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This Week @ NASA, August 05, 2011
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This Week @NASA...


Voice of George Diller: "And lift off of the Atlas V with Juno on a trek to Jupiter."

The wait is over, and launch teams are celebrating the successful liftoff of the Juno spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center as it begins a five-year cruise to the planet Jupiter to investigate the planet’s structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

It will also provide detailed images of Jupiter's surface and capture the first high-resolution views of its poles.

Scott Bolton: "We're on our way, and at this point the spacecraft’s out, it's open; the solar arrays are open; we're flowing our electricity through the veins of Juno."

The Juno spacecraft will orbit the gas giant for about a year and, in doing so; will improve our understanding of our solar system’s beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter.

These dark, finger-like features extending down some Martian slopes could be flowing water occurring during the warmest months on the planet Mars. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, has been repeatedly tracking and observing seasonal changes in these recurring patterns in Mars' southern hemisphere.

Michael Meyer: "We have followed the water and we have found repeated and predictable evidence suggesting water flowing on Mars."

This discovery, which was discussed at a press briefing held at NASA headquarters, could be vital to continued studies on whether life could exist on the Red Planet.

Lisa Pratt: "I really think that this is a very exciting discovery because it is our first chance to see an environment on Mars that might allow for the expression of an active biological process if there is, presently, life on Mars."

According to scientists the flow of liquid briny water is the best explanation, thus far, for these dark lineations which spread down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and then return during the next spring.

These observations are the closest scientists have come to finding evidence of liquid water on the planet's surface to date.


Chris Russell: "These photos have been already a great revelation to the team about what the surface is like; we did not imagine the detail that we’re seeing."

Newly-captured, full-frame images of the asteroid Vesta were unveiled by the Dawn mission team at a Jet Propulsion Laboratory news conference.

Charles Elachi: "Vesta is much larger than the state of California and it is has some very exciting geomorphological and composition features that you’ll be hearing about and will shed some light on how our solar system actually was formed."

The Dawn spacecraft was successfully inserted into the giant asteroid’s orbit several weeks ago and has since begun collecting scientific data.

Observations of Vesta will provide first-of-its-kind information to help scientists understand the beginnings of our solar system.

Chris Russell: "As the mission progresses, we’ll be taking data at higher and higher resolution that will enable us to understand the surface and interior processes better."

Dawn is the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. After a year in Vesta’s orbit, Dawn will move on and begin orbiting a second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, in February 2015.

After years of searching, astronomers have confirmed, for the first time, the existence of oxygen molecules in space. The European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory's large telescope and state-of-the-art infrared detectors, with help from mission-enabling technology from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, spotted the molecules in the Orion star-forming complex. While individual atoms of oxygen are common in space, molecular oxygen, or O2, has seemed nearly impossible to locate until now. Astronomers believe O2, which consists of two oxygen atoms bound together, has been difficult to find because it’s locked up in water ice that coats tiny dust grains. They’ve determined Herschel can detect oxygen formed when starlight warms the icy grains and releases water, which is then converted into oxygen molecules.

Aided by this new revelation, researchers plan to continue their hunt for oxygen molecules in other star-forming regions.

The drought in Texas has revealed an object from space shuttle Columbia, which broke apart during entry in 2003 before concluding its STS-107 mission. Debris from Columbia fell to Earth in Texas as well as parts of Louisiana.

The discovery was made in Lake Nacogdoches, where waters have receded due to a severe drought plaguing the area since October. NASA has confirmed that the four-foot, globe-shaped, item was a fuel tank and part of the shuttle’s electrical power distribution system. Officials say that it’s not toxic or hazardous to the public. NASA is working with local authorities to transport the object to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.



The astronauts who flew on the next to the last shuttle mission to the International Space Station – STS-134, plus members of the station’s Expedition 26 crew, were in Washington to discuss their June visit to the complex.

Mark Kelly: "The last flight of an incredible vehicle Endeavour."

Mission Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Greg Johnson and Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori, presented to headquarters personnel, video highlights from their 16-day journey.

Audience Question: "What level of detail can you see just with your eyes up in space?"

Mike Fincke: You can see cities, roads, easily. I've seen the Great Pyramids with my eyeball, and then through a camera and it’s even better."

Also available to talk about their part in this 34th and penultimate mission to the orbiting laboratory, were Expedition 26/27 Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli.

Later in the day, NASA, working with the Maryland Space Grant Consortium in Baltimore, invited the public to a discussion with Mark Kelly, Johnson, Finke and Vittori about their mission.

The STS-134 astronauts, also comprised of Mission Specialists Drew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff, delivered to the space station the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2, a particle physics detector, which searches for unusual matter by measuring cosmic rays.

Cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Alexander Samokutyaev conducted a six-hour spacewalk to continue outfitting the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

The Expedition 28 Flight Engineers also installed laser communications equipment and replaced experiments on the Zvezda service module.


As part of the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program, two teachers from Germany and their escort recently flew aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy or SOFIA.

When observation time was completed, the researchers began to analyze the data, explaining each step of the process to the teachers. The Germans joined six teachers from the United States as the first educators to observe SOFIA’s scientific research, and then take that experience back to their classrooms and communities.

July 26-August 7 marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 15 flight, which took astronauts Dave Scott, Jim Irwin, and Al Worden into lunar orbit. In commemoration, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum held a special book talk and signing featuring Apollo 15’s Command Module Pilot. Worden and his co-author Francis French talked about his newly released book Falling to Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut's Journey to the Moon.

Al Worden: "I've had a growing feeling over the years that this book needed to written. Over the past few years, I’ve been kind of pushed into doing the book by the some of the other astronauts. I finally decided that enough time had gone by and I needed to do it."

It was during Apollo 15, NASA's fourth mission to the moon that the Lunar Roving Vehicle was first used and it also featured the first deep space EVA carried out by Worden.

Francis French: "He got to spend six days out there, three of them completely on his own. The time to look at that incredible topography, to think what does this mean."

Al Worden: "I guess it’s a testament to the way that we do things in this country because you can take a kid like me who grew up on a farm and send him to the moon and they aren’t too many places where you can do that."


NASA faced off with Department of Energy staff during a Dunk Contest in support of the Feds Feed Families program.

"We're going to win. We're going to win."

The event took place in the West Plaza of DOE, near the National mall.

NASA’s best throwing arms went up against those of the Department of Energy’s with at least five pounds of food donations on the line for each round.

Music, pep talks, games and food were also included in the morning’s fun. The government-wide Fed Feeds Families program collects more than a million pounds of non-perishable goods each year to help feed the hungry across the country.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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