NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending May 25

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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending May 25
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This Week at NASA …

Operations at Kennedy Space Center are proceeding for STS-117. The integrated truss segment has been loaded into Space Shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay. An upcoming, two-day Flight Readiness Review by shuttle program managers will assess preparations for the mission. Launch currently is targeted for June 8.

Meanwhile, the STS-118 crew that will launch aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour in August to participate in an Equipment Interface Test at the Kennedy Space Center. The crew inspected mission hardware and flight equipment they will use on-orbit. STS-118 will deliver the S5 Truss and will be the twenty-second mission to the International Space Station. The seven-member crew includes Barbara Morgan and is commanded by Scott Kelly.

A NASA-funded team has developed an autonomous underwater probe that could help the search for life in the oceans of Jupiter's moon Europa. The robot vehicle is called DEPTH-X, for Deep Phreatic Thermal Explorer.

Chris McKay SOT: "My interest is the search for life in other world's, Mars and Europa in particular, and so I see Depth-X as a way to advance the technology, science and the whole approach that we’ll to explore in those worlds."

It was put to the test on a large ranch in northeastern Mexico, in a sinkhole more than a thousand feet deep. Despite limited visibility, divers followed the probe into sulfurous waters as it extracted samples from the murk and surrounding wall. Scientists believe this sinkhole is somewhat similar to the environment that will be encountered on Jupiter's Europa. Beneath Europa's icy crust lie liquid-water oceans that could be home to new microbial life forms. A robot vehicle based on DEPTH-X might be sent to there to penetrate the icy surface and explore the waters.

The Ames Research Center hosted a brief visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. They got an up-close look at the Tesla Roadster, an American built, 100 percent electric sports car. Rice went for a quick spin in the zero-emissions vehicle on the Ames tarmac.

The three members of the Expedition 15 crew fielded questions from several news media about their life and work aboard the International Space Station. Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov listened as Flight Engineer and Boston area native Suni Williams told a hometown radio station how much she's looking forward to returning home.

Suni Williams SOT: "I miss all the people from Boston and my family and friends there and the folks at home. It’s been a little while up here, but I still love it. It’s great. Living and working up here. This is the 2nd crew I’ve been with and they’re wonderful."

Erik Lindbergh, the grandson of Charles Lindbergh, rededicated NASA's new airborne astronomy aircraft on the 80th anniversary of his grandfather's solo flight across the Atlantic. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a highly modified 747 carrying an infrared telescope system weighing 45,000 pounds. The plane had originally been christened the "Clipper Lindbergh" in 1977 by its then-owner, PanAmerican Airways. The SOFIA aircraft was modified in Waco, Texas, and is wrapping up a series of checkout flights there before heading to the Dryden Flight Research Center. SOFIA is expected to capture scientifically important infrared images unavailable to earthbound telescopes.

"Journey to the Planets and Beyond" was the theme of this year's annual open house at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The two-day event featured exhibits and activities about NASA missions. Among the attractions for visitors of all ages: unique 3-D images from space; learning how robots move; and, a giant balloon that may someday explore Venus. JPL scientists and engineers were on hand to answer questions about the solar system, the universe and our home planet.

This Week in NASA History: May 27, 1999…

Launch Announcer SOT: "And lift-off of Space Shuttle Discovery…"

The space community watched with excitement as Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-96, launched from the Kennedy Space Center for the International Space Station. Some 41-and-a-half hours later, Commander Kent Rominger guided Discovery to a perfect docking, the first by a shuttle to the fledgling space outpost.

Launch Announcer SOT: "Houston, Discovery we have capture."

During STS-96, the Discovery crew performed a 7-hour and fifty-five minute spacewalk, replaced equipment, and transferred more than 3,000 pounds of equipment from the shuttle to the station for use by future Expedition crews.

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