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This Week @ NASA, December 14, 2012
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This Week at NASA…
COUNTDOWN TO LAUNCH – JSC
With their launch from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station fast approaching, Expedition 34/35 Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko, Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn of NASA and Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency continue to train and finalize plans for the December 19 flight. They’ve participated in a variety of activities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome including suit checks and verification of their spacecraft’s systems. They’ll join the Expedition 34 crew members already on station, Commander Kevin Ford of NASA and Russian Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evegeny Tarelkin.
ORION TAKING SHAPE – JSC/KSC
Inside the Operations and Checkout Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, engineers and technicians are making steady progress preparing the new Orion spacecraft for its first orbital test flight in 2014. They are wiring the thousands of sensors that will monitor the crew module’s performance and have installed the first of the service module’s 49 composite panels. Both sections of the vehicle should be complete and ready to mate this summer.
HUBBLE’S COSMIC DAWN CENSUS – STScI
Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have seen further back in time than ever before. An ambitious Hubble survey of a patch of sky known as the Ultra Deep Field, or UDF, uncovered a previously unseen population of seven primitive galaxies that formed more than 13 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 3 percent of its present age. The deepest images to date from Hubble yield the first statistically robust sample of galaxies that tells how abundant they were close to the era when galaxies first formed.
CASSINI’S MINI NILE ON TITAN – JPL
Scientists with NASA's Cassini mission have spotted what appears to be a miniature, extraterrestrial likeness of Earth's Nile River: a river valley on Saturn's moon Titan that stretches more than 200 miles from its "headwaters" to a large sea. It is the first time images have revealed a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth.
GRAIL – END OF MISSION – JPL
The mission of NASA’s moon-orbiting GRAIL probes comes to an end on December 17 with the twin spacecraft deorbiting to the lunar surface. The probes, Ebb and Flow, have generated a map of the moon’s gravity field said to be the highest resolution of any celestial body. The map and other GRAIL data are enlightening scientists about the moon's internal structure and composition, and how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.
MINI-SATELLITE MISSION ENDS – MSFC
Meanwhile, NASA's Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT mission has concluded two years of successfully orbiting Earth with a suite of six technology and atmospheric experiments. Built from off-the-shelf, commercial hardware and weighing less than 400 pounds, FASTSAT was the least expensive science and technology flight mission ever.
BEST OF THE FEDS! – HQ
“The number one federal agency to work … NASA!”
NASA has been named the best place to work of any large agency in the federal government. The ranking by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization, is based on responses from nearly 700,000 federal workers. Accepting the award in Washington on behalf of the agency: Deputy Administrator, Lori Garver.
JOURNEY TO THE EXTREME – HQ
NASA joined forces with Discovery Education – provider of digital resources to U.S. classrooms and entertainer will.i.am’s “i.am.angel” foundation to take students on a virtual field trip to Mars. Hosted by NASA Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin and Solar System Exploration Program Executive Dave Lavery, “Journey to the Extreme” provided an opportunity for students across the country to meet the scientists, engineers and innovators behind NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover mission.
CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF “BIG WIND” – ARC (CP) Jesse Carpenter Reporting
The silver anniversary of the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex was celebrated on Dec. 11, 25 years to the day after its dedication at the Ames Research Center. The home of the two largest wind tunnels in the world, testing has encompassed military and commercial aviation; wind turbines as clean, renewable energy sources: and, entry and descent technologies used by NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers to land safely on Mars.
SOFIA SYSTEMS UPGRADED – DFRC (CP) Alan Brown Reporting
NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, recently underwent major upgrades to its telescope control and avionics systems that will significantly improve their efficiency and operability. The new hardware and software fully integrate the telescope with the observatory's command and control system, enhancing its pointing and tracking capabilities. The avionics upgrades allows the SOFIA aircraft to be in compliance with current airspace regulations throughout the world.
HOLIDAY ROCKET - MSFC
The Marshall Space Flight Center spread a little holiday cheer at its annual rocket-lighting ceremony. NASA employees and their families joined at Marshall's Rocket Park with those from U.S. Army organizations on Redstone Arsenal to celebrate the season.
Holiday songs were performed by youngsters from the Marshall Child Development Center, and everyone helped with the countdown to lighting the Saturn I.
OPERATION GIVE THANKS 2012– GSFC
Goddard Space Flight Center got into the holiday spirit with Operation Give Thanks 2012 -- a volunteer effort to show appreciation to U.S. military personnel serving overseas. For the second consecutive year, volunteers assembled care packages of donated comfort items, such as cookies, candy and personal hygiene products, and direct-shipped them to personnel serving in combat zones.
NASA ANNIVERSARY: Mariner 2 Flyby of Venus, December 14, 1962
December 14 marks the 50-year anniversary of the Mariner 2’s flyby of the planet Venus – making the spacecraft the first to successfully encounter another planet. Traveling about 22-thousand miles above Venus’s surface, Mariner 2 took scans with infrared and microwave radiometers that revealed the planet’s cool clouds and extremely hot surface.
NASA ANNIVERSARY: Gemini 6A - First Rendezvous of Manned Spacecraft, December 15, 1965
And 47 years ago, on December 15, 1965 the Gemini 6A capsule completed the first manned rendezvous with another spacecraft, its sister, Gemini 7. The two spacecraft came within a foot, close enough that, if they’d been so equipped, they could’ve docked with each other. Onboard Gemini 6A was Commander Wally Schirra and Pilot Tom Stafford; Frank Borman served as Gemini 7 commander, and Jim Lovell as its pilot.
And that’s This Week @NASA.
For more on these and other stories, or to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, log on to www.nasa.gov.
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