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26 Teachers to go Into Space on NASA's SOFIA Airborne Observatory

"The unique design of SOFIA gives educators hands-on experience with world-class astronomical research," said John Gagosian, SOFIA program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Working with astronomers, educators participate in a research project from beginning to end and integrate that unique perspective with classroom lessons and public outreach programs."

SOFIA's Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program is a yearly professional development opportunity extended to educators through a competitive, peer-reviewed process. This year's educators are:

-- Melvin Gorman and Gordon Serkis, Chinle Junior High School in Chinle, Ariz.

-- Ira Harden and Vincente Washington, City Honors College Preparatory Charter School in Inglewood, Calif.

-- Clifford Gerstman and Susan Groff, Middle College High School in Santa Ana, Calif.

-- Mike Cimino, Heritage Middle School, and John Clark, Deltona High School in Deltona, Fla.

-- Randi Brennon, Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences in Pahoa, Hawaii

-- Jo Dodds, Twin Falls Senior High School in Twin Falls, Idaho

-- Ralph Peterson, North Gem High School in Bancroft, Idaho

-- Jennifer Carter and Claudett M. Edie, Rowan County Senior High School in Morehead, Ky.

-- Chelen Johnson, Breck School in Golden Valley, Minn

-- Matt Oates, Dilworth STEM Academy in Sparks, Nev.

-- Dan Ruby, Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center in Reno, Nev.

-- Ryan Munkwitz and John Walsh, Southampton Intermediate and High School in Southampton, N.Y.

-- James Johnson, Children's Center for Treatment & Education in Custer City, Pa.

-- Adriana Alvarez and Mariela Aguirre, Alicia R. Chacon International School in El Paso, Texas

-- David V. Black, Walden School of Liberal Arts in Provo, Utah

-- Carolyn Bushman, Wendover Jr./Sr. High School in Wendover, Utah

-- Sarah Scoles, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and Anne Smith, Green Bank Middle School in Green Bank, W.Va.

-- Constance Gartner, Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan, Wis.

These educators submitted applications describing how they plan to take what they learn from SOFIA back to their classrooms and communities to help promote increased literacy in science, technology, engineering and math, said astronomer Dana Backman, manager of SOFIA's education and public outreach programs. Selection for this unique opportunity is truly an honor for the educators, as well as for their local schools and science centers.

SOFIA is a joint program between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The SOFIA program is managed at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., where the aircraft is based. NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages SOFIA science and mission operations in concert with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) in Stuttgart, Germany. SOFIA's education and public outreach programs are managed by the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in San Francisco.

Modified GT Sets World Speed Record at SLF

6-23-2011 A modified Ford GT set a world record during testing June 16 and 17 when Johnny Bohmer reached 223 mph on the runway of NASA Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility. A Guinness World Records judge authenticated the accomplishment, confirming Bohmer's place in automotive history, along with Kennedy's role in the achievement.

Bohmer's Performance Power Racing modified the car and was testing the suspension and aerodynamic coatings at the runway. The record is the first in the new Guinness category of standing mile for a street-legal car. That means Bohmer began from a standstill and revved up to speeds faster than the space shuttle's average touchdown speed.

"This is probably the best place on the Earth," Bohmer said before the run. "It's very nice, I'm very happy with it. I took it up to 210 (June 16) without trying."

Built for spacecraft returning from orbit at high speeds, the three-mile long concrete runway is becoming a preferred testing ground for drivers and racing teams. Joe Gibbs racing, which competes in NASCAR events, has used the runway for evaluations, as have Indy Car teams.

Breaking NASA News

NASA TV to Broadcast U.S. Cargo Ship Departure from Space Station

2-18-2016 After delivering more than 7,000 pounds of cargo to support dozens of science experiments from around the world, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station Friday, Feb. 19. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the event beginning at 7 a.m. EST.

The Cygnus spacecraft, which arrived at the station Dec. 9, will be detached from the Earth-facing side of the station's Unity module using the Canadarm2 robotic arm, operated by ground controllers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA’s Mission Control Center will maneuver Cygnus into place and Expedition 46 robotic arm operators Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra of NASA will give the command for its 7:25 a.m. release.

Once the spacecraft is a safe distance from the station, its engines will fire twice, pushing it into Earth's atmosphere where it will burn up over the Pacific Ocean. The deorbit burn and reentry of Cygnus will not air on NASA TV.

Experiments delivered on Cygnus supported NASA and other research investigations during Expeditions 45 and 46, in areas such as biology, biotechnology, and physical and Earth science -- research that impacts life on Earth. Investigations included a new life science facility that will support studies on cell cultures, bacteria and other microorganisms, a microsatellite deployer and the first microsatellite to be deployed from the space station. Experiments exploring the behavior of gases and liquids, clarifying the thermo-physical properties of molten steel, and testing flame-resistant textiles also were delivered.

The Cygnus resupply craft launched Dec. 6 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, for the company’s fourth NASA-contracted commercial station resupply mission.

For NASA TV schedule and video streaming information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

NASA, University Study Shows Rising Sea Levels Slowed by Increasing Water on Land

2-12-2016 New measurements from a NASA satellite have allowed researchers to identify and quantify, for the first time, how climate-driven increases of liquid water storage on land have affected the rate of sea level rise.

A new study by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and the University of California, Irvine, shows that while ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, changes in weather and climate over the past decade have caused Earth’s continents to soak up and store an extra 3.2 trillion tons of water in soils, lakes and underground aquifers, temporarily slowing the rate of sea level rise by about 20 percent.

The water gains over land were spread globally, but taken together they equal the volume of Lake Huron, the world’s seventh largest lake. The study is published in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal Science.

Each year, a large amount of water evaporates from the oceans, falls over land as rain or snow, and returns to the oceans through runoff and river flows. This is known as the global hydrologic, or water, cycle. Scientists have long known small changes in the hydrologic cycle -- by persistent regional changes in soil moisture or lake levels, for instance -- could change the rate of sea level rise from what we would expect based on ice sheet and glacier melt rates. However, they did not know how large the land storage effect would be because there were no instruments that could accurately measure global changes in liquid water on land.

"We always assumed that people’s increased reliance on groundwater for irrigation and consumption was resulting in a net transfer of water from the land to the ocean,” said lead author J.T. Reager of JPL, who began work on the study as a graduate student at UC Irvine. "What we didn’t realize until now is that over the past decade, changes in the global water cycle more than offset the losses that occurred from groundwater pumping, causing the land to act like a sponge -- at least temporarily. These new data are vital for understanding decadal variations in sea level change. The information will be a critical complement to future long-term projections of sea level rise, which depend on melting ice and warming oceans.”

The 2002 launch of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellites provided the first tool capable of quantifying land liquid water storage trends. By measuring the distance between the two GRACE satellites to within the width of a strand of human hair as they orbit Earth, researchers can detect changes in Earth’s gravitational pull that result from regional changes in the amount of water across Earth’s surface. With careful analysis of these data, JPL scientists were able to measure the change in liquid water storage on the continents, as well as the changes in ice sheets and glaciers.

“These results will lead to a refinement of global sea level budgets, such as those presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, which acknowledge the importance of climate-driven changes in hydrology, but have been unable to include any reliable estimate of their contribution to sea level changes,” said JPL senior water scientist Jay Famiglietti, senior author of the paper and a professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Famiglietti also noted the study is the first to observe global patterns of changes in land water storage, with wet regions getting more wet and dry areas getting drier.

Are you worried about your city being swallowed up by rising waters?

In our lifetime that probably won't happen. Rather major storms could cause more loss of lands. Editors note

“These patterns are consistent with earlier observations of changing precipitation over both land and oceans, and with IPCC projections of changing precipitation under a warming climate,” he said. “But we’ll need a much longer data record to fully understand the underlying cause of the patterns and whether they will persist.”

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more on NASA's sea level rise research:

https://sealevel.nasa.gov/

More information on the GRACE mission can be found at:

http://grace.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/grace/

For more on how NASA studies Earth:

http://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/

NASA Spacecraft Detects Impact Glass on Surface of Mars

6-8-2015 Researchers have found deposits of impact glass (in green) preserved in Martian craters, including Alga Crater, shown here. The detection is based on data from the instrument Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

glass mountain  on Mars

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona

6-8-2015 During the past few years, research has shown evidence about past life has been preserved in impact glass here on Earth. A 2014 study led by scientist Peter Schultz of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, found organic molecules and plant matter entombed in glass formed by an impact that occurred millions of years ago in Argentina. Schultz suggested that similar processes might preserve signs of life on Mars, if they were present at the time of an impact.

Fellow Brown researchers Kevin Cannon and Jack Mustard, building on the previous research, detail their data about Martian impact glass in a report now online in the journal Geology.

“The work done by Pete and others showed us that glasses are potentially important for preserving biosignatures,” Cannon said. “Knowing that, we wanted to go look for them on Mars and that’s what we did here. Before this paper, no one had been able to definitively detect them on the surface.”

Cannon and Mustard showed large glass deposits are present in several ancient, yet well-preserved, craters on Mars. Picking out the glassy deposits was no easy task. To identify minerals and rock types remotely, scientists measured the spectra of light reflected off the planet’s surface. But impact glass doesn’t have a particularly strong spectral signal.

“Glasses tend to be spectrally bland or weakly expressive, so signature from the glass tends to be overwhelmed by the chunks of rock mixed in with it,” said Mustard. “But Kevin found a way to tease that signal out.”

In a laboratory, Cannon mixed together powders with a similar composition of Martian rocks and fired them in an oven to form glass. He then measured the spectral signal from that glass.

Once Mustard had the signal from the lab glass, he used an algorithm to pick out similar signals in data from MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), for which he is the deputy principal investigator.

The technique pinpointed deposits in several Martian crater central peaks, the craggy mounds that often form in the center of a crater during a large impact. The fact the deposits were found on central peaks is a good indicator that they have an impact origin.

Knowing that impact glass can preserve ancient signs of life -- and now knowing that such deposits exist on the Martian surface today -- opens up a potential new strategy in the search for ancient Martian life.

“The researchers’ analysis suggests glass deposits are relatively common impact features on Mars,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “These areas could be targets for future exploration as our robotic scientific explorers pave the way on the journey to Mars with humans in the 2030s.”

NASA’s Kepler Marks 1,000th Exoplanet Discovery, Uncovers More Small Worlds in Habitable Zones

1-7-2015 How many stars like our sun host planets like our Earth? NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope continuously monitored more than 150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study -- the 1,000th of which was recently verified. Using Kepler data, scientists reached this millenary milestone after validating that eight more candidates spotted by the planet-hunting telescope are, in fact, planets. The Kepler team also has added another 554 candidates to the roll of potential planets, six of which are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of stars similar to our sun.

Three of the newly-validated planets are located in their distant suns’ habitable zone, the range of distances from the host star where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet. Of the three, two are likely made of rock, like Earth.

"Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission's treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “The Kepler team and its science community continue to produce impressive results with the data from this venerable explorer." To determine whether a planet is made of rock, water or gas, scientists must know its size and mass. When its mass can’t be directly determined, scientists can infer what the planet is made of based on its size.

Two of the newly validated planets, Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b, are less than 1.5 times the diameter of Earth. Kepler-438b, 475 light-years away, is 12 percent bigger than Earth and orbits its star once every 35.2 days. Kepler-442b, 1,100 light-years away, is 33 percent bigger than Earth and orbits its star once every 112 days.

Both Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b orbit stars smaller and cooler than our sun, making the habitable zone closer to their parent star, in the direction of the constellation Lyra. The research paper reporting this finding has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

With each new discovery of these small, possibly rocky worlds, our confidence strengthens in the determination of the true frequency of planets like Earth," said co-author Doug Caldwell, SETI Institute Kepler scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. "The day is on the horizon when we’ll know how common temperate, rocky planets like Earth are.”

