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Transcript: This Week at NASA, January 14 - 20
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LAUNCH ANNOUNCER SOT: “…3-2-1, We have ignition and Lift Off of NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft on a decade long voyage to visit the planet Pluto and then beyond.” The third time was the charm for NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. It launched successfully from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a fast-moving Atlas V rocket. New Horizons is scheduled to rendezvous with the planet Pluto, nearly a decade from now. High winds at the launch site and a power outage foiled earlier attempts this week. New Horizons will cross the entire span of the solar system and conduct flyby studies of Pluto and Charon in 2015. The seven science instruments on the grand piano-sized probe will shed light on the bodies' surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres.

After a 7-year, 3-billion-mile historic journey, the Stardust Sample Return Canister has come home, carrying cosmic particles from the Comet Wild 2. Following a smooth landing in Dugway, Utah, the canister was delivered to Ellington Field in Houston, Texas and then transferred to a curation facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. NASA scientists have confirmed the capsule contains the cometary samples and interstellar dust particles they were hoping for. According to Stardust's principal investigator Donald Brownlee, the specimens exceed expectations.

BROWNLEE SOT: “…We’re absolutely thrilled. It’s totally remarkable to have a fully successful mission. You know of all the things that could go wrong, either in space, or even scientifically, none of that happened and everything really exceeded our wildest expectations!

Inside the capsule, a tennis racket-like sample tray holds the particles captured in aerogel, a sponge-like solid made of 99 percent empty space -- making it ideal for capturing tiny particles. The team is analyzing the particle capture cells and removing the individual grains they contain. The samples will be sent to select investigators worldwide.


NASA’s Space Shuttle program is full throttle as the New Years begins. Inside the Orbiter Processing Facility Bay 3, work continues progressing for Discovery's second space shuttle return-to-flight test mission, STS-121. Technicians are focusing on installing the orbiter’s fuel cells. Atlantis is readying for mission STS-115 in 2006. The most recent milestone is the installation of Atlantis’s Remote Manipulator System, which is used to move payloads and assist astronauts during spacewalks. And the orbiter Endeavor is opening its payload bay doors to support a mid-body wiring modification called the SSPTS or “station to shuttle power transfer system. This system allows the space shuttle to stay docked at the International Space Station longer by providing power and preserving consumables.


The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer aircraft touched down at the Space Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., to begin preparations for an attempt at a new world record for the longest flight made by any aircraft. Virgin's use of the landing facility is the result of a NASA pilot program designed to expand access to the space shuttle's runway and landing facility for non-NASA activities. Contingent upon weather and jet stream conditions, the flyer will take off sometime between now and the end of February 2006. The aircraft is piloted by veteran flyer Steve Fossett.


As usual, lots of activity on the International Space Station this week…

Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev completed an important upgrade to the International Space Station's spacewalk preparation systems. They installed the Recharge Oxygen Orifice Bypass Assembly which will conserve station oxygen during spacewalk preparations when the space shuttle is docked to the complex. It allows the crew, as they prepare for a spacewalk, to breathe oxygen from the shuttle rather than use oxygen from station tanks. The crew must breathe pure oxygen for an extended period before beginning a spacewalk to prevent decompression sickness. The new system will be used during the next shuttle mission.


During an in-flight educational event, the ISS crew had a chance to discuss life and work on the space station with students from the Kuss Middle School in Fall River, Massachusetts.

MCARTHUR SOT: “…You young folks really have prepared well for today. I congratulate you.”

McArthur and Tokarev are in 3 months into their six month mission.

And we've all heard that expression "walk a mile in my shoes." Well here's a new one -- run 13.1 miles in my sneakers -- on a treadmill-- in space. That's what Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur did on board the International Space Station. McArthur ran tandem with the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon on a specially designed space station treadmill which isolates vibrations that could disturb sensitive equipment or experiments. McArthur has run the Houston marathon in the past as well as the New York City, Atlanta, and Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. His finishing time -- 54 minutes, 32 seconds.

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