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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, December 11
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This Week At NASA...


Tower: "You’re clear up to 30 degrees bank."

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA aircraft, took to the skies above California's Mojave Desert on its first flight since January 2008. The modified 747 carrying a German-built telescope for infrared astronomy research, flew about 4-and-a-half hours during a functional check flight in restricted airspace near Edwards Air Force Base and the Dryden Flight Research Center.

The flight evaluated the aircraft's performance, handling characteristics and flight systems at altitudes up to 35,000 feet, and included a check-out of aircraft systems, including engine, flight controls and communication.

Two additional flights are scheduled for later in the month to evaluate the doors covering the observatory’s telescope cavity. SOFIA will first fly with 10 percent of its telescope’s cavity door open, and then later with 100 percent of the telescope revealed.


NAT: "3-2-1"

How do you make a helicopter safer? (crash sounds) You crash it.

Researchers at the Langley Research Center recently dropped an old helicopter from a height of 35 feet to see whether an expandable honeycomb cushion attached to its belly could ease the destructive force of a crash.

NASA aerospace engineer Karen Jackson oversaw the test.

Karen Jackson: "One of the concepts is to look at exterior deployed systems like either air bags, or this concept we’ve tested today, as a way of providing energy attenuation without adding a lot of weight."

The test conditions imitated what would be a relatively severe helicopter crash. On impact, the helicopter's skids bent outward, but the cushion, called a deployable energy absorber, kept the rotorcraft's bottom from touching the ground. Four crash-test dummies, along for the ride, appeared only a little worse for wear.

Researchers must analyze the test results before they can be sure the deployable energy absorber worked as designed.


Charlie Bolden: "It’s an honor for me to be here."

That was NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden as guest speaker at a luncheon with members of Women In Aerospace. WIA is an organization dedicated to expanding women's opportunities for leadership, increasing their visibility in the aerospace community, and facilitating discussion of issues important to women.

Charlie Bolden: "In the area of science, technology, and aerospace, we also have more diversity at top levels than in the past. A few examples, of course at NASA, I’m proud to have Lori Garver as my Deputy Administrator."

WIA organizes numerous events featuring speakers from government, industry, education and the scientific community.


Robert Lightfoot: "There it is!"

The Marshall Space Flight Center officially ushered in its holiday season with a special tree lighting ceremony. Dozens of team members braved chilly temperatures outside Building 4200 to watch Center Director Robert Lightfoot flip the switch for the annual event. The crowd, which included children from Marshall's Child Development Center, sang carols, enjoyed hot cocoa and sweets – and rubbed elbows with St. Nick himself.

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