NASA Podcasts

This Week @ NASA, September 16, 2011
› Listen Now
› View Now
This Week@NASA...

Rob Navias: "Ron Garan flashing a big smile as he’s extracted..."

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Ron Garan and his fellow Expedition 28 flight engineers returned safely to Earth with a landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan.

Garan and cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko, and Alexander Samokutyaev had been on the International Space Station since April 6. Remaining on the orbiting laboratory is NASA’s Mike Fossum and his two Expedition 28/29 colleagues, Russian Sergei Volkov, and Satoshi Furukawa of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The return of Garan and his two crewmates was delayed just over a week by the August 24th failure of the Progress 44 cargo craft to reach the station. Now that the Russian Federal Space Agency has identified the cause of the mishap, crew flights to the ISS will tentatively resume on Nov. 14.

That's when the Soyuz 28 spacecraft, carrying NASA's Dan Burbank and Russia's Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov, is scheduled to liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan; they’ll reach the station on Nov.16.


Charles Bolden: "The next chapter of America’s space exploration story is being written today."

Administrator Charlie Bolden was on Capitol Hill for the announcement of NASA’s selected design of its new Space Launch System.

The new heavy-lift rocket will take NASA astronauts farther into space than ever before. The booster will be America’s most powerful since the Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon and will launch humans to places no one has gone before.

Dan Dumbacher: "We've got near earth asteroids to go look at, possible visits to the moon, La Grangian Point, higher earth orbit, geosynch orbit; lots of opportunities out there, we just have to sort out what makes sense."

The selection ended a months-long, comprehensive review of potential designs to ensure the nation gets a rocket that is not only powerful but, as new technologies are developed, adaptable for different missions and destinations. The new SLS will also create high-quality jobs here at home as it provides the cornerstone for America's future human space exploration efforts.

Charles Bolden: "President Obama has challenged us at NASA to be bold and dream big, and that's exactly what we do. While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, tomorrow's explorers will dream of one day walking on Mars."

Construction began recently on the first new NASA human spacecraft bound for orbit to be built since space shuttle Endeavour left the factory in 1991. Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans started welding together the first space-bound Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

After welding is completed at Michoud, the Orion spacecraft orbital test article will be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center, where its heat shield will be installed. At Kennedy, it will then undergo final assembly and checkout operations for eventual flight.

NASA has agreed to collaborate with Alliant Techsystems on the development of ATK’s commercial Liberty Launch System; part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development Round 2 activities.

Ed Mango: "We're on time and on budget across the board on our milestones that we have projected."

NASA and ATK will review and discuss all technical aspects of ATK’s Liberty system design which could become a commercial launch vehicle for crew, cargo, and satellites. Milestones begin in October and are scheduled to run through March of next year.

Kent Rominger: "If you look at our Liberty System NASA developed the first stage in the five segment booster; the upper stage was developed by ESA, the European Space Agency; two commercial companies now are taking that and applying it commercially. So, we feel very fortunate to have what we believe is a very rigorous design unlike any other out there that was designed to lift humans from the start."

NASA's Kepler space telescope has discovered its first circumbinary planet, a planet that orbits two suns. The cold, Saturn-sized planet is not in the star system’s habitable zone. But, someone near the planet’s surface could see double sunrises and sunsets, similar to what Luke Skywalker saw in the 1977 movie, "Star Wars".

John Knoll: "There's a great moment in "New Hope" where Luke is watching a twin sunset on Tatooine. It's a great way to show that we're not on Earth, that it’s this exotic environment, but that was never really thought to be possible. And it's exciting to see that science has caught up with the fantasy. It's real, it's possible."

The Kepler-16 star system is located in the Cygnus constellation about 200 light years from Earth.

Laurance Doyle: "Well this is a very exciting discovery for me, in part, because I’ve been looking for circumbinary planets for more than two decades. But it doesn't feel like an ending, it feels like a beginning, because what it’s done is open up a whole new type of planetary system that can form in the galaxy. There must be millions of these types of systems in the Milky Way galaxy."

The NASA team that helped with last year’s rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for more than nine weeks has received the National Security and International Affairs Medal from the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. The team, led by Michael Duncan, former deputy chief medical officer at the Johnson Space Center, was recognized at the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, or Sammies, gala in Washington. Also cited as a Sammie Award finalist was NASA’s LAUNCH team. LAUNCH is a global initiative to identify and support innovations and solutions to urgent challenges facing the world.

NASA participated in a MacArthur Foundation-sponsored event to culminate a digital badges competition. Held at the Hirshorn Museum in Washington, the Digital Media and Learning Competition highlighted how the concept of digital badges is becoming an exciting new learning tool for students. Similar to scouting badges, only more rigorous, a digital badge can be earned for mastering a skill in formal and informal settings, virtually and in physical spaces, in schools and workplaces. Digital badges can also open new pipelines for talent and create job, educational and civic opportunities.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin attended the event. ELACHI HONORED – JPL (CP)
During an elegant evening at the historic Caltech Athenaeum, JPL Director Charles Elachi was inducted into the French Legion, the highest honor awarded by France.

Francois Delattre: "In recognition of your extraordinary achievements, as a scientist and also, again, to promote French American partnership."

The French award has special meaning for Elachi, who grew up in Lebanon. Being honored as the country’s top science student at the age of 16 enabled him to attend college in France. The ties continued throughout his career, including joint NASA-JPL/French breakthroughs in satellite oceanography.

Charles Elachi: "Using space was a completely new revolution, and today, it's one of the most established scientific fields."

The Mars Science Laboratory, launching later this year, will carry a French laser to reveal the composition of Martian rocks.

Charles Elachi: "So one thing we plan to do, because now that I got this award, every time we zap a rock, there'll be a little sound that says, "Viva la France, Viva la France" (laughter). "Merci beaucoup et vive l'amitie Franco-Americane."

A new interactive online program called "Rockets to Race Cars" introduces NASCAR fans to NASA-created products making auto racing faster and safer. Site visitors navigate through the NASA garage to learn about heat-resistant paint, fire-resistant materials, the development of better brakes and other "spinoffs" from NASA research.

In 1996, the agency worked with the Penske Racing team to use scrap material from the Space Shuttle's Thermal Protection System blankets to cool driver's cockpits by 30 to 50 degrees. Since then, the TPS material has become a regular cockpit feature of race cars around the nation.

To find out more about Rockets 2 Race Cars visit:

And that's This Week@NASA!

For more on these and other stories, log on to:
› Listen Now
› View Now