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This Week @ NASA, June 17, 2011
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Space shuttle Atlantis remains on track for a July 8 launch. The four-person crew of STS-135 -- Commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus -- continues preparations for the final flight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. To get ready for the work they’ll do on the International Space Station, the crew trained in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at Johnson Space Center and the Kennedy Space Center's Orbiter Processing Facility. Atlantis will carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module with about 17-thousand pounds of supplies and spare parts to the ISS.

Chris Ferguson: "Largely it’s a cargo mission. It’s an effort to posture the space station for about a year, put it in a good position until we can get our commercial cargo resupply system up and running."

Atlantis sits, at the ready, on launch pad 39 A after its external tank passed a pre-launch liquid propellant test.

Mitchell Begelman: "This is the first time we're really pinpointing when these black holes were really forming and growing."

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate conducted two news conferences to update the media on progress and developments in the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and MESSENGER missions. The first of the two provided a look at new pictures and data collected by Chandra.

Mitchell Begelman: "It took the research that was done over the last decade with Chandra, for people to begin to realize, that you could, by observing very deeply in the universe, that you could piece together some of the very early history of black hole growth."

Black holes are the last evolutionary stage in the lifetimes of stars that were once at least 10 to 15 times as massive as our own sun. These cold remnants are extremely dense, exerting a gravitational pull so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape their grasp.


Larry Nittler: "In many cases, a lot of the original ideas about Mercury were just plain wrong and so we are finding some surprises."

Also revealed -- new images and science findings from the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

Larry Nittler: "We have gotten some very good fluorescent x-ray data from the surface. So, we’re getting good measurements right now of the average composition of key elements like magnesium, aluminum, silicon, sulfur, calcium, titanium and iron with this instrument."

NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging, or MESSENGER spacecraft completed more than a dozen laps through the inner solar system during the six years prior to achieving the historic orbit insertion on March 17.

Ralph Mcnutt: "Mercury really is a world in and of its own, and we’re finding that, just like the Earth, it’s got its own personality. Mercury is one of the terrestrial planets and therefore provides some context for what was going on in the inner part of the solar system back when the planets were condensing from the solar nebula." MESSENGER will image, in stereo, nearly the entire surface of Mercury to determine the planet's global topography and landforms.

This video of the giant asteroid Vesta was created by scientists working with NASA's Dawn spacecraft, highlighting Vesta's jagged, irregular shape. The video loops 20 images Dawn captured for navigation purposes as it approached this unexplored world in the main asteroid belt.

A dark feature near Vesta's equator moves from left to right with the asteroid’s rotation, hinting at the enormous crater known to exist at Vesta's south pole.

Dawn is scheduled to begin orbiting the asteroid on July 16.

Graduates of NASA’s Systems Engineering Leadership Development Program received their diplomas at a ceremony held at Headquarters. SELDP accelerates and develops the leadership potential of mid‐level systems engineers to help them better deal with difficult and multifaceted technical problems and intricate social systems.

Mike Ryschkewitsch: "The process of their learning experience over the year, learning a lot about themselves, and how they can do a better job of leading teams and practicing both the art and science of systems engineering."

Terry Nienaber: "There were 20 of us in SELDP. Each of us came from different centers. So, there was a lot of mingling of ideas and cultures, and I think we all grew from this."

The year-long program was initiated in 2008 to ensure that NASA’s workforce would be ready and able to lead the world in space exploration, scientific discovery, technology development, and managerial excellence.

In an ear-deafening twist of irony, this supersonic aircraft is producing amped-up, super-loud sonic booms to help make our skies -- quieter.

NASA researchers laid out a two-mile long string of microphones to record the thunder of an accelerating F/A-18 jet for the Superboom Caustic Analysis and Measurement Program, or SCAMP, at the Dryden Flight Research Center. SCAMP measured these focused booms to understand how to minimize their startling impact and ensure that tomorrow's supersonic jets will be quiet in all phases of flight over land, including acceleration.

