NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending December 19

NASA TV's This Week @NASA, Week Ending December 19
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This Week At NASA…

The Ames Research Center hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil Pleiades. Housed inside the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility, Pleiades is one of the three fastest supercomputers in the world.

S. Pete Worden: "This is really cool! This computer is already being used to assist in our development of the constellation program. This is the program to take us back to the moon and back into the solar system. And, it is, as I understand, actually the exploration mission directorate is already the largest single user."

It contains almost 13,000 Intel Xeon processors that allow it to run some 487 trillion operations, or TeraFLOPS, per second. Pleiades will help researchers solve complex science and engineering problems for establishing an outpost on the moon, and eventually sending astronauts to Mars.

Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Jack Schmitt and John Young met with the Constellation program’s Altair lunar lander design team at the Johnson Space Center. The Altair team showed their design concepts to the astronauts, and talked with them about their experiences during the Apollo program. The four moonwalkers checked out an Altair mock-up and stepped inside a concept design for the living quarters. Altair will house four astronauts for up to four days on the moon; it’ll also be able to deliver cargo to the lunar surface.

The head of the German Aerospace Center paid a visit to the Dryden Flight Research Center. Dr. Johann-Dietrich Worner met with Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, at Dryden’s Aircraft Operations Facility. That’s where the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, aircraft is housed. NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are partners in the SOFIA program. The aircraft consists of a NASA 747SP with a German-built telescope system installed in the rear fuselage. When it becomes fully-operational in 2014, SOFIA will fly above the clouds of Earth’s atmosphere to provide scientists with world-class infrared astronomy that’ll complement space- and ground-based telescopes.

This year’s 11th annual Invention Challenge at the Jet Propulsion Lab featured twenty-six Southern California middle and high school teams racing their self-built miniature cars back along a steel wire suspended four feet above ground.

Paul MacNeil: "The idea of the invention challenge is to show students that math and science can lead to some very fun and entertaining projects. And, by having them come to JPL, and see JPL engineers working with side-by-side with them, they can actually appreciate the fact that engineering might be a fun and challenging career for everybody to get into."

Competitors adhered to strict rules; for example, no remote controls or human power could be used to propel the cars.

Contest referee: "3-2-1-GO! Stop and Completed!"

Student team selection was based on preliminary regional contests. Thirteen JPL-staffed engineering and science teams also competed. Winners received first, second and third place trophies. Certificates were also awarded for the lightest, smallest, largest, most unusual and most creative designs.

Forty years ago this week, the crew of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders became the first humans to visit another heavenly body when they successfully orbited the moon. Not only did their mission help lead the way to future landings on the moon; it also turned humankind’s attention from a year of tragic world events, to three men making a first-of-its-kind journey through the heavens. Anders photographed the Earth as never seen before.

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

The Apollo 8 crew also made six live television transmissions during their mission. On Christmas Eve, as hundreds of millions of people watched their TVs back on Earth, the three astronauts took turns reading from the book of Genesis.

Apollo 8 astronauts: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth and the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and god said, ‘let there be light.’"

Mike Fincke: "Greetings from aboard the international space station. This is Expedition 18 and we wish you a very happy holidays from the international space station and best wishes for a happy and healthy year ahead."

And that's This Week At NASA! Happy holidays!

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