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This Week @ NASA, May 13, 2011
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This Week @NASA…

ENDEAVOUR LIFTS OFF – KSC Launch Announcer: "4-3-2-1-0… And liftoff for the final launch of Endeavour, expanding our knowledge, expanding our lives in space." Space shuttle Endeavour lifted off Monday from the Kennedy Space Center for the International Space Station and STS-134. Commander Mark Kelly and his five crewmates began their mission with a picture-perfect launch at 8:56 a.m. Eastern. The crew of Kelly, pilot Greg Johnson, and mission specialists Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel, Greg Chamitoff and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori are scheduled to spend 16 days in space, bringing with them a payload that includes the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle physics detector designed to search for various types of unusual cosmic matter. STS-134 is the next- to-last mission for the Space Shuttle program and the final flight of shuttle Endeavour.


NASA's Dawn spacecraft captured its image of Vesta, the giant asteroid it'll start orbiting in July almost 200 million miles from Earth. Taken at about three-quarters of a million miles from Vesta, the image provides never-seen-before details of the asteroid's surface.

Mike Kelley: "Asteroids are fragments of rock that date back to the origin of the solar system due to mutual collisions in the asteroid belt. Some of these asteroids get disturbed into orbits that cross the path of the earth and get swept up as meteorites. And there's always a danger, of course, that a large fragment may impact the earth. So, it's in our best interest to understand what asteroids are made of and how they get into these earth crossing orbits. The DAWN mission will help us understand the formation and evolution of asteroids."

Vesta is 330 miles in diameter and the second most massive object in the asteroid belt. Its gravity is expected to capture Dawn in orbit on July 16, where it will remain and collect data for one year. After another long journey, the spacecraft will arrive in 2015 at its second destination, Ceres, an even more massive body in the asteroid belt.

Launch Announcer: "4 -3 -2-1 Main engine start and liftoff of the Delta 2 rocket with DAWN.

Launched in September 2007, the Dawn spacecraft will journey a total of 3 billion miles to complete its odyssey to and around the two asteroids.


Several craft in NASA'S fleet of Earth Observing Satellites have captured these images of severe flooding along the Mississippi River Basin. So far, nearly 3 million acres in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi, have been affected by severe springtime rains. The Mississippi River Basin is third largest in the world, and managing floods in this area has been a challenge for more than a century.

Satellite images like these help scientists and engineers monitor and evaluate critical and dynamic conditions about weather and other phenomena like wetlands preservation, thermal pollution, and coral reef degradation.


Members of the STS-133 crew, Commander Steven Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Al Drew, Steve Bowen, Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott showed a music video highlighting their 13-day mission to the International Space Station, then took questions from an eager NASA Headquarters audience.

Steve Lindsey: Your challenge, this morning, will be to ask us a question that we haven't heard before."

Audience Question: "Have you ever had that moment when you're about to liftoff and you feel like you don't want go anymore, like you want to get off."

STS-133 delivered to the ISS the Permanent Multipurpose Module, the fourth Express Logistics Carrier, and Robonaut 2, the first human-like robot in space. STS-133 was the 39th and final mission for space shuttle Discovery.

Once again, NASA has been recognized for several of the world's best Internet sites by winning two Webby Awards. received its third consecutive People's Voice Award for best government Website, and NASA's Global Climate Change site, last year's People's Voice Award winner for science, captured this year's Judges' Award for best science site. Created in 1996, the Webby Award honors excellence in online technology and creativity.

While NASA has had a Web presence since the early 90's, a popular redesign in 2003 has since brought more than 1.5 billion site visits. Its customer-satisfaction ratings are among the highest in government, comparable to those of popular commercial sites.

Introductory Announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present to you the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame class of 2011, Karol "Bo" Bobko and Susan Helms." (applause)"

One of the space shuttle program's earliest commanders, Karol "Bo" Bobko, and the first woman to live on the International Space Station, Susan Helms, were inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

Bobko flew as the pilot on STS-6, the first flight of space shuttle Challenger, in April 1983. Two years later, he commanded Discovery on STS-51D and landed the shuttle safely despite a blown main gear tire. Six months later, Bobko commanded Atlantis on its maiden flight, STS-51J.

Bob Bobko: "Many of the people in this audience helped me along the way. Your help and encouragement has been instrumental in my standing here today to receive the honor of being inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame."

Helms, an Air Force veteran like Bobko, flew five times on the shuttle beginning with STS-54 in January 1993. Her spaceflight career included flights on Endeavour, Discovery, Columbia, Atlantis and the International Space Station. She spent more than 5,000 hours in space, with 163 days of that on the station.

Susan Helms: "Thanks very much to the Committee and the Foundation for honoring me. It truly is a humbling moment for me and, in the bottom of my heart, nothing will surely be able to be said that tells you how much this means. Thank you!"

Bobko and Helms join a group of space heroes that includes the legends of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, along with the astronauts who flew the space shuttle on some of its most noted missions.


Busloads of middle and high-school students learned about NASA careers while visiting Kings Dominion, one of the mid-Atlantic's premier amusement parks. Through games, Q & A sessions with Langley Research Center staff, exhibits, and other activities, Career Day attendees learned what it's like to live and work in space and how studying science, technology, engineering and math can help make that happen.

Nat: "So if you didn't have a grip on this. If it was tethered to your kit and you let go…"

A hair-raising ride on the "Intimidator 305," a roller coaster tribute to the late NASACAR driver Dale Earnhardt, helped students learn about Earth's gravity. Its 305-foot initial lift, 80-degree plunge, and 90 mph speed taught riders what it felt like to "pull 4 Gs," or four times the gravitational force at our planet's surface.

And that's This Week @NASA.

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