NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending Oct. 19

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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending Oct. 19
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This Week At NASA …

After completing an exhaustive Flight Readiness Review NASA mission mangers announced October 23 as the launch date of STS-120. Teams at Kennedy Space Center continue preparing Space Shuttle Discovery for its flight to the International Space Station.

William Gerstenmaier: "We are really ready to go do this. The teams are ready and things look good from an overall preparation standpoint."

The STS-120 crew will deliver a new connecting module named Harmony to the station, and continue assembly of the complex's solar power system. Harmony will provide attachment points for new laboratories from Europe and Japan. The crew for this mission is Commander Pam Melroy, Pilot George Zamka, Mission Specialists Scott Parazynski, Doug Wheelock, Stephanie Wilson and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency. Astronaut Daniel Tani is hitching a ride aboard Discovery. Tani will join the Expedition 16 Crew and serve as a Flight Engineer.

"Approach and Contact. Capture!"

The Expedition 15 Crew welcomed its replacement to the ISS. Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko arrived last week bringing with them spaceflight participant Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor.

Peggy Whitson: "It felt very much like coming home again. I feel like I’ve adapted to being here very quickly because of that." The Expedition 16 Crew will be completed when Flight Engineer Daniel Tani arrives aboard Shuttle Discovery. The Expedition 15 crew members, Commander Fyodor Yurchikin and Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Clay Anderson are near the end of their mission.

Clayton Anderson: "To be able to relate the experiences I’ve had up here might be quite difficult because what you see and what you feel when you’re here, sometimes you can’t communicate that exactly back to your family and friends, but I’m going to give it a heck of a try and I’m going to tell this was probably the most fantastic experience that I’ve ever had besides from my marriage and the birth of my kids."

The two Crews will join forces with the STS-120 Crew. Kotov and Shukor depart the ISS aboard a Soyuz TMA-10 on Oct. 21. Anderson will return to Earth with the STS-120 Crew.

Scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say in 2007 the Antarctic ozone hole was about the average size of large depletions that have been observed from the mid-1990s to the present. The 2007 ozone hole was deeper with a smaller area than the record ozone depletion seen in 2006, but was more expansive than the 2002 hole. Each year the Antarctic ozone hole opens up in mid August and peaks around late September or early October. Ozone depletion is primarily caused by human-produced compounds that release chlorine and bromine gases into the stratosphere. The latest data was gathered by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA's Aura satellite.

SOFIA-- NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, has begun a series of check-out flight tests at the Dryden Flight Research Center. SOFIA’s first flight test lasted just over five hour. The highly modified Boeing 747 houses SOFIA’s 20-ton infrared telescope which, when fully operational, will conduct celestial observations while flying at up to 45,000 feet. When its operational the flying observatory will detect the formation of stars in our galaxy, determine the chemical composition of the interstellar medium, and peer through the dust that hides the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. SOFIA is scheduled to make its first observations in 2009.

M33 X-7— is the moniker scientists have given to an exceptionally massive black star that is nearly 16 times the mass of Earth’s sun. Combining observations from the Chandra X-ray Observatory with optical data from the Gemini telescope, astronomers determined this black hole is one of the most massive in its class. Scientists say its discovery has intriguing implications for the evolution and ultimate fate of massive stars.

NASA program manager have extended the mission of the Mars Exploration Rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity for the 5th time. The decision keeps the robotic pioneers active on opposite sides of Mars possibly through 2009. Since landing 45 months ago the two rovers have delivered amazing scientific results. Opportunity has returned evidence that its area of Mars stayed wet for an extended period of time long ago, with conditions that could have been suitable for sustaining microbial life. Spirit has found evidence in the region it is exploring that water in some form has altered the mineral composition of some soils and rocks. This fall, Opportunity began descending into Victoria Crater in Mars' Meridiani Planum region. At approximately a half mile wide and 230 feet deep, it is the largest crater the rover has visited.

And that’s This Week At NASA!
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