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This Week @ NASA, October 7, 2011
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This Week@NASA...


"Please give them your applause, they’ve done an amazing job!"

Team of State College, Pa. flew away with the largest prize in aviation history, 1.35 million dollars, at NASA’s Green Flight Challenge in Santa Rosa, Calif.

Both Pipistrel, and second-place winner, eGenius, flew their all-electric aircraft 200 miles in less than two hours using just over a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger. That was twice the fuel efficiency requirement of the competition conducted by the Comparative Aircraft Fuel Efficiency foundation and sponsored by Google. It represents the dawn of a new era in efficient flight and is the first time that full-scale electric aircraft have performed in competition.

Jack Langelaan: "That electricity is not only a viable, but beautiful way of powering these airplanes. When our airplanes fly overhead, 2000 feet up, we cannot hear them; when they fly by, they have no emissions. The power to recharge our batteries came from a geothermal plant powered by geysers near Santa Rosa; this is absolutely incredible."

The technologies demonstrated may end up in general aviation aircraft, spawning new jobs and new industries for the 21st century. This prize competition is part of the NASA Centennial Challenges program, part of the Space Technology Program, and managed by the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist.

The three-member Expedition 29 crew of Commander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov continues preparing for the October 29 undocking of the Progress 42 resupply craft from the International Space Station.

Its replacement cargo vehicle, Progress 45, is scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Nov. 2, carrying 2-and-a-half tons of food, fuel and supplies.

Expedition 29 is scheduled to expand to six crew members two weeks later with the arrival of Flight Engineers Dan Burbank, Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin on Nov. 16. Fossum, Furukawa and Volkov are scheduled to return home on Nov. 22.

New measurements from the Herschel Space Observatory show that comet Hartley 2, which comes from the distant Kuiper Belt, contains the same kind of water as Earth's oceans. Scientists theorize Earth started out hot and dry, so that water critical for life must have been delivered millions of years later by asteroid and comet impacts. Until now, none of the comets previously studied contained water with the same chemical signature as Earth's. However, Herschel's observations of Hartley 2, the first in-depth look at water in a comet from the Kuiper Belt, may help explain how Earth's surface ended up covered in water.

Results from a NASA-led study, shows unprecedented depletion of ozone protection in the area above the Arctic. Prolonged, unusually low, temperatures in the stratosphere last winter are responsible. The study also shows that ozone destruction in the Arctic this year is comparable to that seen in the Antarctic, where an ozone “hole” has formed each spring since the mid-80s.

Gloria Manney: "The compliance with the Montreal protocol has halted the increase in ozone-destroying substances. Those substances that destroy ozone have very, very long lifetimes of many years. It will be many years in the future before those go down to levels where we don’t have a lot of ozone destruction."

The ozone layer encircles our planet, extends some 10 to 20 miles above Earth’s surface, and shields us from much of the harmful ultraviolet radiation that comes from the sun.


It’s arguably one of the most prestigious awards that can be given to a scientist… the Nobel prize for physics.

Adam Reiss: "People had mentioned that this is the kind of thing that could win the Nobel Prize but somehow I couldn’t picture that happening."

Dr. Adam Reiss from Baltimore, Maryland's Space Telescope Science Institute is now the latest is this long line of notable recipients. His work, along with two others, changed our view of the universe… how it’s not only getting larger, but it’s doing so at a faster and faster rate.

Adam Reiss: "We learned we don’t really understand gravity, that basic phenomenon. You take a ball, you throw it up in the air, it’s supposed to fall back down… in this case, it went back up."

Reiss's research used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories to make this cosmos-shattering discovery… that there’s a different force at work… a mystery still being unraveled called dark energy.

Matt Mountain/Director – STSCI: "The fact they’ve kept this telescope going for 20 years meant that Adam was able to track the history of the universe using the successive upgrades from one servicing mission into the next. That’s why we have the Nobel Prize."

John Grunsfeld/Former NASA Astronaut: "Adam Reiss and his team’s Nobel prize validated my feelings that it’s worth risking our lives to put in these great new scientific instruments on Hubble."

But even with the Nobel prize under his belt, Reiss says there’s still much more to learn.

Adam Reiss: "Hopefully using new space telescopes, maybe the James Webb Space Telescope, the new survey telescope from the Decadal survey and using these together, we hope to learn more about the nature about dark energy."

And it's that nature that will keep scientists like Reiss looking to the edge of the universe.

A new Space Act agreement revives a commitment to economic development aimed at supporting NASA’s current and future missions.

Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana and Lynda Weatherman, President and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast signed the new five-year Space Act Agreement Oct.3 at Kennedy.

The new agreement highlights the continuing partnership that also benefits KSC’s surrounding communities.