NASA Receives Fourth Consecutive Clean Audit Opinion

NASA Bolden pix curtesy of NASANASA Administrator Charles Bolden

11-19-2014 NASA has received an unmodified, or “clean”, audit opinion on its fiscal year 2014 financial statements, marking the fourth consecutive year of “clean” opinions. The agency has released its fiscal year 2014 Agency Financial Report (AFR), which provides details on its financial results and performance highlights.

The auditor's unmodified opinion on our financial statements in FY 2014 concludes NASA's financial statements fairly present the agency's financial position and results of operations. An unmodified opinion is the highest audit opinion that may be received from an external auditor.

“Fiscal Year 2014 marks the fourth year in a row NASA has received a “clean” audit opinion, and the second consecutive year without any material weaknesses or significant deficiencies,” said NASA Chief Financial Officer, David Radzanowki. “This reflects the agency’s strong commitment to excellence in financial management, which together with our continued emphases on improved processes and controls, further strengthens NASA’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars and supports the agency’s mission.”

AFR reflects several highlights of NASA's progress toward meeting its strategic goals. The agency has been successful in its work to facilitate commercial access to low-Earth orbit to free up NASA to pursue bold human exploration missions by continuing to develop the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket. The Orion spacecraft and the SLS will carry future astronauts into deep space.

FY 2014 was also highlighted by launching several scientific spacecraft and many other breakthroughs in science, aeronautics, and technology development that advanced the nation's technical capabilities and expanded our knowledge of the universe.

NASA also produces an Annual Performance Report (APR) that will include more details on these important accomplishments. The APR will be released early next year concurrently with the president's budget request for FY 2015.

NASA Lunar Mission Wins 2014 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award

10-8-2014 NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission has received the Popular Mechanics 2014 Breakthrough Award for innovation in science and technology. The 10th annual Breakthrough Awards recognize innovators, engineers and scientists responsible for changing our world.

The award acknowledges LADEE’s modular flexible construction and laser data transfer capability, which can send and receive data more than six times faster than the quickest space-based radio signals.

"We're proud of the LADEE mission's accomplishments and this recognition," said S. Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, which designed, developed, built, integrated, tested and controlled the spacecraft. "LADEE may have been the first Ames-built spacecraft, but after the Kepler mission's win in 2009 and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission's win in 2010, it's the third Ames mission to be honored with this award."

LADEE launched in September 2013, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. The car-sized lunar orbiter gathered detailed information on the structure and composition of our moon’s thin atmosphere and data to determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky. A thorough understanding of these characteristics of our nearest celestial neighbor will help researchers understand other bodies in the solar system, such as large asteroids, Mercury, and the moons of outer planets.

The first Ames-built spacecraft enjoyed many other firsts throughout its mission. The occasion of its launch was the first flight of a converted U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket, an excess ballistic missile converted into a space launch vehicle and operated by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia. It also was the first launch beyond Earth orbit from the agency's Virginia launch facility.

Hosted aboard LADEE for its ride to lunar orbit was the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) terminal. From a distance of almost a quarter-of-a-million miles, LLCD demonstrated record-breaking upload and download speeds. The cooperative mission with a team from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and MIT's Lincoln Laboratory revealed the possibility of expanding broadband capabilities in future space communications development.

NASA Launches New Citizen Science Website; Opens Challenge to Participate in Future Mars Missions 

9-20-2014 Do you want to go to Mars? NASA announced Saturday the opening of registration for its Mars Balance Mass Challenge and the launch of its new website, NASA Solve, at the World Maker Faire in New York.

“NASA is committed to engaging the public, and specifically the maker community through innovative activities like the Mars Balance Mass Challenge,” said NASA Chief Technologist David Miller. “And NASA Solve is a great way for members of the public, makers and other citizen scientists to see all NASA challenges and prizes in one location.”

The Mars Balance Mass Challenge seeks design ideas for small science and technology payloads that could potentially provide dual purpose as ejectable balance masses on spacecraft entering the Martian atmosphere.

The payloads will serve two roles: perform scientific or technology functions that help us learn more about the Red Planet, and provide the necessary weight to balance planetary landers.

Submissions are due by Nov. 21. A winner will be announced in mid-January 2015 and receive an award of $20,000.

“We want people to get involved in our journey to Mars,” said Lisa May, lead program executive for NASA’s Mars exploration program. “This challenge is a creative way to bring innovative ideas into our planning process, and perhaps help NASA find another way to pack more science and technology into a mission.”

NASA Solve, which will host content for all agency challenges and prizes, features information on this new challenge at: http://www.nasa.gov/solve/marsbalancechallenge

Hubble Sees Starbursts in the Wake of a Fleeting Romance 

According to NASA 5-18-2014 This image from NASA/ESA's Hubble Space Telescope shows galaxy NGC 4485 in the constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs). The galaxy is irregular in shape, but it hasn’t always been so. Part of NGC 4485 has been dragged towards a second galaxy, named NGC 4490 — which lies out of frame to the bottom right of this image.

Between them, these two galaxies make up a galaxy pair called Arp 269. Their interactions have warped them both, turning them from spiral galaxies into irregular ones. NGC 4485 is the smaller galaxy in this pair, which provides a fantastic real-world example for astronomers to compare to their computer models of galactic collisions. The most intense interaction between these two galaxies is all but over; they have made their closest approach and are now separating. The trail of bright stars and knotty orange clumps that we see here extending out from NGC 4485 is all that connects them — a trail that spans some 24 000 light-years.

NASA Studies Twin Astronauts Health From Space Journey

3-8-2014 Only one set of twins has ever been into space, and now those twins are providing an unprecedented opportunity for scientists to understand better the effects of microgravity on the human body.

NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) will fund 10 short-term, first-of-its-kind investigations into the molecular, physiological and psychological effects of spaceflight in a continuous effort to reduce the health impacts of human space exploration. The National Space Biomedical Research Institute is partnering with HRP to provide genetic counseling and assisting in the management of the research.

This unique opportunity is made possible by NASA's decision to fly veteran astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station for one year, beginning March 2015, while his identical twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, remains on Earth.

This study will focus in part on the comparison of blood samples collected from Scott and Mark at regular intervals before, during and after the one-year mission. Physiological and psychological testing also will be conducted on the brothers before, during and after the mission.

Scientific and technical experts from academia and government reviewed 40 proposals submitted in response to the research announcement "Human Exploration Research Opportunities - Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors." The 10 selected proposals, which are from 10 institutions in seven states, will receive a combined $1.5 million during a three-year period.

Solar Dynamics Observatory Shows Sun's Rainbow of Wavelengths

This still image was taken from a new NASA movie of the sun based on data from NASA's SolarDynamics Observatory, or SDO, showing the wide range of wavelengths – invisible to the naked eye – that the telescope can view. SDO converts the wavelengths into an image humans can see, and the light is colorized into a rainbow of colors.

Yellow light of 5800 Angstroms, for example, generally emanates from material of about 10,000 degrees F (5700 degrees C), which represents the surface of the sun. Extreme ultraviolet light of 94 Angstroms, which is typically colorized in green in SDO images, comes from atoms that are about 11 million degrees F (6,300,000 degrees C) and is a good wavelength for looking at solar flares, which can reach such high temperatures. By examining pictures of the sun in a variety of wavelengths – as is done not only by SDO, but also by NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory and the European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory -- scientists can track how particles and heat move through the sun's atmosphere.

NASA station Crew Research Photo credit NASA

Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata participates in the Reversible Figures experiment inside the Columbus laboratory of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA TV

Station Crew Keeps Eye on Science and Research

11-14-2013 The International Space Station’s Expedition 38 crew tackled a variety of experiments looking into the effects of space travel on the human body, set up hardware for a study with potential benefits for the energy industry and conducted training sessions for the three newest crew members.

Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins spent much of his morning preparing hardware for an experiment inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox to help researchers learn more about diffusion processes that are of particular interest to the petroleum industry.

The experiment known as the Selectable Optics Diagnostic Instrument - Diffusion and Soret Coefficient, or SODI-DSC, takes a look at diffusion in six different liquids over time in the absence of gravity-induced convection. Data from this experiment will enable scientists to develop better models to reduce the number of exploratory wells that must be drilled at a site to characterize an energy reservoir as well as predict the complex behavior of crude oils.

The test samples for SODI-DSC will be arriving at the station aboard the ISS Progress 53 cargo ship, scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in late November.

International Space Station Trip

9-25-2013 Three new Expedition 37 crew members lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:58 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Sept. 25 (2:58 a.m. Kazakh time, Thursday, Sept. 26) on a six-hour trek to the International Space Station.

Expedition 37 Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins of NASA and Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are scheduled to dock their Soyuz spacecraft to the orbiting laboratory's Poisk module at 10:48 p.m. EDT. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the rendezvous and docking beginning at 10 p.m.

The crew is scheduled to open the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the space station at about 12:25 a.m. Thursday Sept. 26. Hatch opening coverage begins on NASA TV at midnight.

Hopkins, Kotov and Ryazanskiy will be greeted by three Expedition 37 crew members who have been aboard the space station since late May: Commander Fyodor Yurchikin of Rosmosmos and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.

The new crew will remain aboard the station until mid-March. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano will return to Earth Nov. 11.

Expedition 37 will add several critical scientific investigations to the more than 1,600 experiments that have taken place so far aboard the space station. Several new investigations will focus on human health and human physiology. The crew will examine the effects of long-term exposure to microgravity on the immune system, provide metabolic profiles of the astronauts and collect data to help scientists understand how the human body changes shape in space. The crew also will conduct 11 investigations from the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program on antibacterial resistance, hydroponics, cellular division, microgravity oxidation, seed germination, photosynthesis and the food making process in microgravity.

For information on the International Space Station, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/station

Space X Completes Orbit and Enty Review

8-16-2013 NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) recently reviewed the systems critical to sustaining crews in orbit and returning them safely to Earth aboard the company's Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX is one of three commercial space companies working under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative to develop spaceflight capabilities that eventually could provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

During the preliminary design review at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., company engineers presented NASA representatives and aerospace industry experts detailed analyses of Dragon systems critical to keeping crews safe in orbit and during re-entry operations. From basic life support functions, including pressurizing Dragon with breathable air, to stocking the capsule with enough food and water for as many as seven crew members, the spacecraft must be designed to protect humans in the harsh conditions of space. Company designers and NASA engineers dissected the plans carefully to make sure no details were overlooked.

"NASA has learned a lot about keeping our astronaut crews safe throughout a mission, and we don't want those lessons to be forgotten," said Ed Mango, NASA's CCP manager. "So, we're sharing a lot of what we already know, and the company is adding its own innovations to suit its needs and meet its challenges."

photo of astronaut Sally Ride in space

Photo Curtesy of NASA

Astronaut Sally Ride Honored

5-20-2013The president announced Monday afternoon Ride will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House later this year. The Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

"We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women," said President Obama. "Sally inspired us to reach for the stars, and she advocated for a greater focus on the science, technology, engineering and math that would help us get there. Sally showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I look forward to welcoming her family to the White House as we celebrate her life and legacy."

Monday night, NASA further paid tribute to Ride by creating a new agency internship program in her name and renaming a science instrument aboard the International Space Station. The announcement was made by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during a national tribute called, "Sally Ride: A Lifetime of Accomplishment, A Champion of Science Literacy," at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

The Sally Ride Internship is intended to help students from underserved backgrounds pursue a research interest at one of NASA's centers nationwide. As many as 10 internships total will be available in the spring and fall semesters of each school year, giving students the opportunity to develop a meaningful professional experience and work side by side with practicing scientists and engineers who are helping the United States lead the world in exploration and discovery. The internships also will encourage students to go into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), of which Ride was a strong and longtime proponent.

