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This Week @ NASA, May 5, 2013
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This Week at NASA…


@NASA_Orion, @nasa_sls

During a recent visit to the Gulf Coast region, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver toured two NASA facilities that are key to development of the new Space Launch System and the agency’s commercial crew partnerships with private industry.

At the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Garver was briefed on progress being made in support of the SLS and the Orion spacecraft programs.

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator:
“Michoud is a crown jewel at NASA, helping to really expand our reach into the solar system. NASA’s all about doing things that we’ve never done before and we truly know that the people here know how to do that. Your history with NASA from Apollo through the shuttle program to SLS and Orion is something that we treasure.”

Garver later traveled to Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi for a tour of testing facilities there, including the B-2 test stand. Once used to test Apollo era engines, the structure is being restored to prepare it for testing of the SLS core stage.



The Expedition 36/37 crew -- Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg and Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency is training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, in preparation for its upcoming trip to the International Space Station. Training activities include familiarizing themselves with systems of a Soyuz spacecraft like the one that’ll take them to the station. The trio is scheduled to travel from Star City to the launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 16 to complete training. Launch is scheduled for May 29 local time.


#Opportunity, @MarsCuriosity

The Mars Exploration rover Opportunity has executed a sequence of commands from the ground and has resumed normal operations – confirming it is back under control of the rover team. During a recent moratorium on commanding while Mars passed nearly behind the sun - a phase called solar conjunction -- Opportunity entered a type of standby mode, presumably because it was awaiting instructions from the ground. Meanwhile, Curiosity the most recent rover on the Red Planet, has also reported coming through the conjunction in full health.



NASA's newest scientific rover will roam the icy landscape in Greenland to help scientists better understand changes in the massive ice sheet and the impact those changes have on sea level rise. The autonomous, solar-powered robot named GROVER, which stands for both Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research uses a ground-penetrating radar to collect data on snow accumulation and ice sheet build up. This data is typically gathered by people on snowmobiles and airplanes, but GROVER’s ability to work longer hours than humans promises to increase the amount of information available to researchers. The rover trials are scheduled to run through June 8.



“And we’re going to do that by getting a sample from this asteroid and bringing it back to Earth for detailed analysis.”

A public presentation at NASA Headquarters provided an overview of OSIRIS-Rex, a NASA mission that will send a robotic probe to an asteroid in September 2016 to collect and return a sample of that asteroid to Earth. In the presentation, “Asteroids – Coming to Earth”, Principal Investigator Dr. Dante Lauretta discussed the mission.

Dr. Dante Lauretta, Principal Investigator, OSIRIS-REx mission:
“Asteroids represent a great opportunity. These are resources in near-Earth space; we’re talking about water, organic material, precious metals that we’re going to need if we’re serious about expanding the human presence beyond the Earth-moon system.”

Previously known as 1999RQ36, the target asteroid’s new name, submitted by a North Carolina third grader to an international naming contest, is Bennu, a mythological Egyptian bird.

Also at the presentation, samples of meteorites – including a piece from the recent event in Russia. OSIRIS REx is managed by Goddard Space Flight Center in collaboration with the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin.



NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn's north pole. High resolution images made possible by Cassini’s current campaign of tilted orbits, reveal that the hurricane's eye, is about 1,250 miles wide – 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. Thin, bright clouds at the outer edge of the storm are traveling at 330 mph. The hurricane swirls inside a large, mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon.



The Herschel space observatory, a European Space Agency telescope for which NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory helped build instruments and process data, has stopped making observations after running out of liquid coolant as expected. Launched almost four years ago, Herschel revealed the universe's "coolest" secrets by observing the frigid side of planet, star and galaxy formation.

Paul Hertz, NASA Director of Astrophysics:
“Herschel was able to collect data to help us understand objects in the universe that no other mission has allowed us to do. Here we are, made of carbon and nitrogen and oxygen. Where did those elements come from? Herschel helped us connect the dots in that story.”

Although observations by Herschel have ceased, astronomers will continue to examine data collected by the telescope for more clues about the secrets of the cosmos.



A new video made from images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory provides an unprecedented time-lapse look at the last three years of the sun – in just thirty seconds. The sequence shows the sun in extreme ultraviolet light at a pace of one image every twelve hours. Since its launch in 2010, SDO has captured a virtually unbroken record of the sun’s activity. Operated by Goddard Space Flight Center, SDO is improving our understanding of the sun and its effect on conditions in space and here on Earth.



Researchers at NASA Ames are using the Center’s 9 by 7 foot wind tunnel to test concept models of commercial jets that might someday fly at supersonic speeds across country.

The current work involves modifying the engine intakes and wings of potential aircraft designs to minimize the impact of sonic booms heard on the ground when planes fly faster than the speed of sound.

Ames researchers and industry partners will use the data from these tests to improve computational models so that quieter aircraft designs can be developed.



The State of Alabama recognized Marshall Space Flight Center's achievements in space exploration and the Center’s important role in the state's economy and history during "NASA Day in Alabama" at the State Capitol in Montgomery.

Marshall Center Director Patrick Scheuermann and astronauts Kate Rubins and Jack Fischer were on hand to meet Governor Robert Bentley. The event also included displays and information about Marshall’s lead role in development of NASA'S Space Launch System as well as the center’s contributions to expanding research aboard the International Space Station.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: Freedom 7 Launch, May 5, 1961- HQ


On May 5, 1961, Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard launched aboard his Freedom 7 spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, making him the first American in space. Shepard’s historic flight came three weeks after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.

Shepard’s suborbital flight reached an altitude of 116-miles and lasted about 15 minutes. After traveling just over 300-miles, Shepard and Freedom 7 splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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