NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending March 21

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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending March 21
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This Week At NASA…

Using the latest satellite observations, NASA researchers report that the Arctic is still on "thin ice" when it comes to the condition of sea ice cover in the region. A colder-than-average winter in the Canadian Arctic has apparently increased the amount of new sea ice, but despite the cold snap, the older sea ice that usually lasts several years has continued to decline. Scientists believe this is due to the current winter weather conditions, rather than a turnaround of long-term climate trends.

Researchers using the Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered large amounts of simple organic gases and water vapor molecules in a potential planet-forming region around an infant star. Evidence also shows that the molecules were created in this region inside the disk that surrounds the young star AA Tauri. Also in that same area, scientists found water around two other young stars. By pushing Spitzer’s capabilities, astronomers now have a better view of the earliest stages of planetary formation. This may help them understand the origins of our solar system, and the potential for life in others.

An instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope has made an important new finding -- the first-ever detection of the organic molecule methane in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a distant star. Hubble’s Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer, NICMOS, made the discovery in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet orbiting the star HD 189733B, 63 light years away. Though the planet is too hot to support life as we know it, the finding demonstrates the ability to detect organic molecules spectroscopically around Earth-like planets in habitable zones around stars.

SOFIA’s infrared telescope has undergone several nights of characterization testing. The tests, among other goals, insure the telescope can properly track the night sky. A team of scientists and telescope operators collected baseline operational measurements while the telescope aboard the modified 747 aircraft was focused on Polaris, the North Star. The tests were conducted while SOFIA, for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, was parked outside its hangar at the Dryden Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, California.

It was July, 1985, when Idaho elementary school teacher Barbara Radding Morgan was selected as Christa McAuliffe’s backup on space shuttle Challenger for mission STS 51L. Following the loss of Challenger and its crew, Morgan returned to teaching, but continued as a member of NASA’s Teacher in Space program. She continued speaking and working on behalf of students, and served on the National Science Foundation’s Federal Task Force for Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering. In August of 1998, Morgan reported to the Johnson Space Center to begin her training as a mission specialist. Following training and evaluation, Morgan worked in several branches at the Astronaut Office, including Space Station Operations and Capsule Communications, or CAPCOM. In August of 2007, 22 years after beginning her association with NASA, Barbara Morgan realized a long-held dream. She served as a mission specialist aboard space shuttle Endeavour; her trip to the International Space Station on STS 118 earned Barbara Morgan a place in history as NASA’s first Educator Astronaut.

MORGAN: "I can’t think of anything more important to all of us than our kids and their future. And, to me, space exploration is all about open-ending, never-ending opportunities for our young people and that’s what my motivation has been, is to help keep the world of opportunities open for our kids."
Married and the mother of two sons, Barbara Morgan is a classical flautist who also enjoys jazz, literature, hiking, swimming, and cross-country skiing. Her many honors include the National Space Society Space Pioneer Award for Education, the NASA Headquarters’ Special Service Award, and selection as one of USA Today’s Citizens of the Year.

Gemini 3 LAUNCH – Mar. 23, 1965
Forty-three years ago this week, on March 23, 1965, the first human mission of the Gemini program launched from complex 19 at the Kennedy Space Center. Gemini 3’s crew members “Gus” Grissom and John Young successfully demonstrated piloted, maneuverable flight in the Gemini spacecraft as they made three orbits around the Earth. Gemini 3 also helped to evaluate spacecraft and launch vehicle systems for future long-duration flights, helping lead the way to the moon.

And that's This Week At NASA!
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