASA space and aeronautics technologies help enable agency goals while also creating or improving products and services that benefit life here on Earth.

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator: “Technology development is the key to our future. If you look at everything that we want to do, whether it’s a heavy lift launch vehicle, Multi-purpose crew vehicle, commercial crew, everything we do is dependent on improving on the technologies that we have today. Because we’ve got to go farther, faster and we’ve got to find better ways to do it.”

Mason Peck, NASA Chief Technologist: “What you’re seeing here today are not only great ideas that benefit the space program, you’re seeing great ideas that have turned into products, services that bring wealth as Congressman Rohrabacher explained, bring wealth to our country.”

Attendees also had an opportunity to discuss space travel with astronauts Mike Massimino and Mike Good.

He’s been to Infinity and Beyond – but now Buzz Lightyear is at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s Moving Beyond Earth gallery. The museum hosted a presentation attended by NASA and Pixar, creators of Buzz Lightyear and the animated Toy Story franchise, during which the action figure, which flew on Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station in 2008, was donated to the museum. NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver was there on behalf of the agency.

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator: “Innovative ways to communicate to students and the Public about the value of the International Space Station is what this mission was all about for us. This great little action figure was about the real life saga of space exploration.”

John Lasseter, Pixar Animation Studios: “It was a fantastic program between NASA and Disney to send Buzz up and did a tremendous education program. You know, for children all over the world and I was so proud.”

A panel discussion during the event, included NASA footage of Buzz in space. Buzz Lightyear will go on display in the gallery later this year.

During a recent visit to CFD Research Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama, NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck was briefed on some of the firm’s newest technologies. CFD Research, a woman-owned company, develops technologies and provides innovative solutions for aerospace and defense, biomedical and life sciences, energy, materials and other industries. It has received numerous NASA Small Business Innovation Research awards to develop software solutions that enable NASA missions and have potential for commercial applications.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver spoke to students at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Virginia as part of the USA Science and Engineering Festival’s Nifty Fifty (times 2) Program. The program sends more than 100 people who, like Garver are considered to be leaders in the fields of science and engineering, into Washington-area schools before the festival to inspire students' passion for science and engineering. The event, which will take place April 28 and 29 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in DC, is the country’s only national science festival.

During a luncheon given by the Aero Club of Washington at the Capital Hilton in DC, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden updated the audience on the latest NASA initiatives and the agency's Fiscal Year 2013 budget request. The Aero Club fosters interest in aeronautics and hosts regular forums to discuss issues with leaders in the field. NASA’s proposed budget would enable the agency to continue the space exploration program outlined by President Obama, one that creates jobs and stimulates the American economy well into the future while sending us farther into space than ever before.

The European Space Agency’s “Edoardo Amaldi” Automated Transfer Vehicle-3 cargo craft automatically docked to the aft port of the International Space Station’s Russian Zvezda service module on March 28.

“Contact is confirmed at 5:31pm central time …the Edoardo Amaldi has arrived.”

After a five-day journey that began with its launch from Kourou, French Guiana on March 23. The cargo ferry, named Edoardo Amaldi for the Italian physicist and spaceflight pioneer, is loaded with more than seven tons of food, fuel and supplies for the six crew members on the orbital laboratory. It is expected to remain docked to Zvezda for about six months.

“2-1 –zero … we have launch of terrier oriole.”

The early morning skies above the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore were lit up by the launch of five sounding rockets in about five minutes to study the high-altitude jet stream. Wallops and Clemson University teamed up for this Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment, or ATREX. Each of the five rockets released a tracer. The milky, white trail-shaped clouds they formed allowed scientists to “see” the high-altitude winds. The tracers were visible from South Carolina to the northeastern states.

NASA associate administrator for aeronautics research, Jaiwon Shin and Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden recently signed an agreement at Ames to establish the NASA Aeronautics Research Institute.

The Institute will be comprised of multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional teams seeking innovative ideas to address present and future technological challenges faced by aviation and the U.S. air transportation system, such as reducing air traffic congestion and environmental impacts, improving safety, and designing aircraft with unconventional capabilities. The institute will also seek to stimulate collaboration among technical disciplines and between NASA, academic institutions, and other government and industry organizations dedicated to aeronautics research.

The annual FIRST Robotics competition is in full swing with some 60-thousand high school students competing in regional challenges using robots they built in six weeks from a common kit of parts. NASA Science chief and former astronaut John Grunsfeld was at the DC Convention center to help kick off Washington’s regional competition.

