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This Week @ NASA, June 29, 2012
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This Week at NASA…

A changing of the guard onboard the International Space Station as Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko handed over the reins of the orbiting outpost to cosmonaut Gennady Padalka during a change of command ceremony. The start of Padalka’s tenure as the lead of Expedition 32 makes him the first three-time commander of the station. He’s joined on the crew by NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Russian Flight Engineer Sergei Revin.

Change of Command ceremony: “Alright see you – see you guys in September.”

Two days later, Kononenko and Flight Engineers Don Pettit of NASA and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency climbed into their Soyuz spacecraft and departed the station for the trip back to Earth.

Commentator on landing: “Touchdown … the Expedition 31 crew , Oleg Kononenko, Don Pettit, Andre Kuipers – home after 193 days in space.”

The trio made a successful parachute-assisted landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan to cap off a six month stay onboard the ISS.

Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, visited NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility recently. Joined by officials from NASA, Orbital Sciences Corporation and others the Senator was updated on the status of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s new pad, from which the vehicle will launch. Antares is slated to carry Orbital’s Cygnus pressurized cargo module on a demonstration flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program in December 2012 and begin carrying supplies to the International Space Station in 2013.

The first steps in preparing for NASA’s Exploration Flight Test-1, or EFT-1 in 2014 are underway at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. As the Orion team completes its welding of the crew module, the spacecraft will next move to the Kennedy Space Center’s Operations & Checkout Facility, where its processing will continue through final assembly and testing.

Cleon Lacefield Vice President & Orion Program Manager: “We’ve been here probably working on this for the last six or eight months and they’ve spent a lot of weekends and nights trying to get us to this point in the program.”

Engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center tested a Composite Crew Module (CCM) in the Environmental Test Facility vacuum chamber to gauge how a space structure fabricated with composite materials will react in a simulated space environment. During the test, the crew module was pressurized and filled with helium to allow engineers to inspect it for leaks.

Mike Kirsch, Composite Crew Module Project Manager: “Once we understand what that leak rate is we can then start to pursue understanding what’s contributing to that leak rate, whether it’s the fittings that are bolted through the surface or through the thickness of the crew module or whether it’s coming through the skin.”

The crew module was designed to test new materials and fabrication techniques that might be used to construct future space structures from both metals and composites. The Composite Crew Module Project is led by NASA's Engineering and Safety Center at Langley.

Expedition 31 flight engineer Don Pettit is nothing if not, A. passionate about conducting science research in space, and B. in possession of a healthy sense of humor. Combine the two and you have “Diary of a Space Zucchini,” Pettit’s spaceblog authored from the point of view of a squash growing from seed aboard the International Space Station. While the chronicles of the space zucchini may constitute an entertaining and educational novelty, (see the June 9th entry: “Great news! I have a baby brother sprout!”), important plant studies have long been conducted in space. Vegetation investigations on the ISS have had real scientific goals for Earth and space exploration benefits. From improved crop production on the ground to one day providing fresh produce on orbit, sprouts in space provide a bumper crop of data for research.

You can now use the Internet and a smart-phone for an inside look at the groundbreaking science and technology research being done onboard the International Space Station! Log on to the agency's Space Station Live! Web page, or download the companion ISSLive! mobile app to get up-to-the-minute information on experiments NASA astronauts are conducting 240 miles in space for the benefit of all on Earth! You can also take a virtual tour of the station and get a peek at the operator consoles inside ISS Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center!

NASA’s Ames Research Center hosted about 30 elementary school students for a one-week learning experience as part of the Greene Scholars Program. The Program is focused on developing and highlighting the academic skills of African American students with the goal of inspiring them to pursue higher education.

Ayinde Olukotun, Student: “It’s very fun I get to learn more about science and I really like science so, I think this have been a very good experience.”

Ames Deputy Director Lew Braxton met with the students to give them advice and encouragement. During the week, the scholars participated in various math and science projects and at the end of the week each student received a graduation certificate to mark their achievement.

