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This Year @ NASA, 2011
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2011: a year of scientific discovery, technological innovation, and new destinations for exploration.

That was "This Year at NASA."

2011 was a year of transition for human exploration of space.

With the Dec. 23 arrival at the International Space Station of the remaining Expedition 30 crew members, the orbiting complex continued along its new path to full utilization as the world's only laboratory in microgravity.

The three new members of the Expedition 27 crew are busy making the International Space Station their new home for the next five months. Flight engineers Alexander Samokutyaev, Andrey Borisenko and Ron Garan arrived at the station in their Soyuz spacecraft following a successful journey from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Alexander Samokutyaev conducted a six-hour spacewalk to continue outfitting the Russian segment of the International Space Station. The Expedition 28 Flight Engineers also installed laser communications equipment and replaced experiments on the Zvezda service module.

"Ron Garan flashing a big smile as he's extracted..."

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Ron Garan and his fellow Expedition 28 flight engineers returned safely to Earth with a landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan.

The International Space Station Program Office at the Johnson Space Center partnered with the Glenn Research Center to highlight the unique research opportunities offered by the world's laboratory in microgravity. Held in Cleveland at the Great Lakes Science Center, this "Destination Station" forum noted the accomplishments of the ISS National Laboratory, and promoted future opportunities for commercial, academic and government research and technology development.

Full utilization of the ISS could only be realized after the final flights of Discovery... Endeavour... and Atlantis. "Assembly Complete."The last great contribution of many by the space shuttle in more than thirty years of service to NASA and humankind.

Launch Announcer: "Go for main engine start. We have main engine start... 2-1, booster ignition, and the final liftoff of Discovery; a tribute to the dedication, hard work and pride of America's space shuttle team. The shuttle has cleared the tower."

In the late afternoon of Feb. 24, shuttle Discovery took off on its final mission into space, to carry STS-133 crew members Commander Steven Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Mike Barratt, Steve Bowen and Nicole Stott to the International Space Station. This 35th shuttle mission to the ISS delivers the Permanent Multipurpose Module, the Express Logistics Carrier 4, and Robonaut 2, the first dexterous humanoid robot in space. R2 will become a permanent station resident.

President Obama: "Are you guys making him do chores up there – washing the dishes or something or does he have more exciting jobs?"

Steve Lindsey: "He's still in packing foam so we hope to get him out shortly so it's going to be fun to see how he works."

President Obama: "He's still in packing foam? Come on guys, he flew all that way and you haven't unpacked him?"

Steve Lindsey: "Yeah the poor guy has been in foam for about four months ... every once in a while we hear some scratching sounds from inside."

"2, 1 and liftoff of the final launch of Endeavour – expanding our knowledge, expanding our lives in space."

Space shuttle Endeavour lifted off Monday from the Kennedy Space Center for the International Space Station and STS-134. Commander Mark Kelly and his five crewmates began their mission with a picture-perfect launch at 8:56 a.m. Eastern.

Before a crowd of thousands, lead singer Bono dedicated their award-winning hit 'Beautiful Day' to Kelly's wife, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who is recovering from a gunshot wound, while Kelly enthusiastically greeted the crowd and sent a heartwarming message to his wife in a prerecorded message from his time aboard the International Space Station during mission STS-134.

Mark Kelly: "Tell my wife I love her very much. She knows."

In a history making event from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI spoke with the Expedition 27 and STS-134 crews working on-orbit aboard the International Space Station.

Pope Benedict XVI: "From your excellent observation point, how do you see the situation on Earth, do you see science phenomena to which we need to be more attentive."

Ron Garan: "Well your holiness, it's a great honor to speak with you, and you are right it really is an extraordinary advantage point we have up here, on the one hand we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been given is, but on the other hand, we can really clearly so how fragile it is."

Those newly-released images of a space shuttle docked to the International Space Station are the first taken from the perspective of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. On May 23, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli took the pictures and video of the ISS and Endeavour on STS-134. Nespoli, along with Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman were aboard the Soyuz that had just undocked from the station and was about to carry them back to Earth.

Launch Announcer: "All three engines up and burning... 2-1- 0 and liftoff, the final liftoff of Atlantis. On the shoulders of the space shuttle, America will continue the dream. "

Space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on July 8 to begin STS-135, the final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program.

Rob Navias: "Landing gear down and locked."

After more than 30 years, NASA's shuttle era has come to a close.

Atlantis made a picture-perfect, pre-dawn landing at the Kennedy Space Center during STS-135's 200th orbit of Earth.

STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson: "Mission complete Houston. After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle which has earned its place in history has come to a final stop."

