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This Week @ NASA, June 7, 2013
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This Week at NASA…



NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden delivered the keynote address for this year’s Space Weather Enterprise Forum at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Auditorium and Science Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The annual forum includes researchers, policymakers and forecasters discussing space weather and how to mitigate its effects on communications, navigation and national security.

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator:
“Given the growing importance of space to our nation’s economic well being and security, it’s of increasing importance that NASA and its partner agencies continue to advance our nation’s capability to understand and predict space weather events.”

Space weather involves conditions and events on the sun and in near-Earth space that can affect critical systems, such as electric power grids and communications and navigation systems.


During a pre-launch news conference at NASA headquarters investigators and managers briefed the media on the upcoming Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS mission which will observe certain characteristics of solar material as it travels through a little-understood region in the sun's lower atmosphere.

Alan Title, IRIS Principal Investigator:
“So it can take images about once a second. This is critical because the processes that occur in this part of the atmosphere happen very, very fast.”

The region of the solar atmosphere IRIS will observe is the origin of most of the ultraviolet solar emission that impacts Earth. IRIS will launch June 26 aboard a Pegasus rocket deployed by an L-1011 aircraft from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.



Progress continues on the Orion spacecraft. Technicians at Textron Defense Systems in Willmington, Massachusetts are using Avcoat to fill the holes in the honeycomb shaped structure of Orion’s heat shield with Avcoat is a material able to endure temperatures up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat shield will protect the spacecraft from the extreme temperatures it will experience on its return from deep space. In 2014, Orion will travel 3,600 miles into space on Exploration Flight Test-1 and return to Earth at speeds of more than 20,000 miles per hour.



Engineers at the Stennis Space Center are fabricating a new 77-hundred-pound thrust frame adapter to enable testing, in the A-1 Test Stand, of the RS-25 engines, which will provide core-stage power for NASA’s Space Launch System. A thrust adapter unique to each rocket engine type holds an engine in place and absorbs the thrust produced during a test to allow accurate measurement of the engine’s performance. The stand component is scheduled to be completed and installed by November 2013.



NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is on the move again. Opportunity, approaching its10th anniversary of leaving Earth, is trekking to a new study area still many weeks away called "Solander Point." The new destination offers a much taller stack of geological layering than the “Cape York” area in which the rover has worked for the past 20 months.

Since landing in January 2004, Opportunity and its twin Spirit, which ceased operations in 2010, have both found evidence of wet environments on ancient Mars.



News from the American Astronomical Society’s Summer Meeting in Indianapolis included info about the key role of NASA’s Swift satellite in producing the most detailed ultraviolet light surveys ever of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, our two closest major galaxies. Swift’s Ultra-Violet/Optical telescope snapped more than 28-hundred individual shots which astronomers used to produce the 160-megapixel mosaic of the LMC and the 57-megapixel mosaic of the SMC. The mosaics will enable astronomers to better study the evolution of stars in each galaxy.

Meanwhile, astronomers say celestial conditions in October 2014 and February 2016 will present prime opportunities for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to hunt for Earth-sized planets around the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to our sun. When Proxima Centauri passes in front of two other stars during those two time periods, astronomers plan to look for any imaging distortion – called microlensing. Microlensing occurs when a foreground star passes in front of distant star and could indicate the existence of smaller planets.



Loaded with more than 7 tons of supplies for the Expedition 36 crew aboard the International Space Station, Albert Einstein, the European Space Agency’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, was launched from Kourou, French Guiana on June 5.

The supply craft, named after the 20th century icon of science and physics, is scheduled dock to the station on June 15. NASA Television coverage of the rendezvous and docking starts at 8:00 a.m.



NASA and the LEGO Group are collaborating to inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers with a new design competition called "NASA's Missions: Imagine and Build". The competition offers two categories in which students of all ages use the toy bricks to build models of future airplanes and spacecraft. Deadline for entry is July 31 with winners selected on September 1. Prizes include NASA memorabilia and items from LEGO. For details visit



Marshall Space Flight Center astrophysicist, Dr. Chryssa Kouveliotou, has been selected for membership to the National Academy of Sciences. The honor recognizes her extensive and continuing achievements in original scientific research on a host of astronomical phenomena, including black holes, neutron stars and gamma-ray bursts. Kouveliotou, currently involved with scientific investigations conducted by NASA’s Fermi, Swift and NuSTAR programs; is one of 84 new members of the academy.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: June 11, 2008-Launch of GLAST/Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope - HQ


On June 11, 2008, NASA launched the space observatory from Cape Canaveral known then as the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope or GLAST. Renamed the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope two months later after Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, NASA’s largest gamma-ray observatory has enabled scientists to learn more about the ever-changing Universe, answer persistent questions about super-massive black-hole systems, pulsars and cosmic rays, and search for signals of new physics in the cosmos.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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