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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending January 23
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Space shuttle Discovery's two payload bay doors have been closed in preparation for its STS-119 mission to the International Space Station. Inside the cargo bay is the Starboard 6 truss segment, the final component of the station’s 11-segment integrated truss structure. With its installation, the ISS will be capable of housing a crew of six astronauts.

Lee Archambault: "The S6 truss is about a 31,000 pound piece of gear. Attached to it, on the very end, are two solar array blanket boxes housing our solar arrays. We’ll bring them up on the station, attach it on the starboard side to the S5 truss which is currently the most starboard existing and truss segment that's out there right now, so we'll attach our S6 to the S5. As the station exists right now, we have four sets of solar arrays on the port side. This is the final truss segment that’s going to go up and it houses the last two power channels for the space station's power structure. When we successfully install the truss, the station will have its full complement of eight power channels.”

The payload doors will next open when Discovery and its STS-119 crew commanded by Lee Archambault are in space and headed to the station following its launch from the Kennedy Space Center. Liftoff from Launch Pad 39A is targeted for February 12 at 7:32 am EST.


The Kepler spacecraft arrived by truck in Florida for processing for its upcoming launch. After offloading at the Astrotech payload processing facility near the Kennedy Space Center, Kepler was taken to a high bay clean room where it underwent a series of tests in preparation for launch from Cape Canaveral on March 5th.

Kepler will continually photograph our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller habitable planets and estimate how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy are home to these planets.

Padi Boyd: "One of the beautiful things about the Kepler mission, is it's a very simple idea. It's an optical CCD array, in very large optical CCD cameras just pointing at one place in the sky for a long time, for its entire mission and just drifting away on this earth trailing heliocentric orbit for years. So, it's like the simplest operation you can imagine for a spacecraft, and it’s going to have the most profound answer that we can really go after."


NASA headquarters in Washington hosted a number of special guests. The STS-126 crew commanded by Chris Ferguson spoke with employees about their mission to the International Space Station last November.

Chris Ferguson: "It was a great mission, wonderful crew. We'd like to the think the space station is a little bit better off."

Also paying a visit to HQ: the Lunar Electric Rover. The concept vehicle was on display outside the building for employees and media to see and ask questions of the astronauts and engineers involved in its design.

Mike Gernhardt: "It allows us to do geological observations from inside the vehicle better than we can do in a suit. And then the key thing is, the suits are hanging off the back of devices called Suitports. What we do is literally open a hatch in the vehicle, open the back hatch of the suit, step into the suit, and ten minutes later we're boots on the surface sampling rocks."

The visits to Headquarters came after the 126 crew and the Lunar Electric Rover participated in the 56th Inauguration Parade.


Five years ago in NASA History, the second of the Mars Rovers, Opportunity, landed on the Red Planet. Opportunity discovered its landing site was once a standing body of water, raising the possibility that key ingredients for life might have existed on Mars. Since landing on opposite sides of Mars, Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, have made important discoveries about the environment on ancient Mars. They've returned a quarter-million images, driven more than 13 miles, climbed a mountain, descended into craters, struggled with sand traps and aging hardware, survived dust storms, and relayed more than 36 gigabytes of data via NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. In spite of their challenges, both rovers remain operational for new exploration campaigns.


Mike Fincke: "As we fly into the Japanese Experimental Module, the JEM, also known as Kibo, we can see it's the biggest module aboard the space station.

For Commander Mike Fincke of the International Space Station, one thing that may excite him as much as space flight, is football: in particular, rooting for his hometown team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mike Fincke: "Up here in space, it's Steeler country."

Fincke’s good luck message was downlinked prior to the AFC Conference Championship game won by the Steelers over the Baltimore Ravens.

(Mike Fincke laughs) And that's This Week At NASA!

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