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This Week @ NASA, May 20, 2011
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This Week @NASA…

Scientists from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France and Italy were at NASA Headquarters in Washington for a news briefing about their upcoming international spacecraft mission, Aquarius/SAC-D.

Eric Ianson: "It is, by far, the most complex and challenging mission ever attempted through a partners hip between the U.S. and Argentina and has the capability comparable to any Earth Science mission NASA has flown."

Scheduled to launch June 9th, the spacecraft's primary instrument will make the agency's first space-based global measurements of salinity, or concentration of salt, at the surface of the world's oceans. Salinity influences ocean circulation and the global balance of freshwater and climate; until now, it has remained unmeasured by existing Earth Observing Satellites.


Space shuttle Atlantis has made the final rollover from its processing hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Inside the VAB, Atlantis was attached to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters, already perched on a mobile launcher platform.

During STS-135, the final mission for Atlantis and the space shuttle program, the orbiter and its four-member crew will carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module filled with supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station. Among other tasks, the mission will also fly a system to investigate the viability of robotically refueling existing spacecraft.

Space shuttle Atlantis was delivered to KSC in April of 1985, and made its maiden voyage on mission 51-J on Oct. 3. Subsequent flights included STS-34 and the launch of the Galileo probe to Jupiter in 1989, and in 1991, STS-37, with the Gamma Ray Observatory, GRO, as its primary payload. Atlantis' final mission will be its 27th to the ISS.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden toured the Astrotech Payload Processing Facility near the Kennedy Space Center for a close-up look at the Juno spacecraft. Accompanied by his wife, Jackie, Bolden toured Juno's test control center and talked with members of the Juno test team. The solar-powered spacecraft will head for Jupiter on August 5th where it will orbit the gas giant's poles 33 times to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

The Ames Research Center recently completed a series of tests that may help take some of the loudness out of sonic booms and allow supersonic aircraft to fly over land.

Inside Ames' 9-foot by 7-foot supersonic wind tunnel, fans or compressors moved air over a sleek new aircraft design at speeds replicating flying conditions. A sonic boom occurs when an aircraft flies faster than the speed of sound, typically around 660 miles per hour at the cruise altitude of most airplanes. Tests like these help researchers understand the forces acting on a real aircraft and its impact, like the creation of a sonic boom, on the surrounding atmosphere.

Don Durston: "We're measuring the sonic booms from these models in the tunnel and we do that sophisticate pressure measurement apparatus and then we take those measurements and run them through the computer codes and then we can predict how the loud the sonic boom is going to be on the ground. "

Data gleaned from this research will, literally, help shape a new generation of quieter, environmentally-friendly supersonic aircraft that may fly twice as fast as commercial aircraft today.

Investigating how best to prepare for possible future space missions -- NASA astronauts become aquanauts each autumn to dive into a series of underseas experiments.

Preparations are underway at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Aquarius Underwater Laboratory off Key Largo, Florida. That's where this year's participants in NEEMO, NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations, will live for nine days under the Atlantic to explore the challenges of a trip to an asteroid. The ocean bed's buoyancy and topography will serve as a good stand-in.

Unlike the moon or Mars, an asteroid has little gravity to hold astronauts or vehicles, so knowing how and where to place multiple anchors will be the focus of this year's event, the 15th annual NEEMO.

The undersea tests are scheduled for October.

Astronaut Shannon Walker, the first native Houstonian in space, mingled and too pictures with students at her hometown alma mater, the Johnston Middle School. Walker was attending a breakfast in her honor.

Shannon Walker: "It's possible to do these big things no matter who you are. I went to this school; I grew up in these neighborhoods around here. So, anybody can do anything they put their mind to."

During her stay, she gave a presentation about her extended stay on the International Space Station.

Shannon Walker: "You can do all kinds of things that you cannot do on the ground, when you're in space. And in this case, Tracy and I are moving this giant rack from the ceiling to the floor, the ground team needed us to move it, so we moved it.

For my particular spaceflight, I trained for three years and think about that.

And in appreciation of her many accomplishments, the school renamed their science wing "The Shannon Walker Science Satellite."

Walker served on Expeditions 24 and 25 to the International Space Station last year. She and her crewmates launched on June 10 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, TMA-19. While aboard the station, Walker and crewmate, Douglas Wheelock, participated in a downlink with Johnston students.


For a group of engineers from the Langley Research Center, experiencing Endeavour's final flight at Cape Canaveral was more than just a launch; it was a moment they wouldn't forget.

During the STS-134 mission, astronauts will test out a new, state-of-the-art docking and navigation system developed in part by Langley.

The new technology -- called STORRM, or Sensor Test for Orion Relative/Navigation Risk Mitigation – will make it easier and safer for astronauts to dock to the International Space Station.

Wade May, STORRM Chief Engineer, LARC: "It's really nice to build something and to be able to see and be able to see it work and to be able to touch it. It's very gratifying to know that you will be helping future spaceflight."

NASA Langley worked with Johnson Space Center and industry partners on STORMM. Langley's role included engineering management, design and build of the avionics, shuttle computer hardware and reflective elements. They were also responsible for the integration, testing and and certification of those components.

One engineer, Avionics Lead Tom Johnson, even trained Astronaut Drew Feustel on the flight hardware,

Tom Johnson, Avionics Lead, LARC: "It was a lot of fun getting to work with Drew and really kind of showing him the hardware that we put together and the software."

The NASA Langley STORRM team braved the crowds and the media to represent state of the art technology during the launch.

Frank Novac, STORRM Project Manager LARC: "To finally get the hardware up and tested to validate everything that we've worked for, all the sacrifices that's huge. "

Eats, treats, and astronaut greets.

NASA welcomed the public to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. for its spring open house.

"Explore@NASA Goddard" was the theme for the event. Visitors had unique access to explore, learn, and enjoy the energetic atmosphere of the space agency's largest research facility.

Scientists talked about our planet and brought the wonders of the universe down to Earth for all to see, while engineers discussed new missions and their future discoveries.

At the Mad Science tent, visitors were amazed by incredible chemistry. Others performed their own moonwalk. Even Darth Vader stopped by in search of new recruits.

Each location was a technological treasure trove as guests toured many of the seldom seen facilities.

Thousands of visitors toured the solar system and beyond, all without leaving Greenbelt. But at the Goddard Space Flight Center, that's just a normal day.

President John Kennedy: "Time for a great new American Enterprise. Time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement."

50 years ago, on May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy, in a speech before a special joint session of Congress, challenged the nation to set its sights on sending an American to the moon. So directed, NASA ramped up its human spaceflight effort, starting with Project Mercury, and continuing on through Gemini, and Apollo.

In July, 1969, Kennedy's goal was realized when Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins made their safe return home after landing Fon the lunar surface.

And that's This Week @NASA.

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