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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, November 19, 2010
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This Week at NASA…

SHUTTLE UPDATE – KSC (will be updated Wednesday, Nov. 24, post-status briefing)

Technicians and program managers at the Kennedy Space Center are working on analysis and repairs that are required to safely launch shuttle Discovery on its STS-133 mission.

This analysis will be in work during the next five days and will be reviewed at a special Program Requirements Control Board meeting on Wednesday, November 24. Based on a successful review of the flight rationale at that meeting, a Launch Status Briefing would be held with senior NASA management on Monday, November 29.

Scientists say the data collected by the EPOXI mission of comet Hartley 2 are as revealing as the pictures taken on the spacecraft’s recent flyby.

Michael A’Hearn - EPOXI Principle Investigator, University of Maryland: "When we saw the images come down, even in real time and the raw data and realized that we had a cloud of snow around the nucleus, we were astounded."

Analysis of the images shows that frozen carbon dioxide gas, or dry ice, is the primary jet fuel of this and perhaps many other comets. This dry ice, located under Hartley 2’s surface, is heated by the sun and powers the many jets of material coming from the comet.

Jessica Sunshine – EPOXI Deputy Principle Investigator, University of MD: "We can ask the question "What are these features that are caused by the jets" or "which is cause which is effect" and comparing the two surfaces I think is really going to let us understand how these work. "

The spacecraft passed Hartley 2 at an altitude of about 435 miles from the comet’s surface, close enough to reveal details of its nucleus never before seen in such clarity and detail.

Tim Larson - EPOXI Project Manager, JPL: "Getting to these small bodies and getting to these comets is hugely exciting and satisfying for me. And just on top of that, the incredible data that we’re finding when we fly by these and get up close and are really able to understand what they’re like and just understanding that so far that we’ve never been to any two comets that are the same."

The November 4th flyby gave scientists the most extensive look at a comet in history. Scientists say comets hold a key to understanding how our solar system formed more than 4-and-a-half-billion years ago.

Peter Schultz – EPOXI Mission Co-investigator, Brown University: "Who would’ve thought that we would get to see a comet close up like we just did?"

Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory believe they’ve discovered what could be the youngest black hole in our cosmic neighborhood -- a mere 30 years old.

Kim Weaver: "So this is a very important result, to be able to pinpoint the birthdate, of a black hole for the first time."

The "baby" black hole is a remnant of SN 1979C, a supernova in the galaxy M100 about 50 million light years from Earth. Scientists believe that SN1979C, discovered by an amateur astronomer in 1979, formed with the collapse of a star about 20 times more massive than our Sun. The object’s detection provides a unique opportunity to watch a black hole develop during infancy. In turn, scientists expect to better understand how massive stars explode, which ones leave behind black holes or neutron stars, and how many black holes exist in our galaxy and beyond.

Avi Loeb: "It would take the black hole about 40 million years to double its mass, and so we cannot really trace a change in the mass of the black hole, but the fact that the luminosity is steady, is a clear indication that we might be seeing a black hole accreting at its limiting accretion rate."


NASA's Operation IceBridge continues its multi-year science mission in and around the South Pole. Working from their mission headquarters in Punta Arenas, Chile, researchers are flying NASA's DC-8 aircraft to map Antarctic ice sheets and sea ice.

Seven instruments aboard the airborne laboratory are taking close readings of the frigid polar ice surfaces and the features hidden below, a critical step in understanding the dynamics of ice in West Antarctica and its ongoing impact on global sea-level rise.

Headquarters hosted the unveiling of the official portrait of former Deputy Administrator Shana Dale. The original oil painting is the work of renowned California portrait artist Ginny Stanford, whose other subjects include former president Bill Clinton.

Shana Dale: "I am humbled to be residing with some of the other greats that have been here at NASA."

Ms. Dale served as Deputy Administrator from November 2005 until January 2009. She was the first female to serve NASA in that role.

And now Centerpieces…


Stennis Center Director Patrick Scheuermann: "Today we are kicking off the 50th Anninversy celebration of our center, with the first legends lecture series with these three great legends that have taken time out of their valuable schedule to come here and talk to us today."

Stennis Space Center’s yearlong 50th Anniversary Celebration kicked off with the first of its Legends Lectures. The series features influential former and current employees sharing their experiences and contributions that have helped pave Stennis’s growth and development since its establishment a half-century ago.

George Hopson: "We have flown something like 400 engine flights and I think it’s because of the testing we did, I can’t tell you, how much I respect you and what you do. If we didn’t have somebody like Stennis testing the engines, I wouldn’t to be the manager of the engine program."

The first round of lectures focused on the transition between the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs and featured George Hopson, former Manager of the Space Shuttle Main Engine Project at the Marshall Space Flight Center; Jerry Hlass, former Stennis Center Director; and J.R. Thompson, former NASA Deputy Administrator.

J. R. Thompson: "The engineering was superb, but I think the real heart of it was the test program, and you people played a tremendous role."


June Lockhart - "Oh he is stunning."

Veteran television actress and NASA enthusiast June Lockhart stopped by the Johnson Space Center for a two-day visit and tour of several facilities, including the Neutral Bouyancy Lab and Mission Control.

June Lockhart: "You may remember me as Maureen Robinson – biochemist, doctor, wife and mother on the 1960s sci-fi adventure "Lost in Space.") Lockhart, who played the matriarch of the space family Robinson aboard Jupiter 2, also did a public service announcement urging students to study and consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

June Lockhart: Are you up for a challenge? NASA and I would like to challenge students to join us in exploring our world and what’s beyond."

And that's This Week at NASA!

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