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This Week @ NASA, December 2, 2011
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This Week @NASA...

Members of the next International Space Station crew fielded questions from the media at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, outside Moscow. Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko, NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers also took part in traditional ceremonies at Red Square in Moscow. The trio is scheduled to launch to the ISS later this month to join their Expedition 30 crewmates, Dan Burbank, Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, who arrived at the station Nov. 16.

Work continues on NASA’s next generation of spacecraft that’ll carry humans beyond low-Earth orbit. At the Stennis Space Center, the J2X engine that’ll help propel the new Space Launch System, or SLS, underwent another successful test-firing... The Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle was put through the latest test of its water-landing capabilities at the Langley Research Center...

...and at the Kennedy Space Center, workers have completed structural and other testing at Launch Pad 39B on the SLS’s mobile launcher platform. The MLP will be modified to host the heavy lift rocket under development that’ll send astronauts to destinations in deep space.

Members of Maryland's Congressional Delegation -- Senator Barbara Mikulski, Rep. Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Donna Edwards, took part in an employee Town Hall meeting at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Those inside the Building 8 Auditorium heard about the recently-passed NASA appropriations bill and other legislative issues important to the Goddard workforce.

Senator Barbara Mikulski: "Being America, the exceptional, doesn’t lie into the future, it lies right here today. And what you do every day to discover new areas of science, of technology that help save the planet, save the lives, and also come up with discoveries that weren’t even anticipated or dreamed about."

The lawmakers also toured Goddard’s robotics facility and the James Webb Space Telescope’s clean room.

NASA’s Office of Education hosted its second Education Stakeholders' Summit in Chantilly, Virginia, outside Washington. The summit highlighted NASA’s new "One Stop Shopping Initiative, an innovation in the recruitment of the agency’s workforce of tomorrow. The OSSI aims to build a robust NASA infrastructure of internships, fellowships and scholarships that attract students to science, technology, engineering and math and, ultimately, facilitate their entry into the NASA workforce. Presenters included Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, and NASA Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin, who spoke of "Why It's Cool to Work in NASA Education."

Leland Melvin: "If something has to be cool about what we do it’s the people ... it’s the integrity ... it’s the honesty ... it’s the banding together to change the world. So I think one of the coolest things that we do as an agency is when we have failures when things happen, when things go awry, we band together as a community as a family and we come back and we’re resilient and we make things happen. " AND CURIOSITY - KSC "It’s an honor to be here ... I’ve always dreamed of coming to watch rocket leave the planet."

Helping Melvin tout the importance of inspiring our youth about STEM-based careers was entertainer of the musical group, The Black Eyed Peas. An avid fan of robotics, will and Melvin were interviewed by TV stations and networks throughout North America. "When you think about tomorrow and the people who are going to be leading the way - it’s the youth that we have right now."

The celebrity singer/rapper also joined Melvin, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver in speaking with attendees of a Tweet Up during Curiosity rover’s pre-launch activities at the Kennedy Space Center.

This electrical box built and tested at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia is no ordinary box. It is an interplanetary traveler - hitching a 354 million mile ride to Mars on board the Mars Science Laboratory or MSL, which launched November 26th.

Michelle Munk: "MEDLI is an instrumentation system on the aeroshell of the Mars Science Laboratory and it measures the temperature and the pressure on the aeroshell as MSL flies through the martian atmosphere."

MEDLI stands for MSL Entry, Descent and Landing Instrumentation. It's mounted on the inside of the spacecraft's heat shield and will take accurate heat and pressure data, for the first time ever, of the last eight minutes of a trip to Mars.

Michelle Munk: "Our end goal is to make each entry descent and landing system better and better so that we can reduce the risk of landing on Mars, save costs and get more science back."

About 100 people at NASA Langley have been preparing for MSL and the Curiosity rover's landing for years. David Way leads a team whose work involves brain and computer power.

David Way: "Our primary role with Mars Science Laboratory is in simulating the landing. And so, we model the vehicle in a computer and we practice thousands of times landing on the surface of Mars.

In fact this computer cluster at Langley has practiced MSL’s landing four million times, just this year. And NASA-Langley’s team will continue those simulations almost up to the minute the Curiosity Rover lands in August 2012.

NASA scientists are joining with researchers from public and private institutions in a multi-year airborne campaign to study the humidity and chemical composition of a portion of our atmosphere. NASA's Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment, or ATTREX, will be flown on a remotely operated Global Hawk aircraft over the Pacific Ocean in 2013 and 2014. The tropopause is the boundary between Earth’s troposphere and stratosphere. Led by the Ames Research Center, ATTREX will focus on small changes in stratospheric humidity that may significantly impact climate. The ATTREX science team recently integrated eleven specialized instruments onto a Global Hawk and verified their operation during several checkout flights from the Dryden Flight Research Center. Scientists hope to use the data collected to improve global model predictions of stratospheric humidity and composition.


"Again this was the stainless steel spring - it if it were from a ballpoint pen it’d be permanently ruined ... it returns to its shape with just a little bit of heat."

The Glenn research Center recently hosted what one observer called a "high-powered science fair" for the automobile industry.

This automotive workshop featured the latest gadgets and technologies "geared" to the needs of automakers and their suppliers. Local Cleveland-area firms displayed their discoveries, from super-light, super-strong composites and collision-avoidance technology, to no-lubricant engines.


"And please welcome, our honorary captain of tonight’s game astronaut Chris Ferguson, flight commander of the final space shuttle mission STS-135."

And NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson served as Honorary Captain of his hometown Philadelphia Eagles versus the Chicago Bears at a recent Monday Night Football contest at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The commander of STS-135 presented the team with a photograph of the City of Brotherly Love taken from space during the final space shuttle mission.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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