Brought safely home after 13 days of stocking up the International Space Station for the post-shuttle era was the STS-135 crew: Commander Chris Ferguson... Pilot Doug Hurley... and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus... and Rex Walheim.

In spaceflight history, the date "April 12" is special. On that day in 1981, the first shuttle mission, STS-1, began with the launch of Columbia from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Administrator Charles Bolden led a commemorative program at Kennedy to honor the space shuttle's work force for its invaluable contributions to space exploration over the past 30 years.

Charles Bolden: "I want to thank each and every one of you, and the many others in the shuttle work force over the years for your significant contribution to this tremendous American accomplishment. You've inspired a generation, helped make the world a better place and given us a road map for future space exploration."

Bolden also announced the four locations at which the orbiters Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavour and Enterprise will spend their retirement on permanent display.

With the shuttle retired, NASA and its commercial partners continued development of new ways to get astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.

This engine test, the successful test fire of Aerojet Corporation's AJ26 flight engine, was one of several events at which NASA senior leaders showed support for their commercial spaceflight partners.

Charlie Bolden: "The whole NASA family is really proud whenever we're able to do something like this. We work every day to try to reach new heights because we look to reveal things that are previously unknown so that we can make life better here on earth."

The AJ26 will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II space launch vehicle. NASA has partnered with Orbital through the agency's ongoing Commercial Orbital Transportation Services initiative. Under COTS, Orbital is scheduled to provide eight commercial cargo flights to the International Space Station beginning early next year.

NASA has awarded more than $269 million for the continued development of commercial transportation systems to carry astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit.

Four U.S. companies, Blue Origin of Kent, Wash., the Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colo., SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., and the Boeing Company in Houston received the awards in the second round of NASA's Commercial Crew Development, or CCDev, effort.

Charles Bolden: "So many people on both the government and industry teams worked so very hard to build this wonderful high-tech facility.

Administrator Charles Bolden was joined by Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and other dignitaries for the unveiling of the Wallops Flight Facility's new Horizontal Rocket Integration Facility, or HIF."

Senator Barbara Mikulski: "The genius of the private sector working with government is going to lead the way in commercial spacecraft to take cargo to the space station so the space station can continue the innovation and discovery, be the national laboratory in the sky.

"Today I am happy to announce that the Boeing company has settled Florida for its commercial crew office"...clapping

A new partnership has been formed between NASA and Space Florida to occupy, use and modify the Kennedy Space Center's Orbiter Processing Facility, OPF 3, the Space Shuttle Main Engine Processing Facility and Processing Control Center. The 15-year use permit deal is the latest step Kennedy is making in its transition from a historically government-only launch complex to a multi-user spaceport.

Deputy Admin. Lori Garver: "Kennedy and the entire space coast have been synonymous with NASA's historic 30 year shuttle program as well as America's first 50 years in human space flight and the agreement that we have reached today with Spaceport Florida will help set-up an even future."

Space Florida, the state's aerospace economic development agency, is leasing OPF-3 to the Boeing Company to manufacture and test the company's Crew Space Transportation spacecraft. Development of the CST-100, a reusable capsule-shaped spacecraft to transport up to seven people, or a combination of people and cargo to space, is expected to create as many as 550 jobs along the Space Coast.

Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, is scheduled to launch its Dragon spacecraft on its second Commercial Orbital Transportation Services demonstration flight in Feb. 2012. Pending completion of final safety reviews, testing and verification, SpaceX might also send Dragon to rendezvous with the International Space Station.

With travel to low Earth orbit covered commercially, NASA is freed up to send humans to explore new destinations beyond, such as asteroids, the moon and, eventually, Mars.

Charles Bolden: "The next chapter of America's space exploration story is being written today."

Administrator Charlie Bolden was on Capitol Hill for the announcement of NASA's selected design of its new Space Launch System.

The new heavy-lift rocket will take NASA astronauts farther into space than ever before. The booster will be America's most powerful since the Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon and will launch humans to places no one has gone before.

Dan Dumbacher: "We've got near earth asteroids to go look at, possible visits to the moon, La Grangian Point, higher earth orbit, geosynch orbit; lots of opportunities out there, we just have to sort out what makes sense."

Charlie Bolden: "The Space Coast is open for business."

Administrator Charlie Bolden led members of the media on a tour of NASA's new mobile launcher at the Kennedy Space Center. Center Director Bob Cabana and other Kennedy management joined Bolden to discuss NASA's Space Launch System. The SLS is the agency's heavy-lift rocket.

This is one of three successful drop tests of NASA's next deep space exploration vehicle conducted this summer at the Langley Research Center's new $1.7 million Hydro Impact Basin.

