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This Week @ NASA, June 8, 2012
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This Week at NASA…

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are in for a treat.”

NASA Television helped observe the last transit of Venus we’ll see here on Earth until 2117 by showcasing live-streaming Websites the world over, including observations made by scientists in central Australia…

Michael Johnson, Coordinator, Coca-Cola Space Science Center: “There’s a few clouds in the sky and we are set up for an absolutely gorgeous first and second contact.”

…and by the NASA Edge team, stationed atop the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii.

“I’m not going to look until I put my blinders down … and now, of course I can’t see anything.”

Scientists at NASA Headquarters also provided information and insight about this rare yet predictable celestial phenomenon that has captivated humankind for millennia.

Jim Green, Director Planetary Science Division: “From a perspective of wanting to know about our solar system, here’s an occurrence like an eclipse that’s very rare and of course it attracts our natural interest in looking at these wondering objects and where they go and in this case Venus is going to cross in front of the Sun.”

Lika Guhathakurta, STEREO Program Scientist: “If I could actually dream, 105 years, 117 years from now, I wouldn’t think about a transit of Venus. What do you think about transit of Earth as seen from Mars.”

And NASA helped provide some unique images … this is how the transit appeared to astronaut Don Pettit from his vantage point onboard the International Space Station. And NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the entire transit in stunning “greater-than-HD resolution”.

Several NASA centers hosted public transit-viewing parties. At the Ames Research Center, close to 6,000 people came to watch the sky – and broadcast, plus ask questions of Kepler mission and planetary scientists.

No matter where they were – those who witnessed the Transit were treated to a last-in-our lifetime event.

Hi I’m Gay Yee Hill at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. About a half dozen of our JPLers have brought in their own personal telescopes equipped with solar filters so they can share this once in a lifetime event with some of their co-workers and also people who live in the neighborhood.

Young Transit viewer: “I saw the Sun but I saw this tiny black dot but I couldn’t see it at first but then I looked closer and then I saw the tiny black dot and I knew that was Venus.”

Young Transit viewer: “What surprised me about it most was the fact that, I guess that I was able to see it in my lifetime.”

Gay asks question: “Are you going to tell your grandkids about this?”

Young Transit viewer: “Assuming I have any.”

Young Transit viewer: “It’s really cool you can see it through this and if you can look closely there’s like a really, really extremely tiny black dot, which is Venus.

If you missed this one, that’s OK. There’s another one coming, unfortunately it’s 105 years away, so you can understand why these kids are stoked that they just witnessed something that happens just once in a lifetime.

As NASA joined the world to witness the Venus Transit, officials at the Glenn Research Center hosted media representatives to learn about and see some of the capabilities developed to pave the way for future robotic missions to Venus. The event began in a lab where engineers rapidly create various space exploration concepts, some of which involve flying in the Venus sky. Glenn researchers summarized Glenn’s capabilities for future Venus missions and gave a briefing on what a Venus rover could look like. They also talked about their excitement in observing the Venus Transit and working with scientists around the world to better understand what happens on Venus and what that may mean for us here on Earth.

Rodger Dyson, Principal Investigator: “The climate models that we currently use on Earth only have Earth as a set of data to validate. Venus will provide a new set of validation that will allow us to improve our weather prediction capabilities.”

Reporters also toured Glenn’s new Extreme Environment Rig that will simulate harsh environments of planets like Venus. This rig is the largest of its kind in the world.

Rodger Dyson, Principal Investigator: “This extreme environments rig truly is an extreme environments rig, it can handle harsh high pressure, high temperature but also conditions such as on Titan where it’s cold and yet pressurized and some of the new planets that are being discovered such as exoplanets that are a little larger than Earth, but have very similar conditions to Venus.”

Gary Hunter, Researcher: “One of the areas that we’re working is a seismometer that can measure the vibrations on the Venus surface. This seismometer is meant to be able to withstand harsh environments of Venus and actually operate on the Venus surface.”

A little more than a month after arriving at New York’s JFK Airport atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft …

Space Shuttle Enterprise concluded its voyage when NASA’s first space shuttle made its much anticipated arrival, by way of barge on the Hudson River to its new home -- The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Enterprise will be on exhibit to the public beginning July 19th in a temporary climate-controlled pavilion. Intrepid continues work on a permanent exhibit facility to showcase Enterprise and enhance the museum’s space-related exhibits and education curriculum.

