NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending November 14

NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending November 14
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This Week At NASA…

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star. Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter’s mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis, the Southern Fish.

Mark Clampin: "Most of the observations out there right now are what we called indirect detections, either the planets are found through spectroscopic observations that reveal a wobble, or they’re found as they transit across the face of their parent star, and you see a small dip in the light coming from them. This particular observation we have actually sent you the smoking gun; a real image of a planet."

Scientists had been hunting for a planet circling Fomalhaut since the early 1980s, when an excess of dust was discovered around the star by NASA’s Infrared Astronomy Satellite.

After five months on a mission that’s led to a wealth of discoveries, NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has stopped communicating with its team of scientists here on Earth. As expected, the Martian autumn has stopped producing enough sunshine for the lander to re-charge its batteries and power its instruments.

Among its accomplishments: the mission verified the presence of water-ice in the Martian sub-surface. Phoenix discovered chemicals that will advance the study of whether the Martian arctic could ever have supported microbial life. The spacecraft also coordinated with NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to perform simultaneous ground and orbital observations of Martian weather, and snapped more than 25-thousand pictures. These range from sweeping vistas of the Martian north, to images captured by the first atomic force microscope ever used outside Earth. Planned to gather and return data from Mars for 90 days, Phoenix exceeded its mission by two months.

A photograph of the Earth rising above the moon taken from space 42 years ago is now more detailed than ever. The iconic image snapped by the Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft in 1966 was saved on one of 15-hundred magnetic tapes recently rediscovered by NASA. The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at the Ames Research Center took analog data from the tapes, converted them to digital form, then reconstructed the image. Similarly-enhanced lunar images will be made available to the public after they’re processed and calibrated. Scientists hope the highly-detailed imagery will help plan NASA’s return to the moon.

NASA 50th ANNIVERSARY: Skylab 4, November 16, 1973
35 years ago in NASA history, Skylab 4 launched from the Kennedy Space Center carrying crew members, Gerry Carr, Bill Pogue and Ed Gibson. The last manned flight to America's first experimental space station, this 84-day mission included numerous experiments to prove that humans could live and work in space for extended periods. The Skylab 4 crew also observed Comet Kohoutek, and helped expand knowledge of solar astronomy well beyond Earth-based capabilities.

Three pioneering men, six phenomenal days…

Four days before Christmas, on December 21, 1968, Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders made their mark in the history books becoming the first men to circle the moon. Two Washington institutions hosted events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the mission. The Newseum hosted a unique discussion with the Apollo 8 astronauts about their epic journey.

William Anders: "The most memorable thing for me was to see the earth about as big as your fist at arms length and realize and the idea that the earth is so tiny almost trivial on the physical scale of things, I don’t think that’s sunk in general to humanity."

James Lovell: "My most memorable moment was when I looked out the window and saw water splashing on the thing, knowing that we had safely landed in the pacific." (Laugher)

The event also featured the premiere of the Newseum’s new NASA short documentary.

Senator John Glenn: "It is my pleasure to welcome the Apollo 8 astronauts."

The National Air and Space Museum also hosted an event to honor Borman, Lovell and Anders and remember the accomplishments of Apollo 8.

James Lovell: "The mission of Apollo 8 was really to check the navigation and to check for suitable landing spots, the flat areas, the maria, the seas that would give the people who would attempt the first landing the greatest chance of survival."

Frank Borman: "I think that the three of us were very, very fortunate Americans. Four-hundred-thousand people put that thing together, four-hundred-thousand Americans. I felt very, very blessed to be with Jim and Bill because there was a wonderful comraderie there."

The successful six-day Apollo 8 mission proved a firm stepping stone to the Apollo 11 moon landing seven months later.

And that's This Week At NASA!

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