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This Week @ NASA, April 8, 2011
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This Week at NASA…

The three new members of the Expedition 27 crew are busy making the International Space Station their new home for the next five months. Flight engineers Alexander Samokutyaev, Andrey Borisenko and Ron Garan arrived at the station in their Soyuz spacecraft following a successful journey from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The craft, dubbed the “Gagarin,” for Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human in space 50 years ago this week, docked to the Poisk module on the space-facing side of the Russian segment. The trio joined Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli. The six will continue research into the effects of microgravity on the human body, biology, physics and materials.

Ron Garan: "Now that we have the major construction done, we are in the utilization phase of the space station. So we are doing on the space station now what it was designed to do and that’s cutting-edge science, cutting-edge research and opening up, doors to discovery."

NASA managers will hold a Flight Readiness Review on Tuesday, April 19, to assess the team's ability to support launch of space shuttle Endeavour on STS-134. Barring unforeseen issues, the FRR is expected to conclude with the selection of an official launch date for the mission. Endeavour’s liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center is targeted for April 29 at 3:47 pm Eastern.

The STS-134 crew will have among its members astronaut Mike Fincke, who returns to the International Space Station after living there for a year’s time on two previous missions. A veteran of two Soyuz flights, this’ll be the Pittsburgh native’s first flight on a shuttle.

Mike Fincke: "My job on the mission is to be, first and foremost, MS1. What does MS1 mean? Mission specialist No. 1. I sit up on the flight deck in the cockpit and help with launching and landing of this complex aerospace vehicle. It’s really amazing what the shuttle can do. So I like to think that some of the skills that I learned in flying as a flight engineer in the Soyuz, I’m helping my shuttle friends work on."

NASA headquarters welcomed students from Maryland School for the Blind in Baltimore to Disability Mentoring Day. The students, ages 12-15, rotated through several stations, exploring and learning through touch about the space shuttle, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mars rovers and other NASA programs. They also met and chatted with NASA scientists and engineers.

The annual event encourages students to strive for success and consider careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Inside the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Spacecraft Assembly Facility, news media donned special clean-room garments for a close-up look at NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity.

Jennifer Knight: "We’re looking to see if there is any evidence that there was ever any life there; maybe there still is. So, we don’t want to take something to Mars with us, and then discover something only to realize that it didn’t actually come from Mars, we brought it with us. So, we’re trying to keep everything as clean as we possibly can."

Ben Thoma: "This is the most assembled the press has ever seen this vehicle. It’s got the arm, the sensing, the mobility system. This is a completely assembled Mars rover."

The rover recently completed tests under simulated space and Mars-surface environmental conditions. The mission's spacecraft, including the rover and other components, will be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in May and June. Launch of the Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity is scheduled between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, with a landing on the Red Planet in 2012. The mission will investigate whether one of Mars’ most intriguing areas has conditions that are or have been favorable for microbial life to exist.


Rob Strain: "I know many were deeply and personally affected by the news of the tragic shooting in Tucson a couple of months ago."

Goddard Space Flight Center employees joined with the American Red Cross to kick-off the Gabrielle Giffords Honorary Save-a-Life Campaign.

Rob Strain: "The quick action by a member of her staff played an enormously important role in saving her life. We never know when we might be called on to react in a similar manner."

Part of a nationwide effort that encompassed 100 locations around the country, the event included Red Cross training for basic hands-only CPR, and demonstrations on how to treat shock and dress wounds.

Linda Mathes: "The lesson of Tucson is simple. We can all make a difference in saving other people’s lives."

Congresswoman Giffords continues to recover from a serious gunshot wound suffered in January in Tucson. Many have said her continued recovery is due, in no small part, to the life-saving efforts implemented immediately following the incident. Giffords is married to STS-134 commander Mark Kelly.


More than 800 students in College Station, Texas, celebrated the end of six weeks of training as part of Mission X: Train Like An Astronaut. As part of the activities, the students heard from astronauts Rick Linnehan and Leland Melvin, who is now NASA’s associate administrator for education. Mission X involved almost 4,000 students in 25 cities worldwide and promoted healthy nutrition and fitness. Linnehan and Melvin talked with the students about the importance of staying healthy, studying hard and working in teams, and of course, listening to your teachers. They also talked about what made them want to become astronauts and what it’s like to fly in space.

Nearly 70 high school and college teams throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, India and Russia descended on the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville for the 18th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race. The event, hosted by the Marshall Space Flight Center, encourages young people to reach for new heights in science, technology, engineering and math, and pursue careers in technical fields that will benefit NASA, the nation and all humankind.

Students are challenged to build and race lightweight, human-powered buggies -- demonstrating the same innovation and can-do spirit that put the first Apollo-era lunar rover on the moon four decades ago.

Sarah Browning: "We all had our own ideas and we tried to work fast and incorporate it all together, but in the end, after testing, we had some minor flaws like the back axel bent and we had to fix it. So, we had few minor bumps we had to go through, but overall it worked pretty well."

Participation in the race has increased annually from just eight college teams in 1994 to more than 80 at this year’s event.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the use of the Lunar Roving Vehicle on the surface of the moon, and the Marshall Space Flight Center team, along with Apollo astronauts Charlie Duke and Harrison Schmitt helped celebrate the historic feat.

To help commemorate the event, the moonbuggy racers mingled with the engineers who worked on the program in the 1960s, and whose ingenuity and determination helped this inspire the popular student competition.

Harrison "Jack" Schmitt: "The opportunity to do those wonderful things really came because some 450,000 Americans decided that this was the most important thing that they were going to do with their lives. And when young men and women, like most of you, believe that, you can do anything. I congratulate all of all you for already having taken steps that are going to make you something special."

In just 17 months between1969-1971, the NASA-industry team finalized the Lunar Roving Vehicle's design, built and tested it at Marshall Space Flight Center and partner facilities and sent it to the moon as a key element of the Apollo 15 mission. For three days beginning July 31, 1971, astronauts David Scott and James Irwin guided the rover across the lunar surface, dramatically expanding NASA’s exploration of the moon.

Forty-one years ago this week, on April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 launched from the Kennedy Space Center on what was supposed to be NASA’s third manned mission to the moon. However, Commander Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise had to abort the mission after a rupture of the service module’s oxygen tank.

"Houston we have a problem."

Since the crew was brought home safely, Apollo 13 in considered a "successful failure" – and one of NASA’s finest moments.

And thirty years ago, on April 12, 1981, the liftoff of Columbia on STS-1 ushered in NASA’s space shuttle era. Astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen made 37 orbits on the two-day mission that successfully tested all major systems of the new orbiter. Upon Columbia’s safe return, it was discovered that sixteen tiles from the orbiter’s thermal protection system had been lost, with another 148 tiles damaged. The problem was solved by modifications to suppress sound waves caused by the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters. This first flight of the space shuttle came twenty years to the day after Yuri Gagarin in 1961 became the first human to travel into space.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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