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This Week @ NASA, April 27, 2012
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This Week at NASA…

It was a week full of activity for the crews of the International Space Station.

“It is time for Expedition 30 to step aside and make way for Expedition 31. Oleg with that I herby hand over command of the International Space Station to you.”

NASA astronaut and Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank officially transferred the helm of the orbiting outpost to Russian cosmonaut, Oleg Kononenko who, along with NASA astronaut Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency, has now begun Expedition 31.

Two days later, Burbank and his Expedition 30 crewmates, Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, said their farewells, climbed into their Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft and departed the station for the trip back to Earth.

After a five-and-a-half month stay onboard the ISS, Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin landed safely in Kazakhstan.

“What’s been really nice is that, you know, coming from the United States – of course the cultures are different, the language is difficult and everyone has been really nice and has been patient with us and making sure that we’re going to be ready for our flight.”

Meanwhile, the other three members of Expedition 31 participated in their pre-launch activities. At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba, and his Russian crewmates, Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin, fielded questions from reporters.

The trio is undergoing final qualification training for the Soyuz vehicle that’s scheduled to launch them to the ISS on May 14, and their subsequent rendezvous on-orbit with Pettit, Kuipers and Kononenko.

The week after it was mated to NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, Enterprise, NASA’s first orbiter, was lifted skyward on the shuttle’s final ferry flight from Washington’s Dulles International Airport to its new home in New York.

Several hours later, in a sight reminiscent of its fly-around of the Washington, D.C. metro area a week earlier, the SCA brought Enterprise over several Big Apple landmarks before finally touching down at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Enterprise will remain at JFK until July, when it’s scheduled to “barge” its way up the Hudson River to its new, permanent home, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

Lori Garver, NASA Administrator: “The space program is alive and well because of the Space Shuttle Enterprise and what she has brought to this nation and we are so pleased that you will, at the Intrepid continue to tell, not only the story of the past, but this rich and full story of the future.”

Scientists working with images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have discovered strange, half-mile-sized objects punching through Saturn’s F, or outermost, main ring. These objects appear to collide with the F ring at about 4 mph, leaving behind so-called “mini-jets,” glittering trails of ice particles from 20 to110 miles long. Scientists have known relatively large objects can create channels, ripples and snowballs, or clumps of icy material, in the F ring. However, they didn’t know what happened to these snowballs after they were created. Some were broken up by collisions or tidal forces in their orbit around Saturn. Now it appears that some of these smaller snowballs survived, with their differing orbits directing them through the F ring on their own.

On a sunny spring morning the crew of the Freedom Star gets ready to head out from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"All lines are in. Ready to depart dock to get underway to sea."

Its NASA mission – training for the dawn of a new day in space travel – capturing the launch of the first commercial spacecraft going to the International Space Station.

Tom Horvath, SCIFLI Principal Investigator, NASA Langley Research Center: “Very similar to what you'd see in front of your high definition television set at home, we're looking at getting very high spatial resolution, high definition quality visual imaging during the launch as well as high spatial resolution thermal imaging from an infrared camera.”

The Freedom Star – once used to recover shuttle rocket boosters – is now outfitted as a floating high-tech radar and camera platform. Inside a huge metal clamshell is a mobile optical system on a gyroscope-like tracking mount. During launch the system will be focused skyward to take images of the Space X Falcon rocket and its Dragon capsule as far as two hundred miles away.

Melinda Cagle, SCIFLI Project Manager, NASA Langley Research Center: “We have several key events that will occur during ascent so we have one ground station at Daytona Beach, Florida that will capture early events and ascent and then we have a second tracker that will be located on a ship in the North Atlantic.”

That will be the Freedom Star that will capture later parts of the trip – including deployment of the capsule and solar panels. Even with high-powered telescopes and cameras and a team that has had success in taking thermal snapshots of the space shuttle at Mach 18 … imaging the launch will be no easy task.

Tom Horvath, SCIFLI Principal Investigator, NASA Langley Research Center: “It's like standing and looking through a soda straw and trying to capture and see a bird flying through that soda straw.”

Then imagine that soda straw bobbing on a boat off the northeastern coast of the U. S. in seas that could swell up to twenty feet. The crew can only hope that the weather at launch and ascent is more like a day at the beach and not the perfect storm.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Small Business Programs Associate Administrator Glenn Delgado seen here on the far right presented the annual Small Business Administrator’s Cup award to Stennis Space Center in recognition of its stellar small business program. The award recognizes successful and innovative practices promoting small business participation in NASA initiatives.

NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, a member of the International Space Station’s Expedition 27 crew, participated in the White House Council on Women and Girls in STEM event. The panel discussion focused on inspiring and encouraging young women to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Coleman and the other guests shared stories about some of the cool things they’ve experienced in their STEM-related jobs.

Cady Coleman, NASA Astronaut: “I love this picture because it’s a picture of a human being in space looking back at the planet we come from and there’s no way that only guys should be in a picture like this. And I’m not saying that to be funny, I know it kind of is, but it’s because we are a part of the planet and we bring a lot to the planet. And if you start doing things without the talents that women bring, you are just not doing them good enough.”

“So did you play the game or did you design game?”

“I designed the game.”

“You designed the game!”

The event also included the first public screening of "Girls in STEM", a video showcasing young women demonstrating their experiments for President Obama at this year’s White House Science Fair.

NASA's newest green building was formally dedicated in a VIP ceremony held at Ames Research Center. On hand for the dedication was NASA Associate Administrator Woodrow Whitlow, Congressional Representatives Ann Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren, as well as the building's architect, William McDonough. The event also included a message from President Obama's Science Advisor John Holdren. One of the highlights was the announcement that the building had officially been granted the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED Platinum status, which is its highest rating. The building is referred to as Sustainability Base in honor of Apollo 11's landing site Tranquility Base, the first human outpost on the moon. Like a spacecraft, it uses NASA-derived technologies to make it as self-reliant as possible for utilities such as water and power. Construction materials and interior furnishings were selected for their recyclable qualities. Among the dignitaries who toured the building to get a closer look was California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting at Stennis Space Center signaled the opening of NASA’s newest visitor and science attraction. The Infinity Science Center is a state-of-the-art facility featuring exhibits representing the wide range of research conducted at Stennis, from the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of the universe. Center Director Patrick Scheuermann was joined by several dignitaries to mark the occasion, including Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker and Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise, Vice-Chairman of the Infinity Science Center.

The U.S. Air Force has retired its first C-17 Globemaster III transport after 21 years of flight testing for NASA propulsion research. Frank Batteas (Bah-TEES), Associate Director for Flight Operations at the Dryden Flight Research Center, joined an Air Force and Boeing flight crew on the C-17's ferry flight from Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California to its new, permanent home at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Batteas was an Air Force C-17 test pilot before coming to NASA, and flew chase on the C-17's first flight back in 1991. Joint NASA – Air Force flight research efforts included noise mitigation and engine health management projects.

NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate held its second annual Associate Administrator Awards ceremony to honor individuals and groups whose work has distinguished them through the past year.

Acting Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot provided remarks and Jaiwon Shin, Associate Administrator for ARMD helped hand out the awards.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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