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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, March 6
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This Week At NASA…

When astronaut Sandy Magnus returns home from the International Space Station aboard space shuttle Discovery with the STS-119 crew, the Belleville, Illinois native will have completed a five month stay aboard the orbiting complex as a member of the Expedition 18. Magnus has conducted a number of science experiments – and in a few served as, in her words, “a guinea pig,” something she says will help future space travelers.

Sandy Magnus: "There's a constant requirement to understand our sleep cycles and how to manage those, so we participate in sleep studies. It’s well-known that the immune system becomes somewhat deficient. It’s suppressed on orbit, and we’re still trying to understand the mechanisms for that; we’re trying to understand that through these studies -- blood, urine, saliva collections, things like this. There’s a very interesting study about nutrition that’s on-going on the station because if you send people far away and they’re growing their own food and you, you have to understand what sort of nutrition changes you might have, how microgravity influences your nutrition. They’re getting a lot of interesting data back from us."

Discovery and its crew is scheduled to launch this Wednesday, March 11, at 9:20 p.m. EST.

An embedded moonlet has been discovered within Saturn’s G ring by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The moonlet, about a third of a mile across, appears as a faint, moving pinprick of light. Scientists believe it is a main source of the G ring and its single ring arc. Cassini imaging scientists found the moonlet after analyzing images acquired over some 600 days.

To see more of the moonlet, go to

Teachers from the Broadmoor Middle Laboratory School were among the educators taking part in Flight Week at the Johnson Space Center. The Shreveport, La., school was one of eleven NASA Explorer Schools nationwide chosen to fly a student experiment aboard the agency’s reduced gravity aircraft, the "Weightless Wonder."

Candice Webert: "Our experiment is going well. We’ve run two sets of data, using the Lego’s Mindstorm program. What Becky is doing is re-running some of the robots, so that, hopefully, we can gather more data about them."

The modified McDonnell Douglas C-9 jetliner flew a series of parabolic maneuvers—steep climbs followed by sharp descents. Each climb produced about 30 seconds of hyper gravity, ranging from 1.8 to 2 g’s. When the C-9 “nosed over,” each free fall produced 18 to 25 seconds of weightlessness. Each team flew about 32 parabolas during which they executed science and math experiments designed by their students back home.

Question: "How’s your science going?"

Flynn Dooley: "It’s going quite well. We’ve only had one malfunction of one of our four bots."

More than 2-hundred Explorer schools from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, are in three-year partnerships with NASA to develop the nation's future science, technology, engineering and mathematics work force.

Washington, DC hosted its first-ever FIRST regional high school robotics competition. FIRST, "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," aims to spur high school student interest in math and science, and introduce them to rewarding careers in engineering and science research.

Each of the 60 mid-Atlantic area high school teams built a workable robot in six weeks using a kit provided by FIRST organizers. This year’s challenge is called Lunacy and involves game pieces designated Orbit Balls, Payload trailers and Super Cells.

Dave Lavery: "What we're really trying to do is make sure that we’re helping to create a literate and appreciative society that feeds an engineering-based, economic engine for the country. Yes, NASA is doing this for our own reasons, but the big reason we’re involved with it, as a Federal agency, is to help feed the economic capabilities of the country for the next generation, and the generation after that."

Forty-five regional winners from around the country will meet in the FIRST finals next month in Atlanta. NASA is the single largest sponsor of the national FIRST program.

Visitors to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington can now get a glimpse into the future of air travel. This 1-20th scale model of a blended wing body, or BWB, has been added to the museum’s How Things Fly gallery.

Michael Hulslander: "It’s actually the largest artifact we have in the gallery and the gallery itself, the How Things Fly Gallery, is the most popular gallery in the National Air and Space Museum."

The model with the 12-foot wing span was built and used to research futuristic aircraft designs in wind tunnel flight tests at the Langley Research Center. Its unique, wing-like shape is more fuel efficient than the conventional "tube-and-wing" aircraft we’re familiar with.

David Vicroy: "We basically fly this model in the wind tunnel. It tests techniques called free flights, where we actually have a control system on board the airplane as well as high pressure air that we use to simulate the engines."

The BWB model is on long-term loan to Air and Space from NASA.

Space Fest 2009 in San Diego captivated space enthusiasts from the hard core memorabilia collector to the casual astronomy buff. The unique, three-day event featured presentations by NASA project leaders and astronomers, and included space art exhibits. Six of the 12 men to walk on the moon were also part of the activities, along with Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins and Mercury 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter. This year’s Space Fest helped mark the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy.

And that's This Week At NASA!

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