NASA Podcasts

This Week @ NASA, April 6, 2012
› Listen Now
› View Now
This Week at NASA…

Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland was honored in her hometown of Baltimore when the Space Telescope Science Institute renamed its data archive center for the longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. Congress.

Senator Barbara Mikulski: “It’s available to the world for free and whether you’re a teacher in South Baltimore or you are a young scientist in South Africa or South Korea, you have a chance to come to the digital library and to have a library that has more than 100 times the information of the Library of Congress.”

The Multimission Archive at STScI, or MAST, was renamed for Mikulski in honor of her continued support of space science programs. The archive holds a variety of astronomical data sets, primarily in the optical, ultraviolet, and near-infrared, captured by 16 NASA telescopes including the Hubble Space Telescope, Kepler, and the Galaxy Explorer.

Leaders in government, industry, academia and entrepreneurship recently gathered at the annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium in Greenbelt, Maryland to discuss a wide range of topics, from the future of commercial spaceflight to protecting our home planet. The theme of this year’s two-day event, “Dreams and Possibilities: Planning for the Achievable,” featured presentations and expert panel discussions to devise strategies for human space exploration, technology advancement and public outreach and education. This was the 50TH annual Goddard Memorial Symposium held in honor of Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the father of modern rocketry.

Mason Peck, NASA's Chief Technologist, walked the test section of the Langley Research Center's 8-Foot High-Temperature Tunnel -- a facility designed to mimic hypersonic flight conditions. Peck also inspected prototype inflatable lunar habitats that may someday help humans live and work on the moon, and was briefed on NASA's Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator. HIAD focuses on the development of inflatable aeroshells to protect a spacecraft during reentry into Earth's atmosphere. HIAD is one of the technologies in development under Peck's office through the Game Changing Development program located at Langley.

America's next heavy-lift launch vehicle -- the Space Launch System – is a step closer to its first launch in 2017, following completion of its latest milestone reviews at the Marshall Space Flight Center. These extensive NASA-led reviews set requirements that further narrow the scope of the SLS design and concept evaluation, including crew safety and the rocket’s Interface with the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The next step of the review process, scheduled for early summer, will evaluate cost, schedule and program risks.

A rocket sled that replicates the forces a supersonic spacecraft would experience prior to landing was recently tested by NASA at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, California. Sleds like this will allow the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Project, or LDSD, to test inflatable and parachute decelerators for slowing spacecraft as they descend on Mars and other destinations. That would enable NASA to increase the size of payloads it lands and landing accuracy. These new decelerators represent the first steps on the technology pathway to land humans and habitats on new worlds.

This test series is led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. LDSD is one of nine missions managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center on behalf of the agency.

Two IMAX cameras used in orbit have found new space at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. From 1984 to 1998, the two-dimensional IMAX cameras were used on seventeen missions by space shuttle crews to capture stunning views of Earth and life in microgravity.

“It’s not just an adventuresome place to live. But actually a pleasant and challenging and interesting place to live.”

Among those on hand for the presentation in the Museum’s Moving Beyond Earth gallery were former shuttle commander, Bill Readdy, IMAX camera co-inventor Graeme Ferguson and IMAX producer Toni Myers.

Bill Readdy, Former NASA Astronaut: “It’s very much like a time machine. It certainly takes me back to another time, another era. The images, I mean, just seem to be etched in my memory, certainly.”

The footage captured by the on-orbit cameras led to six IMAX films, including, Blue Planet, Mission to Mir and The Dream is Alive, which had a special screening at the Museum’s IMAX Theater.

NASA Researchers are one step closer to understanding the thin atmosphere and dust above the surface of the Moon.

Working as a small observatory the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer or LADEE mission will gather detailed information about conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.

The LADEE propulsion system, built by Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California is a modified version of the kind used in nearly sixty geostationary commercial satellites currently in orbit.

“Thanks for a great job. Now onward to the moon.”

In a brief ceremony, NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden recently took delivery of the propulsion system from Space Systems/Loral President John Celli.

Pete Worden, Ames Center Director: “Well one of the really neat things about what NASA’s doing is that we’re trying to do more for less money and a key part of that is using commercial practices, commercial parts and commercial partners. And so, Loral took things they’ve been building for the commercial community and packaged them a little smaller to take us to the moon and we’re really happy about it.”

John Celli, President, Space Systems/Loral: “We’re very proud that we had the opportunity. I think this is a very neat shrunk satellite and we hope that we can certainly do that more in the future.”

LADEE will orbit the Moon in a low-altitude, retrograde equatorial orbit, the most complex lunar flight path attempted since the Apollo missions.

A thorough understanding will help researchers predict how future lunar exploration may shape the moon's environment and how the environment may affect future explorers.

A new piece of hardware that will provide enhanced satellite observations of precipitation has arrived at the Goddard Space Flight Center. The Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar, or DPR, built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will work in conjunction with the GPM Microwave Imager, or GMI. Both are scheduled to fly in 20-14 on the Global Precipitation Mission’s Core Observatory.

Candace Carlisle, GPM Deputy Project Manager: “It can be used to make combined products together with the GMI that allow the scientist to determine a lot more about precipitation from rain through snow. Be it light or be it heavy, than they know today.”

Comprised of two radars, the DPR will provide 3-D measurements of the shapes, sizes and other physical characteristics of raindrops and snowflakes.

KUDOS FOR KOUVELIOTOU – MSFC (CP) Janet Anderson Reporting
Dr. Chryssa Kouveliotou, an astrophysicist at the Marshall Space Flight Center, has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the Dannie Heineman prize in astrophysics. The award is jointly presented each year by the American Institute of Physics and the American Astronomical Society.

Chryssa Kouveliotou, NASA Astrophysicist: I was floored, I was very excited, I was delighted, I was surprised.

The citation for the Heineman prize recognizes Kouveliotou "for her extensive accomplishments and discoveries in the areas of gamma ray bursts and their afterglows, soft gamma ray repeaters and magnetars.

Chryssa Kouveliotou, NASA Astrophysicist: “This is a mid-career award and so my colleagues have acknowledged what I have done and at the same time they told me I will probably have to work another 35 years. I said that is fine with me, I will take a future x-ray mission with that.”

The Heineman Prize is named after the late Dannie N. Heineman, a Belgian-American engineer, business executive and philanthropic sponsor of scientific endeavors.

“3-2-1 … we have ignition and liftoff of a Delta 2 rocket carrying NASA on an Odyssey back to Mars.”

Eleven 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.

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 this summer.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: The Launch of STS-110, April 8, 2002
And April 8th marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on STS-110, an assembly flight to the International Space Station.

The launch marked a milestone for Mission Specialist Jerry Ross, as he became the first human to fly in space seven times. The primary objective of the flight for Ross and his crewmates, Commander Michael Bloomfield, Pilot Steve Frick and Mission Specialists Steve Smith, Ellen Ochoa, Lee Morin and Rex Walheim, was installation of the S-Zero truss – the center of the station’s supporting backbone. That and other work was accomplished during four spacewalks, including transfer of experiments and supplies between the shuttle and station and replenishment of an oxygen tank on the Quest Airlock, used to re-pressurize the airlock after spacewalks. The mission ended ten days later when Atlantis and crew touched down safely at the Kennedy Space Center.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

For more on these and other stories, or to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, log on to
› Listen Now
› View Now