NASA also is recognizing Ride by renaming a camera aboard the space station the Sally Ride EarthKAM. Through Sally Ride Science, hundreds of thousands of middle school students have participated in space research by using EarthKAM. Students use the Internet to request images based on their classroom investigations, and the image collection and accompanying learning guides and activities are extraordinary resources to support lessons in Earth and space science, geography, social studies, mathematics, communications, and even art.

"Sally's impact on our nation and future generations of explorers is immeasurable," said Bolden, who served with Ride in NASA's astronaut corps in the 1980s. "God speed, Sally Ride, and thank you for reminding us to reach higher, break barriers and dream big."

Monday's tribute highlighted Ride's contributions and her legacies. The celebration included longtime friends and colleagues who worked side-by-side with her to motivate and inspire girls and boys to study the STEM fields.

"Sally Ride Science is thrilled to be presenting a National Tribute to Sally to honor her lifelong commitment to space exploration, but also to improving science education and to supporting science literacy for all students," said Tam O'Shaughnessy, Ride's life partner, co-founder and chair of the board of Sally Ride Science.

In addition to space exploration and science, the tribute was built around others things that had special meaning to Ride, including sports, music, dance and poetry. Those were represented by the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras playing Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune"; Twyla Tharp's "Jordan" dance; Patti Austin singing Tena Clark's "Way Up There"; and Maria Shriver reading Mary Oliver's poem "The Summer Day."

Speakers at the tribute included Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who talked about how Ride changed STEM education and policy, and NASA's Associate Administrator for Education and former astronaut Leland Melvin and former astronaut and space shuttle commander Pam Melroy, who spoke about Ride's impact on the astronaut corps, the space program and beyond.

NASA, NSBRI Select 23 Proposals to Support Crew Health on Missions

5-1-2013 WASHINGTON -- NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) of Houston will fund 23 proposals to help investigate questions about astronaut health and performance on future deep space exploration missions.

The selected proposals are from 18 institutions in 14 states and will receive about $17 million during a one- to three-year period.

HRP and NSBRI research provides knowledge and technologies to improve human health and performance during space exploration and develops possible countermeasures for problems experienced during space travel. The organizations' goals are to help astronauts complete their challenging missions successfully and preserve astronauts' health throughout their lives.

The 23 projects were selected from 100 proposals received in response to the research announcement "Research and Technology Development to Support Crew Health and Performance in Space Exploration Missions." Scientific and technical experts from academia and government reviewed the proposals. NASA will manage 14 of the projects. NSBRI will manage nine.

HRP quantifies crew health and performance risks during spaceflight and develops strategies that mission planners and system developers can use to monitor and mitigate the risks. These studies often lead to advancements in understanding and treating illnesses in patients on Earth.

NSBRI is a NASA-funded consortium of institutions studying health risks related to long-duration spaceflight. The institute's science, technology and education projects take place at more than 60 institutions across the United States.

Hubble Finds Farthest Supernova

3-4-2013WASHINGTON --According to NASA the Hubble Space Telescope has found the farthest supernova so far of the type used to measure cosmic distances. Supernova UDS10Wil, nicknamed SN Wilson after American President Woodrow Wilson, exploded more than 10 billion years ago.

SN Wilson belongs to a special class called Type Ia supernovae. According to NASA these bright beacons are prized by astronomers because they provide a consistent level of brightness that can be used to measure the expansion of space. They also yield clues to the nature of dark energy, the mysterious force accelerating the rate of expansion.

"This new distance record holder opens a window into the early universe, offering important new insights into how these stars explode," said David O. Jones of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., an astronomer and lead author on the paper detailing the discovery. "We can test theories about how reliable these detonations are for understanding the evolution of the universe and its expansion."

The discovery was part of a three-year Hubble program, begun in 2010, to survey faraway Type Ia supernovae and determine whether they have changed during the 13.8 billion years since the explosive birth of the universe. Astronomers took advantage of the sharpness and versatility of Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 to search for supernovae in near-infrared light and verify their distance with spectroscopy. Leading the work is Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., and Johns Hopkins University.

SPACEX'S Dragon Carrying NASA Cargo Resupplies Space Station

3-3-2013 HOUSTON -- The Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station at 8:56 a.m. EST Sunday. The delivery flight was the second contracted resupply mission by the company under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract.

Space station Expedition 34 crew members Kevin Ford and Tom Marshburn of NASA used the station's robotic arm to successfully capture Dragon at 5:31 a.m. The capture came one day, 19 hours and 22 minutes after the mission's launch. The station was 253 miles above northern Ukraine. Following its capture, the spacecraft was installed onto the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module through ground commands issued by mission control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"The newly arrived scientific experiments delivered by Dragon carry the promise of discoveries that benefit Earth and dramatically increase our understanding of how humans adapt to space," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. "Spaceflight will never be risk-free, but it's a critical achievement that we once again have a U.S. capability to transport science to and from the International Space Station. The science delivered and to be returned from the space station has the promise of giving us a unique insight into problems that we face on Earth. As the patch of Expedition 34 states: 'Off the Earth...For the Earth.'"

The Dragon spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 10:10 a.m. Friday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Shortly after spacecraft separation from the rocket's second stage, the Dragon lost three of its four thruster pods. Solar array deployment was delayed while SpaceX engineers worked to purge blocked valves and get the pods back online. Ninety minutes after launch, Dragon's arrays were deployed. By 3 p.m., all four thruster pods were online and attitude control was regained.

Following a series of tests to ensure the spacecraft could safely approach the space station, Dragon was approved to approach the orbiting laboratory Sunday morning, one day after its originally planned arrival, which is not expected to impact any of the scientific investigations being delivered.

Dragon is loaded with about 1,268 pounds (575 kilograms) of supplies to support continuing space station research experiments and will return with about 2,668 pounds (1,210 kilograms) of science samples from human research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations, and education activities.

NASA Telescope Observes

First clear evidence of energy transfer from the sun's magnetic field to the solar atmosphere or corona. This process, known as solar braiding, has been theorized by researchers, but remained unobserved until now.

Researchers were able to witness this phenomenon in the highest resolution images ever taken of the solar corona. These images were obtained by the agency's High Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) telescope, which was launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in July 2012.

"Scientists have tried for decades to understand how the sun's dynamic atmosphere is heated to millions of degrees," said Hi-C principal investigator Jonathan Cirtain, a heliophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "Because of the level of solar activity, we were able to clearly focus on an active sunspot, and obtain some remarkable images. Seeing this for the first time is a major advance in understanding how our sun continuously generates the vast amount of energy needed to heat its atmosphere."

The telescope, the centerpiece of a payload weighing 464 pounds and measuring 10-feet long, flew for about 10 minutes and captured 165 images of a large, active region in the sun's corona. The telescope acquired data for five minutes, taking one image every five seconds. Initial image sequences demonstrated the evolution of the magnetic field and showed the repeated release of energy through activity seen on the sun at temperatures of 2 million to 4 million degrees.

Many of the stars in the universe have magnetic fields. The evolution of these fields is used to explain the emission of the star and any events like flares. Understanding how the magnetic field of the sun heats the solar atmosphere helps explain how all magnetized stars evolve.

These observations ultimately will lead to better predictions for space weather because the evolution of the magnetic field in the solar atmosphere drives all solar eruptions. These eruptions can reach Earth's atmosphere and affect operations of Earth-orbiting communication and navigation satellites.

nasa photo new astronauts to join expidition 34

12-11-2012 In Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Flight Engineers Chris Hadfield, Roman Romanenko and Tom Marshburn continue final training and preparations for their mission to join Expedition 34. The trio conducted a dress rehearsal and suited up in their Sokol launch and entry suits and entered their Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft.

The trio is waiting to launch for the International Space Station on Dec. 19.

NASA Offers Opportunities for Students to Talk to Astronauts in Space in 2013

12-11-2012 HOUSTON -- NASA is offering opportunities for schools and educational groups to speak with astronauts aboard the International Space Station to learn about living and working in space. Crew members will be available for question and answer sessions in 2013.

NASA offers two options for students to interact with astronauts -- in-flight education downlinks and Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) opportunities. Proposals for both downlinks and ARISS are being accepted now for opportunities next year.

Downlinks are 20-minute multimedia events where participants see and hear crew members live from space, but the crew has only audio connectivity. The downlinks are broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website. ARISS events are 10-minute sessions during which participants speak with the crew through amateur radio. Because of the nature of human spaceflight operations, organizations must demonstrate the flexibility to accommodate changes in dates and times.

U.S. educational organizations such as museums, science centers, local school districts, national and regional education organizations, and local, state and federal government agencies are eligible to participate. NASA provides these opportunities through the Teaching from Space and ARISS projects at no cost to the host organization and will work with the host institution to plan the events. Proposals for in-flight education downlinks are due Jan. 18. Proposals for ARISS are due Jan. 28.

Multi Year Mars Program, Not the End of the World

12-5-2012 WASHINGTON -- Building on the success of Curiosity's Red Planet landing, NASA has announced plans for a robust multi-year Mars program, including a new robotic science rover set to launch in 2020. This announcement affirms the agency's commitment to a bold exploration program that meets our nation's scientific and human exploration objectives.

"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."

The planned portfolio includes the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers; two NASA spacecraft and contributions to one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars; the 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere; the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission, which will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars; and participation in ESA's 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing "Electra" telecommunication radios to ESA's 2016 mission and a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.

The plan to design and build a new Mars robotic science rover with a launch in 2020 comes only months after the agency announced InSight, which will launch in 2016, bringing a total of seven NASA missions operating or being planned to study and explore our Earth-like neighbor.

The 2020 mission will constitute another step toward being responsive to high-priority science goals and the president's challenge of sending humans to Mars orbit in the 2030s.

Because there are so many theorists about the end of the world, combined they are telling us that there is nothing in the stratosphere that is coming towards us to hit earth. Furthermore, all scientists deunk the theories and December 21,2012 is not the end of the Mayan Calendar only the begining of a new phase of it.

Life in Ancient Lakes

12-2-2012 WASHINGTON -- In one of the most remote lakes of Antarctica, nearly 65 feet beneath the icy surface, scientists from NASA, the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Reno, Nev., the University of Illinois at Chicago, and nine other institutions, have uncovered a community of bacteria. This discovery of life existing in one of Earth's darkest, saltiest and coldest habitats is significant because it helps increase our limited knowledge of how life can sustain itself in these extreme environments on our own planet and beyond.

Lake Vida, the largest of several unique lakes found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, contains no oxygen, is mostly frozen and possesses the highest nitrous oxide levels of any natural water body on Earth. A briny liquid, which is approximately six times saltier than seawater, percolates throughout the icy environment where the average temperature is minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit. The international team of scientists published their findings online Nov. 26, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

"This study provides a window into one of the most unique ecosystems on Earth," said Alison Murray, a molecular microbial ecologist and polar researcher at the DRI and the report's lead author. "Our knowledge of geochemical and microbial processes in lightless icy environments, especially at subzero temperatures, has been mostly unknown up until now. This work expands our understanding of the types of life that can survive in these isolated, cryoecosystems and how different strategies may be used to exist in such challenging environments."

Despite the very cold, dark and isolated nature of the habitat, the report finds the brine harbors a surprisingly diverse and abundant variety of bacteria that survive without a current source of energy from the sun. Previous studies of Lake Vida dating back to 1996 indicate the brine and its inhabitants have been isolated from outside influences for more than 3,000 years.

"This system is probably the best analog we have for possible ecosystems in the subsurface waters of Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa," said Chris McKay, a senior scientist and co-author of the paper at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Water Ice on Mars Discovered

11-30-2012 WASHINGTON -- A NASA spacecraft studying Mercury has provided compelling support for the long-held hypothesis the planet harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials within its permanently shadowed polar craters.

