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This Week @ NASA, November 30, 2012
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This Week at NASA…



Astronaut Scott Kelly has been selected by NASA to begin a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station in 2015. Joining Kelly on the ISS will be Russian cosmonaut, Mikhail Kornienko. The pair will launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in spring 2015. Their 12-month stay aboard the world’s only laboratory in microgravity will provide new data about how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space. That information will help scientists assess crew performance and health, and develop better ways to reduce the risks of long-duration spaceflight, as NASA plans to send the next generation of explorers on missions around the moon, to an asteroid and ultimately, Mars.



The next crew headed for the ISS on Expedition 34/35, continues to train in Star City, Russia for their missions.. NASA’s Tom Marshburn, the Canadian Space Agency’s Chris Hadfield and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko are scheduled to launch to the station on December 19, where they’ll become the second half of the Expedition 34 crew. They’ll be joined on Expedition 35 next March by NASA’s Chris Cassidy, and cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin.



Scientists with NASA’s MESSENGER mission say new observations made by the spacecraft confirm a long-held theory: that the polar regions of Mercury harbor an abundance of water ice and other frozen volatiles.

Sean Solomon, MESSENGER Principal Investigator: “Messenger has revealed a very important chapter in the story of how water ice and other volatile materials have been delivered to the inner planets … it's extraordinary that this chapter is so well preserved on the planet closest to the Sun.”

Given its proximity to the Sun, Mercury would seem to be an unlikely place to find water ice. But since the tilt of the planet’s rotational axis is almost zero, scientists suggested decades ago that there might be water ice and other frozen volatiles trapped at Mercury’s poles, which NEVER see sunlight. MESSENGER, which stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging, is the first spacecraft to orbit the solar system’s innermost planet.


NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden toured the United Launch Alliance’s space rocket production facility in Decatur, Ala. The facility is home to two families of rockets, Atlas and Delta. Together, Atlas and Delta rockets have had more than 850 successful launches. Their major fabrication, assembly and integration are completed at the Decatur facility. ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company.


A J-2X power pack assembly burns brightly during the latest hot-fire test conducted at the Stennis Space Center. Lasting 278 seconds, the test used newly-installed gauges to measure how much strain the turboprop placed on the engine’s turbine structure as it spun at various high speeds. The test was the latest in a series used by engineers to evaluate the J-2X, which will help power the upper stage of NASA’s new Space Launch System.



And, they’re getting ready for the SLS at the Kennedy Space Center. This time-lapse video shows Crawler-Transporter 2, fresh from the first phase of a major overhaul, taking a test drive from Pad 39A to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Kennedy’s two crawler- transporters have moved mobile launchers and their mounted vehicles from the VAB to KSC’s ocean-side launch pads since the Apollo era. But, with the Space Launch System in development, engineers began modifying crawler-transporter 2 last December to ensure it can handle the agency’s heaviest rocket ever—and help move America’s human spaceflight program onward and upward for years to come.



Chief Technologist Mason Peck was a keynote speaker at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program's 2012 Fall Symposium. Held near the Langley Research Center, the NIAC event included panel discussions on topics ranging from propulsion and power and space debris removal to near-Earth object mitigation and robotics and space probes.

Mason Peck, NASA Chief Technologist: “It’s important for us at NASA; it’s important for us as a nation. It’s not only about investing in technology for the sake of science and the sake of human space. It’s also done because it advances our economy. It means we can design new computers, new smartphones, new applications, new medical applications - new things that will change our lives here. NIAC determines whether an idea or concept is worth developing as one of the many, new advanced technologies critical to NASA missions in the next 10 to 100 years.

CURIOSITY UPDATE – JPL (CP) Torsten Zorn Reporting


Torsten Zorn, Tactical Downlink Lead, Mars Science Laboratory Team: Hi my name is Torsten Zorn I’m tactical downlink lead on the Mars Science Laboratory and I’m coming to you with your Curiosity rover report.

Since November 10th we’ve been tracking a very large dust storm on Mars with Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Curiosity and Opportunity. Luckily this dust storm has abated and even if it didn’t it would have been fine for Curiosity as well within its design limitations.

