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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, September 17
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This Week at NASA…


Mission Control: "And we have contact."

The six-member ISS crew spent some time unpacking following the arrival of the unmanned Russian spacecraft Progress 39. After a two-day trek from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the cargo ship docked to the International Space Station filled with 2 ½ tons of food, fuel and other supplies to replenish the station’s coffers. Three of the station crew, Commander Alexander Skvortsov, NASA Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russian Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko have also been preparing for their return to Earth on September 23, after nearly six months of living and working in space.

A NASA led team made its 13th trip to the desert as part of the Research and Technology Studies -- Desert RATS. This year they tested rovers, robots and habitats that could be used in future space missions. Desert Rats gives engineers, astronauts and scientists an opportunity to assess hardware and concepts in locations that are representative of some of the harsh conditions found in space. This year’s testing location was chosen by the public from online postings on NASA’s website.

Some of the demonstrations in this year’s studies include: Space Exploration Vehicles, rovers where astronauts could live for seven days at a time, a Habitat Demonstration Unit/Pressurized Excursion Module, and the All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorers: two heavy-lift rover platforms that allow the habitat, or other large items, to be transported from one place to another.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden joined Dr. Cora Marrett, Acting Director of the National Science Foundation and other representatives from NASA, academia and industry for an Education Stakeholders' Summit aimed at building our nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics, aka STEM, education and workforce.

Participants also discussed the agency’s One Stop Shopping Initiative OSSI, and its new online application tool, SOLAR. Operating through a single online application, OSSI and SOLAR will help NASA market to eligible college and university students a portfolio of available internships, fellowships and scholarship opportunities in the agency’s mission directorates and centers.


The agency’s chief technologist, Bobby Braun, joined the director of the Johnson Space Center’s Engineering Directorate Steve Altemus for an insightful dialogue on risk management and engineering as part of the "Master with Masters" series. The discussion was facilitated by Dr. Ed Hoffman, director of the Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL).

Dr. Ed Hoffman: "With an organization that does one-of-a-kind missions, that is supposed to push the envelope, but also wants to have success, how do we define acceptable risk?"

Bobby Braun: "In the agency, from time to time, it’s been more of a pendulum approach where we take a lot of risks for awhile and then we get snakebit, and so we become very risk-averse. I think that for an agency likes NASA, there has to be a balance."

Steve Altemus: "We’ve learned to fly missions and fly crews on space station without systems being pristine. You can’t run flight, after flight, after flight, since “Return to Flight,” with such a success record, without understanding and appreciating the risk that goes into it each time."

Masters with Masters brings together two highly-skilled practitioners to share lessons learned and to examine key issues surrounding project management and engineering, all in the hopes of developing and maintaining a cohesive community of project management and engineering professionals across NASA.


Dr. James Green: "Well, it’s a very exciting event. We’re here today to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our first comet encounter."

NASA scientists and others from the field of cometary studies came together to commemorate 25 years of comet discoveries and to look ahead at those we might encounter in the future during a unique symposium at the Newseum in Washington.

Dr. James Green: "We're going to look not only backwards, but forwards. We’re going to take a little tour of some ancient history, try to put the context of what we now know about comets and how that’s changed over time and, in particular, look forward to two upcoming encounters."

Comets are remainders of material formed in the coldest part of our solar system and played a major role in Earth’s early evolution billions of years ago. Some, in fact, believe that these celestial bodies brought water and other organic molecules to our planet.

The 2009 astronaut candidate class toured NASA's Glenn Research Center facilities at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio and Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. A featured stop was the enhanced Zero-gravity Locomotion Simulator, a ground-based simulator that uses improved exercise countermeasure systems developed to address the detrimental physiological effects spaceflight has on the human body. The facility has been used to develop new treadmill harnesses that are now in use aboard the International Space Station.

September is National Preparedness Month, and in keeping with that theme NASA HQ hosted a special event to provide information on how employees can protect themselves, their homes, and their pets in the case of an emergency. Members from the agency’s Employee Assistance and Family Preparedness Programs were on hand to support employees in their efforts to prepare for the unexpected. And representatives from external organizations like the Red Cross, the Humane Society and the DC Fire Department also lent their support to the day’s activities.

The day’s events featured a Family Preparedness Forum with NASA Senior Managers and Administrator Bolden.

Charles Bolden: "When all hell breaks loose, it really does; some of you have lived through it, and you know how this city can go into gridlock. And, if you haven’t thought about it, and you haven’t talked with your families about it, and you haven’t prepared for it, then it’s a bad, bad, day. We don’t want to take a bad day and make it even worse because we didn’t plan, we didn’t prepare, we didn’t talk about it."

And that's This Week at NASA!

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