The new information comes from NASA's Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft. Its onboard instruments and scientists have been studying Mercury in unprecedented detail since its historic arrival there in March 2011. Scientists are seeing clearly for the first time a chapter in the story of how the inner planets, including Earth, acquired their water and some of the chemical building blocks for life.Finding water ice on Mars becomes the new piece de resistence for NASA and their scientists.

"The new data indicate the water ice in Mercury's polar regions, if spread over an area the size of Washington, D.C., would be more than 2 miles thick," said David Lawrence, a MESSENGER participating scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., and lead author of one of three papers describing the findings. The papers were published online in Thursday's edition of Science Express.

Spacecraft instruments completed the first measurements of excess hydrogen at Mercury's north pole, made the first measurements of the reflectivity of Mercury's polar deposits at near-infrared wavelengths, and enabled the first detailed models of the surface and near-surface temperatures of Mercury's north polar regions.

Given its proximity to the sun, Mercury would seem to be an unlikely place to find ice. However, the tilt of Mercury's rotational axis is less than 1 degree, and as a result, there are pockets at the planet's poles that never see sunlight.

Scientists suggested decades ago there might be water ice and other frozen volatiles trapped at Mercury's poles. The idea received a boost in 1991 when the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico detected radar-bright patches at Mercury's poles. Many of these patches corresponded to the locations of large impact craters mapped by NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft in the 1970s. However, because Mariner saw less than 50 percent of the planet, planetary scientists lacked a complete diagram of the poles to compare with the radar images.

Images from the spacecraft taken in 2011 and earlier this year confirmed all radar-bright features at Mercury's north and south poles lie within shadowed regions on the planet's surface. These findings are consistent with the water ice hypothesis.

The new observations from MESSENGER support the idea that ice is the major constituent of Mercury's north polar deposits. These measurements also reveal ice is exposed at the surface in the coldest of those deposits, but buried beneath unusually dark material across most of the deposits. In the areas where ice is buried, temperatures at the surface are slightly too warm for ice to be stable.

MESSENGER's neutron spectrometer provides a measure of average hydrogen concentrations within Mercury's radar-bright regions. Water ice concentrations are derived from the hydrogen measurements.

"We estimate from our neutron measurements the water ice lies beneath a layer that has much less hydrogen. The surface layer is between 10 and 20 centimeters [4-8 inches] thick," Lawrence said.

Additional data from detailed topography maps compiled by the spacecraft corroborate the radar results and neutron measurements of Mercury's polar region. In a second paper by Gregory Neumann of NASA's Goddard Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., measurements of the shadowed north polar regions reveal irregular dark and bright deposits at near-infrared wavelength near Mercury's north pole.

"Nobody had seen these dark regions on Mercury before, so they were mysterious at first," Neumann said.

The spacecraft recorded dark patches with diminished reflectance, consistent with the theory that ice in those areas is covered by a thermally insulating layer. Neumann suggests impacts of comets or volatile-rich asteroids could have provided both the dark and bright deposits, a finding corroborated in a third paper led by David Paige of the University of California at Los Angeles.

"The dark material is likely a mix of complex organic compounds delivered to Mercury by the impacts of comets and volatile-rich asteroids, the same objects that likely delivered water to the innermost planet," Paige said.

This dark insulating material is a new wrinkle to the story, according to MESSENGER principal investigator Sean Solomon of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.

"For more than 20 years, the jury has been deliberating whether the planet closest to the sun hosts abundant water ice in its permanently shadowed polar regions," Solomon said. "MESSENGER now has supplied a unanimous affirmative verdict."

MESSENGER was designed and built by APL. The lab manages and operates the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The mission is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed for the directorate by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Sea Levels To Rise- Virginia Beach coastal city could be washed away by rise in sea levels.

3-19-2012 Even if humankind manages to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)--as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends--future generations will likely have to deal with a completely different world.Victims could be created by major flooding emergencies in some instances.

One with sea levels 40 to 70 feet higher than at present, according to research results published this week in the journal Geology.

The scientists, led by Kenneth Miller of Rutgers University, reached their conclusion by studying rock and soil cores taken in Virginia, New Zealand and the Eniwetok Atoll in the north Pacific Ocean.

They looked at the late Pliocene epoch, 2.7 million to 3.2 million years ago, the last time the carbon dioxide level in Earth's atmosphere was at its current level and when atmospheric temperatures were 2 C higher than they are now.

"The difference in water volume released is the equivalent of melting the entire Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, as well as some of the marine margin of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet," said H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the work.

"Such a rise of the modern oceans would swamp the world's coasts and affect as much as 70 percent of the world's population."

"You don't need to sell your beach real estate yet, because melting of these large ice sheets will take centuries to millennia," Miller said.

"The current trajectory for the 21st century global rise of sea level is 2 to 3 feet due to warming of the oceans, partial melting of mountain glaciers and partial melting of Greenland and Antarctica."

Miller said, however, that the results highlight the sensitivity of Earth's great ice sheets to temperature change, suggesting that even a modest rise in temperature would result in a large sea-level rise.

"The natural state of the Earth with present carbon dioxide levels is one with sea levels about 70 feet higher than now," he said.

Imagine what the future may well look like on a very blue planet.

Rutgers colleagues James Wright, James Browning, Yair Rosenthal, Sindia Sosdian and Andrew Kulpecz join Miller in the research.

Other co-authors are Michelle Kominz of Western Michigan University; Tim Naish of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand; Benjamin Cramer of Theiss Research in Eugene, Oregon; and W. Richard Peltier of the University of Toronto.

NASA Selects Student Ambassadors

3-14-2012 WASHINGTON -- NASA recently inducted 100 high-performing interns into the 2012 NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community. Their selection is part of the agency's effort to engage undergraduate and graduate students in science, engineering, mathematics and technology, or STEM, research and interactive opportunities. This fourth group of student ambassadors, known as Cohort IV, includes interns from 34 states and 73 universities.

"Congratulations Cohort IV on your selection to the NASA Student Ambassadors," said Leland Melvin, associate administrator for education at NASA Headquarters. "We are proud of your commitment to excellence and your spirit of 'paying it forward.' Being selected for this prestigious group is an honor, and your creativity and innovation will help NASA inspire the STEM workforce of the future and the next generation of explorers."

Members of this virtual community will interact with NASA personnel, share information, make vital professional connections, collaborate with peers, represent NASA in a variety of venues, and help inspire and engage future interns. Through the community's website, participants access tools needed to serve as a student ambassador, blog, announcements, member profiles, forums, polls, and career resources.

NASA managers and mentors nominated the recipients from hundreds of current interns and fellows across the agency. NASA's internships are among the most exciting research and educational opportunities available to college students. This online initiative also serves as a vehicle for recognizing outstanding student contributions. The community elevates the visibility and contribution of the ambassadors, providing increased involvement with the agency's exploration and STEM education missions.

"The NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community serves as an outreach vehicle to the nation's students and is an effective way to engage exceptional Gen-Y students," added Mabel J. Matthews, NASA's higher education manager. "This innovative activity is important to helping the agency attract, engage, educate and employ future scientists and engineers."

For more information about the NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community and to see an interactive U.S. map containing the names and schools of the 2012 Cohort IV participants, visit: http://intern.nasa.gov

11 New Planetary Systems

1-26-2012 MOFFET FIELD, Calif. -- NASA's Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems hosting 26 confirmed planets. These discoveries nearly double the number of verified planets and triple the number of stars known to have more than one planet that transits, or passes in front of, the star. Such systems will help astronomers better understand how planets form.

The planets orbit close to their host stars and range in size from 1.5 times the radius of Earth to larger than Jupiter. Fifteen are between Earth and Neptune in size. Further observations will be required to determine which are rocky like Earth and which have thick gaseous atmospheres like Neptune. The planets orbit their host star once every six to 143 days. All are closer to their host star than Venus is to our sun.

"Prior to the Kepler mission, we knew of perhaps 500 exoplanets across the whole sky," said Doug Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Now, in just two years staring at a patch of sky not much bigger than your fist, Kepler has discovered more than 60 planets and more than 2,300 planet candidates. This tells us that our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits."

Kepler identifies planet candidates by repeatedly measuring the change in brightness of more than 150,000 stars to detect when a planet passes in front of the star. That passage casts a small shadow toward Earth and the Kepler spacecraft.

Each of the new confirmed planetary systems contains two to five closely spaced transiting planets. In tightly packed planetary systems, the gravitational pull of the planets on each other causes some planets to accelerate and some to decelerate along their orbits. The acceleration causes the orbital period of each planet to change. Kepler detects this effect by measuring the changes, or so-called Transit Timing Variations (TTVs).

Planetary systems with TTVs can be verified without requiring extensive ground-based observations, accelerating confirmation of planet candidates. The TTV detection technique also increases Kepler's ability to confirm planetary systems around fainter and more distant stars.

Five of the systems (Kepler-25, Kepler-27, Kepler-30, Kepler-31 and Kepler-33) contain a pair of planets where the inner planet orbits the star twice during each orbit of the outer planet. Four of the systems (Kepler-23, Kepler-24, Kepler-28 and Kepler-32) contain a pairing where the outer planet circles the star twice for every three times the inner planet orbits its star.

"These configurations help to amplify the gravitational interactions between the planets, similar to how my sons kick their legs on a swing at the right time to go higher," said Jason Steffen, the Brinson postdoctoral fellow at Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics in Batavia, Ill., and lead author of a paper confirming four of the systems.

Kepler-33, a star that is older and more massive than our sun, had the most planets. The system hosts five planets, ranging in size from 1.5 to 5 times that of Earth. All of the planets are located closer to their star than any planet is to our sun.

Trajectory Manuever Planned

1-8-2012 PASADENA, Calif. -- An engine firing s trajectory manuever to Mars is slated on Jan. 11 will be the biggest maneuver that NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft will perform on its flight between Earth and Mars.

The action will use a choreographed sequence of firings of eight thruster engines during a period of about 175 minutes beginning at 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST or 2300 Universal Time). It will redirect the spacecraft more precisely toward Mars to land at Gale Crater. The trajectory resulting from the mission's Nov. 26, 2011, launch intentionally misses Mars to prevent the upper stage of the launch vehicle from hitting the planet. That upper stage was not cleaned the way the spacecraft itself was to protect Mars from Earth's microbes. The maneuver is designed to impart a velocity change of about 12.3 miles per hour (5.5 meters per second).

"We are well into cruise operations, with a well-behaved spacecraft safely on its way to Mars," said Mars Science Laboratory Cruise Mission Manager Arthur Amador, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "After this trajectory correction maneuver, we expect to be very close to where we ultimately need to be for our entry point at the top of the Martian atmosphere."

The mission's schedule before arrival at Mars on Aug. 5 in PDT (Aug. 6 in Universal Time and EDT) includes opportunities for five more flight path correction maneuvers, as needed, for fine tuning.

The Jan. 11 maneuver has been planned to use the spacecraft's inertial measurement unit to measure the spacecraft's orientation and acceleration during the maneuver. A calibration maneuver using the gyroscope-containing inertial measurement unit was completed successfully on Dec. 21. The inertial measurement unit is used as an alternative to the spacecraft's onboard celestial navigation system due to an earlier computer reset.

<Diagnostic work continues in response to the reset triggered by use of star-identifying software on the spacecraft on Nov. 29. In tests at JPL, that behavior has been reproduced a few times out of thousands of test runs on a duplicate of the spacecraft's computer, but no resets were triggered during similar testing on another duplicate. The spacecraft itself has redundant main computers. While the spacecraft is operating on the "A side" computer, engineers are beginning test runs of the star-identifying software on the redundant "B side" computer to check whether it is susceptible to the same reset behavior.

