NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending Oct. 5

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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending Oct. 5
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This Week at NASA …

Space Shuttle Discovery has rolled out to the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A as part of final preparations for an October 23 launch. STS-120 is the 23rd shuttle mission to the International Space Station, and will deliver an Italian-built U.S. multi-port module known as Harmony to the station. The crew also will give Expedition Flight Engineer Daniel Tani a ride to the ISS, and return Expedition 15 crew member Clay Anderson to Earth.

NASA's Earth-observing satellites recorded data this summer that shows the amount of Arctic sea ice was less than any summer on record -- nearly 25% less ice than the previous low set in 2005. At the end of the summer Artic sea ice cover reaches its minimum extent. What's left is called perennial ice cover, which has been decreasing by about 10 percent each decade since 1979 when satellite data was first recorded. This year, the Arctic's perennial ice cover is about 38 percent less than average. The decrease in summer Arctic sea ice from 2005 to 2007 is about 460-thousand square miles, nearly the size of California and Texas combined.

The STEREO satellite has captured images of a collision between a solar "hurricane," or coronal mass ejection (CME) and Encke's comet. The comet was traveling within the orbit of Mercury when the CME, a large cloud of magnetized gas cast into space by the sun, crunched the comet's plasma tail, ripping it away completely. It is the first time scientists have witnessed such an event on another cosmic body. Observations of the comet reveal the brightening of its tail as the coronal mass ejection swept by. Encke's comet is only the second periodic comet ever identified. Halley's Comet was the first.

NASA and industry engineers successfully completed the first drop test of the main parachute that will help recover the first stage of the Ares I crew launch vehicle, which will carry NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle to space. Conducted at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, the test is part of an ongoing series to support the design and development of the Ares I parachute recovery system. The next test is scheduled for November.

The STS-118 crew visited NASA headquarters on this week and shared highlights of its August mission to the International Space Station. The Endeavour crew received kudos for a job well done and participated in a question-and-answer session with employees, their families and visiting students.

Visiting Student: "How long do you get to stay in space?"

Alvin Drew: "Most Shuttle flights last no more than two weeks because we just don't have enough things on board like air, food and water to go longer than that."

During STS-118, Endeavour's crew joined with the Expedition 15 crew to add the third starboard truss segment, the S5, to the station's backbone.

Before a spellbound crowd at the Society of Experimental Test Pilots symposium in Anaheim, California, the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, talked about his early years as a test pilot and the unorthodox training vehicle that taught him how to land on the lunar surface.

Neil Armstrong: "The proposed technique for simulating lunar gravity was simple in principle, reduce the apparent weight of the craft to its value, while flying over the moon. The proposed method: install a jet engine underneath or, within the machine on gimbles, so that the thrust was always vertically upward."

Armstrong was one of 65 test pilots who came together in the 1950s to create the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP). Since its inception, 50 years ago, the organization has blossomed into an international organization tallying more than 2,000 members. As a test pilot, Armstrong flew research aircraft as diverse as a B-29, B-47, P-51, F-100, and the X-15 long before he stepped onto the moon, and into history.

NASA officials, researchers and a variety of space exploration experts convened at the Ames Research Center to identify and craft pioneering research opportunities for the International Space Station. Chaired by Nobel Laureate Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg the workshop featured panel discussions, presentations and remarks from a variety of participants.

Baruch Blumberg: "The opportunity for new discovery, new observations, new ideas, just pervades this whole operation and much of that is reflected in the meeting."

Ames co-sponsored the seminar. NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate, William Gerstenmaier delivered the keynote address.

Bill Gerstenmaier: "We still have a little bit of assembly to do. When that's complete we now need to make sure we're prepared and ready to go utilize it, so this is a chance for us to make sure we can effectively utilize the space station."

Personnel from the Dryden Flight Research Center and Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California held a training exercise to practice the skills needed to effectively handle the rescue of a space shuttle crew in the unlikely event of an off-runway landing mishap. The exercises are held periodically to ensure Air Force medical crews along with fire & rescue teams know how to safely remove shuttle astronauts from an orbiter's crew compartment. Dryden is the primary alternate landing site for the shuttle.
"Soaring Beyond the Limitations" was the theme at this year's 2007 SEMAA Awards Luncheon held in Washington, DC. SEMAA stands for the Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy. NASA and the National SEMAA Office host the affair to pay tribute to individuals who have contributed to the organization's mission to increase the participation and retention of historically underserved students from K-12, in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. 23-year-old Barrington Irving delivered an inspirational keynote address. He is the first person of African descent as well as the youngest individual to make a solo flight around the world. Barrington Irving SOT: "I just simply wanted to prove a point to other young people, that it doesn't matter, where you're coming in, what you have, what you don't have, all that matters is that you have persistence, you have drive and you're able to achieve a goal." Also on hand was Carl McNair, the brother of Astronaut Ronald McNair and author of "The Story of an American Hero: Remembering Ronald McNair." McNair presented signed copies of his book to attendees.

And 39 years ago, on October 11, 1968, NASA's first manned Apollo mission, Apollo 7, launched from Cape Canaveral Florida. On board was Commander Walter Schirra, Command module pilot Donn Eisele and Lunar Module Pilot Walter Cunningham. Cunningham is the only surviving member of the Apollo 7 crew - Eisele died in 1987 and Schirra earlier this year. With Apollo 7, NASA began a new chapter in space exploration history.

And that's This Week at NASA!
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