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This Week @ NASA, June 10, 2011
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NASA astronaut Mike Fossum and Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency joined cosmonaut Sergei Volkov aboard the Soyuz spacecraft he commanded and lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome for the International Space Station.

"Hatches are open."

A little more than two days later, the trio joined the other members of Expedition 28 already aboard the ISS: Commander Andrey Borisenko, and flight engineers Ron Garan and Alexander Samokutyaev. They’re scheduled to return to Earth in September, while Volkov, Fossum and Furukawa are slated to conduct experiments and maintain the complex through their return in November.

Launch Announcer: “3-2-1 -- we have ignition and liftoff of the Aquarius/SAC-D observatory, on an international mission to study earth’s salty seas.”

Also sent aloft was the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft, roaring off the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Michael Freilich SOT “This is a great day. Aquarius/SAC-D is going to be making measurements in places that have never had measurements made before.”

From its polar orbit of the Earth, the NASA-built Aquarius, the spacecraft’s primary instrument, will analyze the oceans for their comparative levels of salinity, or the waters’ saltiness, a major factor in the flow of currents that, ultimately, affect climate. Michael Freilich SOT: “It’s going to tell us how the ocean circulates and, therefore, how the oceans contributes to moving heat around from low latitudes to high latitudes, making earth more habitable than it otherwise would.”

Data from the Voyager spacecraft and a new computer model suggests scientists will have to revise their notion of what transpires at the edge of our solar system.

Arik Posner: “Magnetic fields and the solar wind, where it interacts with the interstellar medium, which is way out there, is a hundred times the distance of the Earth from the Sun, and was thought to be in rather straight lines curving smoothly around, but with what we found now, with Voyager actually entering this region, it is much more complicated than that.”

This previously unexplored region appears not to be smooth, as previously thought, but filled with a swirling sea of magnetic bubbles. Arik Posner SOT: "It was discovered by the two Voyager probes actually going into places where we've never been before, in combination with sophisticated high-end computer modeling that uses existing information, plus the new Voyager information to synthesize our new view that comes out of this.”

Comprehending the complexities of the outer edges of our solar system is crucial to understanding how cosmic rays are created and reach near-Earth space. Galactic cosmic rays are a key concern as they can have a major impact on human space travel. Launched in 1977, the Voyagers have traveled farther from Earth than any man-made object.

With about a month to go ‘til the July 8 launch date targeted for space shuttle Atlantis, its four crew members continue to prepare for STS-135, the final mission of the space shuttle program. STS-135’s Commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim will use Atlantis to bring one last batch of supplies to the International Space Station before the shuttle fleet is retired.

Sandy Magnus: “Well, I certainly feel honored to be part of the last crew and the thing I think that I feel the most honored about is it requires a special skill set to operate with a crew of four and I’m very flattered that it’s felt that I have that skill set that is needed to do that. I’m very, very flattered by that.”

Those newly-released images of a space shuttle docked to the International Space Station are the first taken from the perspective of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. On May 23, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli took the pictures and video of the ISS and Endeavour on STS-134. Nespoli, along with Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman were aboard the Soyuz that had just undocked from the station and was about to carry them back to Earth. Once their vehicle was about 600 feet from the station, Mission Control Moscow, outside the Russian capital, commanded the orbiting laboratory to rotate 130 degrees to provide Nespoli with his unique views of the station and the vehicle that helped build it.

The sun unleashed a medium-sized solar flare, a minor radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection, a CME, from sunspot complex 1226-1227. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the surface of the sun. The Solar Dynamics Observatory, SDO, observed the flare's peak at 1:41 a.m. Eastern on June 7. When viewed in the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory's, or SOHO’s coronagraphs, the event shows bright plasma and high-energy particles roaring from the Sun. According to NASA models, the CME is shown moving at about 1400 kilometers a second.

Astronaut Doug Wheelock, who served as flight engineer on Expedition 24 and commander of the International Space Station for Expedition 25, was a guest speaker at the Glenn Research Center. Wheelock encouraged students from area schools to “dream big” when planning their education and career path.

“Wheels,” as he is known in spaceflight circles, also shared with Glenn employees the highlights of his nearly six months aboard the ISS.

DOUG WHEELOCK: “I'm still standing there at the computer, and the alarms, you'll hear those in the video, we captured the sounds of the alarms, and the alarms are really loud, you know. And we have cautions, and warnings, red lights, yellow lights and everything is flashing, lights turning off and fans shutting down; the space station is sort of dying, you know, controlling itself, but shutting down.

His efforts, along with those of crewmates Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Shannon Walker, helped restore the ISS to full function after a faulty pump module caused the emergency shutdown of half the station's external cooling system.

On Oct. 25, 1961, NASA announced plans to open a rocket engine test facility in Hancock County in south Mississippi. The result was the Stennis Space Center, and in honor of this milestone, Stennis opened its doors to the community to celebrate 50 years of contributions to the U.S. space program. Activities of the day included speakers, exhibits, demonstrations and interactive activities for children. Attendees also met former astronaut Scott Altman, shuttle commander of the final Hubble servicing mission.

This NASA helium weather balloon is carrying not only the experiments, but also the hopes of four teams of high school students. They’re the finalists in NASA's second Balloonsat High-Altitude Flight competition. The Glenn Research Center hosts the national competition, which offers high school students an opportunity to experience an authentic flight mission from start to finish.


Released at Wyandot County Airport in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, the balloon climbed to the stratosphere, a near-space environment 19 to 20 miles above sea level. The onboard experiments, designed by the teams from Virginia, New York, Arkansas and North Carolina, investigate solar power, atmospheric gases, and growing food hydroponically in near-space conditions.

Glenn scientists and engineers are evaluating each team’s efforts and will post the name of the winning school on the Balloonsat website July 1. The champs will receive an award at their school in the fall.

And now, Centerpieces…



In a summer party fanfare, the Tidewater Builders Association of Virginia Beach, Virginia kicked off its Spring Homerama Showcase of Homes. Featured was the Space Exploration House constructed in cooperation with nearby Langley Research Center.

Throughout the house are more than twenty NASA “spinoffs” – commercial products that incorporate NASA-developed technologies in their design and/or manufacture.

These include a commercial application of aerogel, a high-tech insulation used by astronauts against the extreme temperatures of space. Other products and systems on display that have spun off from NASA research and development included light bulbs, cosmetics, clothing, footwear, aeroponic gardening and baby food.

Robert Letchworth SOT: "I am a sponsor of NASA. I believe in it, and I just can't tell you how excited I am to have NASA participate." The Homerama spotlight on NASA was shared with former astronaut Susan Kilrain who, in 19-97, piloted two space shuttle missions.


Mark Kelly: “Hello Seattle, from the International Space Station.”

Astronaut Mark Kelly made a surprise appearance during the Seattle leg of the current world tour by Irish rock band, U2. Bono: “What’s on your mind Commander Kelly?”

Before a crowd of thousands, lead singer Bono dedicated their award-winning hit 'Beautiful Day' to Kelly’s wife, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who is recovering from a gunshot wound, while Kelly enthusiastically greeted the crowd and sent a heartwarming message to his wife in a prerecorded message from his time aboard the International Space Station during mission STS-134.

Mark Kelly: “Tell my wife I love her very much. She knows.”

U2 has worked with NASA and the International Space Station throughout their tour - having previously linked up with Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne, NASA’s Mike Barratt, Bob Thirsk of the Canadian Space Agency, Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and others.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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