>The Mars Science Laboratory mission will use its car-size rover, Curiosity, to investigate whether the selected region on Mars inside Gale Crater has offered environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed.

On Jan. 15, the spacecraft operations team will begin a set of engineering checkouts. The testing will last about a week and include tests of several components of the system for landing the rover on Mars and for the rover's communication with Mars orbiters.

The spacecraft's cruise-stage solar array is producing 780 watts. The telecommunications rate is 2 kilobits per second for uplink and downlink. The spacecraft is spinning at 2.04 rotations per minute. The Radiation Assessment Detector, one of 10 science instruments on the rover, is collecting science data about the interplanetary radiation environment.

>As of 9 a.m. PST (noon EST, or 1700 Universal Time) on Saturday, Jan. 7, the spacecraft will have traveled 72.9 million miles (117.3 million kilometers) of its 352-million-mile (567-million-kilometer) flight to Mars. It will be moving at about 9,500 mph (15,200 kilometers per hour) relative to Earth and at about 69,500 mph (111,800 kilometers per hour) relative to the sun.

NASA Twinn Spacecraft Goes for the Moon

12-29-11 PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's twin spacecraft to study the moon from crust to core are nearing their New Year's Eve and New Year's Day main-engine burns to place the duo in lunar orbit.

Named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), the spacecraft are scheduled to be placed in orbit beginning at 1:21 p.m. PST (4:21 p.m. EST) for GRAIL-A on Dec. 31, and 2:05 p.m. PST (5:05 p.m. EST) on Jan. 1 for GRAIL-B.

"Our team may not get to partake in a traditional New Year's celebration, but I expect seeing our two spacecraft safely in lunar orbit should give us all the excitement and feeling of euphoria anyone in this line of work would ever need," said David Lehman, project manager for GRAIL at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

The distance from Earth to the moon is approximately 250,000 miles (402,336 kilometers). NASA's Apollo crews took about three days to travel to the moon. Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sept. 10, 2011, the GRAIL spacecraft are taking about 30 times that long and covering more than 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) to get there.

This low-energy, long-duration trajectory has given mission planners and controllers more time to assess the spacecraft's health. The path also allowed a vital component of the spacecraft's single science instrument, the Ultra Stable Oscillator, to be continuously powered for several months. This will allow it to reach a stable operating temperature long before it begins making science measurements in lunar orbit.

"This mission will rewrite the textbooks on the evolution of the moon," said Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. "Our two spacecraft are operating so well during their journey that we have performed a full test of our science instrument and confirmed the performance required to meet our science objectives."

As of Dec. 28, GRAIL-A is 65,860 miles (106,000 kilometers) from the moon and closing at a speed of 745 mph (1,200 kph). GRAIL-B is 79,540 miles (128,000 kilometers) from the moon and closing at a speed of 763 mph (1,228 kph).

During their final approaches to the moon, both orbiters move toward it from the south, flying nearly over the lunar south pole. The lunar orbit insertion burn for GRAIL-A will take approximately 40 minutes and change the spacecraft's velocity by about 427 mph (688 kph). GRAIL-B's insertion burn 25 hours later will last about 39 minutes and is expected to change the probe's velocity by 430 mph (691 kph).

The insertion maneuvers will place each orbiter into a near-polar, elliptical orbit with a period of 11.5 hours. Over the following weeks, the GRAIL team will execute a series of burns with each spacecraft to reduce their orbital period from 11.5 hours down to just under two hours. At the start of the science phase in March 2012, the two GRAILs will be in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 kilometers).

When science collection begins, the spacecraft will transmit radio signals precisely defining the distance between them as they orbit the moon. As they fly over areas of greater and lesser gravity, caused both by visible features such as mountains and craters and by masses hidden beneath the lunar surface. they will move slightly toward and away from each other. An instrument aboard each spacecraft will measure the changes in their relative velocity very precisely, and scientists will translate this information into a high-resolution map of the Moon's gravitational field. The data will allow mission scientists to understand what goes on below the surface. This information will increase our knowledge of how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed into the diverse worlds we see today.

JPL manages the GRAIL mission. MIT is home to the mission's principal investigator, Maria Zuber. The GRAIL mission is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.

Mars Rover Finds Mineral Vein Deposited by Water

12-10-11 WASHINGTON -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found bright veins of a mineral, apparently gypsum, deposited by water. Analysis of the vein will help improve understanding of the history of wet environments on Mars.

"This tells a slam-dunk story that water flowed through underground fractures in the rock," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for Opportunity. "This stuff is a fairly pure chemical deposit that formed in place right where we see it. That can't be said for other gypsum seen on Mars or for other water-related minerals Opportunity has found. It's not uncommon on Earth, but on Mars, it's the kind of thing that makes geologists jump out of their chairs."

The latest findings by Opportunity were presented Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union's conference in San Francisco.

The vein examined most closely by Opportunity is about the width of a human thumb (0.4 to 0.8 inch), 16 to 20 inches long, and protrudes slightly higher than the bedrock on either side of it. Observations by the durable rover reveal this vein and others like it within an apron surrounding a segment of the rim of Endeavour Crater. None like it were seen in the 20 miles (33 kilometers) of crater-pocked plains that Opportunity explored for 90 months before it reached Endeavour, nor in the higher ground of the rim.

Last month, researchers used the Microscopic Imager and Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer on the rover's arm and multiple filters of the Panoramic Camera on the rover's mast to examine the vein, which is informally named "Homestake." The spectrometer identified plentiful calcium and sulfur, in a ratio pointing to relatively pure calcium sulfate.

Calcium sulfate can exist in many forms, varying by how much water is bound into the minerals' crystalline structure. The multi-filter data from the camera suggest gypsum, a hydrated calcium sulfate. On Earth, gypsum is used for making drywall and plaster of Paris.

Observations from orbit have detected gypsum on Mars previously. A dune field of windblown gypsum on far northern Mars resembles the glistening gypsum dunes in White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

"It is a mystery where the gypsum sand on northern Mars comes from," said Opportunity science-team member Benton Clark of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. "At Homestake, we see the mineral right where it formed. It will be important to see if there are deposits like this in other areas of Mars."

The Homestake deposit, whether gypsum or another form of calcium sulfate, likely formed from water dissolving calcium out of volcanic rocks. The minerals combined with sulfur either leached from the rocks or introduced as volcanic gas, and was deposited as calcium sulfate into an underground fracture that later became exposed at the surface.

photo of Ms. Lori Gavern and Dr. Kathryn Sullivan bby diane knaus

Mrs.Lori Garver NASA, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan NOAA

photo of NOAA bldg

NOAA Headquarters at Suitland, Maryland

photoNASA Launches Satellite

10-28-2011 Cheers were heard throught out the NOAA building as many of us watched the launch on wall size screens from California Delta Launch Central as it proceeded.

According to Thomas Renkevens Depuy Division Chief Satellite Services at NOAA. The new satellite NPP will fly 521 miles above the earth to collect the information for weather forecasts 24 hours a day. It takes many people to keep this in operation and record the data in an ongoing 24 hour timeframe .”

Also attending the launch event at NOAA was Carol Lanne Vice President of Bell Aerospace & Technology the company that built the saetllite.”This is an awesome piece of telecommunication equipment.” We are very proud to be a part of such an emerging technology, it is very exciting.

NASA Launches New Mars Rover

11-27-11 CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA began a historic voyage to Mars with the Nov. 26 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), which carries a car-sized rover named Curiosity. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air

"We are very excited about sending the world's most advanced scientific laboratory to Mars," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "MSL will tell us critical things we need to know about Mars, and while it advances science, we'll be working on the capabilities for a human mission to the Red Planet and to other destinations where "

The mission will pioneer precision landing technology and a sky-crane touchdown to place Curiosity near the foot of a mountain inside Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012. During a nearly two-year prime mission after landing, the rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life.

"The launch vehicle has given us a great injection into our trajectory, and we're on our way to Mars," said MSL Project Manager Peter Theisinger of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "The spacecraft is in communication, thermally "

The Atlas V initially lofted the spacecraft into Earth orbit and then, with a second burst from the vehicle's upper stage, pushed it out of Earth orbit into a 352-million-mile (567-million-kilometer) journey to Mars.

"Our first trajectory correction maneuver will be in about two weeks," Theisinger said. "We'll do instrument checkouts in the next several weeks and continue with thorough preparations for the landing on Mars and operations on the surface."

The Space Station

7-27-2011 WASHINGTON -- The Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) for the International Space Station partner agencies met Tuesday, July 26, to discuss how to use the space station as a test bed for technologies that will enable missions beyond low Earth orbit.

The board will begin identifying several specific technology collaboration initiatives based on possible future missions suggested by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group. These technology developments and demonstrations on the station could support voyages to an asteroid or Mars or the development of lunar habitats.

The MCB also discussed efforts to increase station use and reported on the status of standardization efforts for rendezvous and proximity operations, interfaces for replaceable items and payloads and command protocols for spacecraft. The recently released revision of the International Docking Systems Standard can be downloaded at:

http://www.internationaldockingstandard.com

Ongoing space station research includes:

- The uses of the International Space Station as a national laboratory are growing. Memorandums of understanding are in place between NASA and other U.S. government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, which is now in its second year of selecting experiments related to human health research.

Space Act Agreements also are active with private firms and universities in the areas of vaccine development for bacterial pathogens, gene differentiation for production of new plant cultivars, nanocube scale experiment systems, hyper-spectral imaging for agricultural applications and advanced propulsion technologies. Earlier this month, NASA formally selected the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space for negotiation of a cooperative agreement to stimulate, develop and manage uses of the station by organizations other than NASA.

- The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer has collected more than 2 billion observations of galactic cosmic rays since its launch and installation on the space station in May. The astrophysics instrument is a partnership of hundreds of scientists and sixteen countries led by Nobel laureate Samuel Ting.

- Robotic technologies developed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for the station have been used to improve the dexterity of surgeons in fine scale surgery. NASA will be testing a humanoid robot, Robonaut, developed in partnership with General Motors in the coming months. The first test of robotically controlled refueling in orbit, developed jointly by NASA and CSA, launched earlier this month aboard Atlantis' STS-135 flight.

- The space station partnership is working to share data from remote sensing instruments mounted on the orbiting outpost and to increase the application of such data to disaster response. The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean has collected more than 3,510 images, providing unprecedented spectral resolution of difficult-to-map coastal waters. The International Space Station Agricultural Camera collected its first images on June 10. Its data is used to assess crop health and rapid changes during the growing season.

- NASA's studies of crew health have identified relationships between diet and bone loss that offer important insights for future studies. Recently published data on chemical changes in pharmaceuticals identified that low-dose ionizing radiation in orbit degrades many medications, and that additional development of space-hardy medications will be needed for human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit.

- The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, continues experiments aimed at human adaptation to future long-term expeditions. Effects of the flight conditions on the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system and bones are being investigated in dedicated medical experiments. Wheat and vegetables are being planted, followed by genetic, microbiological and biochemical tests of the plants. Four different long-duration Russian astrobiology experiments from Expose-R returned after two years of open space exposure.

- In addition to astronomical and Earth observations, Japan promotes biotechnological research by analyzing structures of high-quality protein crystals created on the station leading to treatments for muscular dystrophy. Japan also continues experiments related to future long-term human spaceflight missions such as investigating bone loss mechanism, the effects of radiation and countermeasures of those. Scientists have gained insight to the fields of fundamental life and materials science from research conducted in the Kibo laboratory.

- With the return of European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli in May, ESA successfully concluded a focal set of research known as the "MagISStra" mission. Recently returned long-duration experiments include: a year-long radiation exposure experiment conducted with Roscosmos, nine different European astrobiology experiments after two years of open space exposure and the CFS-A study of fungi after five months in space. The completion of the ZAG and Otolith experiments by shuttle crew members gives new, unexpected insight into human balance. The Materials Science Laboratory now has the ability to cool rapidly metal alloy samples, with new cartridges expanding its use by the research community. These experiments are being performed in collaboration with the station's international partners.