"3 ..2...1...GO!"

Langley hosted an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility that expands the center's capabilities to test and certify future spacecrafts for water landings.

Lesa Roe: "The Lander facility and the vast experience of its Langley staff provide a perfect combination to study the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle's options for returning to Earth."

Assembly of the first J-2X, dubbed engine ten thousand one, is in full swing at NASA's Stennis Space Center. The J-2X engine is designed to be a highly efficient and versatile rocket engine and has the ideal performance characteristics to power the upper-stage of a heavy-lift launch vehicle.

And NASA conducted its latest test firing of the J-2X rocket engine. The next-generation engine will help propel Orion beyond low Earth orbit. This test is to give engineers a better understanding of start and shutdown procedures, and the performance of modifications made since previous test firings.

2011 was another banner year for science. Four new NASA missions were launched, and contributions by seasoned stalwarts of science exploration added to our understanding of life here on Earth – and what lies beyond.

Chris Russell: "These photos have been already a great revelation to the team about what the surface is like; we did not imagine the detail that we're seeing."

Newly-captured, full-frame images of the asteroid Vesta were unveiled by the Dawn mission team at a Jet Propulsion Laboratory news conference.

Charles Elachi: "Vesta is much larger than the state of California and it is has some very exciting geomorphological and composition features that you'll be hearing about and will shed some light on how our solar system actually was formed."

The Dawn spacecraft was successfully inserted into the giant asteroid's orbit several weeks ago and has since begun collecting scientific data.

George Diller: "And lift off of the Atlas V with Juno on a trek to Jupiter."

The wait is over, and launch teams are celebrating the successful liftoff of the Juno spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center as it begins a five-year cruise to the planet Jupiter to investigate the planet's structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

It will also provide detailed images of Jupiter's surface and capture the first high-resolution views of its poles.

Scott Bolton: "We're on our way, and at this point the spacecraft's out, it's open; the solar arrays are open; we're flowing our electricity through the veins of Juno."

These dark, finger-like features extending down some Martian slopes could be flowing water occurring during the warmest months on the planet Mars. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, has been repeatedly tracking and observing seasonal changes in these recurring patterns in Mars' southern hemisphere.

Michael Meyer: "We have followed the water and we have found repeated and predictable evidence suggesting water flowing on Mars."

This discovery, which was discussed at a press briefing held at NASA headquarters, could be vital to continued studies on whether life could exist on the Red Planet. According to scientists the flow of liquid briny water is the best explanation, thus far, for these dark lineations which spread down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and then return during the next spring.

"3-2-1-zero, and liftoff of the Delta 2 with GRAIL; journey to the center of the Moon."

A Delta II rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida has sent the twin GRAIL spacecraft on their way to the moon.

The two spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail from crust to core. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about the moon and provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.

On November 26th -- at 10:02 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida. MSL is scheduled to reach the Red Planet next August at a site known as Gale Crater. Curiosity rover's ten instruments will investigate whether that area of Mars could ever have sustained microbial life.

Also sent aloft was the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft, roaring off the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. From its polar orbit of the Earth, the NASA-built Aquarius, the spacecraft's primary instrument, will analyze the oceans for their comparative levels of salinity, or the waters' saltiness, a major factor in the flow of currents that, ultimately, affect climate.

The nation's newest Earth-observing satellite has begun its mission. The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP, was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, heralding a new era of climate change science and weather forecasting for the United States.

Data from NPP will enable the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to continue issuing accurate forecasts and provide advance warning for severe weather.

For the first time, NASA-funded researchers have created a complete map showing the speed and direction ice flows throughout Antarctica. The animation demonstrates how ice is naturally transported from the continent's deep interior region to the coast. The colors represent the speed of the ice flow with red and purple areas flowing fastest. The map was created using integrated radar observations from a consortium of international satellites. Observing the map will give scientists not only a better understanding of how ice sheets flow, but also better insight on how they might respond to climate change and contribute to sea levels in the future.

Several craft in NASA'S fleet of Earth Observing Satellites have captured these images of severe flooding along the Mississippi River Basin. So far, nearly 3 million acres in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi, have been affected by severe springtime rains. The Mississippi River Basin is third largest in the world, and managing floods in this area has been a challenge for more than a century.

More than 34 years after its launch, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered a new region between our solar system and interstellar space. Data it's obtained over the last year suggest this new region is a kind of cosmic purgatory, where the solar wind is calm, our solar system's magnetic field piles up, and higher-energy particles appear to leak from our solar system into interstellar space.

Although Voyager 1 is about 11 billion miles from the sun, it has yet to cross one major, space-faring threshold.

