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This Week @ NASA, July 27, 2012
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This Week at NASA…

The Curiosity rover continues to make its way to Mars -- and its scheduled landing in Gale Crater on Monday, Aug. 6, at around 1:30 in the morning, Eastern.

Once delivered to the Red Planet’s surface, Curiosity will begin a two-year prime mission to investigate one of the most intriguing places on Mars.

Join NASA TV coverage of Curiosity’s landing on Sunday, Aug. 5, at 11:30 p.m. Eastern. We’ll have it on all three NTV channels, on, AND, on Xbox 360, as well!!

MARS YARD – JPL (CP) Gay Yee Hill Reporting
While the real Curiosity rover makes its way to the Red Planet, reporters on Earth met the rover’s “stunt doubles” in the JPL Mars Yard.

Rob Manning, MSL Chief Engineer: “We had a rare moment. We’re between testing where we can invite people over and actually watch us do some testing.”

MATT HEVERLY, Lead Rover Driver: “The Vehicle System Test Vehicle rover is essentially Curiosity’s twin sister where it’s almost the same rover that’s about to touch down on Mars. And we’re testing autonomous navigation software today. So what we’re doing is setting a pile of rocks and the rover is imaging the world around it and it’s determining where is it safe to drive and where is it not to.”

Media visitors saw the rovers in action and talked to scientists, rover drivers, and engineers. Landing day is on everyone’s mind, after all, it’s coming up fast.

Rob Manning, MSL Chief Engineer: “You have to be nervous. It’s a very difficult thing to get right, but the thing is we have done all the testing we can think of, but we did it and we put the effort in and I’m very proud of the team.”

The rocket that will launch humans farther into space than ever before has passed a major milestone. The Space Launch System Program completed a combined System Requirements and System Definition review, which set technical, performance, cost and schedule requirements to provide on-time development of the overall launch vehicle system. SLS now moves ahead to the preliminary design phase of the heavy-lift rocket that will carry NASA's Orion spacecraft and other payloads, and provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The first test flight, which will feature a configuration for a 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity, is scheduled for 2017.

A large inflatable heat shield developed by NASA's Space Technology Program at Langley Research Center has successfully survived a trip through Earth's atmosphere while travelling at hypersonic speeds up to 76-hundred miles per hour.

IRVE-3, The Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment, was launched by sounding rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, inflated as expected to a mushroom shape almost 10 feet in diameter, returned safely through Earth's atmosphere at hypersonic speeds and fell into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina. The test demonstrated that a space capsule can use an inflatable outer shell to slow and protect itself during planetary entry and descent.The program is managed by the Langley Research Center.

NASA engineers surpassed the previously set J-2X powerpack record during the latest test at Stennis Space Center. The 13-hundred-50-second test on the A-1 Test Stand broke the previous record of 11-hundred-50 seconds – set earlier this summer on June 8. The July 24 test gathered data on performance of the liquid oxygen and fuel pumps during extreme conditions -- critical information for continued development of the turbopump for use on the J-2X engine. The J-2X is the first human-rated liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen rocket engine to be developed in four decades and is being built for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

The successful, July 20th launch of "Kounotori 3," the H-II Transfer Vehicle, from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan was followed seven days later by the arrival of the unpiloted cargo ship at the International Space Station. HTV-3 was captured by the ISS crew using the station’s robotic Canadarm-2, then berthed to a docking port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node. Glenn Research Center employees watched the launch of the HTV-3 with heightened interest. Among the almost 4 tons of supplies, experiments and hardware HTV-3 is delivering to station is the Space Communications and Navigation, or SCaN, testbed. Designed and built at Glenn, the device will allow researchers to conduct experiments which could lead to a new generation of space communications. Also onboard -- a remote-controlled Earth-observing camera system named ISERV Pathfinder. The new imaging instrument, designed and built at the Marshall Space Flight Center, will acquire imagery of specific areas of the globe for disaster analysis and environmental studies. The program is operated as a partnership between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Kevin Ford, Expedition 33 Flight Engineer/Expedition 34 Commander: “I can’t tell you how privileged we feel to be part of the crew going to the space station and how thrilled we are to be at this point in our training.”

NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, and crewmates Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency were at the Johnson Space Center to preview for media their upcoming Expedition 33 and 34 missions to the International Space Station.

Kevin Ford, Expedition 33 Flight Engineer/Expedition 34 Commander: “We really appreciate the magnitude of the effort to get us into space and what the space station represents. So few people get to fly up there compared to the number of people who invest their lives in it.”