The Final Four Flight Landing Update

7-21-2011 The STS-135 astronauts got to take a look at the vehicle that carried them on the final space shuttle mission, and paused for a moment to reflect on the journey.

"Although we got to take the ride," said Commander Chris Ferguson on behalf of his crew, " we sure hope that everybody who has ever worked on, or touched, or looked at, or envied or admired a space shuttle was able to take just a little part of the journey with us."

In the shadow of Atlantis as it sat on the runway at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, the crew was welcomed back by senior NASA officials, including NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

"They have come to be known as the 'final four.' They did an absolutely incredible job," said Bolden. "They made us very proud."

A shuttle program post-landing news conference is set for 10 a.m. EDT, followed by a crew news conference at noon. Both will be carried live on NASA TV and online at www.nasa.gov/ntv. Participants in the 10 a.m. panel will be Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, Bob Cabana, Kennedy center director, Mike Moses, space shuttle launch integration manager, and Mike Leinbach, space shuttle launch director.

Atlantis landed at 5:57 a.m. EDT, after 200 orbits around Earth and a journey of 5,284,862 miles.

The STS-135 crew consisted of Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim. They delivered more than 9,400 pounds of spare parts, spare equipment and other supplies in the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module - including 2,677 pounds of food - that will sustain space station operations for the next year. The 21-foot long, 15-foot diameter Raffaello brought back nearly 5,700 pounds of unneeded materials from the station.

A welcome home ceremony for the astronauts will be held Friday, July 22, in Houston. The public is invited to attend the 4 p.m. CDT event at NASA's Hangar 990 at Ellington Field. Gates to Ellington Field will open at 3:30 p.m. The ceremony will be broadcast live on NASA Television.

The LAUNCH-STS-135 is the final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program. "With today's final launch of the space shuttle we turn the page on a remarkable period in America's history in space, while beginning the next chapter in our nation's extraordinary story of exploration," Administrator Charles Bolden said. "Tomorrow's destinations will inspire new generations of explorers, and the shuttle pioneers have made the next chapter of human spaceflight possible."

The STS-135 crew consists of Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. They will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with more than 8,000 pounds of supplies and spare parts to sustain space station operations after the shuttles are retired.

"The shuttle's always going to be a reflection to what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through," Ferguson said shortly before liftoff. "We're not ending the journey today…we're completing a chapter of a journey that will never end." The mission includes flying the Robotic Refueling Mission, an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed for robotic refueling of satellites in space, even satellites not designed for servicing. The crew also will return with an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft. Atlantis is on a 12-day mission and scheduled to dock to the station at 11:06 a.m. on Sunday. STS-135 is the 135th shuttle flight, the 33rd flight for Atlantis and the 37th shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance. NASA's Web coverage of STS-135 includes mission information, a press kit, interactive features, news conference images, graphics and videos.

One Millionth Observation

7-5-2011 WASHINGTON -- NASA's Hubble Space Telescope crossed another milestone in its space odyssey of exploration and discovery. On Monday, July 4, the Earth-orbiting observatory logged its one millionth science observation during a search for water in an exoplanet's atmosphere

"For 21 years Hubble has been the premier space science observatory, astounding us with deeply beautiful imagery and enabling ground-breaking science across a wide spectrum of astronomical disciplines," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. He piloted the space shuttle mission that carried Hubble to orbit. "The fact that Hubble met this milestone while studying a faraway planet is a remarkable reminder of its strength and legacy."

Although Hubble is best known for its stunning imagery of the cosmos, the millionth observation is a spectroscopic measurement, where light is divided into its component colors. These color patterns can reveal the chemical composition of cosmic sources.

Hubble's millionth exposure is of the planet HAT-P-7b, a gas giant planet larger than Jupiter orbiting a star hotter than our sun. HAT-P-7b, also known as Kepler 2b, has been studied by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler observatory after it was discovered by ground-based observations. Hubble now is being used to analyze the chemical composition of the planet's atmosphere.

"We are looking for the spectral signature of water vapor. This is an extremely precise observation and it will take months of analysis before we have an answer," said Drake Deming of the University of Maryland and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Hubble demonstrated it is ideally suited for characterizing the atmospheres of exoplanets, and we are excited to see what this latest targeted world will reveal."

Hubble was launched April 24, 1990, aboard space shuttle's Discovery's STS-31 mission. Its discoveries revolutionized nearly all areas of astronomical research from planetary science to cosmology. The observatory has collected more than 50 terabytes of data to-date. The archive of that data is available to scientists and the public at: http://hla.stsci.edu/

NASA Views Air Polution

6-23-2011 WASHINGTON -- Two NASA research airplanes will fly over the Baltimore-Washington region and northeast Maryland this summer as part of a mission to enhance the capability of satellites to measure ground-level air quality from space.

The campaign is called DISCOVER-AQ, which stands for Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality. It is one of the five Earth Venture class of investigations selected last year as part of NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program. These targeted science investigations complement NASA's larger research missions.

A fundamental challenge for spaceborne instruments monitoring air quality is to distinguish between pollution high in the atmosphere and pollution near the surface where people live. The new NASA field campaign will make measurements from aircraft in combination with ground-based observation sites to help scientists better understand how to observe ground-level pollution from space in the future.

"What we're trying to do with DISCOVER-AQ is to fill the knowledge gap that limits our ability to monitor air pollution with satellites," said James Crawford, the mission's principal investigator at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Since many countries, including the United States, have large gaps in ground-based networks of air pollution monitors, experts look to satellites to provide a more complete geographic perspective on the distribution of pollutants.

A fleet of Earth-observing satellites, called the Afternoon Constellation or "A-train" will pass over the DISCOVER-AQ study area each day in the early afternoon. The satellites' data, especially from the Aqua and Aura spacecraft, will give scientists the opportunity to compare the view from space with that from the ground and aircraft.

"The A-Train satellites have been useful in giving us a broader view of air pollution than has ever been seen," said Kenneth Pickering, DISCOVER-AQ's project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "DISCOVER-AQ will help interpret that data to improve air-quality analysis and regional air-quality models."

Initial test flights are planned for the week of June 27, with up to 14 science flights starting as early as July 1. The P-3B, a four-engine turboprop, will carry nine instruments. The two-engine UC-12 will carry two instruments. Sampling will focus on an area extending from Beltsville, Md., to the northeastern corner of Maryland in a pattern that follows major roadway traffic corridors. The flight path passes over six ground measurement sites operated by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

NASA investigators will be joined in the air by colleagues from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Innsbruck in Austria. The 117-foot P-3B will fly low-altitude spiral profiles over the ground stations. These profiles will extend from 15,000 feet to as low as 1,000 feet from the ground. The flights will sample air along traffic corridors at low altitude between ground stations.

The smaller King Air UC-12 will collect data from as high as 26,000 feet. The plane's instruments will look down at the surface, much like a satellite instrument, and measure particulate and gaseous pollution.

The combined scientific resources are what make DISCOVER-AQ a rare opportunity for air quality researchers. "One instrument is not more important than another," said Jennifer Hains, a research statistician with the Maryland Department of the Environment in Baltimore. "The combination of all of them makes this campaign valuable."l

Ground sites maintained by the Maryland Department of the Environment form the backbone of the surface network. These sites will be supplemented by additional instrumentation provided by NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Howard University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and Millersville University in Pennsylvania.

Astronaut Kelly Retires

HOUSTON -- NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly has announced his plans to retire from the agency on Oct. 1. He is a veteran of four space shuttle missions.

"We salute Commander Mark Kelly and his contributions to NASA as an extremely accomplished member of the astronaut corps and the final commander of the space shuttle Endeavour," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "We deeply respect his achievements and his decision to focus on his family. We continue to send out our thoughts and prayers to Mark and his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as she makes a remarkable recovery. We know that Mark will continue to do great things for his country no matter what he chooses to do next. He has helped us build a space program poised to take advantage of the many opportunities in our bright future."

Kelly announced his retirement Tuesday on Facebook and via his Twitter account. On Facebook, he wrote, "This was not an easy decision. Public service has been more than a job for me and for my family." He added, "I know that as our space program evolves, there are those who will question NASA's future. I am not among them. There isn't a group more dedicated to its mission or more capable than the outstanding men and women of NASA."

Kelly commanded the STS-134 flight in May and STS-124 in 2008. He served as the pilot on STS-121 in 2006 and STS-108 in 2001. He joined NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1996.

NASA Innovations in Education

WASHINGTON --6-20-2011 NASA has awarded $7.2 million in cooperative agreements to 14 minority-serving organizations across the United States to enhance learning through the use of the agency's Earth Science resources. The selected organizations include colleges, universities, nonprofit groups and a community college.

The winning proposals illustrated innovative approaches using NASA content to support elementary, secondary and undergraduate teaching and learning. There is a particular emphasis on engaging students using NASA Earth observation data, Earth system models, as well as providing climate-related research experiences for teachers and undergraduate students.

These grants support NASA's goal of engaging students in the critical disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and inspiring the next generation of explorers.

The 14 proposals will fund organizations in the District of Columbia and in California, Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. The awards have a two and one half-year period of performance and range in value from about $230,000 to $825,000.

The cooperative agreements are part NASA's Minority University Research and Education Program. For a list of selected organizations and projects' descriptions, click on "Selected Proposals" and look for "2011 Innovations in Global Climate Change Education" at:

http://nspires.nasaprs.com

Astronauts Launched to the International Space Station

6-7-2011 HOUSTON -- NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa launched to the International Space Station at 3:12 p.m. CDT Tuesday (2:12 a.m. local time, Wednesday) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Fossum, Furukawa and Volkov - the Soyuz commander- are scheduled to dock their spacecraft with their new home at 4:22 p.m. Thursday, June 9. They will join Expedition 28 commander Andrey Borisenko and flight engineer Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian space agency and Ron Garan of NASA. The trio has been aboard the station since April 6.

On Thursday, coverage of the Soyuz docking will begin on NASA Television at 3:30 p.m. NASA TV coverage of the hatches opening and the welcoming ceremony aboard the orbiting laboratory will begin at 8:30 p.m.

The six-person crew will continue the uninterrupted presence of humans on the station since Nov. 2, 2000, conducting expanded scientific research and station maintenance activities. The station residents also will welcome the crew of the last space shuttle flight, Atlantis' STS-135 mission, targeted to launch July 8. The shuttle will deliver critical supplies in the Italian-built Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module and support spacewalks by Fossum and Garan to retrieve a failed cooling system pump module, which Atlantis will return to Earth for analysis.

Garan, Borisenko and Samokutyaev, who launched to the station April 4, will return to Earth in September. Before departing, Borisenko will hand over command of the station to Fossum for Expedition 29, which begins when the Soyuz TMA-21 undocks.

NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin will join Fossum, Volkov and Furukawa to complete the Expedition 29 crew in September.

Fossum will blog about his experiences while aboard the space station. His first blog entry will be posted later today at: http://blogs.nasa.gov

photo astranaughts last walk

Image above: Astronauts Greg Chamitoff and Mike Fincke work on the exterior of the International Space Station during the fourth spacewalk of the STS-134 mission. Photo credit: NASA TV

Last Spacewalk

5-27-2011 Astronauts Mike Fincke and Greg Chamitoff completed a seven-hour, 24-minute spacewalk at 7:39 a.m. EDT. The primary objectives for the spacewalk were accomplished, including stowing the 50-foot-long boom and adding a power and data grapple fixture to make it the Enhanced International Space Station Boom Assembly, available to extend the reach of the space station's robotic arm.

This was the final spacewalk conducted by space shuttle astronauts. It also was the last of the four spacewalks for the STS-134 mission, for a mission total of 28 hours, 44 minutes.

