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This Week @ NASA, May 6, 2011
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This Week @NASA…

The launch of space shuttle Endeavour for mission STS-134 has been rescheduled for May 16th. During the mission, Endeavour and crew members Commander Mark Kelly, pilot Greg Johnson and Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Drew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and spare parts to the ISS. This will be the 36th shuttle mission to the International Space Station and Endeavour's final flight.

Five months after its completion, the Gravity Probe B mission has confirmed two aspects of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity."

Bill Danchi: "GPB is one of only a very few astrophysics missions dedicated to fundamental physics."

Most science missions seek to make new observational discoveries. The GP-B mission measures and verifies two key predictions of Einstein's theory of relativity. He surmised that space and time are distorted by the presence of massive objects. GP-B explored this theory using four ultra-precise gyroscopes to measure the geodetic effect, or the warping of space and time by a celestial body like Earth, and frame-dragging, the amount a spinning object like Earth pulls space and time with it as it rotates.

Frances Everett: "So we've completed this landmark experiment, testing Einstein's universe and Einstein survives."

NASA partnered with Stanford University on the GB-P mission with data collection continuing for 17 months while it orbited around Earth.

The probe launched in 2004 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Calif. and was successfully decommissioned in Dec. 2010. The spacecraft continues to circle the Earth in a polar orbit at an altitude of 400 miles.

At the Kennedy Space Center, two events commemorated the 50th Anniversary of U.S. human spaceflight. During a special ceremony at KSC's Visitor Complex, the United States Postal Service unveiled two new stamps celebrating NASA's achievements.

One pays tribute to Project Mercury and Alan Shepard's historic launch on May 5, 1961 aboard the spacecraft Freedom 7. The second stamp honors NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, which reached Mercury in March, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit the planet. Both missions are part of a 50-year period that advanced American space exploration through more than 1,500 manned and unmanned flights.

Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter and members of the Shepard family joined NASA Administrator Charles Bolden for the unveiling.

Charles Bolden: "So today we celebrate the inaugural manned flight of Project Mercury and our historic first orbital mission to the planet Mercury. These are two enormously important points separated by years on the NASA continuum; they are joined by more than just a name, they embody the spirit of innovation and doing big things for which NASA has always been known."

During the second event, the Administrator joined KSC Director and former astronaut Bob Cabana and more than 200 workers from the original Mercury program, to watch a re-creation of Shepard's flight and recovery. The program also highlighted the former Moonwalker's contributions during the Apollo 14 lunar mission.

Young innovators from across the country converged on the Conrad Foundation's 2011 Innovation Summit, bringing with them ideas for breakthrough technologies. Held at the Ames Research Center, the three-day event showcased the work of 27 high school team finalists and their teachers in the areas of aerospace exploration, clean energy and cyber security. A number of supporters were featured, including Mythbusters host Adam Savage; and Nancy Conrad, wife of the late astronaut Pete Conrad, commander of Apollo 12 and the third man to walk on the moon.

Nancy Conrad: "The Spirit of Innovation Awards is here to grow an innovative workforce for the 21st century. We do that by combining, education, innovation, and entrepreneurship."

The event concluded with the awarding of the coveted Pete Conrad "Spirit of Innovation Awards" to two teams from Pennsylvania and another from North Carolina. For information about NASA Ames, visit:

The International Space Station Program Office has been awarded the 2011 Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Trophy for current achievement. The ISS is recognized as the most complex feat ever attempted in Earth orbit and the largest peacetime technological endeavor in space history. ISS program manager Michael Suffredini accepted the award at a black-tie dinner in Washington, D.C.

Mike Suffredini: "We're part of a distinguished group of individuals and programs, and we're blessed that you have seen fit to honor us tonight."

Receiving this year's Lifetime Achievement Award from Air & Space was George Mueller.

As head of NASA's human spaceflight program from 1963 to 1969, Mueller led the successful Apollo program that landed the first humans on the Moon in July 1969, one of the greatest engineering achievements in human history.