Ed Stone: "We're very close to the edge of interstellar space now. Unfortunately, our models are not accurate enough to tell us how close. So, it could be a few more months or it could be a few more years. But Voyager One is moving out a billion miles every three years, so we shouldn't have too long to wait to find out what's outside."

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered what astronomers believe is the most distant object ever seen in the universe. The dim object is a tiny, compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 13.2 billion years ago, roughly 150 million years farther back in time than the previous record holder. The age of the universe is 13.7 billion years.

The tiny galaxy, so small that more than a hundred similarly-sized galaxies would be needed to make up our Milky Way galaxy, was discovered by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, installed in 2009 during the last space shuttle servicing mission to the telescope.

Mitchell Begelman: "This is the first time we're really pinpointing when these black holes were really forming and growing."

NASA's Science Mission Directorate conducted two news conferences to update the media on progress and developments in the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and MESSENGER missions. The first of the two provided a look at new pictures and data collected by Chandra.

Black holes are the last evolutionary stage in the lifetimes of stars that were once at least 10 to 15 times as massive as our own sun. These cold remnants are extremely dense, exerting a gravitational pull so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape their grasp.

At a press conference held at NASA Ames Research Center, the Kepler team announced the discovery of its first confirmed planet in the "habitable zone" or the region around a star where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface. Named Kepler-22b, the planet is about 2.4 times the radius of the Earth and orbits a sun-like star about 600 light years away between the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra.

William Borucki: "Well, certainly the thing that's most exciting to me is the fact, that finally after looking at all these candidates, spending all this effort, that we can confirm a planet, in the habitable zone that's nearly Earth size.

Scientists don't know yet if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.

NASA's aeronautical innovators continued in 2011 to lay the foundation for the future of flight by exploring new ways to manage air traffic, build more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly airliners, and ensure aviation's outstanding safety record.

Airplane passengers and people living near airports are all too familiar with the noise associated with air travel. After years of work and research with partners in industry and academia, NASA has developed a noise-reduction technology called chevrons. Chevrons, the sawtooth pattern on this jet engine's trailing edges, can significantly reduce the noise caused by commercial jet airplanes.

It's not every day that a Marine V-22 Osprey lands at a convention center parking lot. The tilt-rotor made a special appearance at the American Helicopter Society forum in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The annual event is where the who's who in rotorcraft research and technology meet to showcase the latest in vertical flight. Among the presentations – 31 papers from s researchers at NASA's Langley, Ames and Glenn Research Centers.

The Ames Research Center recently completed a series of tests that may help take some of the loudness out of sonic booms and allow supersonic aircraft to fly over land.

Inside Ames' 9-foot by 7-foot supersonic wind tunnel, fans or compressors moved air over a sleek new aircraft design at speeds replicating flying conditions. Tests like these help researchers understand the forces acting on a real aircraft and its impact, like the creation of a sonic boom, on the surrounding atmosphere.

NASA also broke new ground in how it reaches out to the next generation of space enthusiasts, winning kudos for its successful use of the Web, Facebook, Twitter and other, popular social media.

A group of fifty-five science and space enthusiasts who follow the NASA Ames twitter account were invited to NASA Ames Research Center to participate in an event called a "Tweet-up."

These tweeps, or people who use twitter, were given a rare opportunity to tour the labs at NASA Ames, listen to presentations and get answers to their questions from researchers who work at the Center. Pete Worden: "Social networking is really critical. As we move forward as a country, this is an increasing way that the public, particularly the interested public, can actually participate and ride with us as we do the wonderful things we do at NASA."

Elmo Monster, one of the most popular characters on public television, brought a film crew from Sesame Street to the Kennedy Space Center to talk with NASA experts like Leland Melvin, astronaut and NASA's Associate Administrator for Education.

Leland Melvin: "And here's the external tank, the big orange tank, this falls back into the ocean and burns up.

Elmo: "Really?"

He also participated in a tweet-up with Astro-Mike, aka, Mike Massimino and Astro-Wheels, the handle for astronaut Doug Wheelock.

Mike Massimino: "Elmo did you touch anything?"

Elmo: "Elmo did not touch nothing." (laughter)

Once again, NASA has been recognized for several of the world's best Internet sites by winning two Webby Awards. received its third consecutive People's Voice Award for best government Website, and NASA's Global Climate Change site, last year's People's Voice Award winner for science, captured this year's Judges' Award for best science site. Created in 1996, the Webby Award honors excellence in online technology and creativity. "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."

NASA continued its mission to promote student education in science, technology, engineering, and math – disciplines so vital to the future of NASA and our nation.

