NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending Sept. 21

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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending Sept. 21
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This Week at NASA …

On Wednesday, Sept. 26, NASA is set to launch the Dawn spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center. Dawn will begin an eight-year journey during which it will be the first spacecraft to orbit an object in the asteroid belt, and the first to orbit two bodies after leaving Earth. The spacecraft will travel more than 3.2 billion miles to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. There, it will orbit Ceres and Vesta; two asteroids scientists believe hold clues to how planets formed 4.5 billion years ago.

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is now in Victoria Crater. After its maneuver to check wheel slippage at the rim, Opportunity set out on a multi-week investigation on the big bowl's inner slope. Its first destination is a light-toned layer of exposed rock that may indicate what the Martian atmosphere was like millions of years ago. The ancient rock layers exposed in Victoria Crater are taller than any previously seen by Opportunity in more than three and a half years on Mars. NASA will fund Opportunity, and its rover twin, Spirit, through 2009 provided they remain functional and scientifically productive.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin kicked off a lecture series honoring the agency's 50th anniversary with an address describing the critical role space exploration plays in the global economy.

Michael Griffin SOT: "NASA opens new frontiers and creates new opportunities, and because of that we are a critical driver of innovation. Space activities create products and markets that provide benefits right here on Earth, benefits that have arisen from our efforts to explore, understand and utilize the new medium."

A recent report estimates the "space economy" at about $180 billion, with more than 60 percent of space-related economic activity coming from commercial goods and services. This two-year lecture series will feature prominent speakers addressing the global benefits of space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research. The series is co-sponsored by Lockheed Martin.

Having just passed his 100th day in space, Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Clay Anderson discussed his mission aboard the International Space Station with media from his home state of Nebraska. Clay concluded his interview with the Ashland Gazette on this personal note.

Clay Anderson SOT: "I look forward to coming back and sharing my experiences with you when I get home and please give my mom a big hug when you see her, will you please."

Anderson is preparing to return to Earth in November aboard space shuttle Discovery.

Woodrow Whitlow SOT: "This is special to me, very special. To be nominated by my staff without me knowing about it and then to be selected from among the many worthy candidates to be minority and research scientist of the year..." (nat applause) The director of the Glenn Research Center, Dr. Woodrow Whitlow Jr., is the top recipient of the 2007 Minorities in Research Science Award. Also known as the Emerald Honors, it is the premier award for African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans working in the research sciences.

Woodrow Whitlow SOT: "We need more minorities to participate in the stem fields, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields; so I would like to see many more minorities in science."

Whitlow received the Scientist of the Year award for his exemplary record of research, scientific and management accomplishments at NASA.

Whitlow and the other winners were honored at a formal gala in Baltimore during the Minorities in Research Science Conference.

Famed test pilot Chuck Yeager, the first person to fly an aircraft faster than the speed of sound, brought his recollections of that experience to an appreciative audience of employees at the Dryden Flight Research Center. It was 60 years ago, on Oct. 14, 1947, that Yeager broke the sound barrier the X-1 rocket plane. Yeager shared his memories as part of Dryden's Colloquium Series.

The Space Telescope Science Institute hosted dozens of media from around the country at a Science Writers Workshop on Dark Energy. The meeting featured the lead astronomers from the two teams that originally discovered dark energy in 1998. Dark energy is a force about which scientists know very little except that it comprises some two-thirds of our universe. Its discovery is considered one of the biggest cosmological breakthroughs in the past 50 years.

Some 200 scientists and researchers met in Huntsville for the NASA Discovery Conference. It brought together planetary scientists, deep space researchers and program managers from NASA's Discovery Program, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary. The program began in 1992 with the start of the Mars Pathfinder mission that put a small rover on Mars.

Dr. Ellen Ochoa, the newly appointed deputy director of the Johnson Space Center, became the first Hispanic-American female in space in April 1993 when she served as a mission specialist on STS-56. Ochoa followed up that mission with three additional shuttle flights, logging a total of 978 hours in space. A research scientist and inventor, Ochoa holds the patent for an optical system that can be used in robotic guiding systems. Ochoa is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, among them NASA's Distinguished Service and Exceptional Service Medals.

And that's This Week At NASA!
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