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This Week @ NASA, November 9, 2012
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This Week at NASA…



International Space Station Commander, Suni Williams is beginning to prepare for her upcoming return home. The NASA astronaut and two of her Expedition 33 colleagues, Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Malenchenko, are scheduled to make their way back to Earth with a parachute-assisted landing by their Soyuz capsule in rural Kazakhstan on November 19, local time. The trio has been on the orbiting laboratory since July. Staying on station for Expedition 34 is NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, and Russian cosmonauts Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitsky, all of whom came aboard just last month.



Hi, I'm Pan Conrad, deputy principal investigator of the SAM instrument suite on the Mars Science Laboratory and this is your Curiosity rover update.

While our robotic explorer has been busy characterizing the surface of Mars, the SAM team has also been busy, but we’ve been looking at something invisible, the Martian atmosphere.

SAM, or Sample Analysis at Mars, is not one instrument, but three, all of which are designed to work together to chemically characterize Mars. SAM measures chemical elements and molecules and we do this by looking at. We can bake solid samples until they give up their volatile components or their gases or we can directly inhale the Martian atmosphere through our inlet ports.

The tunable laser spectrometer has a special role for SAM in that it can very sensitively detect the organic molecule, methane, which has been observed from the Earth telescopically and also by the Mars Express orbiter at very, very low limits in the Martian atmosphere.

We’re trying to discover whether or not we can see this molecule from the Martian surface and if it has any variation from season to season. So we’ve already begun prospecting for methane and to date we don’t have a definitive detection. We’ll continue looking during the course of the mission. In the coming months, wherever Curiosity goes SAM will continue to sniff the Martian atmosphere periodically looking for changes on a seasonal or maybe even diurnal basis and that will tell us something about the dynamics the exchange between the surface and the atmosphere.

This has been your Curiosity rover update. Check back for more.



NASA’s Radiation Belt Space Probes mission, RBSP, has been renamed …

(SOT: John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate)

“The National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration is pleased to announce the decision to rename the Radiation Belts Storm Probes Mission – the Van Allen Probes.”

The new name, announced during an event at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, is for James Van Allen, the scientist who discovered the radiation belts surrounding the Earth.

Launched on August 30 and managed by APL, the newly-renamed twin probes continue to follow each other in the same orbit around the planet. The data they return about how the Van Allen Belts behave during solar storms will help scientists and engineers design more robust satellites and safer spacecraft, as well as stronger safeguards for communications systems and other critical technologies here on Earth. The Van Allen Probes also will improve our understanding of fundamental particle physics and acceleration and, thereby, expand our knowledge of the universe.


The Marshall Space Flight Center is collaborating with four other NASA facilities to plan a large-scale fire in space. Setting the fire on a future test flight should help mission planners determine how astronauts can best fight flames while traveling in deep space. Right now, the role of Marshall engineers in the NASA Advanced Exploration Systems project is to pick which material will provide the most useful data when set on fire. By placing samples in a test chamber mimicking spacecraft conditions, they’ve narrowed their choices from hundreds to just seven. Glenn, Johnson, JPL and the White Sands Test Facility are also participating in the three-year, ground-based design project.



NASA's Associate Administrator for Education and former astronaut Leland Melvin shared his enthusiasm for the agency's scientific goals and accomplishments before hundreds of students and teachers following opening of the new space shuttle Endeavour exhibit at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Melvin challenged his listeners to live their dreams, to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to never give up when faced with adversity.

Melvin later encouraged more than 800 teachers to avail themselves of the many NASA education programs and curricula to help prepare, inspire and nurture the young minds of today to pursue excellence in the STEM disciplines, so they can be the engineers, scientists and technical leaders of tomorrow. He noted that teachers not only impact the lives of the children in their classrooms, but the entire community:

(SOT: Leland Melvin, Associate Administrator, Education)

"How can you inspire the next generation of explorers unless you are inspired yourself? To figure out what you need to do to get your batteries recharged, so that when you go in the classroom, you can do it with pep in your step, and it's assured that next generation of explorers will find their way to another planet one day."



Thanks to the enterprising efforts of a Bay Area high-school student, she and 50 of her fellow students at their all girls school heard from experts about STEM-field careers women can pursue at NASA. Deepika Bodapati, a high school senior at Presentation High School in San Jose, had written the White House about the disparity of opportunities for girls interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math. After her note made its way to the Ames Research Center, seven scientists, administrators and managers, all of them women, volunteered to meet with students at the all-girls school and share stories about their careers, education and keys to success.

