NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending April 25

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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending April 25
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This Week At NASA…

Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson and Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko returned to Earth on April 19 after spending 192 days in space. During the mission they accomplished a number of record-breaking feats.

Mission Control: "Congratulations! You are the world record-holder in EVA time."

Peggy Whitson: "Just being at the right place at the right time."

Whitson set the all-time endurance record for the most aggregate days in space by a U.S. astronaut with 377 days on-orbit. Whitson is now 20th on the all-time list of astronaut stays in space while Malenchenko’s cumulative achievement of 515 days places him 9th on the all-time list of human space travelers. Whitson set the record over two missions eclipsing Mike Foale’s record of 374 days which was achieved over six flights. The Expedition 16 Crew also completed a number of experiments designed to gather information about the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body.

Physics pioneer Professor Stephen Hawking spoke to a rapt audience at George Washington University on "Why We Should Go Into Space?"

Stephen Hawking: "What is the justification for spending all that effort and money on getting a few lumps of moon rock? It will completely change the future of the human race and maybe determine whether we have any future at all."

Technicians at the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., carefully removed the German-built primary mirror assembly from SOFIA --the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy on April 18 in preparation for the final coating of the mirror. Under the watchful eyes of engineers and observers, they used a precision crane to lift the mirror assembly -- which weighs more than two-tons -- from its cavity in the rear fuselage of the highly modified Boeing 747 aircraft. The mirror then was gently secured and moved to a clean room to be prepared for shipment to NASA’s Ames Research Center. At Ames, the one-of-a-kind 2.5-meter diameter mirror will receive its final aluminized finish before it’s re-installed in the SOFIA aircraft. The process is expected to take about three months.

The powerful antenna system that will help NASA’s Gamma-ray Large Area Telescope communicate with stations on Earth was successfully connected to the spacecraft in the Astrotech payload processing facility near Kennedy Space Center. GLAST is a space observatory that will explore the most extreme environments in the Universe, while seeking to explain phenomenon like gamma ray bursts and the composition of dark matter. The GLAST satellite is in its final stages of preparation.

Winners of the Scientist-for-a-Day contest will have the opportunity to study Saturn and make the kinds of daily decisions that NASA scientists working on the Cassini-Huygens mission do. During the last four years the Cassini spacecraft has provided never-before-seen views of Saturn, its rings and moons. On June 10, Cassini’s camera will capture three targeted images, two of Saturn’s moons, Rhea and Enceladus, and a section of Saturn’s rings that includes the tiny moon Pan. Contestants must write a 500-word essay explaining why one of these Cassini images would yield better scientific results than the others.

Rachel Zimmerman-Brachman: "The students really react well to working with a real mission, with a real spacecraft and real scientists on the mission and they get a chance to feel like they’re really part of the mission which is pretty exciting."

The winners will discuss their essays with the Jet Propulsion Laboratories' Cassini scientists via teleconference. Entries are divided into three groups: grades five through six, seven through eight, and high school. One winner will be chosen from each group and the deadline for entries is May 8, 2008. For more about the contest, including a complete description of the designated targets, and entry rules, please visit: .

Some of Cassini’s best pictures of Saturn will be on display beginning April 26 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Roughly 50 images taken by the Cassini-Huygens mission in visible light, infrared and radar have been hand-picked by a team of Cassini scientists. The show is called "Saturn: Images from the Cassini-Huygens Mission," and will run through March 29, 2009. It features dramatic, up-close-and-personal images in small individual views and super-large mosaics. The Cassini is the first orbiter to study Saturn in detail.

Student rocketeers from nine colleges and universities across the nation sent rockets, of their own making, aloft in the Alabama sky for NASA's 2007-2008 University Student Launch Initiative. Participating teams spent the school year developing, building and testing their own rockets, complete with working science payloads. Contestants attempted to fly their rockets to an altitude of 1 mile and retrieve the payloads intact. Sponsored by ATK Launch Systems and managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., the annual competition gives students practical experience managing complex scientific research, and conducting aerospace and engineering projects from drawing board to launch pad.

And that's This Week At NASA!
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