Teen-agers around the world are ramping up their engineering skills with the start of the 2011 FIRST Robotics competition.

High school teams from southeast Virginia filed into the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton January 8 to learn this year's challenge. They watched as speakers, and a live broadcast on NASA TV, unveiled the requirements for Logomotion: build a robot and mini-bot that can move and climb.

The excitement and inspiration of space exploration was the subject of a special forum held in New York to celebrate Women's History Month. NASA's Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, and Associate Administrator for Education and former astronaut Leland Melvin attended the event at the Stephen Weiss Studio in Greenwich Village and met with 200 young women from middle and high schools in the city.

Lori Garver: "NASA is a wonderful place that is making a difference in people's lives every day. Our satellites look back on the planet to help us learn what's happening with our own planet so that we can have a more secure future.

Co-sponsored by fashion designer Donna Karan's Urban Zen Foundation and the Foundation for Advancing Women Now, founded by singer Mary J. Blige, the event encouraged the students to consider careers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

NASA spinoffs are the subject of two new Public Service Announcements airing on NASA TV.

"Speaking of space technology, did you know that space is hidden all around you?"

The first features Elf 6409EF from Sony Pictures new film, "Arthur Christmas." Our animated protagonist illustrates how NASA-developed space technologies are making our lives better here on Earth.

"Hi, I'm Norah Jones"... "and I'm Piers Sellers."

And, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Norah Jones teams up with astronaut Piers Sellers on the second PSA. Jones and Sellers recorded their message in the NASA TV studio in Washington.

NASA's 2011 included remembrances of milestones past, among them: the 50th anniversary of the flight of the first American in space, Alan Shepard...

"The first time we ever put anybody into space, and Al was a great person to represent us on that."

"He was outstanding and he deserved it."

"We were always proud of him."

"Roger, Two G."

...the tenth anniversary of 9-11 and the unique perspective then offered us by NASA astronaut and Expedition 3 commander, Frank Culbertson, aboard the International Space Station...

Frank Culbertson: "I realized our country was under attack. I was, ironically, half-way through a Tom Clancy novel about a similar situation, at the time, and it almost put me inside the novel which was a very strange feeling. And then once I saw it out the window, and we took video as the second tower was collapsing, I didn't know exactly what was happening, but I knew it was really bad because there was a big cloud of debris covering Manhattan. That's when it really became painful, because it was like seeing a wound in the side of your country."

...and, as marked by the award of the Congressional Gold Medal, the contributions of John Glenn and the crew of Apollo 11.

John Glenn: "Thank you all very, very much. We must consider ourselves among the most fortunate of all generations, for we have lived at a time when the dream became a reality. When we finally could travel above the atmosphere around the earth, where we could establish laboratories in space and do research, and for the very first time in history, leave human footprints on some place other than Earth."

Neil Armstrong: "The Apollo 11 crew is honored to receive the Congressional Gold Medal and accept on behalf of our fellow Apollo teammates – all of those who've played a role in expanding the human presence outward from earth.

But 2011 also established new milestones for our future, including: NASA's Green Flight Challenge produced the world's most fuel-efficient aircraft.

In the skies above Santa Rosa, Calif., three flight teams competed in the CAFÉ Green Flight Challenge for the title of most fuel-efficient aircraft in the world. The NASA-provided purse for this accomplishment -- $1.65 million, the largest aviation prize ever offered. The challenge: to fly 200 miles in less than two hours, using less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or an equivalent amount of electricity.

The appeal to our next generation of explorers with a new, NASA-powered radio channel on the Internet...

"Welcome to Third Rock – Radio – powered with NASA"

Patrick Fant: "We focus on S.T.E.M., and we've all learned that STEM is the science and technology and engineering and math, to remind young adults that a career in that direction is a great way to have a wonderful life – possibly end up with a career at NASA."

And, the non-profit Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, CASIS, was selected by NASA to manage the U.S. national laboratory aboard the International Space Station – and all the promise of new discoveries it holds for the benefit of all humankind.

Located in the Space Life Sciences Laboratory at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the independent, nonprofit research management organization will help ensure the station's unique capabilities are available to the broadest possible cross-section of the U.S. scientific, technological and industrial communities.

And on that note provided by Cady Coleman and Jethro Tull founder Ian Anderson, we say goodbye to 2011.

From understanding our Earth, to new clues about possible life elsewhere.

From fostering life-changing research in space, to sharing our vision of the future with those destined to journey there.

From the end of one monumental mission, to the beginning of a new era in the human exploration of our solar system.

That was "This Year @NASA!"

For more on these and other stories, log onto:

May your exploration of 2012 be happy, healthy, and full of wonder and discovery.

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