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This Week @ NASA, April 29, 2011
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This Week at NASA…

President Obama and family members arrived Friday afternoon at the Cape Canaveral AFS aboard Air Force One for a visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The First Family boarded the Marine One helicopter and headed to the Orbiter Processing Facility at KSC for a tour.

Inside the OPF, the Obamas were given a close-up look of orbiter Atlantis, which is undergoing pre-flight preparations for its – and the shuttle program’s final mission, STS-135. That flight has been targeted for late June.

The president also visited Kennedy’s Launch Control Center, where he briefly met and talked with Endeavour commander, Mark Kelly and the five other STS-134 crew members.

Less than three hours after their arrival, the Obamas were bound for Miami, where the president was scheduled to deliver a commencement address.

The scheduled launch of space shuttle Endeavour around which the president’s visit had been planned was scrubbed due to a heater problem on one of the orbiter’s three Auxiliary Power Units.

Mike Leinbach: "Today the Orbiter is not ready to fly and as we always say in this business, we will not fly before we’re ready, so that’s the case we’re in today."

The APUs provide hydraulic power to steer the shuttle during ascent and entry. Heaters keep the APUs’ hydrazine from freezing on orbit.

NASA joined forces with the U.S. Agency for International Development to collaborate on helping find scientific and technological solutions to worldwide problems. The two agencies sealed their partnership with the signing of a memorandum of understanding at a ceremony held in Headquarters’ Webb Auditorium.

Under this formal agreement, NASA and USAID will tackle challenges like global health, climate change, food security, and disaster mitigation and response.

Charles Bolden: "Our new MOU will serve to document our mutual commitment to expanding our efforts in this and other important programs. NASA and USAID are also working to turn breakthrough science and technology innovations into real applications of benefit to both agencies and most importantly to people around the world."

Dr. RajivShah: "To bring together, NASA representing all of what we can do when we put our minds together and try to solve tough problems and USAID representing our challenge of getting our values and core compassion and commitments transmitted to the farthest corners of the globe; it’s just a very special and unique opportunity for me to join."

Highlighted were SERVIR and LAUNCH, two NASA-USAID programs already working to improve life on our home planet. NASA and USAID employees were joined in the audience by area high school and university students.


"The first time we ever put anybody into space and Al was a good person to represent us on that. He was outstanding and he deserved it.

"We were always proud of him."

Alan B. Shepard Jr., the first American in space, was posthumously honored with NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award during a ceremony held at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Md. Shepard graduated from the Naval Academy and, in April 1959, was selected as one of NASA's original seven Mercury astronauts. On May 5, 1961, he launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard the Freedom 7 spacecraft on a 15-minute, suborbital flight that carried him to an altitude of 116 miles, and into the history books.

"Roger 2-G, Cabin Holding"

Alan Shepard: "That was part of my life, was the challenge. And here you had, yes a new environment but, for fighter pilots who fly upside down a lot of the time, zero gravity wasn’t that big of a deal."

Shepard’s family was presented with the award, a moon rock encased in Lucite.

Laura Shepard: "Julie, Alice and I take great pride in presenting NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration award to the United States Naval Academy for display in the Naval Academy museum."

The sample was among the 842 pounds of lunar material collected during six Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972. During Shepard’s second spaceflight, as the commander of Apollo 14, he and crewmate Edgar Mitchell activated a number of scientific instruments and collected and returned to earth almost 100 pounds of lunar samplings.

The Ambassador of Exploration Award recognizes the sacrifices and dedication of the Apollo, Gemini and Mercury astronauts and others who supported America’s journeys to the moon.

Shepard’s Freedom 7 flight was among the key moments in human spaceflight history celebrated and discussed at a symposium at NASA headquarters. Sponsored by the agency’s History Program Office and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Division of Space History, the joint event focused on 50 years of human spaceflight using 1961 and 1981 as focal points for broader investigation and dialogue.

After more than 30 years of space travel, NASA’s twin Voyagers drift closer to the edge of our solar system. Scientists and flight managers talked about what the two spacecraft are exploring right now and their impact on history during a special Science Update at NASA headquarters.

Ed Stone: "Every three years Voyager I travels one billion milles, so we shouldn’t have too many more years to wait before we pass the next major milestone in humanities farthest journey."

Voyagers 1 and 2 and were launched in September and August of 1977. They continue to operate and return data from a full complement of science instruments. Scientists believe that both spacecraft may have enough electrical power and propellant to continue their mission through 2025. Poised to enter the area known as interstellar space just a few short years away, the Voyagers are more than 9 billion miles from our sun.

And now, Centerpieces…

Promoting student participation in STEM, science, technology, engineering and math courses and careers got a boost from recording artist Pharrell Williams, who along with NASA, hosted an education event at Williams Farm Park in Virginia Beach, Va. designed to encourage students to pursue these fields.

Williams, a Hampton Roads, Va., native and Leland Melvin, NASA's Associate Administrator for Education and former astronaut spoke during the program and encouraged students to follow their dreams.

Pharell Williams: "STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. You guys are the future and there’s nothing you can't do."

Leland Melvin: "It takes action; it takes hard work; it takes dedication; it takes belief in yourself."

More than 500 Hampton Roads area students, who were part of NASA’s inaugural Summer of Innovation camps last year, took part in the day’s activities, which featured NASA exhibits and showcased student accomplishments completed during camp.

Along with NASA, the event was sponsored by Williams’ charitable organization, From One Hand to Another. In 2013, if all goes as planned, the Williams Farm Park will be the site of the Charities future Resource Center which will feature academic enrichment programs and engage youth in STEM activities.

NASA's Summer of Innovation is a key part of President Obama's Educate to Innovate campaign, launched to keep middle school students engaged during school breaks.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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