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This Week @ NASA, September 30, 2011
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This Week@NASA...


Amy Mainzer: "The best three ways of dealing with the potential of an asteroid impact are to find them early, find them early, find them early."

There are fewer asteroids in Earth's vicinity than previously believed. That finding was made by NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE satellite.

Amy Mainzer: "We've learned with NeoWISE that the worldwide community of astronomers, looking at near-Earth asteroids have found 93% of all the really big near-Earth asteroids that we think are out there, and this has substantially reduced the risk of an impact that is not warned, in other words, we know now where most them are and where most of them are going."

The sky survey conducted by WISE also yielded more-accurate estimates of asteroid sizes. Scientists may use this data to determine which near-Earth asteroids are most suitable for future exploration.

Already, NASA has found more than 90% of the 1 kilometer-sized asteroids orbiting near our planet.

Amy Mainzer: "Overall, at this point, our understanding of the near-Earth asteroid population has been significantly improved and we believe that the hazard to the earth may be somewhat less."


Lori Garver: "It isn't every day that you, literally, get to begin a program that will take us where no one has gone before."

Deputy Administrator Lori Garver was keynote speaker at Space Launch System Industry Day in Huntsville. Garver, along with agency procurement officials and SLS Program managers, met with contractors and small-business entrepreneurs to share NASA’s strategy for acquiring parts, components and services for the new heavy-lift launch vehicle. Scheduled for a full-scale test flight in 2017, the new rocket will take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit and support new exploration missions across the solar system.

Lori Garver: "It will help expand our knowledge of the universe, reap benefits to improve life here on earth, inspire millions around the world, and create better jobs right here at home."

The event was held during the Marshall Space Flight Center's quarterly Small Business Alliance Meeting, a forum where small business leaders discuss opportunities with NASA representatives and large prime contractors.

Lori Garver: "NASA’s partnership with all of the companies here this morning could not be more critical. If we cannot effectively partner with industry, we won’t be able to do this. NASA has successfully partnered with industry throughout our history. About 85% of the NASA dollar goes to aerospace industry; we are family."

Marshall leads the design and development of the Space Launch System.

In the skies above Santa Rosa, Calif., three flight teams competed in the CAFÉ Green Flight Challenge for the title of most fuel-efficient aircraft in the world. The NASA-provided purse for this accomplishment -- $1.65 million, the largest aviation prize ever offered. The challenge: to fly 200 miles in less than two hours, using less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or an equivalent amount of electricity. The aircraft accomplishing this feat with the fasted time takes home the prize.

Lori Costello: "The transportation industry is definitely heading towards electric propulsion systems. If you look at the automotive industry, it’s already heading that way. Now aviation is finally catching up and moving in that direction."

This Green Flight Challenge saw for the first time a full-scale, electric-powered aircraft flown in competition, the first four-seat, electric aircraft ever to fly, and the largest battery pack developed for a flight vehicle.

One of five current NASA Centennial Challenges, the Green Flight Challenge was developed to advance technologies in fuel efficiency and reduced emissions with cleaner, renewable fuels and electric aircraft.


Progress continues on NASA’s next great space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope. Its mirrors were recently coated with a microscopically thin layer of gold which will allow the telescope to see extremely faint objects in infrared light. In all, the telescope’s Beryllium mirrors total 21, each one coated with about 0.12 ounces of gold. As successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, Webb’s mission will be to observe the most distant objects in the universe.


Moffet Field played host to a very special visitor this weekend. Air Force One touched down Sunday evening bringing President Barack Obama to Silicon Valley to headline a town-hall style meeting about his jobs creation legislation. After the president de-planed, he was welcomed to the Bay Area by NASA Ames Center Director S. Pete Worden, as well as, the mayors of Mountain View and San Jose. NASA Ames is the operator of the Moffett Federal Airfield. President Obama then stopped to greet supporters who came to Moffett to cheer his arrival before being whisked away by his motorcade to attend two separate events. Less than 24 hours after arriving, the President reboarded Air Force One and departed the Bay Area on his way to Los Angeles.