At 5:02 a.m., Fincke and Chamitoff surpassed the 1,000th hour astronauts and cosmonauts have spent spacewalking in support of space station assembly and maintenance. The milestone occurred four hours and 47 minutes into today's spacewalk, the 159th in support of station assembly and maintenance, totaling 1,002 hours, 37 min.

It was the 248th spacewalk U.S. astronauts have conducted and the 118th from space station airlocks.

It was Fincke's ninth spacewalk for a total time of 48 hours and 37 minutes; he is sixth on the all-time list. At about 8 p.m. this evening, he will become the U.S. astronaut who has spent the most number of days in space, surpassing Peggy Whitson's record of 377 days in space.

It was Chamitoff's second spacewalk for a total time of 13 hours and 43 minutes.

Water From the Moon

5-26-2011 MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- A team of NASA-funded researchers has measured for the first time water from the moon in the form of tiny globules of molten rock, which have turned to glass-like material trapped within crystals. Data from these newly-discovered lunar melt inclusions indicate the water content of lunar magma is 100 times higher than previous studies suggested.

The inclusions were found in lunar sample 74220, the famous high-titanium "orange glass soil" of volcanic origin collected during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. The scientific team used a state-of-the-art ion microprobe instrument to measure the water content of the inclusions, which were formed during explosive eruptions on the moon approximately 3.7 billion years ago.

The results published in the May 26 issue of Science Express raise questions about aspects of the "giant impact theory" of how the moon was created. That theory predicted very low water content of lunar rock due to catastrophic degassing during the collision of Earth with

The study also provides additional scientific justification for returning similar samples from other planetary bodies in the solar system.

"Water plays a critical role in determining the tectonic behavior of planetary surfaces, the melting point of planetary interiors and the location and eruptive style of planetary volcanoes," said Erik Hauri, a geochemist with the Carnegie Institution of Washington and lead author of the study. "I can conceive of no sample type that would be more important to return to Earth than these volcanic glass samples ejected by explosive volcanism, which have been mapped not only on "

In contrast to most volcanic deposits, the lunar melt inclusions are encased in crystals that prevent the escape of water and other volatiles during eruption.

"These samples provide the best window we have on the amount of water in the interior of the moon where the orange glass came from," said science team member James Van Orman of Case Western Reserve

In a 2008 study led by Alberto Saal of Brown University in Providence, R.I., the same team reported the first evidence of water in lunar volcanic glasses. They used magma degassing models to estimate how much water was originally in the magmas before eruption. Building on that study, a Brown undergraduate student, Thomas Weinreich, searched for and found the melt inclusions. With that data, the team measured the pre-eruption concentration in the magma and estimated the amount of water in the moon's interior.

"The bottom line is that in 2008, we said the primitive water content in the lunar magmas should be similar to lavas coming from the Earth's depleted upper mantle," Saal said. "Now, we have proven that "

The study also puts a new twist on the origin of water-ice detected in craters at the lunar poles by several recent NASA missions. The ice has been attributed to comet and meteor impacts, but the researchers believe it is possible that some of the ice came from water released by the eruption of lunar magmas eons ago.

The paper entitled, "High Pre-Eruptive Water Contents Preserved in Lunar Melt Inclusions," was written by Hauri, Weinreich, Saal, Van Oman and Malcolm Rutherford of Brown. The research is funded by NASA's Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research and Cosmochemistry Programs in Washington, the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) at the agency's Ames Research Center at Moffett

The NLSI is a virtual organization enabling collaborative, interdisciplinary research in support of agency lunar science programs. The researchers are members of NLSI teams from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and Brown. The institute uses technology to bring scientists together around the world, and it is comprised of seven competitively selected U.S. teams and several international partners. NASA's Science Mission and Exploration Systems Mission Directorates in Washington fund the institute.

Spacewalkers

5-20-2011 Drew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff are more than three hours in to today's spacewalk. They have completed the installation of the ammonia jumper cable that will connect the cooling loops of the station's port-3 and 4 segments. This task was necessary for activities scheduled for the second spacewalk in which Feustel and Mike Fincke will top off the ammonia in the station’s port-6 photovoltaic thermal control system cooling loop, which has a slow ammonia leak.

They started by installing the cable, then they vented nitrogen from the loops between the port-1 and port-5 segments and from the jumper that connects the ammonia reservoir that will be used for the refill on the second spacewalk.

Feustel will work on routing the cables to which it will connect while Chamitoff sets up the antenna. Chamitoff will first remove two handrails on Destiny and replace them with EWC handrails, which have the antennas integrated. Each handrail is held in place by two bolts. Once the antenna handrails are installed, Chamitoff will connect two power cables, and Feustel will connect three more and store two additional cables for future use.

Feustel will wrap up the first spacewalk of the mission by preparing tools and equipment that will be used in the second and third spacewalks.

Mars Maps

7-23-2010 WASHINGTON -- A camera aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has helped develop the most accurate global Martian map ever. Researchers and the public can access the map via several websites and explore

The map was constructed using nearly 21,000 images from the Thermal Emission Imaging System, or THEMIS, a multi-band infrared camera on Odyssey. Researchers at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility in Tempe, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., have been compiling the map since THEMIS observations began eight years ago.

The pictures have been smoothed, matched, blended and cartographically controlled to make a giant mosaic. Users can pan around images and zoom into them. At full zoom, the smallest surface details are 330 feet wide. While portions of Mars have been mapped at higher resolution, this map provides the most accurate view so far of the entire planet.

The new map is available at:

http://www.mars.asu.edu/maps/?layer=thm_dayir_100m_v11

High Definition

WASHINGTON -- On Monday, July 19, NASA Television will launch a full-time High Definition (HD) channel that media, cable and satellite service providers can access for news content and coverage

The channel will deliver HD video that only NASA can provide, such as live launch coverage of space shuttles and other spacecraft. The "ISS Update," a daily program covering the activities of the on-orbit International Space Station crews, will air on the new HD channel. Video of the Earth shot by crews on the station and from NASA

NASA's video file news feed, media conferences, lectures, satellite interviews and special events also will be delivered in HD. The NASA TV HD channel will be offered in MPEG-2 format.

Virginia Students Win Competition

6-21-10 WASHINGTON -- A rotorcraft that resembles a catamaran has taken the

The entry by ten students at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., met the competition's challenge to design a civilian aircraft that could rescue up to 50 survivors in the event of a natural disaster, hover to help rescue missions, land on ground or water, travel 920 miles and cruise at speeds up to 345 miles an hour. The amphibious tilt-rotor vehicle also had to be able to fight fires by siphoning water into an internal tank, then dumping it after airborne. 

NASA's Aeronautics Mission Directorate in Washington sponsored the competition through the Subsonic Rotary Wing Project in its Fundamental Aeronautics Program.

More than 100 college students from the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Poland, China and Nigeria entered the contest in teams or as individuals.

Susan Gorton, principal investigator of the Subsonic Rotary Wing Project, led the review panel. "The designs were creative, innovative and looked at many issues in detail," she said. "Reading the student papers highlighted how many bright young engineers are interested in the future of rotary wing vehicles. I certainly hope some of them "

Ten Virginia Tech undergraduates came up with the winning design-- a twin-hulled vehicle with a large prop-rotor flanking each hull. A team of 10 graduate students from Georgia Tech in Atlanta and the University of Liverpool in England took second place, and 28 undergraduates from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville placed third.

NASA sponsored the design contest to interest students in aeronautics and engineering careers. Each winning U.S. team received a cash award and an engraved trophy through a NASA education grant and cooperative agreement. Cash awards ranged from $5,000 for first place to $3,000 for third place. Five of the students from the top U.S. teams also won paid summer internships at NASA.

Tsunami Prediction

6-14-2010 WASHINGTON -- A NASA-led research team has successfully demonstrated for the first time elements of a prototype tsunami prediction system that quickly and accurately assesses large earthquakes and estimates the size of resulting tsunamis.

After the magnitude 8.8 Chilean earthquake on Feb. 27, a team led by Y. Tony Song of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used real-time data from the agency's Global Differential GPS (GDGPS) network to successfully predict the size of the resulting tsunami. The network, managed by JPL, combines global and regional real-time data from hundreds of GPS sites and estimates their positions every second. It can detect ground motions as small as a few centimeters.

This successful test demonstrates that coastal GPS systems can effectively be used to predict the size of tsunamis," said Song. "This could allow responsible agencies to issue better warnings that can save lives and reduce false alarms that can unnecessarily disturb the lives of coastal residents."

Song's team concluded that the Chilean earthquake, the fifth largest ever recorded by instruments, would generate a moderate, or local, tsunami unlikely to cause significant destruction in the Pacific. The tsunami's effect was relatively small outside of Chile.

Song's GPS-based prediction was later confirmed using sea surface height measurements from the joint NASA/French Space Agency Jason-1 and Jason-2 altimetry satellites. This work was partially carried out< by researchers at Ohio State University, Columbus.

The value of coordinated real-time observations from precision GPS, satellite altimetry and advanced Earth models has been demonstrated," said John LaBrecque, manager of the Solid Earth and Natural Hazards program in the Earth Science Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Song's prediction method, published in 2007, estimates the energy an undersea earthquake transfers to the ocean to generate a tsunami. It relies on data from coastal GPS stations near an epicenter, along with information about the local continental slope. The continental slope is the descent of the ocean floor from the edge of the continental shelf to the ocean bottom.

Conventional tsunami warning systems rely on estimates of an earthquake's location, depth and magnitude to determine whether a large tsunami may be generated. However, history has shown earthquake magnitude is not a reliable indicator of tsunami size. Previous tsunami models presume a tsunami's power is determined by how much the seafloor is displaced vertically. Song's theory says horizontal motions of a faulting continental slope also contribute to a tsunami's power by transferring kinetic energy to the ocean.

The theory is further substantiated in a recently accepted research paper by Song and co-author Shin-Chan Han of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. That study used data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites to examine the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

When the Feb. 27 earthquake struck, its ground motion was captured by the NASA GDGPS network's station in Santiago, Chile, about 146 miles from the earthquake's epicenter. These data were made available to Song within minutes of the earthquake, enabling him to derive the seafloor motions.

Based on these GPS data, Song calculated the tsunami's source energy, ranking it as moderate: a 4.8 on the system's 10-point scale (10 being most destructive). His conclusion was based on the fact that the ground motion detected by GPS indicated the slip of the fault transferred fairly little kinetic energy to the ocean.

"We were fortunate to have a station sufficiently close to the epicenter," said Yoaz Bar-Sever, JPL manager of the GDGPS system. "Broad international collaboration is required to densify the GPS tracking network so that it adequately covers all the fault zones that can give rise to large earthquakes around the world."

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

 

photo of Atlantis Coming home for the asat time

Photo Courtesy of NASA From the STS-132 Flight Day 13 Gallery

Atlantis Home At Last For the Last Time 

5-26-2010 Space shuttle Atlantis and six astronauts ended a journey of more than 4.8 million miles with an 8:48 a.m. EDT landing Wednesday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The flawless landing wrapped up a highly successful mission to deliver the Russian-built Mini Research Module-1, known as "Rassvet" ("dawn" in Russian), to the International Space Station.

"It was smooth as silk," STS-132 Commander Ken Ham said of Atlantis' entry and landing. "We were clearly riding in the middle of a fireball, and it was spectacular. The windows, all of them, were bright, brilliant orange. One of the neatest things was when we flew right into orbital sunrise."

This was the final scheduled flight for Atlantis, which has logged more than 120 million miles during its 25 years of service. The orbiter will go through standard prelaunch preparations as the "launch-on-need" vehicle for Endeavour's STS-134 mission. That flight currently is targeted for November.