(SOT: Karen Bradford, Chief of Staff, NASA Ames)

“It’s just important for girls to understand that they’re a key part of the future of what NASA’s going to be doing, both for the agency as well as for the nation. Girls definitely need to be comfortable in understanding they have a place there.”

(SOT: Deepika Bodapati, Senior, Presentation High School)

“The array of speakers that they had was very appropriate. They kind of had someone in each field and with different personality types -- that everyone could relate to at least one person.”


NASA Headquarters’ 30th Annual Honor Awards recognized employees who’ve made significant contributions to their workplace community. More than 25 employee teams and individuals were so honored for their exemplary efforts over the past year.

(SOT Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator)

“They are the heart and soul of NASA.Tthey help us do all of the hard things that our agency is called on to do with enthusiasm and professionalism. I congratulate everyone who’s being recognized today.”


While October was Disability Awareness Month, it’s not too late to recognize the contributions of NASA employees like Kelly Gilkey at the Glenn Research Center. Gilkey’s profound hearing loss doesn’t get in her way of studying and countering the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body.

(SOT: Kelly Gilkey, Deputy Project Manager , ISStation Research Projects)

“I have a sensorineural profound hearing loss, and I got my first hearing aids when I was 18 months old. I also recently just got a cochlear implant in my left ear. So all of those have really enabled me to do my job well. I feel really blessed to be living in an age when technology is so readily available for people with hearing loss.”


(SOT: William Badboy, Facility Engineer Technician, JPL)

My name is William Dean Badboy I am facility engineer technician number III here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

What I do is I maintain the Mircrodevices Laboratory. I work on the life safety systems, the water plant, all the air handling units, new installations, decommissioning of tools.

I’m Ojibway from the White Earth Reservation in Northern Minnesota, reservation where my daughter is from. I want her to have the best education she can possibly get. I want a lot of culture in that as well.

I went to college to be an electrician and they offered me a 10 week internship. The work they had me doing I really enjoyed, they then offered me a job.

They take my ideas and let me run with them to help out anywhere possible. I really enjoy my job.



Seventy-six years ago, a group of Caltech students and experimenters huddled behind sandbags in nearby Arroyo Seco in the L.A. Basin canyon as a rudimentary rocket engine burned for about three seconds. With that modest beginning, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was born; today, JPL is sending spacecraft across the solar system and pushing the boundaries of science.

To mark the anniversary, JPL hosted a day-long celebration that included special presentations and documentary screenings, live music and the obligatory birthday party offerings of ice cream and cake!


Nearly 400 people were on hand for the opening night of the Silicon Valley Jewish Festival in Palo Alto, California. The program featured a showing of filmmaker Dan Cohen’s documentary, “An Article of Hope.” In the film, a tiny Torah recovered from a World War II concentration camp and brought on the ill-fated STS-107 mission by Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon serves as a symbol of loss, survival and enduring hope. After the screening, the Ames Research Center’s Chief Scientist, Jacob Cohen, presented plaques to the families of Ramon, Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla, and Pilot Willie McCool, three of the seven crew members lost with space shuttle Columbia in February 2003.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: Launch of STS-5 (1st Operational Shuttle Mission), November 11, 1982


Thirty years ago, on November 11, 1982, Columbia was launched on her fifth flight – and the first operational shuttle mission. Her crew of Commander Vance Brand, Pilot Bob Overmyer, and Mission Specialists Joe Allen and Bill Lenoir deployed two commercial communications satellites before returning safely to Earth five days later.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: Launch of Apollo 4 (1st Saturn V Launch), November 9, 1967


Forty-five years ago, on November 9, 1967, the first test flight of the Saturn V rocket was made, with Apollo 4. The “all-up” test was the first of the rocket’s three stages. The nine-hour flight also featured the first reentry into Earth’s atmosphere by the Apollo spacecraft at the same speed and angle as a return from the moon. The workhorse of the Apollo program, Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket ever launched – and the only vehicle to transport human beings beyond low Earth.


NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana joined present and past astronauts to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17 at a special event in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan was joined on stage by Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott and seven other Apollo-era astronauts to reminisce about the pride and excitement of setting foot on the lunar surface. Launched on December 7, 1972, the twelve-day Apollo 17 mission was NASA’s final Apollo journey to the moon; Cernan was the 12th and last man to set foot on the lunar surface. The evening concluded with a silent auction benefiting the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation created by the Mercury 7 astronauts.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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