"You want to plan for something you don’t want to occur."

NASA's Wallops Flight Facility conducted a full-scale mass casualty exercise on September 28, as a periodic requirement to test the response and procedures to an aircraft incident.

David Kulley: "We had a P3 aircraft having an in flight emergency and crashed here on the runway with I believe it was eleven personnel on board"

The exercise simulated the crash of an aircraft on Wallops airfield and evaluators scrutinized the communication, response and coordination between Wallops emergency response staff, local emergency management staff and local hospitals.

Kenny Volente: "All the players that's in the mishap response plan for aircraft mishap response. Did they participate and did they do their job as outlined in the plan."

There is a strong mutually supportive relationship with the nearby communities and Wallops Flight Facility that is essential for effective incident response and life saving measures.

David Kulley: "We have what we call a mutual aid agreement with the outside departments where if they need our help because of our specialized equipment, we go help them, and if we need their help, mostly for man power, then they come help us when we need it.


David McBride: "For many of you here the shuttle is you – the shuttle is the people that made it possible."

More than 300 retirees and former employees of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center and Edwards Air Force Base and guests joined current Dryden employees recently at a space shuttle tribute luncheon in Dryden's shuttle hangar. The informal reunion featured highlights of Dryden's support of space shuttle development and operations over the years, as outlined by Dryden's center director David McBride.

David McBride: "Without the lifting body work we did here led by Dale Reed and Milt Thomson – there would not be a shuttle. Without the X-15, without the groundbreaking X-15 flight test, flight research work conducted here at Edwards and at Dryden – there would not have been a shuttle. Without the F-8 Digital Fly by Wire program – there would not have been a shuttle."

NASA astronaut Rick "C.J." Sturckow, commander of STS-128, the last shuttle mission to land at Edwards in September 2009, offered his personal tribute to those attending.

Rick "C.J." Sturckow: "I've had the opportunity to meet many folks here today who were with the entire program, more than 30 years, and all the way dating back to the Approach and Landing Tests. And it's a great honor for me to hear some of the stories and enjoy some of the unique moments that you've been able to share with me today."

In pre-recorded video comments, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden recognized Dryden and Air Force employees' support of the shuttle program, and stressed the agency's commitment to human exploration of space:

Charlie Bolden: "We will continue the grand tradition of exploration. The future belongs to us, and just as those who came before us did, we have an obligation to set an ambitious course, and take an inspired nation along for the journey."

"I'm Rosa Diaz and I work as a Mission System Scientist for the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD. I am in here to support scientists from all over the world so they can do astronomy, they can do science using Hubble. Trying to understand how galaxies form, how stars form, what was beyond things that we could see... motivated me to go and study astronomy. I have been involved, trying to bring astronomy to kids, talking to them about what it takes to do science. While I'm an astronomer, I love being a mom. I want them to achieve in life whatever they want. I studied in La Universidad La Antona de Mexico in Mexico City, showing that being Hispanic, you can achieve that goal. And, seeing other people that they relate with because of their background; it is motivating to them."

Three members of the last space shuttle crew, Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley and Sandy Magnus visited the Glenn Research Center to present video highlights from their STS-135 mission aboard space shuttle Atlantis. Atlantis made its final visit to the International Space Station in July. The three astronauts also participated in a Q & A session with Glenn employees and their families.

Question: "Can you comment on the commercial industry taking on space flight?"

Chris Ferguson: "We laid the groundwork for aviation that eventually turned into a blossoming commercial aviation industry. Did we lay the foundation for what’s about to become a blossoming space flight industry? I don’t know, but we’re going to find out."

STS-135 was the final chapter in the Space Shuttle Program’s 30-year history.

Sandy Magnus: "One of the hardest things for me on this mission was actually leaving the space station, that last time when were undocking. Wow, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see this again. It was really hard to leave."

And that's This Week@NASA!

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