NAT POP- Air Rocket launch
Fourth to twelfth grade students gathered at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility for "Inspire the Next Generation Day."

Berit Bland, Model Rocket Instructor: "Today is National Take Your Children to Work Day. And that means that parents can take their kids with them to work and show them what they are doing. And here at NASA we're trying to inspire kids to learn about STEM topics, science, technology, engineering and math."

Students got hands on and up close experiences with model rocketry, kite building, NASA aircraft, and much more.

Zack Koehler, Student Participant: "I learned how to build a model rocket, I learned about the engines a little bit."

Kayla Cook, Student Participant: "My favorite part was the rocket launchers cause I actually got to let a rocket go up into the air and we made it by hand so that was also fun."

Inspire the Next Generation Day is sponsored by NASA, NAVY Surface Combat Systems Center and Marine Science Consortium who all came together to make it a special day for these students.

Shannon Fitzpatrick, Senior Mission Manager NSROC II Program:

"What is means to us as a NSROC program, it let's us reach out and makes us feel good because we get to share some of our passion and we love what we do and we want to be able to show these kids how much fun it really is, it's not all fun all the time obviously but they can share with us a little bit and it gives us a day that we can get up away from our desk and enjoy ourselves and remember ourselves what inspired us to get to this point."

It's not every day that a Marine V-22 Osprey lands at a convention center parking lot. The tilt-rotor made a special appearance at the American Helicopter Society forum in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The annual event is where the who's who in rotorcraft research and technology meet to showcase the latest in vertical flight. Among the presentations – 31 papers from s researchers at NASA's Langley, Ames and Glenn Research Centers. Langley's Susan Gorton leads NASA's rotorcraft research. She is also the first female technical director of the American Helicopter Society

Susan Gorton: "We look at advanced ways for new rotor blades, new transmissions, new engines everything that can contribute to making things quieter, safer, easier to operate, and cost effective."

NASA uses wind tunnels and other laboratories to try to radically improve rotorcraft performance and efficiency and reduce noise and emissions. The goal is to help make helicopters or other vertical takeoff and landing vehicles more mainstream – able to carry more passengers and cargo – quicker, quieter, safer and greener. That could help relieve air traffic congestion , reduce delays, and make more efficient use of airspace.

Susan Gorton: "When we look at different configurations and how airports work, the ability to takeoff without the runway means that you can get off the ground faster, you can turn around the airplanes faster. So, if you can move a large amount of people without waiting for a runway slot, you can make a big difference, up to 30% more people, through the airport system."

The research to make vertical lift aircraft more acceptable as everyday transportation is not without challenges say NASA engineers. But advancements being worked on now could make a difference for future generations of helicopters and people.

The 2011 FIRST championships have concluded after three days of exciting competition between more than 600 teams representing over 29 countries. Over three days, during three levels of events, the teams fought it out on the floors of the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis Missouri. This year's First Robotics game, for players ages 14 to 18, was called LOGO MOTION. With their self-made robots, competing teams were required to maneuver and hang as many inflated triangles, circles, and squares, all elements of the FIRST Logo, on grids as fast and high as they could during two-minute, 15 second intervals. The higher the teams hung their game pieces, the more points they received.

Three teams from San Jose, California; Schaumberg, Illinois; and Atascadero, California won the final showdown, earning the coveted FIRST Robotics Competition Championship Winning Alliance. Several other teams received honors for design excellence, competitive play, teamwork and partnerships.

The FIRST organization and competitions were founded by inventor Dean Kamen, to inspire young people's interest in science and technology. The FIRST acronym stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. This year's championship honored Dean Kamen's father, the late Jack Kamen -- comic cover artist and designer of the FIRST Logo

Headquarters employees have a new place to connect and commune with each other. Administrator Charlie Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver presided at the re-opening of the Columbia Café. The space now provides an informal "cyber-café" setting. The first 100 attendees on opening day received a complimentary cup of gourmet coffee or tea.

And that's This Week @NASA.

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