NASA Podcasts

This Week @ NASA, September 23, 2011
› Listen Now
› View Now
This Week@NASA...

NASA's new Aquarius instrument has produced its first global map of the salinity, or saltiness, of Earth's ocean surface. Variations in surface salinity are linked to the cycling of freshwater around the planet, affecting ocean circulation and the Earth's climate.

Gary Lagerloef: "Close to 25 or 30% of the surface of the ocean has never even been observed, in other words, we have no salinity samples, at all, from parts the world, particularly in the southern hemisphere – the South Pacific and the South Atlantic and southern Indian Oceans, so there’s a big data gap."

The new map is a composite of the first two-and-a-half weeks of data gathered since Aquarius became operational on Aug. 25. It demonstrates Aquarius' ability to detect and clearly display large-scale salinity distribution features.


Don Petit: "This is one of the neat things about venturing off into space is that we have another knob that we can experiment with; it’s called the gravity knob."

Three future residents of the International Space Station discussed their upcoming Expedition 30 and 31 missions with media at the Johnson Space Center. NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers are set to launch to the station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft in December.

Don Petit: "Space station is so complicated. We need all these folks on the ground that can tell you what this screw did, and what that terminal does, and what kind of fluid is flowing in that pipe that happens to be leaking out. Between our crew on station, and working with the ground, we’ll be able to tackle almost any kind of repair function that needs to be done."

Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers will join NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoli Ivanishin; they’ll have journeyed to the orbiting laboratory in mid-November.

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, visited Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. The rare East Coast appearance of the Dryden-based observatory provided DC-area students from military families an opportunity to tour SOFIA aircraft and hear from NASA Headquarters officials about the unique airborne observatory.

Lori Garver: "Let me say how pleased I am that NASA’s giving the students, the military families and teachers the opportunity to experience and learn from this amazing technology first hand."

SOFIA’s stopover supported the “Joining Forces” initiative designed to inspire youth from military families about careers science, technology, engineering and math.

Paul Hertz: "Normally it’s at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, California, but we’ve just finished deployment to Germany and on our way back to California we stopped off here at Andrews Air force Base."

SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft fitted with a 100 inch-diameter telescope. Flying above 99% of the atmosphere’s water vapor allows SOFIA to collect world-class astronomical data unavailable from anywhere else on Earth that helps scientists unlock clues about the history of our universe.

Over the last hundred years the skies have seen enormous changes --from bi-planes, to Space planes, what will the future look like? NASA engineers, scientists and technicians are working on that … as they have almost since the beginning of powered flight. NASA researchers are developing technologies to make aircraft safer, faster, quieter, more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. And they're designing tools to help the air transportation system accommodate more traffic.

Charlie Bolden: "NASA's space missions may sometimes be more high profile, but our aeronautics work is possibly the place where our work is most seen and felt by the general public on a daily basis. You'll find NASA DNA in nearly every civilian and military aircraft flying today."

NASA Administrator and former astronaut and test pilot Charles Bolden spoke at the New Horizons in Aviation Forum in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The two-day conference was designed to help promote aviation's opportunities and potential. After Bolden's speech - a university student asked how NASA and the aerospace industry can compete with higher paying software jobs.

Charlie Bolden: "In NASA I can compete with anyone because we do the coolest stuff."

Finding innovative ways to teach students about engineering led a Virginia teacher to NASA Langley Research Center’s Rapid Prototyping Lab where an idea to give students a more hands-on experience with simple and compound machines became a reality. Her idea was to build an engineering kit that would make learning about simple and compound machines fun for students and affordable for teachers. Using digital manufacturing, NASA Langley technicians built a prototype kit that could eventually be used in classrooms.

Chris Savage, NASA Langley Co-op student: "What we were tasked to do is to create a kit that was able to be highly modular and inexpensive as a prototype to be able to compactly put all six simple machines together and be able to interchange them as the age group for the elementary schoolers that we were designing this for would be able to experiment with."

The polycarbonate kit is compact and offers students a variety of learning opportunities.

Cindy Jones, Teacher, Chesterfield County Schools, Va: "So you have a lever, you have the gears, you have the rack and pinion and kids just love seeing things move and then they can do different things and if you turn it you have an elevator with the block and tackle, there’s plenty of wheel and axels, you can put weight, you can change the gear ratio, you can gear up and gear down. "

As Jones continues work on the engineering kit, it is her ultimate goal to get the kits into the classrooms.

Cindy Jones: "This would be tremendous for teachers because it makes learning exciting and fun and it gives them the hands-on experience that children need."

NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston marked 50 years of expanding the frontier of human exploration.

The center celebrated the occasion with a special cake cutting for employees by JSC Director Mike Coats.

Mike Coats: "So, the next 50 years are going to be even more exciting than the first 50 years, and we’re looking forward to that."

A variety of activities planned throughout the coming year will continue the center's golden celebration.

It was on Sept. 19, 1961 that NASA announced its new Manned Spacecraft Center would be located in Houston, Texas. In the middle of the Mercury Program, Houston welcomed the original seven astronauts to town in 1962. By 1963, construction of the new 1,000-acre space center was well under way on land donated by Rice University.

The first space flight to be partially controlled from Mission Control, Houston, was Gemini 4 in 1965. History has been made at Johnson ever since.

The center has planned, trained crews and controlled all NASA human space flights, highlighted by man's first landing on the moon during Apollo 11 in 1969; the launch of the first U.S. space station, Skylab, in 1973; the first joint space flight between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1975; and the Space Shuttle's three decades of flight from 1981 to 2011.

Today, the global operations of the International Space Station are led from Houston, supporting an unprecedented research laboratory in orbit.

Johnson also leads development of NASA's next human spacecraft, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle that will enable humans to go farther into space than ever before. Johnson also is home to cutting edge humanoid robotics development, astromaterials science investigations, space life sciences research, and spacecraft engineering expertise.

50 years and counting at the top of human achievement... and the next 50 will go even farther and faster into the unknown. Happy Birthday, JSC!

Hundreds of Hampton Roads-area Boy Scouts turned out for a special event kicking off a new robotics merit badge. Sponsored by the Langley Research Center and the Virginia Air & Space Center, the day’s activities included youngsters talking with engineers about the challenges of earning the new badge. To do so, scouts have to design and demonstrate a robot that can sense and respond to its environment. NASA and the BSA developed the badge, now part of Boy Scouts of America’s curriculum.

Finally, from aboard the International Space Station, these unique images of natural phenomena were captured by the new Super Sensitive High Definition Television Camera. With the help of Commander Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Agency demonstrated the camera during interactive broadcasts with the Japanese network NHK.

Also, from the complex, Fossum and Furakawa spoke with famed anthropologist and environmentalist, Dr. Jane Goodall. Goodall has been celebrated around the world for the ground-breaking research she gathered living among chimpanzees.

Jane Goodall: "Ooo-ooo, ah-ah-ah (ape sounds) “And this could be Good Morning or "Konnichiwa."

Mike Fossum: "(laughter) Oh, very good, very good. Thank you very much!"

And that's This Week@NASA!

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