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This Week @ NASA, August 12, 2011
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This Week @NASA...

NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity has reached its next destination. Three years after climbing out of Victoria crater, Opportunity has reached the rim of Endeavour crater at a spot informally named "Spirit Point" after the rover’s decommissioned twin.

At 14 miles in diameter, Endeavour is an inviting work site for Opportunity. Orbital observations indicate that the ridges along its western rim expose rock outcrops older than any Opportunity has seen so far.

John Callas: "You see in its rim evidence of clay minerals, and clay minerals are a class of minerals that form in neutral pH water. So, this is very exciting from the possibility of Mars, at one time, being a habitable planet."

Opportunity and Spirit completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004. Both rovers continued for years of bonus, extended missions, making important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life.


Bobby Braun: "The 21st century will be won by those who innovate, by those who seek breakthroughs, by those who create that future, and I’m here to tell you today that NASA is doing that."

Chief Technologist Bobby Braun headed a group of agency officials speaking at the latest NASA Future Forum. Held at the University of Maryland, the day-long Future Forum brought together technologists, scientists, and engineers along with local business, science, technology, and education leaders. Panel discussions addressed NASA’s future role in advancing American innovation, technology, science, engineering, education and economic growth.

Charlie Bolden: "We are very optimistic about the future; we’re very optimistic about what can be done."

Waleed Abdalati: "We go from dreams, to aspirations, to pursuit, to achievement, and I believe that sequence has been born out time and time again at NASA in the past, is being born out in the present, and will be born out in the future."

Laurie Leshin: "We must take on audacious challenges as a country in order to continue to drive forward and prosper."

Leland Melvin: "Math, science, engineering, technology -- these are all the things that NASA’s trying to do to insure that kids have the right tools to move forward, but also, the teachers have the same thing."

NASA Future Forums are planned for other university campuses around the U.S. during the next year.

Shuttles Endeavour and Discovery have switched locations at the Kennedy Space Center. Technicians moved Discovery out of the Vehicle Assembly Building and Endeavour out of Orbiter Processing Facility-1. The two spacecraft were paused briefly to allow a “nose to nose” photo opportunity before Discovery was moved into OPF-1 and Endeavour into the VAB. Discovery is being prepped for public display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia beginning next spring, while Endeavour is readied for its scheduled unveiling at the California Science Center in Los Angeles next summer.

And now, Centerpieces

This is one of three successful drop tests of NASA’s next deep space exploration vehicle conducted this summer at the Langley Research Center’s new $1.7 million Hydro Impact Basin.


(nat ribbon-cutting) "3...2...1...GO!"

Langley hosted an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility that expands the center's capabilities to test and certify future spacecrafts for water landings.

Lesa Roe: "The Landir facility and the vast experience of its Langley staff provide a perfect combination to study the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle’s options for returning to Earth."

Mark Kirasich: "The excellent work and the contributions from the Langley team will continue now with the delivery of this unique, new capability."

At 115-feet long, 90-feet wide, and 20-feet deep, the Hydro Impact Basin holds one million gallons of water, allowing Langley engineers to check out the water-landing properties of future spacecraft.

The new Hydro Impact Basin is located at the historic gantry where Neil Armstrong first trained to walk on the moon.

Johnson Space Center’s Office of Education hosted 40 high school girls as part of the Women in STEM High School Aerospace Scholars Program, or WISH. During the week, The young women worked together to get a real-world look at what it takes to be a scientist or engineer.

Linda Smith: "WISH meets NASA's educational goals by providing students opportunities to participate in authentic hands-on activities using NASA's missions."

The young women worked in teams to plan a human mission to Mars. They designed how to send astronauts to the red planet, sustain life to work and research there, and return back to earth.

Elizabeth Steele: "I'm learning so much about the different scientific fields, getting some advice for the college process, and meeting some women in science who are really inspiring, and learning what they did to get to where they are today."

Kaelyn Badura: "When you think of science and research, you think of it as very focused and it’s very detail oriented. But, in reality, it’s a lot of teamwork and it’s a lot of collaboration."

Nora Ojo: "The girls are awesome; they’re great. They’re the best of the best across our country, and we’re just really glad to have them here and be able to provide this opportunity for them."


Woodrow Whitlow Opening: "Welcome to Cleveland!"

375 fifth through twelfth graders were part of a minority student education forum held at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Woodrow Whitlow: "There are great things in your future, and you can do it just like all the people you’re going to meet."

Created as part of NASA's Summer of Innovation initiative, the forum is designed to motivate minority students to pursue academic study in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM courses and encourage them to become scientists and engineers. The event featured inspirational talks by NASA senior managers, astronauts, and Glenn Personnel.

Ray Lugo: "Set your sights high; get a good education; learn that science and math can be fun."

Leland Melvin: "It's all about you; you guys are the future. You’re going to be the future astronauts, scientists, leaders and that’s why we have these programs because it’s all about you."

Students also participated in peer-to-peer ambassador roundtable and "Trailblazers" panel discussions and educational activities.

At the close of their summer's session, program interns from NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation Engineering Apprenticeship Program or NEAP presented their projects to NASA managers, friends, and family at NASA headquarters' Glennan Auditorium.

The students, all with strong interest in STEM studies -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics, are paired with a mentor to work on a specific project, over an eight week period. The interns come from diverse backgrounds and have interests in a variety of subjects from forensics to mining engineering.

Jennifer Yu: "You actually meet a lot of people at NASA. They can help, kind of, guide my future because I’m still undecided about what I want to do."

Since its inception, NEAP has hosted 190 students. The program’s “alumni” have gone on to top colleges and to positions in NASA and industry.

Bert Ulrich: "The whole exhibit together tells the NASA in an interesting way through the perspective of artist; it's wonderful to see them all together and it's rare that we have them all together like this."

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington is hosting "NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration." More than 70 works, ranging from the illustrative to the abstract, present a different view of NASA than the one in history books or news accounts.

Bert Ulrich: "With art, you really see a different perspective. It’s sort of processed through the artist’s imagination in interesting ways."

Featured in this exhibition are works by artists as diverse as Annie Leibovitz, Andy Warhol, and William Wegman.

Jim Dean: "I came over to NASA to make movies…"

Jim Dean became NASA's first curator in 1962 when then administrator James Webb initially invited artists to illustrate and interpret the agency’s missions and projects.

Jim Dean: "When we looked at the photographs back then there was something missing. All the facts were there, but the excitement that you felt when you watched what was happening, and you knew what we were trying to do, I think that’s where the artist can really fill that gap."

One of those invited was Norman Rockwell. A stickler for detail, Rockwell realized upon returning from his trip to Cape Canaveral that he needed a real spacesuit to satisfactorily paint astronaut John Young’s, and would Dean please get one sent to his rural Massachusetts studio?

Jim Dean: "So I called Houston. As I recall, the phone was slammed down in my ear after someone said, 'There's stuff in that suit that’s classified! You can’t have that"

But Dean persisted, and soon, by day, the suit was being painted by Rockwell in his studio and, by night, it was being watched in a Stockbridge motel room by the NASA technician sent along to guard it.

Jim Dean: "Rockwell was so pleased at getting the real thing to work with that he put the technician in the painting."

That would be Joe Schmidt there, on the left.

Jim Dean: "If you could be down at the Cape for a launch and see this array of cameras set up, it’s like an artillery range with these long lenses, and then to see sitting on the ground an artist with a water color pad, and his brushes and paint and doing that, it was like somebody left over from another world brought in to do this."

"NASA/ART: 50 Years of Exploration" runs through October 9th at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum in Washington.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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