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This Week @ NASA, April 15, 2011
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This Week at NASA…

In spaceflight history, the date “April 12” is special. On that day in 1981, the first shuttle mission, STS-1, began with the launch of Columbia from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Administrator Charles Bolden led a commemorative program at Kennedy to honor the space shuttle’s work force for its invaluable contributions to space exploration over the past 30 years.

Charles Bolden: "I want to thank each and every one of you, and the many others in the shuttle work force over the years for your significant contribution to this tremendous American accomplishment. You’ve inspired a generation, helped make the world a better place and given us a road map for future space exploration."

Bolden also announced the four locations at which the orbiters Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavour and Enterprise will spend their retirement on permanent display.

The ceremony also featured astronaut Bob Crippen, a veteran of four shuttle missions including the first – STS-1.

Bob Crippen: "When the count passed one minute, I turned to John and I said, I think we might do it. That’s when my heart rate went up to about 130, John’s was down at a nice calm ninety; I’m surprised mine didn’t go faster, and it was a fantastic flight."

April 12 is also the date on which cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space in 1961. NASA dignitaries helped mark the Gagarin spaceflight’s 50th anniversary at several events in Russia. International space officials gathered in Moscow for a gala at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. Among the attendees were retired NASA astronaut Tom Stafford and Soviet-era cosmonaut Alexei Leonov; they remain close friends more than 35 years after serving together on the Apollo Soyuz Test Project, the first joint mission between the one-time Cold War adversaries.

Also in Moscow, a golden anniversary extravaganza was staged at the Grand Kremlin Palace…

And the week’s highlights culminated with a gala attended by Bolden at the home of the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle.

One final anniversary note: NASA astronaut and avid amateur musician Cady Coleman blended the melodic sounds of her flute with that of musician Ian Anderson, founder of the rock band Jethro Tull. Honoring the achievements of the day, the pair collaborated on the first space-Earth duet. Coleman and Anderson played a portion of “Bourree,” a song that Jethro Tull played during its 1969 U.S. tour as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the moon.

More than 7,000 students gathered at the Ames Research Center to celebrate Yuri Gagarin’s historic journey into space. The fourth through 12th graders engaged in hands-on learning activities, explored interactive exhibits and talked with scientists, engineers and technology experts. They built and launched rockets, “drove” a replica of a Mars rover, and played instructional games designed to inspire the next generation of explorers.

The nameplate says it all; Mission Control in Houston is now known as the Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. Mission Control Center. The building’s new nameplate was unveiled at a Johnson Space Center ceremony in honor of Chris Kraft, America's first human space mission flight director.

Charles Kraft: "Our experiences, our joys were something that we were all extremely proud of; we still are today."

Kraft was recognized by NASA for his service to the nation and its space programs.

As flight director, he managed all of the Mercury and several Gemini missions, and was in that role for America’s first human spaceflight, first human orbital flight, and first spacewalk. Kraft also was one of the designers and implementers of the Mission Control Center, the heart of all NASA crewed space missions.

Charles Kraft: "I don’t anything any of us appreciated what we were up to, where we were going, what it was going to result in, the impact on the country, the impact on the world."

A scientific research park on the moon? That was the focus of an international lunar conference held at the Ames Research Center. Organized by the state of Hawaii, the workshop gathered pioneering thinkers from across the U.S. to seek new ways nations can collaborate in space exploration and development. Discussions centered on building a multinational research park on the moon over the next decade. Earth-bound prototypes would be developed with strong U.S. leadership and operated by a consortium of space-faring nations through public-private partnerships.

One visionary in attendance, Nobel Laureate Dr. Baruch Blumberg, succumbed to a heart attack after delivering the keynote address. Blumberg, whose groundbreaking work in medical research has saved millions of lives, died doing what he loved best: helping explore new ways to improve the human condition. He was 85.


Student: "3-2-1 drop."

At the Glenn Research Center, four teams of students conducted experiments in microgravity using Glenn’s 2.2-Second Drop Tower. The science competition, called DIME, for “Dropping in a Microgravity Environment,” had each team drop-test an experiment in the tower, considered “a gateway to space." Exploratory testing of many of the microgravity experiments on the space shuttle and the International Space Station was conducted on Earth in the drop tower.

Event entries ran the gamut from "How Hot is Hot Enough—Temperature and Capillary Action," to the "Effect of Microgravity on the Motion of Air Bubbles in Water."

Team members hailed from the Ransome Everglades School in Coconut Grove, Fla., Troy High School in Troy, Michigan, The Ozaukee High School in Fredonia, Wis, and St. Ursula Academy in Toledo, Ohio.

Stephanie Szczesniak: "It's been a great experience working side-by-side with engineers, having them help us out with our experiments; it’s been great!

DIME, and other educational endeavors of NASA’s Teaching from Space Program, helps the agency attract and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM disciplines critical to space exploration.

NASA and the Boy Scouts of America have developed a new Robotics merit badge for the BSA’s STEM-based curriculum. To earn the badge, scouts will work with NASA and other professional mentors to design, build, and demonstrate how a robot moves, senses the environment, and performs operations. The new badge is one of 31 STEM-related, Boy Scout merit badges.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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