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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, March 12
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This Week At NASA...

As space shuttle Discovery waits at launch pad 39A for its liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center, the STS-131 crew continues to ready itself for its upcoming mission to the International Space Station. Commander Alan Poindexter and his international team of astronauts will deliver science racks for use in the station’s laboratories.

Alan Poindexter: "The crew has been very busy training and we finished our Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test last week at the Kennedy Space Center. We have a few more weeks of training to finish up and we’ll be ready for launch."

Mission specialists Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson are scheduled to perform three, six-and-one-half-hour spacewalks to replace, retrieve and switch out various elements outside the orbiting complex. For Mastracchio, this’ll be his third shuttle mission and second series of spacewalks.

Rick Mastracchio: "My first EVA, we’ll remove the new ammonia tank from the shuttle and get it on the station, we’ll temporarily stow it. The second EVA we’ll actually swap the two ammonia tanks, the new one for the old one, and then on the third EVA, we’ll moving the old tank from the space station into the shuttle’s payload bay for return. That’s the biggest challenge. Every EVA, between each EVA, we’re going to have to move the robotic arm. It has to walk off the robotic arm to a new work site, basically. So, there’s a lot of team work and a lot of integration involved."

Rounding out the STS-131 crew is pilot Jim Dutton, and Mission Specialists Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Discovery’s launch is targeted for the morning of April 5.

The final space shuttle mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope is the subject of a new IMAX film. "Hubble 3-D" was premiered during a special event held at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. The movie features the NASA astronauts from STS-125 who serviced Hubble in May 2009; an IMAX 3D camera mounted in space shuttle Atlantis' payload bay filmed their progress.

Scott Altman: "A lot of cameras rolling while we were up there. Of course everybody was watching. It was a mission that kept me on the edge of my seat while we were do it. I am just thrilled that everything worked together and it came out as well as it did at the end."

Lori Garver: "I remember the first Hubble launch, and obviously Charlie Bolden, my boss, was the pilot on the first launch of Hubble and we talk about this a lot, and I love the fact that the public gets the story and it’s the meddling of science and human space flight in a perfect way and NASA helping to overcome challenges, you couldn’t write a better story."

The 43 minute film narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio will open in IMAX and IMAX 3D theaters worldwide on March 19.

About 25 seventh-grade girls from area middle schools got up close and personal with unique aircraft and high technology when they participated in a "Tech Trek" tour of the Dryden Flight Research Center.

The Tech Trek, to develop interest and excitement about math and science and self-confidence among middle-school girls, included tours of Dryden's main aircraft hangar and several specialized research and support aircraft, including the modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and the Global Hawk and Ikhana unmanned science aircraft.

They also tested their piloting skills in one of Dryden's flight simulators, and met with female Dryden engineers and interns who encouraged them to pursue their science and mathematics interests through high school and college.

Tech Trek was sponsored by the California branch of the American Association of University Women, or AAUW.

The 48th Robert H. Goddard Memorial space symposium was held in Greenbelt, Maryland, home to the NASA center bearing the name of America’s pioneering rocketeer. Sponsored by the American Astronautical Society, the three-day event drew leaders from NASA, the aerospace industry and academia, and Washington policy-makers to discuss the major issues facing space exploration. Among other topics, panel discussions and presentations addressed Commercial Space Missions, Extreme Space Weather, Climate Change, and Space Science and the future of Human Space Flight.

WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH PROFILE: Madhulika Guhathakurta, Heliophysicist
In March 2006, heliophysicist Lika Guhathakurta was part of a NASA-led science expedition to Libya to witness a total solar eclipse. This international expedition was an unprecedented collaboration with Libyan scientists and researchers from across the globe. It was a project befitting a woman compelled to earn advanced degrees in astrophysics from American universities by a life-long fascination with the sky that began as a child in her native India.

Lika Guhathakurta: "My parents never stopped me and said ‘no you can’t do this because you’re a woman’."

That young girl grew up to eventually become the lead scientist for NASA's “Living with a Star" program, a set of missions in the relatively-new field of heliophysics that focuses on understanding changes in the sun and their effects on us here on Earth.

Lika Guhathakurta: "The goal of this program is to really study the Sun as variable star and determine its impact on life and society."

The first "Living with a Star" mission, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, is in space and is expected to begin producing important data about space weather for astrophysicists this spring.

Lika Guhathakurta: "The chain effect is just unbelievable, actually what happens, when you have disturbed our environment with a blast from the solar storm."

Lika Guhathakurta says her parents never told her she couldn’t realize her dreams, something she’s quick to remind other women who want to make the study of the stars their careers.

Lika Guhathakurta: "To pursue something that you believe in just doggedly. Don't let anyone stop you."

And that’s This Week @ NASA.

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