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This Week @ NASA, June 1, 2012
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This Week at NASA…

“We are now five minutes away from the targeted splashdown time of Dragon.”

The mission of the first commercial spacecraft to visit the International Space Station came to a successful conclusion with the return to Earth of the SpaceX Dragon capsule, which splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. That capped off a 9-day trip during which Dragon demonstrated its ability to maneuver in orbit, safely approach the space station and be grappled and berthed to the orbiting laboratory.

Elon Musk, CEO SpaceX: “We look forward to doing much more missions in the future and continuing to upgrade the technology and push the frontier of space transportation.”

Alan Lindenmoyer, Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program manager: “We've been waiting for this day, and it certainly is a tremendous day. So we're looking forward now to routine, regular cargo services from you and congratulations on just an amazing, amazing mission.”

The SpaceX demonstration flight to the ISS is part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS program, which provides investments to stimulate the commercial space industry in America.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was updated on the development of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus cargo carrier during a recent visit to the Wallops Flight Facility. Cygnus will carry supplies to the International Space Station under NASA’s Cargo Resupply Services contract with Orbital. The first demonstration flight of the Cygnus is scheduled to launch from Wallops this fall aboard Orbital’s Antares rocket.

A new milestone has been reached for another commercial spacecraft designed to transport astronauts to low Earth orbit. Operations software for the Crew Space Transportation, or CST-100 spacecraft under development by Boeing, has undergone its Preliminary Design Review. The software is essential to all operational aspects of the spacecraft, including its launch, orbital maneuvering, docking and landing. The CST-100, a capsule-shaped reusable spacecraft, will carry up to seven people or a combination of people and cargo to the International Space Station and elsewhere in low Earth orbit. The Atlas V rocket will propel the CST-100 on its initial test flights.

And, the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spacecraft has passed a new milestone of its own. A test called a “captive carry” was performed successfully at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Colorado. The test, used to validate ground and flight operations, and flight characteristics of the Dream Chaser, employed an engineering test article and a Sky Crane helicopter. More validation testing is planned before the vehicle performs approach and landing tests.

As for NASA’s Space Launch System, engineers can now begin developing the heavy-lift vehicle’s flight software. Computers with test bed software have been delivered to the Marshall Space Flight Center by Boeing. The SLS will propel NASA’s Orion spacecraft to destinations beyond low Earth orbit.

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR mission, scheduled to launch no earlier than June 13 from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, will use X-ray vision to hunt for hidden black holes.

“NuSTAR will be opening up a new window on the Universe. And although we are going into this mission with many scientific questions that we know NuSTAR will provide the data that will give us the answers. Like all of our NASA missions, we're going to find unexpected things out there that will lead us to questions and answers that we aren't even anticipating at this time.”

The NuSTAR observatory will be launched aboard Orbital Sciences Coporation’s Pegasus rocket from the belly of the company’s L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft. NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“We are here today to announce that, for the very first time we’ve been able to measure the sideways motion, in astronomy also known as proper motion of the Andromeda galaxy.”

Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope are predicting the next major cosmic event expected to affect our Milky Way galaxy, Sun, and solar system.

Roeland Van der Marel, Astronomer-Space Telescope Science Institute: “We find that, to within the precision of our measurements, the Andromeda galaxy is heading straight in our direction. What this means is that the galaxies will collide.”

Scientists say the titanic collision between the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies is expected to occur about 4 billion years from now and will ultimately result in the two galaxies merging to form a single elliptical galaxy.

John Grunsfeld, NASA Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate: “This, even though it’s billions of years in the future, it gives us some portrait of what the night sky will look like, a really amazing event for whatever life exists on Earth at that time, of things that will transpire in the cosmos in the future. I think that’s a very exciting thing for Hubble to be doing.”

“I believe we have a very, very bright future and you all are extremely critical to our success and leading the way in that future.”

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver served as keynote speaker at a day-long conference outside Washington, D.C. sponsored by Women In Aerospace. The theme, “Leading the Way,” focused discussion on topics of special interest to women and those who hire, mentor and promote them in aerospace worldwide.

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator: “NASA is one of the top federal employers of STEM graduates. We have just over 20 percent of our STEM employees are women. I forget, are we 20 percent of the population ladies?”

Conference sessions also addressed issues important to the aerospace industry, at large.

