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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, October 25, 2010
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This Week at NASA…


NASA managers gave a “thumbs up” for space shuttle Discovery’s upcoming launch to the International Space Station.

Bill Gerstenmaier: “ We set the launch date for November first and we see pretty much normal flow between now and November first, so again a very thorough review; teams are very focused on what they need to do.”

This official launch date announcement followed a Flight Readiness Review held at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at which shuttle managers assessed preparations for Discovery’s final flight.

Mike Moses: "Quite a remarkable history for Discovery, it’s had a whole bunch of firsts. It carried Hubble into orbit. It was our Return to Flight vehicle following both Challenger and Columbia. It was the pathfinder as we put new systems in place – new safety features. At the end of its life here, it’ll have traveled over about 150 million miles and the more impressive stat that I saw today was the number of days it’ll have been in space will be just about a year. "

STS-133, the 35th shuttle mission to the orbiting complex, includes crew members Commander Steven Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Mike Barratt, Tim Kopra and Nicole Stott. Discovery will deliver and install the Permanent Multipurpose Module, the Express Logistics Carrier 4, provide critical spare station components, and bring into space the first humanoid robot, Robonaut 2, which will take up permanent residency on the ISS.

Soil inside shadowy craters on the moon is rich in useful materials. That’s one of the findings by NASA scientists after analyzing the impact plume created by the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission last year. The lunar soil also showed that the moon is chemically active and has a water cycle.

Anthony Colaprete: "There are a variety of sources, either comets or the solar wind, and these sources are coming to the moon and then, once at the moon, this water is migrating, moving around the moon and finding its way to various places, like the cold craters. But it doesn’t stop there. Once in the cold craters, there’s chemistry going on that’s further changing these compounds, having them interact with each other and resulting in this mix of water and other things."

LCROSS collected invaluable data as it flew through the debris kicked up by the crash of its Centaur rocket’s spent upper stage into a permanently-shadowed region of a lunar crater on October 9, 2009.

Anthony Colaprete: "The other thing we found that was really startling, a real surprise, was just the total amount of material other than dirt in this crater. We found between 10 and 20 percent other material. By other material, I mean water, hydrocarbons like methane and ammonia. We found things like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide. We even found mercury frozen out in this dark crater. That was a huge surprise."

Scientists believe the materials found in the permanently-shadowed region of the crater, named Cabeus, might not have seen sunlight for billions of years.


President Obama: "I am having so much fun!"

At the White House Science Fair, President Obama viewed exhibits of winning student projects, ranging from breakthrough basic research to new inventions. Among the exhibits was one from a Los Angeles, Calif. team that captured the Inspire Award, the most prestigious honor at the 2010 FIRST Tech Challenge. The NASA Robotics Alliance Project supports participation in the FIRST Robotics Competition by providing grants to high school teams, as well as sponsoring FIRST regional competitions.

NASA is bringing the public one step closer to the universe through a partnership with Gowalla. The mobile web application lets users check-in via smart phone as they visit a location. When users visit a NASA-related venue, such as the Kennedy Space Center or here, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, they’ll be awarded a virtual NASA item, such as moon rocks or a space shuttle. Gowalla users collecting enough of these items will qualify for the chance to win a special limited edition NASA/Gowalla map.

The virtual items will be "available" at NASA visitor centers and at more than 400 museums, science centers, observatories, and other NASA Museum Alliance members.

To view the NASA/Gowalla map and connect with NASA and @Astro_Mike on Gowalla and other social media applications, visit:

The sunshield for the James Webb Space Telescope has successfully passed the first in a series of launch depressurization tests to verify its flight design. JWST, a next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the very first galaxies and see unexplored planets around distant stars. To capture these faint infrared images, the telescope’s instruments must stay below -369.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The sunshield is designed to protect these critical observation instruments from the heat of the sun and Earth. The 90-second depressurization tests proved that the stowed, folded sunshield will retain its shape during launch and ventilate properly, both functions are critical to its successful deployment and performance.

Scheduled to launch in 2014, the James Webb Telescope will be most powerful space telescope ever built.

Ed Weiler: "If you liked Hubble, you’ll love James Webb because James Webb will be a hundred times more sensitive than the Hubble, so we’ll not only continue the great science of Hubble, but expand it greatly."


Imagine a future where some airplanes can be controlled from cell phones. Or cars that get a hundred miles to the gallon. That future is already here as demonstrated at Aviation Unleashed - a conference in Hampton, Virginia sponsored by NASA’s Langley Research Center and the National Institute of Aerospace. The event worked to bring visionary and entrepreneurs together to paint a picture of what kind of surprises aviation might have for us by 2050.

Vicki Crisp: "So,will they be surprised to learn about new technologies such as unmanned airspace systems; it’s going to be exciting. Wouldn’t you love to have that in larger size that you’re inside and you can fly around in. That could be our future -- that could be sitting in your garage."

For now that quadra-copter is primarily a toy. The Parrot AR drone equipped with four rotors, a camera, and WI-FI that can be flown from an IPhone or IPad, but some NASA engineers and students are using the aircraft as part of their aeronautics research.

One popular vehicle at the conference wasn't an aircraft at all. It was the Automotive X Prize-winning Edison 2 “very light” car that can travel a hundred miles on one gallon of gas. The automobile has some things in common with an aircraft.

RON MATHIS: "It’s designed to be very light and very aerodynamic. In fact, we have some really good aero people on our team."

Some future aerodynamicists also gave conference participants a look of their vision. Students from the University of Maryland’s Morpheus Lab showcased flying research vehicles that flap like birds.

A six-member crew from Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters visited the Glenn Research Center to film a segment for the popular show. In its eighth season, Mythbusters tests the validity of common myths and rumors using scientific methodology and ingenuity. While they were not at liberty to discuss WHAT myth they were busting, the show’s crew DID utilize Glenn’s Icing Research Tunnel. The IRT is used by researchers to develop, test and certify methods to prevent ice buildup on gas turbine-powered aircraft, as well as investigate deicing and anti-icing fluids for both military and commercial aircraft.

And that's This Week at NASA!

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