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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, April 10
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This Week At NASA…


It was a picture-perfect landing on the steppes of southern Kazakhstan.

The Expedition 18 crew of Commander Mike Fincke and Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov, and space flight participant Charles Simonyi safely returned to Earth, happy and healthy after their descent from the International Space Station. Simonyi, the first space tourist to make two such journeys, spent 13 days in space; Fincke and Lonchakov were aboard the orbiting complex for almost six months.

Mike Fincke: "We’ve just been back on the planet for just a few hours now and it’s time to, we’re starting to reflect a little bit because we’re already history. And, we’d like to think we left our mark on the space station. Each crew stands on the shoulders of the crews before it."

Meanwhile, the crew of STS-125 continued its preparation for the Hubble Servicing mission targeted for liftoff on May 12.

Greg Johnson, STS-125 Pilot: "Hubble is maybe the most powerful instrument in astronomy we’ve ever produced. It’s about 10 times better than a telescope on the ground due to the fact that it’s out of the atmosphere. Some day 10 years from now I’m going to say I was a small part of this Hubble mission, hopefully a Hubble successful mission."

The astronauts practiced two spacewalks inside the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory near the Johnson Space Center, and technicians at the Kennedy Space Center conducted a validation test on space shuttle Atlantis’s Range Safety System, which tracks and verifies a safe flight.

Supporting that mission is space shuttle Endeavour and its crew. The orbiter rolled over to Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building where it was mated to its external tank and twin solid rocket boosters for its upcoming STS-127 mission to the International Space Station. Endeavour will stand by at Launch Pad 39B in the unlikely event a rescue mission is necessary during the Hubble servicing mission.

A new report on Arctic sea ice from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center shows the decade-long trend of shrinking sea ice cover is continuing at a surprisingly fast rate. New evidence from satellite observations show ice caps thinning as well. Researchers from the Snow and Ice Center report the largest cover this winter was 278-thousand square miles less than the average largest cover for 1979 to 2000, making this winter’s maximum ice extent the fifth lowest on record.

Arctic sea ice works like an air conditioner for the global climate system. It naturally cools air and water masses, plays a key role in ocean circulation, and reflects solar radiation back into space. Scientists believe ice cover to be an important measure of the health of the Arctic.

Three U.S. teams were “over the moon” as they wheeled their self-designed lunar rovers across a simulated moonscape to victory, beating out some 75 teams from around the world in NASA’s 16th annual Great Moonbuggy Race. Held on a course at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, students pushed to post the fastest buggy assembly and race times, competing for the top three prizes in high school and college divisions. This year’s college winner was the Rochester, N.Y. Institute of Technology; sharing top high school honors were teams from Erie, Kansas and Huntsville. Other prizes included best buggy design and rookie team of the year.

The Moonbuggy race is organized by the Marshall Space Flight Center, and inspired by the original lunar rovers designed and built for the Apollo moon missions by Marshall engineers.

Outgoing Dryden Flight Research Center director Kevin Petersen received a speedy and splashing sendoff on his final day on the job. Petersen wrapped up his 37-year career at NASA by joining research pilot Frank Batteas for a final flight in an F/A-18; Air Force Flight Test Center commander Maj. Gen. David Eichhorn flew close chase in an Air Force F-16.

Upon Petersen’s return, Dryden employees maintained a long-standing tradition by soaking him with water. General Eichhorn was kind enough to help.

Kevin Petersen: "Well thanks everybody – It's been a great ride – nice final ride too."

The preceding day, Petersen had gotten a surprise when he arrived at work to find a subscale remotely-piloted research aircraft sitting in his parking space. Petersen had been a lead research engineer on the project before his NASA career took him ultimately to the Dryden center director’s chair.

An annual worldwide party celebrating mankind’s achievements in space brought hundreds of partiers to several NASA centers. Yuri’s Night drew its share of Langley research Center celebrants to the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton. Entertainment included a laser light show, music, high-tech NASA exhibits, a "Mars-tini” lounge, and star gazing.

The Goddard Visitor Center’s bash was energized with a night-club atmosphere featuring high-tech music. There were appearances by Star Wars celebrities, and a cast of supporting stormtroopers helped with event security. The Goddard and Langley events were two of more than 170 Yuri’s Night parties in 41 countries held to pay homage to Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel into space, on April 12, 1961.

April 12 is also the anniversary of the “boldest test flight in history,” STS-1, NASA’s first shuttle flight. Twenty-eight years ago, Commander John Young and pilot Bob Crippen took the orbiter Columbia on her maiden flight, lifting off the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39a. Its mission objectives were to achieve a safe ascent into orbit, test the overall space shuttle systems, and return safely to earth. Over a two day, 36 orbit period, the two astronauts verified Columbia’s worthiness as a space vehicle before gliding to a problem-free landing on a California desert runway.

John Young: "We had practiced a lot of malfunctions and things and we were checking out all the systems and making sure everything worked and it worked beautifully."

Bob Crippen: "I wanted to make sure that I did my part of the mission well, and it was fun all the way."

APOLLO 16 LAUNCH, April 16 1972
Also, 37 years ago this week, Apollo 16 launched to become the fifth mission to land astronauts on the moon.

SOT: "Roger, go for landing."

Apollo 16, also commanded by John Young, landed in the Descartes highlands of the lunar surface, a region previously unexplored.

Astronauts: "Wow! We arrived and we’re finally here Houston. I’ll tell you Indy’s never seen a driver like this."

Young and Charlie Duke roamed the area, collecting samples, taking photographs and conducting experiments that included the first use of an ultraviolet camera/spectrograph on the moon. After re-joining T.K. Mattingly aboard their Command Module, the three astronauts safely returned to Earth to complete their 11-day mission.

And that's This Week @ NASA.

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