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This Week @ NASA, April 12, 2013
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This Week at NASA…



Administrator Charles Bolden, along with Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson and Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot unveiled to agency employees the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request for NASA in a town hall-style all-hands briefing to all centers from Headquarters.

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator:
“It ensures that the U.S. will remain the world's leader in space exploration and scientific discovery for years to come.”

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator:
“I know there's been a bit of a misperception out there after shuttle retirement that maybe NASA's best days are behind us; I think we have an opportunity with this budget to show that that is, in fact, far from the truth.”

Beth Robinson, NASA Chief Financial Officer:
“The Public benefits of NASA; that's always the place you want to start. Budgets are a lot about cost, but of course we're doing all this for the benefits.”

The proposal would leverage the agency’s capabilities to make significant-yet-affordable advances for the nation while meeting the space goals set by the Obama Administration. One presidential goal, to send humans to an asteroid by 2025, is targeted by what would be the first-ever mission to identify, capture, and relocate an asteroid to a stable Earth-moon orbit. There, it could be explored by astronauts using the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System.

Robert Lightfoot, NASA Associate Administrator:
“We’re going to go rendezvous with this asteroid and we’re going to take samples off of it. It allows us to start working on the techniques that we’re going to need that are so different than Low Earth Orbit.”

The president’s NASA budget request supports a balanced portfolio of aeronautics and space technology development, Earth and space science, development of rockets and capsules for deep space exploration, and the use of innovative commercial partnerships for crew and cargo transport to the International Space Station.



Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Anatares rocket sits poised for its test flight from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-0A at the Wallops Flight Facility.

This demonstration of the Antares launch system will send a simulated Cygnus spacecraft to orbit. The real Cygnus will deliver cargo to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS program.



The Curiosity rover continues to analyze the John Klein area of Mars where it drilled and collected its first sample of rock powder, conducting investigations with the ChemCam instrument to unravel the different chemical compositions of rocks, soils, and dust.

Although busy with work on rocks and dust, Curiosity took a moment to smell the atmosphere with its SAM instrument – analyzing a gas called Argon. By comparing the amounts of light Argon, Argon-36, and a heavier form called Argon-38, SAM found that the mix of Argon at Mars today is heavier than in the Earth's atmosphere, the Sun, and in Jupiter -- evidence that Mars once had a thicker atmosphere, which would help explain the evidence of rivers and lakes in the past.

Through the month of April, Mars will be behind the Sun, as seen from Earth – a planetary alignment called solar conjunction that happens every 26 months. Because the Sun can disrupt radio communications between Curiosity and Earth, the science team won't send any more commands to Curiosity until they can be safely received.

Curiosity’s full science operations are scheduled to resume in early May.



At the Dryden Flight Research Center, testing of Masten Space Systems' Xombie space-access technology demonstrator produced its highest and longest flight to date. Designed and guided to replicate a planetary approach, Xombie ascended more than 16-hundred feet above ground and nearly a thousand feet laterally before making a pin-point landing. The flight was supported by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program that allows researchers to test promising space flight technologies.



The flexible wings of the James Webb Space Telescope were put in deep freeze at the Marshall Space Flight Center’s X-ray and Cryogenic Test Facility. Engineers chilled the wings to a frigid minus 414 degrees Fahrenheit to simulate the extreme temperatures of space. That will allow any flaws found in the wings’ 900 separate parts to be corrected before JWST makes its scheduled 2018 launch. The most powerful space telescope ever built, JWST will see farther back in time than even the Hubble Space Telescope to provide images of the first galaxies ever formed and explore planets around distant stars.



April is Earth Month, and employees at the Goddard Space Flight Center volunteered to help with an on-site tree planting. The 35 trees will not only “spruce” up the area – pun intended – they’ll also protect against wind erosion. NASA’s celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd will include the display of HD Earth imagery on a nine-screen hyperwall for travelers at Washington, DC’s Union Station.



April 12 is special in exploration history as the anniversary of two key spaceflight events twenty years apart. Most recent was the 19-81 liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center of space shuttle Columbia on STS-1. Astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen made 37 orbits on the two-day mission that successfully tested all major systems of the new orbiter – and ushered in NASA’s 30-plus year space shuttle era.

And a score of years earlier, on April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space; his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of Earth. A national hero, Gagarin went on to serve as deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow, which now bears his name.



NASA's official Twitter feed, @NASA, has won its second consecutive Shorty award for the best government use of social media. The Shorty Awards also recognized NASA's @MarsCuriosity account as Foursquare Mayor of the Year.

The @NASA acceptance tweet read, in part, "We're sharing the universe one tweet at a time!”

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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