NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending Jan. 18

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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending Jan. 18
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This Week At NASA …

This image of Mercury was the first transmitted by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft as it made the first flyby of the planet in more than 30 years. The picture, showing features as small as six miles in size, was taken at a distance of approximately 17,000 miles. MESSENGER, on a mission to shed more light on the makeup of Mercury, will settle into a yearlong orbit of the planet closest to Earth's Sun in 20-11.

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale recognized the first winners of the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award. Sponsored by NASA's Innovative Partnership Program and the X PRIZE Foundation, the award is given to high school students who create concepts to accelerate development of the personal spaceflight industry. The award honors Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr., the third astronaut to walk on the moon. Conrad died in 19-99. His widow, Nancy, helped unveil the "Spirit of Innovation" trophy and traveling exhibit.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. hosted the second event in NASA's 50th anniversary Lecture Series. Google Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt discussed the benefits technology innovation and space exploration bring to society.

Eric Schmidt: "I think one of the things people always forget is how much impact NASA has had on thing other than space – digital flyby wire systems, wind shear and icing. When I think about NASA and I think about Google I think of both as being in the business of making things that were amazing commonplace."

The NASA Lecture Series is co-sponsored by Lockheed Martin.

Validation tests of cameras and sensors for NASA's LCROSS spacecraft have been completed. The science instruments for the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite were carefully placed into a shipping container at the Ames Research Center. They're being sent to Northrop Grumman's facility in Redondo Beach, California, for integration into the spacecraft. The LCROSS mission to search for water and other materials on the moon is scheduled for launch in the fall.

NASA's flying observatory, SOFIA, paid a brief visit to the Ames Research Center. The crew of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy took time out from its flight tests at the Dryden Flight Research Center to make the brief trip to Ames. Center employees, their families and Bay Area media toured the observatory. Flying up to 45-thousand feet, SOFIA will make observations whose clarity Earth-based telescopes can not match.

NASA has unveiled a new book that brings majestic images of space to the fingertips of the blind. "Touch the Invisible Sky" contains color images captured by the Great Observatories of nebulae, stars, and galaxies. Each image is embossed with lines, bumps, and other textures so the visually impaired can feel what they can't see. Braille and large-print descriptions accompany each photograph. Created by two astronomers and an education specialist, "Touch the Invisible Sky" was introduced during a ceremony at National Federation of the Blind headquarters in Baltimore.

Steve Cook, Ares project manager and Homer Hickam, a former NASA engineer and the author of "Rocket Boys," launched a 1:100 scale model of the Ares I crew launch vehicle for employees at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Ares I is the backbone that will carry the Orion capsule to explore the moon and destinations beyond. The Marshall Center manages the propulsion system design and development of the Ares I.

Ares I was also featured during Alabama's "Space Week." Students at Endeavor Elementary in Harvest displayed a model of the Ares I rocket provided by Marshall's Exhibits team in front of their school. Marshall employees were also on hand to talk with students about a variety of space related themes.

Forty years ago this week, Apollo 5 launched from Complex 37B at Cape Canaveral. The mission: to test the staging, and ascent and decent propulsion systems, of the Lunar Module. Both mission objectives were met, leading to Apollo 11's successful moon landing 18 months later.

And, four years ago this week, the second of the two Mars Exploration Rovers successfully landed on the Red Planet. Opportunity put down on Meridiani Planum, joining its twin, Spirit, which had safely arrived three weeks before on the other side of Mars. Since then, the rovers have sent back stunning and mysterious pictures of the Martian surface, as well as important data about the planet's origins – and the possible existence of water, an essential for life as we know it. On a mission that was designed to last only three months, Spirit and Opportunity have begun their fifth year roaming the Red Planet.

And that's This Week At NASA!
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