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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, October 23
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This Week At NASA...

The Ares I-X crew launch vehicle has been rolled out to Launch Pad 39B for final preparations for a test flight that will provide NASA an early opportunity to evaluate and prove hardware, models, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I launch vehicle. The test also will allow the Ares project team to gather critical data during ascent of the integrated stack, which includes a simulated Ares vehicle and simulated Orion crew module and launch abort system. The data collected will be used to verify the effectiveness of the rocket’s design and ensure that it is safe and stable in flight before astronauts begin traveling in orbit. The Ares I rocket is designed to carry astronauts to space in the Orion crew exploration vehicle. Liftoff is scheduled for October 27.

After two days of intense competition three teams, out of a field of 19, emerged victorious and claimed a total of $750,000 in NASA prizes at this year's Regolith Excavation Challenge.

Paul Ventimiglia: "The robot has this large hopper. These scoops pick up regolith on the ground down here, carry it up, dump it into the hopper; the hopper can raise up to dump the regolith out, and the drive train is tank treads – very simple."

The challenge was held at the Ames Research Center where competitors were required to use mobile, robotic digging machines capable of excavating at least 330 pounds of simulated moon dirt, known as regolith, and depositing it into a container in 30 minutes or less. The rules required the remotely controlled vehicles to contain their own power sources and weigh no more than 176 pounds.

The Regolith Excavation Challenge is one of six NASA Centennial Challenges. The program seeks to drive progress in aerospace technology by encouraging competition in aerospace research and development. The Centennial Challenges program in NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program Office sponsors the Regolith Excavation Challenge.

Scientists and engineers from NASA’s Exploration Technology Development Program and the U.S. Geological Survey traveled to the Stillwater Mine in Nye, Montana to collect rock samples for processing into simulant -- a material that mimics lunar regolith– the soil found on the moon’s surface. The simulant will be used to test new technologies that could decrease the detrimental effects of dust on astronaut health and on lunar hardware, and make rocket fuel for space travel. Other objectives focus on extracting oxygen from regolith to make water and air, or its potential use in lunar construction. NASA hopes to build a permanent facility on the moon where astronauts would live and work.

Carole McLemore: "They select a particular rock, based on looking at it through an eye lens, or just visually looking at it. And they can, based on the rock, what the mineralogy is, they are looking for a particular type of mineralogy and so they tell us which rocks to gather, and when we pick them up in buckets and bins, and then, eventually, those will be shipped to Denver where they will clean ‘em, sort ‘em, and then crush them and grind them into the actual lunar simulant."

Because no one simulant has the properties to accomplish all test objectives, various types are being developed and will later be turned into prototypes for full-scale production.

Dr. Doug Rickman: "What special about the Stillwater material. In the United States there is no other area that is really close to this composition. This is composition of this rock is very similar to what’s on the moon."

This is not the first time artificial regolith has been created, but scientists say the material collected from Stillwater is "unprecedented" in its complexity and similarity to that found in the highlands region of the lunar surface.

The Dryden Flight Research Center held a ground breaking ceremony for a new state-of-the-art building. The 22,000-square-foot Consolidated Information Technology Center will incorporate water and energy conservation features and use durable materials that won’t degrade indoor environmental quality.

The building will be constructed to meet the Center’s current and future information technology requirements. It is the first “green” building to be constructed at Dryden.


Employees at the Langley Research Center took part in a celebration for the Center’s Full-Scale Tunnel that is scheduled to be demolished early next year. The event included a slideshow presentation of the tunnel’s history and a tour through the facility. During the years when Langley was the NACA Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, the tunnel attracted pioneers and luminaries like Orville Wright, Charles Lindbergh, Glenn Curtiss and Howard Hughes.

Robert James Houston: "I went to work in the full scale tunnel on June 10, 1958. It was still NACA, but we knew NASA was coming, and I went to work in the boundary layer and helicopter branch working on vertical lift."

Long Yip: "Went through school and the first thing I did was open a textbook on aeronautics and it had the full scale tunnel, and lo and behold I never dreamed that I would have worked there; so actually coming there was a great experience."

Tests conducted included U.S. World War II aircraft, the P-51 aircraft, the Mercury entry capsule, submarines and NASCAR vehicles. In all 796 tests conducted in the tunnel, some of the results have been crucial to the future of flight. The tunnel often referred to as “The Langley Wind Tunnel” is one of dozens of wind tunnels at the Center.

A Portrait Unveiling Ceremony was held at NASA Headquarters to honor former agency head Sean O’Keefe. Appointed by President George W. Bush, O’Keefe was the agency’s 10th Administrator serving from 2001 to 2005.

Charles Bolden: "Many of the programs you’ve invested a lot of time and money in continue to exist today, and you should be very proud of the Mars Rovers for example, the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle, still operating today in conducting valuable research in no small part due to your leadership."

Sean O’Keefe: "This place is about trying, and while the risk is substantial, to choose not to continue in that quest would deny the soul. I learned that very, very, profoundly in this amazing experience to work with extraordinary people every single day I knew were far better at what they did to make this place than I could ever be. I thank you for this honor. It’s been a great privilege being here."

O’Keefe’s image was captured by award-winning artist Dean Paules, whose subjects have included the Nobel laureate Dr. George Hitchings, and General Richard Ellis, Commander of SAC and NATO.

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