Robert Cabana: "We've had a great partnership, over the years, and I think working together to bring jobs, and the right kind work here to this space coast is really important."

The two agencies will explore new opportunities and space-related economic development in the future.

Visitors to the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton on a recent Friday night were greeted by an ice sculpture … a stunning crystalline likeness of a space shuttle. The occasion – a special celebration to honor NASA Langley Research Center's role in the space shuttle program.

Lesa Roe: "Holy cow – as far as I can see there are people and that is wonderful."

Many in the crowd of more than 600 had contributed to the shuttle's success. Those contributions started early … more than 10 years before the first orbiter flew in 1981. In fact Langley research helped determine exactly what the shuttle would look like.

Charlie Bolden: "Langley staff quickly determined a straight-winged orbiter, hmm, hmm wouldn’t fly. So began more than a dozen years of testing here at Langley – over 60,000 hours of testing in over a dozen of your wind tunnels to be exact."

NASA Administrator … and four time shuttle astronaut Charles Bolden was an honored guest and speaker at the celebration. He commanded two missions, so did one of the other speakers – Chris Ferguson. Ferguson was the commander of Atlantis for STS-135, the shuttle's last flight.

Chris Ferguson: "For that, I'm forever going to be eternally proud to represent you and your role in what you've done over the course of the last 30 years to pull the shuttle program together and to keep it running and supported. You should be enormously proud."

Also proud – and surprised was Robbie Kerns – Langley's space shuttle operations liaison. He was presented with a special flight awareness award.

"Hi I am Eric Aguilar and I am the System Integration and Test Lead for the Mars Science Lab at JPL.I have worked on three different flight missions MER, Spirit and Opportunity, Dawn, and now Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity. So one of things we may do, is we may actually simulate a launch scenario, a run through the cruise scenario, a run through entry decent and landing, and of course surface operations. We work through various portions of the mission phase and all the testing through all of that within hardware and software; make sure it all works properly. I went to school at Arizona State University and received my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. Take the time to enjoy where you are at. In other words live in the moment you are in."

Large fires burning throughout Australia; dust plumes over the Mediterranean sea. Both have been captured by NASA’s busy Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers. The MODIS aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite took this image of fires raging through thick grass in remote areas of northern and central Australia. Fires have burned through nearly 58,000 square miles of land in what’s proving to be one of Australia’s most extreme fire seasons in years. From aboard NASA’s Terra satellite, its MODIS has produced this picture of dust plumes in the Eastern Mediterranean ringing the island of Cyprus. The dust extends far enough to reach the southern shores of Turkey, and parts of Syria.

Australia image:

Eastern Mediterranean

Thirty-seven teachers from across the country recently participated in two, three-day workshops in Palmdale, California, as part of NASA's Airborne Research Experiences for Educators program, AREES. The program targets sixth-through-ninth-grade educators of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, as well as college students currently enrolled in an accredited teacher-credentialing curriculum. They worked with and heard from NASA engineers and a scientist involved in airborne science and flight research.

Bruce Chapman, JPL scientist: "It’s a black and white image, saying how bright it is at this frequency band. It's just a black-and-white image saying it's bright here, not bright here."

The groups also toured NASA science aircraft, including the SOFIA airborne observatory, at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility and participated in an innovative teacher-student challenge to plan a flight mission to improve earthquake monitoring.

The events were sponsored, in part, by Dryden Flight Research Center's Office of Education and the Teaching From Space program at the Johnson Space Center.


"Yeah, let’s go in that little area."

This unique corn maze in Lathrop, Calif. is one of seven at so-called space farms across the country honoring NASA and the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight.

Deb Feng: "The Central Valley in California is not near any NASA Center, and so being able to outreach here in a non –traditional way, to non-traditional communities is really important to us."

Operated by the Dell’Osso Family, and sponsored by NASA, this 20-acre maze features the discoveries and images of the agency’s Kepler mission. Kepler is the first spacecraft capable of finding Earth-sized planets in or near the "habitable zone," the region in a planetary system believed suitable to support life as we know it.

Visitors also had access to an aerial ropes course, zip lines, rides and more. The Space Farm 7 maze project combines the thrill of space with the intrigue of finding your way out of a maze.

Susan Dell’Osso SOT: "This is a Brazilian feed corn; it grows about ten feet tall. We plant the maze; we just do one solid planting and carve it out when the corn is really small. Some people wonder if we take the stalks out when they’re ten feet, which is not going to happen because that would be very, very difficult. When we’re done for the season, we plow it under and feed it to cattle."

Each farm selected a theme highlighting that region’s particular NASA field center and its contribution to the agency.

You can vote for your favorite NASA-themed maze design at

And that's This Week@NASA!

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