“Remember when we invest in the space program we’re not putting money into space. We spend that money right here on Earth.”

NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck joined agency and Ohio officials at the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, or MAGNET headquarters in Cleveland. There, Peck named nine small and medium-sized Ohio manufacturers who’ll receive NASA assistance to solve technical problems with their new or existing products.

Those joining Peck included Glenn Research Center Director Ray Lugo.

NASA is committed to providing 400 hours of technical assistance from its science and engineering work force to help the selected companies solve specific technical challenges they’re facing. In addition, the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are making $450,000 in low interest rate loans available to the companies. This initiative is part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy's "Strong Cities, Strong Communities" effort.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and White House Science and Technology Advisor John Holdren joined students and teachers from across the country for the GRAIL MoonKAM Student Expo at Washington’s Reagan Building and Trade Center.

MoonKAM, short for Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students is an education and outreach program that includes a suite of cameras on NASA’s moon-orbiting GRAIL spacecraft that students can use to gather and study imagery of the lunar surface.

Also participating via Skype, was America's first woman in space, Sally Ride, whose Science team participates in the MoonKAM program.

Sally Ride, Former NASA Astronaut/CEO, Sally Ride Science: “When I was growing up it was really cool to be a scientist or an engineer. Kids watched the space program on TV and dreamed of building rockets to the stars or discovering life on Mars. Programs like MoonKAM make science cool again.”

GRAIL MoonKAM is the first planetary mission carrying instruments fully dedicated to education and public outreach.

John Holdren, Presidential Science and Technology Advisor: “It’s really a great example of what we need to be doing more of to lift our gain in science and engineering and match education around the country.”

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator: “It is a very unique opportunity that you will all have and I want to thank Sally for her incredible commitment.”

SUNDAY EXPERIMENT – GSFC (CP) Erica Drezek Reporting
At the monthly “Sunday Experiment”, families were able to participate in activities to explore and learn about the magnetic fields of the Sun, electromagnets, and ultraviolet light. They also learned how NASA studies the sun and space weather with the Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite. Launched in February 2010, SDO is designed to help us understand the Sun's influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously.

The Ames Research Center and the Traveling Space Museum recently took the “space experience” on the road to motivate and inspire the next generation of space explorers. During a stop at California’s Fresno State University, elementary and middle school students learned about the basic principles of aeronautics and space flight through interactive exhibits and activities. They also heard from Ames Deputy Director Lew Braxton, an alumnus of the University, about the importance of studying science and math.

Another museum event at the Ronald McNair School in East Palo Alto, California, featured Cheryl McNair, widow of Challenger astronaut Ron McNair.

Cheryl McNair, Director, Ronald E. McNair Educational Science Literacy Foundation: “That’s what he like to do was to let people know, ‘you can do this, try it -- you can do it.’ and he was so happy with what he was doing that he wanted other people to be happy as well.”

Mrs. McNair encouraged students to study science and math, and emphasized the importance of dedication and persistence in achieving one’s goals.

Ten years ago, on June 5, 2002, Space Shuttle Endeavour launched from the Kennedy Space Center on STS-111, a utilization flight to the International Space Station. The shuttle crew consisted of Commander Ken Cockrell, Pilot Paul Lockhart and Mission Specialists Philippe Perrin of the European Space Agency and, Franklin Chang-Diaz, making his seventh trip to space – tying the record set by fellow NASA astronaut Jerry Ross.

Also riding uphill was the Expedition Five crew; Peggy Whitson- the station’s first female Commander and Russian cosmonauts Valery Korzun and Sergei Treschev.

The mission delivered payload and experiment racks to the Destiny Laboratory and the Mobile Base System – completing the Station's Mobile Servicing System, which includes the Canadarm2 and the Mobile Transporter.

Endeavour’s crew returned to Earth on June 19 bringing with them Cosmonaut Yury Onufrienko, and NASA astronauts Dan Bursch and Carl Walz of Expedition Four.

President Obama bestowed upon former U.S. Senator and NASA Astronaut John Glenn the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Glenn is one of 13 Americans so honored at the White House this year for, quote, an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." In 1962, as one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. He’s also the oldest man ever to have flown in space, doing so as a 77-year-old member of the shuttle Discovery crew in 19-98.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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