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

NASA has finalized a cooperative agreement with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, CASIS, to manage the portion of the International Space Station that operates as a U.S. national laboratory. Located in the Space Life Sciences Laboratory at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the independent, nonprofit research management organization will help ensure the station's unique capabilities are available to the broadest possible cross-section of the U.S. scientific, technological and industrial communities.

Waleed Abdalati: "It's and asset for science; it’s and asset for exploration; it's an asset for industry, for our nation -- the world, as a whole, quite frankly."

Jeanne Becker: "We stand ready to develop the premier institution needed to really advance space research and technology development and education initiatives, and also to engage the community of advocacy and enthusiasm that is needed to drive the discoveries that can’t be achieved here on earth."


Launch Announcer: "3-2-1-0 and lift off the Delta II with Grail, the journey to the center of the Moon."

A Delta II rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida has sent the twin GRAIL spacecraft on their way to the moon.

The two spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail from crust to core. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about the moon and provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.


Neil deGrasse Tyson: "I thought, since that was a Tweetup, I shouldn't give a talk without tweeting. Tweet, there it goes."

Among those at the Cape for the GRAIL launch were 150 Twitter followers. These "Tweeps" were selected from more than 800 people who registered online to attend the two-day NASA Tweetup.

Charlie Bolden: "The messages that you are able to get across the world is absolutely incredible."

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden headed a list of guest speakers. The Tweeps represented 32 states and seven foreign countries, including Australia, India and Indonesia.


Mission Control: "As you can see, just passing to the left of the view, one of the larger plumes."

Here's how those wildfires burning up thousands of parched acres in central Texas looked from space when external cameras aboard the ISS first passed to the southeast of Austin on September 6. The video was accompanied by comments from Expedition 28 Flight Engineer Mike Fossum.

Mike Fossum: "We're coming up just across the coast. We to see Houston quitet clearly and it is a sad sight, with all the fires burning in Texas right now."

The station also continued its coverage of Hurricane Katia and other tropical storms in the Atlantic.


Noah Petro: "These are some of the most amazing images of the moon that I’ve ever seen."

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, LRO, has captured the sharpest images ever taken from space of where three Apollo missions were conducted on the moon’s surface. The pictures of the Apollo 17, Apollo 14, and Apollo 12 landing sites were taken while LRO was in what’s referred to as a “dipping orbit,” where the spacecraft was roughly 15 miles above the surface. They reveal the twists and turns of the paths made when the missions’ six moonwalkers explored these areas.

Noah Petro: "For example, at the Apollo 17 landing site, we can see where the lunar rover is parked on the surface. We can see where it drove around the lunar module. You can see the areas where the astronauts kicked up the dust when they walked around. You can see some of the experiments that were left behind, sitting on the surface, 40 years ago, and you can see where they are, still sitting there on the lunar surface."

Launch Announcer: "3-2-1, main engine ignition and liftoff of the Atlas-V rocket with LRO /LCROSS."

Launched in June 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is creating a comprehensive atlas of the moon's features and resources necessary to design and build an outpost for human exploration.

Data gathered by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory show that a second, delayed wave of extreme ultraviolet radiation emanates from a solar flare well after its peak. This distinct "late phase flare" minutes to hours later has never before been fully observed. In fact, this second wave sometimes has more EUV energy than the X-ray flare itself. In one case, on November 3, 2010, measuring only the effects of the main flare would have resulted in underestimating the amount of energy shooting into Earth's atmosphere by 70 percent.

Understanding solar flares erupting on the sun can help scientists predict “space weather” that can interfere with communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) signals on Earth.

NASA’s decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, also known as UARS, is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in late September or early October. UARS was deployed from the payload bay of space shuttle Discovery on Sept. 15, 1991, on STS-48. It was the first multi-instrumented satellite to observe numerous chemicals in the atmosphere, and how they travel and react to light. Data gathered by UARS initiated long-term records for many key chemical species in the atmosphere. The satellite also provided key data on the amount of light that comes from the sun at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths. UARS ceased its productive scientific life in 2005.

Finally, NASA joins the nation and the world this week in remembering the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Plans for commemorating the tenth anniversary included a special Headquarters presentation featuring former NASA astronaut Frank Culbertson who, at the time of the 2001 attacks, was aboard the International Space Station as Commander of Expedition Three.

Frank Culbertson: "I realized our country was under attack. I was, ironically, half-way through a Tom Clancy novel about a similar situation, at the time, and it almost put me inside the novel which was a very strange feeling. And then once I saw it out the window, and we took video as the second tower was collapsing, I didn’t know exactly what was happening, but I knew it was really bad because there was a big cloud of debris covering Manhattan. That’s when it really became painful, because it was like seeing a wound in the side of your country."

And, ten years later, two interplanetary tributes to the 9/11 victims -- remain on Mars.

This image taken by the panoramic camera on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, shows an American flag on a cuff serving as a cable shield for the spacecraft’s rock abrasion tool. The RAT on both Spirit and its twin, Opportunity, was manufactured by Honeybee Robotics of lower Manhattan. Honeybee’s employees made each rover’s cuff using aluminum recovered from the destroyed World Trade Center towers.

Dave Lavery: "We felt, as a team, it was important for us to have something onboard that was a very quiet reminder of the events of that year, and what was going on in the world as we were building these robots, and preparing to send them to Mars. It wasn’t something we publicized a lot; it was something, internally, that the team wanted to do for our own sake, as something that was very closely associated with the Honeybee robotics folks in New York, and all the effects it had immediately on them, but on the team as a whole and on the world as whole."

And that's This Week@NASA!

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