To celebrate 100-years of the Girl Scouts, NASA helped the organization “Rock the National Mall” by hosting an event at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Scouts were treated to an engaging program that included hands-on activities to learn about aeronautics, science, and exploration. They also learned about NASA’s missions and careers from special guests that included former NASA astronauts Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Pam Melroy, and NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator: “The organization, The Girl Scouts, strives to teach girls self reliance and resourcefulness. It also encourages girls to seek fulfillment in the professional world and become active citizens in their communities. In my experience there are no better skills than those to prepare you for the future.”

Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Former NASA Astronaut: “It was great talking to a group of Girls Scouts, telling them all about the things, the neat stuff you can do with math and science. Whether it’s in the Navy fixing ships or flying in space and building a space station.”

IRVE-3 – LARC (CP) Katherine Barnstorff Reporting
This long tube shape may not look like a spacecraft to most people. But something like it may someday take instruments to Mars or return cargo to Earth. Packed into its restraining bag is IRVE-3, the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment, developed at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. It is designed to demonstrate that inflatable spacecraft are feasible.

Robert Dillman, IRVE-3 Chief Engineer: “It’s very challenging to try to develop an inflatable spacecraft. You have to use materials that do not mind being packed down into a small volume for launch and then unfolded up to their full size. So we use fabrics whereas a traditional rigid heatshield would be more of a solid material that doesn’t fold.”

IRVE-3 is scheduled to launch from a sounding rocket at Wallops Flight Facility, also in Virginia– much like its predecessor IRVE II did in 2009. But first the hardware and software has had to go through a series of tests – including a visit to the shaker table.

One of the last destinations before flight – NASA Langley's Transonic Dynamics Tunnel or TDT – to check out the whole system – inflation and all.

Carrie Rhoades, Flight Systems Engineer: “We were using the TDT for a vacuum chamber. What we do is actually bring it down to low pressure just like it will see during reentry to make sure this thing’s going to inflate properly. During the test we had the pyro-initiators, which are little cutters – they don’t explode or anything they just cut the strings. They initiated. The bag started to unzip. It actually paused and we all got excited for a minute and then it just paused a second and then it let go and the rest of the bag opened up. The inflatable came out.”

That was much to the relief of the engineers, who thoroughly checked the IRVE-3 afterwards. Also performing well during the test – the thermal blanket, which will protect the inflatable from the forces and heat of atmospheric entry. Now the team can only hope everything works just as flawlessly later this year in space.

“Continue to study your math and science cause one day we’re going to need your help.”

The Marshall Space Flight Center and Boeing teamed up at with the city of Huntsville to share a bit of the International Space Station with some 5-thousand students. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle’s “Book Club” provided the students with a copy of station-inspired, “Living In Space." The club provides children from low-income neighborhoods with books they can keep. Marshall’s Space Launch Systems Manager Tony Lavoie (la-VOY) and Astronauts Mike Fincke and Jack Fischer talked with students about the work being done together by NASA and Boeing on the new SLS, and the groundbreaking science and technology conducted aboard the ISS that continues to benefit the world.

“When I was 12 years old I decided I was going to be a writer.”

The NASA family mourns the passing of Ray Bradbury, one of our era’s greatest and most noted science fiction/fantasy writers.

As the author of such classic works as The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury influenced a generation of young men and women who dared to dream of making science fiction science fact.

Ray Bradbury: “The future of mankind depends upon space travel. And we’ll get away from war. If we stay on Earth, we’ll go on having wars. But, if we got to the moon and Mars, we’ll bind ourselves together into one, single race, one color, and go into space and live forever.”

Ray Bradbury was 91.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: Launch of Aquarius/SAC-D Satellite – June 10, 2011 - HQ
One year ago on June 10, 2011, NASA's 'Age of Aquarius' dawned with the launch of an international satellite carrying the Aquarius observatory from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. Aquarius was designed to take NASA’s first space-based measurements of the salinity, or saltiness of Earth's oceans, to further our understanding of the global water cycle and improve climate forecasts. Aquarius was built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Goddard Space Flight Center.

NASA Anniversary: Mariner 5 Launched – June 14, 1967

And 45 years ago, on June 14, 1967 the Mariner 5 spacecraft was launched by an Atlas-Agena D rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station towards the planet Venus.

Making its flyby on October 19 of that year with instruments more sensitive than its predecessor, Mariner 2, Mariner 5 shed new light on the hot, cloud-covered planet and on conditions in interplanetary space. Its operations ended in November 1967, Mariner 5 remains in orbit around the sun.

And that’s This Week @ NASA!

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