NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending Aug. 17

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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending Aug. 17
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This Week at NASA …

The still-dusty skies of the Red Planet are clearing a bit, improving the energy situation for the Mars Exploration Rovers. A series of storms kicked up so much dust on the Martian surface that Spirit and Opportunity were all but shut down to conserve power. Now, for the first time in weeks, controllers have increased research activities for both rovers. Spirit was commanded to move its arm and take photos and Opportunity is making observations of the Martian atmosphere.

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander made the first and largest of six course corrections on its way to the Red Planet. The spacecraft fired its four mid-size thrusters for more than three minutes to adjust its trajectory. Phoenix is now traveling at more than 74-thousand miles an hour. It's scheduled to land on Mars next May 25th, where it'll seek signs of microbial life near the planet's northern polar region. Phoenix's next trajectory-correction maneuver is planned for mid-October.

During their second spacewalk, STS-118 astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Dave Williams replaced a control moment gyroscope, or CMG, on the International Space Station that failed late last year. Four CMGs keep the complex properly oriented, controlling the station’s altitude without the use of propellant fuel. A new computer program developed at the Ames Research Center should help identify and track problems with the station's gyroscopes. The new software program is called the Inductive Monitoring System. It shortens the time it takes to track and detect problems with the CMGs.

At first, astronomers thought it was a comet with an amazingly-long tail. However, with the help of NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer, GALEX, scientists recognize it as a star unlike any other. Its name is Mira, streaking through space at supersonic speeds. Material blowing off Mira is forming a wake 13 light-years long, or thousands of times the length of the solar system. Nothing like this has ever been seen surrounding a star.

NASA notes with sadness the passing of Charles T. Force, former associate administrator for the agency's Office of Space Communications. Force spent 31 years at NASA, joining the agency in 1965 as director of the Guam tracking station that supported the Apollo lunar landings. Force would later help develop, construct and employ NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, or TDRSS. The TDRSS satellites replaced an aging ground-based communications network, increasing the time spacecraft were in communication with the ground and improving the amount of data transferred. Charles Force was a native of Shoals, Indiana; he was 72.

One of the world's largest aircraft landed in Cleveland with a special delivery for the Glenn Research Center. Offloaded from this Antonov An-124 was the payload fairing from the Ariane 5 rocket. The fairing protects a mission's payload from the thermal, aerodynamic and acoustic effects of launch and flight through the atmosphere until it's jettisoned into space. The fairing was on its way to Glenn's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. There, it'll be tested in the simulated space environment of Plum Brook's Space Power Facility, the world's largest vacuum chamber. This test will assure the fairing will separate properly from the Ariane 5 without causing damage to the launch vehicle.

All good things must come to an end. For student interns at the Goddard Space Flight Center, that means wrapping up a full summer of exciting and productive work. More than 200 students from across the country happily labored alongside NASA scientists and educators on a variety of projects, from multimedia displays to robotics. They concluded their summer fun with three days of activities, including poster sessions and demonstrations.

The Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Alexandria, Virginia hosted a special open house to celebrate Barbara Morgan's historic flight aboard space shuttle Endeavour.

Student SOT: "Did you have a special teacher or mentor when you were a kid? Who was it and why were they special to you?"

Barbara Morgan: "Some of my mentors that have meant more than anything to me are seven very special people who, I believe, are mentors to you too. And that was the Challenger Crew; they were my teachers. I believe they are teaching us today still, and the benefits of what you all get to do in the Challenger Centers are a result of their great teaching."

The educator-turned-astronaut was joined by fellow STS-118 mission specialist Alvin Drew in a student-teacher conference from space. Morgan was back-up to Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe who perished along with six crewmates on space shuttle Challenger in 1986. Morgan and Drew answered questions from student winners of a national poster contest held by the Challenger Center.

The open house also featured webcasts with NASA astronauts, and simulated spaceflight missions to Mars flown by Challenger Learning Center summer camp students. More than 25-thousand teachers and 400-thousand students attend workshops and fly simulated missions annually at Challenger Learning Centers in 30 states, Great Britain, Canada and Korea.

And that’s This Week At NASA!
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