Recently Curiosity was able to take a beautiful hi-res image of herself using the MAHLI Hand Held Imager. By putting together a sequence of very complex arm motions we were able to take dozens of images and splice them together creating a beautiful self-portrait.

After several weeks of being stationary at the Rocknest site we began driving again on Sol 100. This marked a significant milestone on the mission as we reached about a half a kilometer of total driving distance on the surface of Mars.

Currently the left front wheel is sitting on a rock that we’ve dubbed Bell Island. We plan to back up off that rock to bring the rock into the arm’s workspace and we’re going to do some contact science on it with APXS and MAHLI.

After completing our science campaign at our current location we’re going to be moving to the East to a place called Point Lake. From here we’re going to be looking for a target to perform our first ever drill on Mars.

This has been your Curiosity rover report. Check back for further updates.



Though the effect of Hurricane Sandy is undeniable, the impact of the storm to Wallops Flight Facility was minimized thanks to an improved beach and sea wall project that proved critical to the protection of Wallops launch assets.

Paul Bull, Wallops Facilities Project Manager: “You would have had sand inundation into their liquid fueling facility area, which is all stone now and quite a big mess to pick up. It could have been pretty catastrophic for that operation, Antares operation possibly.”

But the protection of the beach and berm improvement, known as the Wallops Island Storm Damage Reduction project, came at a cost. It’s estimated that some 500 to 700 feet of berm was wiped out by the super storm. But Wallops engineers have a plan in place to deal with this temporary situation.

Paul Bull, Wallops Facilities Project Manager: “It’s like a brake pad, every time that brake pad starts wearing down. When it gets to the point when we need re nourishment, we’re going to basically twice a year, we’re going to look at this beach, survey it and find out where the beach is and what it’s doing, and we expect on a three to seven year cycle we’ll have to re nourish this beach. “

Each re-nourishment project is expected to include about 800,000 cubic yards of sand. In the meantime, NASA officials are working to address the immediate needs of the beach following Hurricane Sandy.

NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH PROFILE – Kody Ensley, Software Engineer, Johnson Space Center


I'm Kody Ensley and I do software engineering on Robonaut at Johnson Space Center. Basically the robot, Robonaut 2 behind me, has onboard software; the processors actually live in his stomach. What I'm doing is helping to architect the software that will allow the robot to be able to move around inside the Space Station autonomously. I was born and raised on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Pablo, Montana and when I was a kid growing up, my parents invested a lot of money into Lego's and I think that's probably the reason that I ended up here today. I was not one of those kids at the age of 6 who knew they would end up with NASA. One of NASA's own, Scott Askew, was involved in a program called the NAFP which is basically where NASA lends out professors to travel to universities. I heard about something called the Undergraduate Student Research Project and I applied for the USRP program. After successive internships and then finally a coop, I was hired here at Johnson Space Center. Being able to do outreach and show that there are opportunities like internships, Co-ops, where not only you can leave to get training, but can bring that back to the Reservation and you can help pass that along to other people there. It has probably been my proudest personal accomplishment. We don't want robots to replace people; we don't think they can, but we definitely think that we can assist people in getting to the next frontier faster.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: STS-61, First Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission – December 2, 1993


Nineteen years ago, on December 2, 1993 the first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, STS-61 got underway with the launch of space shuttle Endeavour and her seven-member crew from the Kennedy Space Center. A corrective optics package designed to fix a flaw in the telescope’s primary mirror was successfully installed, sharpening Hubble’s vision from blurry to pristine. Hubble also received instrument upgrades and new solar arrays during the course of five spacewalks.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: STS-88, First ISS Assembly Flight – December 4, 1998


And five years later, on December 4, 1998, Endeavour began another mission, this time as the first shuttle assembly flight to the International Space Station. STS-88 delivered to the station the first American module, “Unity,” which was mated to “Zarya,” the Russian Functional Cargo Block module launched to orbit one month earlier. The crew completed three spacewalks to connect power and data cables between the modules.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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