Glenn Research Center employees and visitors will soon be checking in through a new main entrance. The new single story, 2500 square-foot structure, main gate, and its roadway, called the NASA Parkway, will mark a milestone in a 20-year master plan to improve facilities and infrastructure at Glenn's Lewis Field in Cleveland, and the Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. The event was celebrated with a special ribbon cutting ceremony.

James Free: "It really isolates the processing of our visitors; keeps them outside of the security barrier; helps our security guards with the traffic flow in and out of the Center."

The new building will be gold-certified as a high-performance, eco-friendly building by the U.S. Green Building Council "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design," or LEED.

The Ames Research Center’s Sustainability Base has been named the Government's Green Building of the Year. Due to be completed later this summer, the structure incorporates technology used by astronauts in space and will be one of only a few buildings in California generating more electricity than it consumes. Construction for Sustainability Base has been more expensive than a standard government facility, but NASA expects its lower operating costs will help the agency recoup the extra expense within ten years.

“NASA 360,” the TV program that highlights how NASA technology contributes to our daily lives, was nominated for a national Daytime Emmy award for single-camera television editing.

"NASA 360" is based at Langley Research Center and is produced for NASA by the National Institute of Aerospace. Besides NASA TV, the half-hour program is seen on select airlines, cable, free-to-air broadcast channels and 450 Public Broadcasting Service stations across the country.

And now, Centerpieces…


Veronica McGregor: "Good morning and welcome to JPL Tweet-up 2011. Thank you for coming."

In the world of social media, a Tweet-up, is a "meet-up" of Twitter users, bloggers and other social media fans…

Justin Tolentino: "My Twitter handle is yuglok."

Kyle Sullivan: "Neoteotihuaacan"

Heather Archuletta: "I tweet under pillownaut."

A NASA Tweet-up draws a special crowd.

Kyle Sullivan: "I'm a science Geek, I’m not ashamed."

These space Tweeps, got to rub elbows with NASA scientists and engineers…

Marc Rayman: "The ion thruster pushes on the spacecraft as hard as this piece of paper pushes on my hand."

…and met legends like John Casani, who has worked on the Explorer, Cassini, Voyager, and Galileo missions…

John Casani: "It's so rewarding to all of us to see people like you who are excited and turned on by the products of what comes out of here, and gets that message out to the people that support us."

Chris Shuttlesworth: "Sitting here every once in a while, I think, I can’t believe that people do this, that we send thing millions of miles out into space. It’s just too incredible to hear about that from the people who are actually doing it."

This Tweetup drew more than 100 Tweeps from 20 states and 2 foreign countries—

Stephanie Collins: "It impresses me how much the NASA staff is dedicated to outreach, especially the way that NASA works with kids in creating new geeks and scientists."

They blogged, they tweeted, telling their followers everything, including…

…Having their picture taken in 3-D…

…Seeing mission control, home of the Deep Space Network…

…The Mars Rover test beds…

And Curiosity.

Ashwin Vasavada: "It's actually kind of sad because every time I come here, I realize it’s going to be one the last time I’m going to be able to come out here and look at it. And then it goes to Florida for a few more months, and then in November, the day after Thanksgiving, is the opening of the launch window."

"How has this space geek been enjoying this?"

Lauren Rothman: "I'm in heaven; this is my idea of summer camp." It was a space exploration "love fest."

Heather Archuletta: "It's almost too much great stuff to see here today. We’re all very, very tired, but were all very happy geeks."

It’s called "Star Trek: The Exhibition," and it’s attracting both diehard fans and novices to the Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Complex like a Klingon to intergalactic mayhem. The interactive exhibit showcases authentic Star Trek artifacts from the past 45 years, including one-of-a-kind costumes, props and displays from the popular 60s television show and subsequent feature films. Visitors are treated to a re-creation of the original series Starship Enterprise Bridge, complete with a chance to occupy the command chair of Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Also on hand are replicas of the engineering and sick bays from "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Star Trek: The Exhibition also features interactive kiosks and rare photo opportunities.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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