Preparations for the launch of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, are in full gear at the Wallops Flight Facility. Erected on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad Zero-B, a mock-up of the vehicle allowed technicians to check out how the spacecraft will fit with its Air Force Minotaur V rocket and launcher. Additional fit and procedural checks were conducted at other Wallops facilities that will be used to process the vehicle. LADEE is scheduled to be launched from Wallops in mid-2013.

Speaking before an enthusiastic crowd at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden delivered this year’s John H. Glenn Lecture in Space History. Bolden reflected on his career as a Marine aviator, a Space Shuttle pilot and commander, and his tenure as the leader of the nation’s space agency.

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator: “It's been my honor to be a part of one of our nation's greatest successes and to help shepherd NASA to its next destinations. There are many bright days ahead for the nation's space program, and for civilization's progress into space. I hope every one of you here tonight is as excited and passionate as am I about ensuring we realize every potential of our times.”

Bolden was also presented the Excellence in Public Service Award by former Senator and astronaut John Glenn on behalf of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University. The Award honors a person who demonstrates outstanding dedication to public service. The award ceremony was held at the Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

And Bolden and Glenn were joined by another former Marine to take in some art at Air and Space. The museum’s director, General Jack Dailey led the tour of the exhibit gallery featuring “Fly Marines! The Centennial of Marine Corps Aviation: 1912-2012." John Glenn looks at art: “That’s a pretty picture, that’s a good shot.”

The 91 works of art were selected from the more than 8-thousand pieces in the Marine Corps Art Program collection.

“Take each string and hold it like this.”

NASA teamed up with Vanderbilt University's Dyer Observatory in Brentwood, Tenn., to host a Summer of Innovation event for rising fifth and sixth graders from the Nashville area. The students enjoyed hands-on, Mars-related activities, and got to speak with NASA Associate Administrator for Education and former astronaut, Leland Melvin.

The young attendees were also treated to an evening concert and stage presentation. Summer of Innovation aims to inspire and engage middle school students in science, technology, engineering and math, the STEM fields. This is the second year Dyer Observatory has partnered with NASA for Summer of Innovation.

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Joe Acaba, a lifelong fan of the Los Angeles Angels, recently chatted with Angels’ outfielder Torii Hunter, who was on the field at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, CA preparing for the team’s game that night.

Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels Outfielder: “Station this is Torii Hunter, how do you hear me?”

Joe Acaba, NASA Astronaut: “Torii, this is Joe Acaba aboard the International Space Station, I hear you loud and clear.”

Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels Outfielder: “I always encourage kids to go out and take away fear, worry and doubt and don’t listen to anybody that’s negative and tell you that you can’t do anything. You can be an astronaut, you can be a Major League Baseball player – anything you want to be just put your mind to it and your heart into it.”

Joe Acaba, NASA Astronaut: “Amen, I agree with you’re a hundred percent and I know you and I are pretty good examples of people that you know, dreams can come true and we’re living that right now.”

The conversation between Acaba and Hunter was replayed for the fans in Anaheim before the June 22 game with the L.A. Dodgers and was also aired on the Angels television network.

NASA Anniversary: July 4, 1997 – Mars Pathfinder Lands on The Red Planet
15 years ago on July 4, 1997 the Mars Pathfinder landed on The Red Planet, seven months after it was launched. Pathfinder landed on Mars' Ares Vallis, in a region called Chryse Planitia in the Oxia Palus quadrangle. The mission carried a series of scientific instruments to analyze the Martian atmosphere, climate, geology and the composition of its rocks and soil. It was the second project from NASA's Discovery Program. Pathfinder consisted of a lander, renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station, and a lightweight robotic rover named Sojourner. In addition to scientific objectives, the mission was also a "proof-of-concept" for various technologies, such as the airbag-mediated touchdown and automated obstacle avoidance, both later used by the Mars Exploration Rovers.

And that’s This Week @NASA!

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