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This Week @ NASA, April 1, 2011
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This Week at NASA…

NASA has re-targeted the launch of space shuttle Endeavour for Friday, April 29, at 3:47 p.m. EDT. The move comes to resolve a scheduling conflict with a Russian Progress supply vehicle scheduled to launch April 27 and arrive at the station two days later. At Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center where Endeavour waits for liftoff, a violent storm passing through caused only minor damage to foam insulation on the shuttle’s external tank. Severe weather also delayed completion of STS-134’s Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test. The TCDT is a full launch dress rehearsal that allows ground teams and the mission’s six astronauts a chance to familiarize themselves with equipment and emergency exit procedures. Landing the orbiter… and emergency evacuation from the launch pad via armored carrier are some of the simulations performed in the multi-day TCDT.

Mark Kelly: "This is the time where our training meets the processing of the vehicle. The vehicle is in great shape. We were out there yesterday where we did what is called payload bay walkdown, which is pretty interesting because the vehicle is now in the vertical so it’s more like payload bay climb up and down the stairs."

The Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Greg Johnson, and mission specialists Mike Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Drew Feustel, and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori, will crew Endeavour’s final flight. Their 14-day mission is to deliver a payload to the International Space Station that includes the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle physics detector designed to search for various types of unusual matter by measuring cosmic rays.


“NASA, MORE THAN YOU IMAGINE” was the theme of this year’s Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium held in Greenbelt, Maryland. The annual, two-day event brought together leaders in government, industry, academia and entrepreneurship to discuss far-ranging topics from the future of commercial spaceflight to protecting our home planet. This year’s keynote speakers were White House science advisor Dr. John Holdren, and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden.

Charles Bolden: "One of the reasons that I get excited about getting up in the morning is that I know we’re going to affect people’s lives in a positive manner."

Among the featured presentations were expert panel discussions…

A -3D demonstrating new ways to communicate NASA science.

…and videos highlighting various NASA missions based at Goddard, including the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System also known as T-dress, and Maven, a spacecraft that’ll explore the Martian atmosphere.

This was the 49TH annual Goddard Memorial Symposium held in honor of Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the father of modern rocketry.

Congratulations to NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock for capturing a Shorty Award at this year’s ceremonies in New York City. Wheelock, who goes by @Astro_Wheels on the social medium, Twitter, captured top honors in the “Real-Time Photo of the Year” category for an image he sent from the International Space Station titled “Moon from Space!” Wheelock, commander of the station’s Expedition 25 crew last year, tweeted, or sent via Twitter more than 100 messages from space, many of them stunning images like these. The Shorty Awards, also known as the Shorties, honor top short-form content creators on the micro-blogging website Twitter. Since their creation in 2008, the Shorties have expanded to recognize content creation on other social networking sites, including Tumblr, Foursquare, and Facebook.

The Ames Research Center hosted NASA’s first Open Source Summit. The two-day event brought engineers and policy makers from throughout the agency together with members of the open source community to discuss how NASA can more easily develop, release, and use open source software.

Nick Skytland: "It’s important for NASA to be involved in Open Source because it has the promise of reducing the overall cost of developing of software, increasing the quality of software, and just adding another way of doing software development to our toolkit."

"Open source software" is computer software that’s often developed in a public, collaborative manner and not subject to usual copyright restrictions. Use of open-source software models by business is believed to result in savings to consumers of about $60 billion per year.

Ames is celebrating the winning of two agency awards. First, Ames researchers developed the Future ATM (Air Traffic Management) Concepts Evaluation Tool, or FACET, software that creates simulations for managing air traffic scenarios. For that accomplishment, Ames garnered the 2010 Government Invention of the Year Award. Ames also won the 2010 Commercial Invention of the Year Award for developing a powder vibration system used in portable X-ray diffraction instruments. Research scientist David Blake and former NASA post-doctoral fellow Philippe Sarrazin developed the technology, which has since been licensed to a California firm. The powder vibration system enabled the development of a miniaturized soil and rock analysis instrument that Ames will fly on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), NASA's next mission to Mars. MSL is scheduled to launch this November.

David Blake: "The Mars Science Laboratory is the next big mission to Mars that NASA is flying, and it will be doing fully quantitative analyses on the surface of Mars for the minerals and soils, and this instrument makes that possible."


Launch Announcer: "3-2-1, we have ignition and liftoff of a Delta II rocket carrying NASA on an Odyssey back to the Mars."

Ten years ago, on April 7, 2001, the Mars Odyssey orbiter began its journey to map and search for water on Mars. Launched by a Delta 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral, it reached its destination six months later.

Not only have Odyssey's science instruments discovered vast amounts of frozen water just beneath the Martian surface; run a radiation-safety check for future astronauts; and mapped surface textures, minerals and elements; its camera has also produced the highest-resolution map of the entire Red Planet.

NASA scientists continue to marvel at the spacecraft's reliability to conduct scientific investigations. In addition to its own science, Odyssey has relayed to Earth nearly all of the data provided by the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and will provide relay service for the Mars Science Laboratory after its rover, Curiosity, lands on Mars next year.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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