A prior briefing outlined mission priorities and objectives, including hundreds of research experiments, a Russian spacewalk, international and commercial cargo deliveries to the complex and a commercial cargo demonstration flight.

Julie Robinson, International Space Station Program Scientist: “During the six month period for Expedition 33 and 34, we’ll see over 198 experiments active on the space station with hundreds of participating scientists across the entire partnership and around the world.”

The trio is scheduled to launch to the station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft on October 15. Once there, they’ll join NASA astronaut Suni Williams, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko to round out the Expedition 33 crew.

The Newseum in Washington, DC served as the site of a joint news conference by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey to highlight 40 years worth of accomplishments by Landsat, the world's longest-running, Earth-observing satellite program.

Anne Castle, Asst. Secretary for Water & Science, Dept. of the Interior: “No other satellite program in our country or in any other nation in the world comes close to having the historical length and breadth and the continuity in the coverage of the Landsat archive.”

NASA launched the first Landsat satellite on July 23, 1972. The resulting four decades of imagery from the fleet of Landsat satellites forms an impartial, comprehensive, and easily-accessed register of human and natural changes on the land. This information supports the improvement of human and environmental health, biodiversity, energy and water management, urban planning, disaster recovery and crop monitoring.

Waleed Abdalati, NASA Chief Scientist: “It’s really by stepping back and looking at the Earth, observing these changes in that context from space can we really understand what’s happening.”

Administrator Charlie Bolden helped welcome to Headquarters members of the next generation of idea makers The Ideas in Flight program provided a forum for summer interns in NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to give “What I Did This Summer” -type presentations. Topics ranged from intelligent aircraft engines to technologies for reducing harmful emissions. "Ideas in Flight" was designed to provide unique hands-on experiences in careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Also at NASA headquarters, the Science Mission Directorate sponsored the DEVELOP Program’s Annual Summer Highlight Presentation. Presentations were given by young professionals and students who worked on Earth Observation research projects this summer focused on environmental issues around the globe.

Lawrence Friedl, Director, NASA Applied Sciences Program: “The students really benefit because they get the exposure and they’ve got a nice thing at the end of the summer that they can go back and tell their family and their friends and other students that they’ve made a difference for the summer.”

Mentored by NASA and partner agency scientists, DEVELOP interns extend NASA Earth Science data and technology to policy and decision makers.

COMMANDER RETURNS – DFRC (CP) Alan Brown Reporting
"Kevin Ford in control of the stick at this moment…(double sonic boom)…Discovery now going sub-sonic, the fleet-leading shuttle announcing its arrival at the landing site with a pair of sonic booms…"

When Space Shuttle Discovery touched down at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California on September 11th, 2009 to conclude mission STS-128, no one could have foreseen that it would be the last of 54 such landings at the famed desert air base.

NASA astronaut Rick "C.J." Sturckow, who commanded the mission, returned to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards recently to recap the mission for Dryden employees.

In his video-illustrated presentation, Sturckow recalled highlights of the 13-day supply mission to the International Space Station, noting that the station is contributing to both scientific understanding and future solar system exploration:

Rick “CJ” Sturckow, NASA Astronaut: "I think one of the biggest benefits of the space station will be …we'll look back and go, wow, if we hadn’t flown ISS we could have never accomplished whatever it is we do next. I think that'll be one of the biggest contributions, in addition to all the great science, other science that's going on up there."

Fifteen of Discovery's 39 missions landed at Edwards, the remainder at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The retired space shuttle is now enshrined at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington, D.C.

NASA Anniversary: Launch of STS-46: July 31, 1992
Twenty years ago on July 31, 1992, Space Shuttle Atlantis launched from the Kennedy Space Center on STS-46. Atlantis’ crew consisted of Commander Loren Shriver, Pilot Andrew Allen, Mission Specialists Jeff Hoffman, Franklin Chang-Diaz, Marsha Ivins and Claude Nicollier and Payload Specialist Franco Malerba. One of the mission’s primary objectives was called off. The joint NASA/Italian Space Agency Tethered Satellite System, or TSS was restowed and returned to Earth after a jammed tether line prevented deployment. Meanwhile, The European Space Agency's European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA) was deployed successfully. Atlantis and crew returned nearly eight days later to conclude the mission.

When Sally Ride passed away recently at age 61, she left a legacy of accomplishment and inspiration. As the first American woman in space, Ride proved there was nothing to which a young girl could not aspire. And, as a former astronaut, she continued to reassure young women – and young men, too, that careers in science and exploration can be exciting, fun, and rewarding. Sally Ride will be missed not only by the NASA Family, but also countless millions of Americans and citizens of the world.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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