John Grunsfeld, NASA Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate: “When I was growing up, there weren’t programs like this where I could get with like-minded kids and we could work on a project together to build something great. For me, it was more a question of surviving the process and still staying interested in science. And it’s so crucial today that we have programs like this so that kids can grow together, to grow stronger and to help our nation.”

NASA is the largest sponsor of the national FIRST program, supporting five regional competitions and more than 280 teams. The DC region includes high schools teams from Virginia, Maryland, Washington and several other states. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Here’s a look at some of the competition from around the country.

Since January high school FIRST Robotics teams across the country have worked tirelessly to build, program and test robots in preparation for upcoming regional and national tournaments.

In Hampton Roads, the NASA Knights and Triple Helix teams, both sponsored by NASA Langley, spent nights and weekends getting their 120-pound robot ready for this year’s challenge called Rebound Rumble

Todd Ferrante, NASA Mechanical Engineer/FIRST mentor: “What it basically is is shooting foam basketballs up into basketball hoops that are arranged in a diamond pattern at both ends of the field – the higher baskets are worth more points “

Around sixty robotics teams competed in the Virginia Regional tournament held at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center all with the hopes of making it to the national tournament in St. Louis this April.

This year’s game presented new challenges, even for a seasoned team like the NASA Knights.

Zach Lawrence, NASA Knights: “This year had a lot of neat challenges, we actually got a vision tracking system working where we could use a camera and see where the backboard is and then judge our distance by the size of the backboard and spin our motors up accordingly, which is something we’ve never really done before and it’s really neat to figure out how all of that works.”

Both the NASA Knights and Triple Helix feel confident about their robots and are looking forward to making it to nationals.

Zach Lawrence, NASA Knights: “I’m excited, I think we did really well this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing how everything pans out.”

The experience of FIRST is not only fun but offers students real engineering experience and may inspire them to pursue careers in STEM.

Allison Kelley, Triple Helix: “I had no idea what I wanted to be before I joined the team, but now I want to be a chemistry major, so, and I would’ve been interested in chemistry, but if not for robotics I probably wouldn’t have considered it for a career.”

The 21st Los Angeles regional FIRST Robotics Competition at the Long Beach Convention Center proved to be a true battle of the minds. With support from volunteers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other institutions, sixty-six high school teams from California, Nevada, Brazil and Chile put their student-designed robots to the test.

Steven Partida, King Drew Magnet School, Compton, California: “I learned so much because basically I always wanted to go into engineering. So I just learned so much about robotics, so much about the mechanics about it.”

Morgan Schweitzer, Marymount H.S., Los Angeles, Calif.:“I had so much fun. I’ve learned how to communicate. I learned how to build a robot. I learned how to problem solve and get things done quickly. Well, like learning how to apply math and science I’ve learned since I was a little kid. It’s the best thing ever.”

The winners from this competition will represent the Southern California region at the FIRST championships in April at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, against 51,000 other students on more than 2,400 teams. For a more detailed roundup of recent FIRST Robotics action involving a NASA Center near you, stay tuned to NASA TV or check out and NASA television’s YouTube site.

Students from Washington Elementary School in San Jose, California had an opportunity to speak live with Expedition 30 astronauts Dan Burbank and Don Pettit onboard The International Space Station during a “Destination Station” downlink event at The Tech Museum of Innovation. The event was part of a NASA campaign to promote space station research opportunities and to educate the public about the ISS.

“Do you have internet in space or can you take your iPods and iPads to space?”

In conjunction with the event, Ames Research Center held a Space Research Expo and Twitter Town Hall, featuring astronaut Rex Walheim. The event included activities and information about how the station improves life on Earth.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: The Launch of STS-83, April 4, 1997
“3-2-1 and liftoff of space shuttle Columbia with the microgravity science laboratory, our research bridge to the space benefits of tomorrow.”

15 years ago on April 4, 1997, Space Shuttle Columbia launched from the Kennedy Space Center on STS-83, the first flight of the Microgravity Science Laboratory-1, or MSL-1. The seven person crew -- Commander James Halsell, Pilot Susan Still, Payload Commander Janice Voss, Mission Specialists Don Thomas and Mike Gernhardt and Payload Specialists Roger Crouch and Greg Linteris -- were scheduled for 15 days of science activities in orbit. But a malfunction with one of Columbia’s fuel cells caused the mission to be cut short. Columbia and its crew landed just 3-days and 23-hours later, marking only the third time in shuttle program history a mission ended early.

In July of ’97, Columbia and the same crew re-flew the mission, re-designated STS-94, the first re-flight of a mission with the same orbiter, crew and payload.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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