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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, September 18
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This Week At NASA...

Space Shuttle Discovery awaits its departure from Edwards Air Force Base for its ferry flight back to Florida. The orbiter has been strapped to the back of one of the two shuttle carrier aircraft, or SCA, housed at the Dryden Flight Research Center for just such a journey. Since it has to work twice as hard as a regular 747, the modified SCA has been stripped of many creature comforts to reduce its weight to 300-thousand pounds; Discovery tips the scales at about 160-thousand. To conclude its 25-hundred mile cross-country trip, the 747-shuttle combo will land at the Kennedy Space Center, where Discovery began its 5.7-million mile, 14-day roundtrip journey to the International Space Station on August 28.


Craig Tooley: "All of our 7 instruments as well as our spacecraft as well as our ground system is essentially performing flawlessly so we are certainly ready to proceed on into the mission."

New images from the seven instruments aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, were unveiled at the Goddard Space Flight Center. The news briefing also provided updates on the topography of the lunar south pole.

David Smith: "A hundred forty measurements per second of being made of the elevation of the surface below the spacecraft. This is used in mapping , eventually the total surface of the moon, this will be the framework for all the other observations because it will geolocate everything we have."

LRO is serving as a scout for future expeditions to the moon. It’ll spend at least a year in a low polar orbit to find safe landing sites, locate potential resources, and measure radiation on the lunar surface.

NASA’s annual Desert RATS were conducted in Arizona. Desert RATS, for Research and Technology Studies, provide a testing venue for equipment and capabilities needed for future space exploration. This year, two crew members, an astronaut and a geologist, lived inside NASA's prototype Lunar Electric Rover for two weeks to simulate an off-world mission. The pair scouted the test area for geological features and conducted simulated moonwalks to collect "lunar" samples.

Also among the items tested was Tri-ATHLETE, or All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer, a multi-limbed vehicle designed to work the lunar surface, loading, transporting, , and depositing payloads. Tri-ATHLETE has been designed to carry a lunar habitat to which the lunar rover will dock.

Competing in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, the Armadillo Aerospace Corporation successfully flew this vehicle, Scorpius, twice on three-minute, 60 meters flights. The completed Level 2 flight profile came at Caddo Mills Municipal Airport in Caddo Mills, Texas Sept. 12.

The Lunar Lander Challenge is run by the X Prize Foundation for NASA, with prize money provided by the agency's Centennial Challenges Program. Teams have until October 31 to complete flight attempts and qualify for remaining LLC prizes. Two other teams have scheduled Level Two flight attempts before the deadline. The LLC is one of six current Centennial Challenges overseen by NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program.

The Federal government’s chief information officer was at the Ames Research Center to announce a new government computing initiative. Vivek Kundra unveiled the new platform hoped to increase efficiency and save money.

Vivek Kundra: "What the Ames Research Center is doing, especially when you look at technology, it’s delivering on the President’s agenda of transforming the way government thinks and finding the innovative path in addressing some of the most difficult problems that we face, especially in these tough economic times."

Cloud computing is a concept that enables government agencies to share each other’s information technology services as needed over the Internet. This cuts down on duplication of IT efforts throughout the government, reducing costs and speeding data-sharing.

Kundra and NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver toured the Nebula server center, home to Ames’s pilot cloud computing platform.

A distinguished group of scientists, policy makers and industry leaders met at JPL for a day-long symposium to discuss how observations by satellites can best help California manage its emergency responses and environmental resources.

Steve Hipskind: "NASA provides just a tremendous range of data from looking at terrestrial ecosystems with visible and infrared imagers, to one of the more important, is looking at the water systems, and the GRACE instruments, for example, can exactly get a global picture of groundwater which is gonna be hugely important as we face tremendous demands on resources."

Dr. Diane Evans: "We have a lot of serious challenges ahead of us as a nation, and as a world, and as a state, and these are really important things for us to be discussing and very appropriate timing."

Transforming space-based observations into scientific information that’s not only useful but also quickly accessible to emergency responders back on Earth is considered a major challenge. Data collected from space can also help scientists and state officials determine the best methods and long-term strategy for protecting the environment and its natural resources. The symposium was sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, a Caltech/JPL think tank.

And that's This Week At NASA!

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