"Atlantis treated us very well. She was just an incredible ship," Mission Specialist Michael Good said, citing the precision of the deorbit burn as an example of Atlantis' performance. "The engines had it trimmed out to within .01 of what the burn was supposed to be."

The all-veteran astronaut crew will head home to Houston on Thursday. The public is invited to attend the welcome ceremony for the crew Thursday at 4 p.m. CDT at Ellington Field's NASA Hangar 276.

"We're thrilled, because we accomplished the mission that was put in front of us," Ham said. He explained that in addition to the technical objectives of the 12-day mission, the astronauts also wanted to enjoy themselves and share their enthusiasm of spaceflight with the world.

"We've been hearing stories about how folks have been having fun and enjoyed watching us have fun, and that's really important to us."

Breathe Easier

NASA-funded scientists and medical researchers are working together to tackle the problems of public health associated with bad air quality. Bad air quality can contribute to and aggravate asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure, and stroke -- to name a few. Air quality-related health problems result in hospital visits that cost taxpayers millions of dollars annually.

RAND study: Air pollution costs $193 million in hospital visits

NASA is using data intended for weather and climate research to help pinpoint how environmental factors such as aerosol levels in the atmosphere impact cardiovascular health. Aerosols are solid and liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere, and can occur naturally or get emitted by human activities such as burning fossil fuels.

Scientists measure aerosols, also called particulate matter (PM), by their size. The smallest particles -- less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) -- are the worst for human health because they can make their way into the lungs or bloodstream and exacerbate cardiovascular problems, especially in very young and elderly populations.

The ability to detect these microscopic particles (often found in smoke and haze) is helping public health researchers better document the health risks for the general population and specifically at-risk populations.

Dr. Yang Liu, a researcher at Emory University, first realized that NASA satellite data could enhance public health tracking while attending a 2007 NASA workshop where scientists from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) presented an overview of a newly formed tracking network.

The National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network was created in 2002 as a cooperative program to find and document links between environmental hazards, such as aerosols, and diseases. The network uses ground-based air pollution data provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and disease information from the CDC to monitor and distribute information about environmental hazards and disease trends, as well as develop a strategy to combat these trends.

Discovery and Astronauts Return STS-131

4-20-1020 CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Space shuttle Discovery and seven astronauts ended a 15-day journey of more than 6.2 million miles with a 9:08 a.m. EDT landing Tuesday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The STS-131 mission to the International Space Station delivered science racks, new crew sleeping quarters, equipment and supplies. During three spacewalks, the crew installed a new ammonia storage tank for the station's cooling system, replaced a gyroscope for the station's navigation system and retrieved a Japanese experiment from outside the Kibo laboratory for examination on Earth.

Alan Poindexter commanded the flight and was joined by Pilot Jim Dutton and Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Clay Anderson, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki. Lindenburger is the last of three teachers selected as mission specialists in the 2004 Educator-Astronaut class to fly on the shuttle.

A welcome ceremony for the astronauts will be held Wednesday, April 21, in Houston. The public is invited to attend the 4 p.m. CDT event at Ellington Field's NASA Hangar 990. 

photo volvanic ash

NASA's Terra satellite flew over the volcano on April 16 10:45 UTC (6:45 a.m. EDT) and the MODIS instrument captured a visible image of Eyjafjallajökull's ash plume (brown cloud) stretching from the U.K. (left) to Germany (right). Credit: NASA/MODIS Rapid Response Team

Terra Satellite Sees Iceland Volcano's Ash Moving into Germany

NASA's Terra satellite has captured another image of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano ash cloud, now moving into Germany. Eyjafjallajökull continues to spew ash into the air and the ash clouds are still impacting air travel in Northern Europe.

NASA's Terra satellite flew over the volcano on April 16 at 10:45 UTC (6:45 a.m. EDT) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS instrument aboard Terra captured a visible image of Eyjafjallajökull's ash plume over the England and the Netherlands, stretching into Germany.

Air travel into and out of northern Europe has either been grounded or diverted because volcanic ash particles pose a risk of damage to airplane engines. NASA works with other agencies on using satellite observations to aid in the detection and monitoring of aviation hazards caused by volcanic ash. For more on this NASA program, visit: http://science.larc.nasa.gov/asap/research-ash.html.

The MODIS Rapid Response System was developed to provide daily satellite images of the Earth's landmasses in near real time. True-color, photo-like imagery and false-color imagery are available within a few hours of being collected, making the system a valuable resource. The MODIS Rapid Response Team that generates the images is located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. For more information and a real-time MODIS image gallery, visit: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/.

Text credit: Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

 

Space Water Filter Medical Options Possible

Dr. Philip Scarpa’s team at Kennedy partnered with NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio to develop a device that filters microscopic contaminants, including heavy metals and toxins, out of drinking water to produce fluid as sterile as any made on Earth.

"On every space mission, there's a potential of getting sick or getting hurt," Scarpa said. As Kennedy's medical operations manager, Scarpa helps provide medical support to the astronauts before they launch into space and after they land.

On Earth, several medical conditions require IV fluids, usually for rehydration or for delivering medicines. The NASA International Space Station Patient Condition Database identified 115 medical conditions that could occur on the space station and would require IV fluids to be administered.

For example, an astronaut with severe burns can require about 100 liters of IV fluids for weeks, with 30 liters needed in the first three days. One recent NASA study reported that a mission to Mars may need as much as 248 liters of IV fluids on board. Currently there are 12 liters of fluid stored on the space station. Even less severe conditions, such as broken bones or motion sickness, can deplete the stock quickly, especially if more than one astronaut is sick or injured.

At more than two pounds of weight per liter, IV fluids are very costly to take into space. It also takes up a lot of volume, and due to its need for sterility, IV fluids have a limited shelf life.

“On board or ‘in-situ’ production of IV fluids needed for medical treatments, could greatly reduce these costs and storage limitations, and would give NASA much more flexibility in how it can use the water it already has on the spacecraft,” Scarpa said.

Prior to partnering with Glenn in 2007, Scarpa teamed up with researchers from the United Kingdom and Canada to develop the technology. Called “Project Clearwater,” the team started its research in 2005 with a grant from the Florida Space Research Institute. "When we started looking into this, we thought we would quickly find out that someone had done this already," Scarpa said. "After our background research, we were surprised that no one had been successful with this before. It's not easy. The requirements for medical-grade water for injection are very strict and difficult to meet without large factory-based processes."

Devising a workable filter system for space also presents more hurdles than just removing contaminants successfully.

Without gravity, water can channel by adherence to its container and bypass a filter entirely. Mixing of the final salt water solution also could be incomplete, and launch vibrations could cause the device to release small particulates into the lines. Also, without gravity, the air in the system doesn't separate out from the fluid. This may form bubbles in critical areas, such as blocking off filters. If the filters are blocked, the water will not be screened.

"Bubbles are probably the biggest concern," Scarpa said. “Bubbles in IV fluids are dangerous for a patient as well. If entered into the veins, they could cause a stroke by blocking the brain’s blood flow.”

Scarpa’s team devised the use of micron-sized filters to trap and squeeze out the bubbles from the system.

By 2006, the team had developed a suitcase-sized device that filtered both drinking and dirty water, producing ultra-pure sterile water that meets all U.S. Pharmacopeia standards.

Based on that initial success, the team from Kennedy and Glenn developed a flight-ready system. Dubbed “IVGEN” for IntraVenous Fluid Generation, it will seek to produce IV-grade water from available space station drinking water.

The device will be hooked up to an Iodine Crew Water Container on the station and water will be transferred into an accumulator, which is a plastic bag inside a hard container. Nitrogen from the station will pressurize the bag to push the water out of the accumulator and through several micron filters, a deionized packed resin filter, then another set of micron filters and into an IV collection bag similar to the kind used in hospitals.

The bag, which contains salt and a stir bar, will thoroughly mix the fluid and salt to form normal saline, the kind of IV fluids used on Earth. After the solution runs into another collection bag to measure mixing uniformity, the sterile saline will be complete and ready for collection.

For the purposes of the experiment, additional computers and sensors have been installed to take on-orbit data of all IV fluids created and to measure equipment performance.

In the station’s Microgravity Sciences Glovebox, astronauts will run the device several times beginning in early May, and two bags of sterile saline solution will be frozen and returned to Earth on STS-132 for testing.

"A perfect result would be to have output water that satisfies the strict standards for water for injection without any failures or performance issues," Scarpa said.

He is optimistic the device will work because the system was extensively tested on the ground and in the Zero-G aircraft.

As NASA ventures out farther into space, astronauts will require longer stays and farther destinations with little chance for immediate return or resupply from Earth. Producing medical-grade IV solutions is key to mission success.

In addition to spaceflight, Dr. Scarpa realizes the great potential benefit of this technology for applications right here on Earth, so he has been developing a small, handheld unit that could be used by the military in remote field operations, in submarines and on ships, and in medical relief efforts.

Scarpa said, “IV fluid production anytime, anywhere, has great medical benefit on the ground as well as in space.”  

NASA Hosts First-Ever Water Sustainability Forum

3-10-2010 WASHINGTON -- NASA today announced its founding partnership of Launch, an initiative to identify, showcase and support innovative approaches to sustainability challenges through a series of forums. The first forum, "Launch: Water," will take place at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida from March 16-18.

"NASA is perfectly positioned to host a conversation with experts about potential solutions to the world's most perplexing sustainability problems," said NASA's Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, the host of the forum. "NASA offers a culture of problem-solving, deep technical expertise on sustainable systems such as the International Space Station, and a unique capacity to capture and analyze data about our home planet."

Other founding partners are the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. State Department and Nike. The event will bring together 10 entrepreneurs from around the world who have proposed solutions to water shortages and 40 council members who represent business, policy, engineering, science, communications and sustainability sectors. During the two-and-a-half day forum, the invited innovators and the Launch Council will participate in sessions designed to identify challenges and discuss future opportunities for their innovations.

Launch is a global initiative to identify and support innovative work that will contribute to a sustainable future. Organizers have begun a global search for visionaries, whose innovative world-class ideas, technologies or programs show great promise in making tangible impacts on society. Through a series of forums focused on key challenge areas including water, air, food, energy, mobility and sustainable cities, Launch will give thought leaders a forum to present innovative ideas among peers and join in collaborative, solution-driven discussions.

NASA Radar Finds Ice Deposits at Moon's North Pole; Additional Evidence of Water Activity on Moon

WASHINGTON -- Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon's north pole. NASA's Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it's estimated there could be at least 600 million metric tons of water ice.

"The emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition and retention are occurring on the moon," said Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. "The new discoveries show the moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than people had previously thought."

During the past year, the Mini-SAR mapped the moon's permanently-shadowed polar craters that aren't visible from Earth. The radar uses the polarization properties of reflected radio waves to characterize surface properties. Results from the mapping showed deposits having radar characteristics similar to ice.

"After analyzing the data, our science team determined a strong indication of water ice, a finding which will give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit," said Jason Crusan, program executive for the Mini-RF Program for NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington.

The Mini-SAR's findings are being published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The results are consistent with recent findings of other NASA instruments and add to the growing scientific understanding of the multiple forms of water found on the moon. The agency's Moon Mineralogy Mapper discovered water molecules in the moon's polar regions, while water vapor was detected by NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS.

Mini-SAR and Moon Mineralogy Mapper are two of 11 instruments on the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1. The Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., performed the final integration and testing on Mini-SAR. It was developed and built by the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif., and several other commercial and government contributors.

What's Happening in Space, NASA Sets Coverage For Goes-P Weather Satellite Launch March 2

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-P, or GOES-P, is scheduled for launch aboard a Delta IV rocket on Tuesday, March 2, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The one-hour launch window extends from 6:19 to 7:19 p.m. EST.

GOES-P will provide expanded capability for space and solar environment-monitoring instruments. The satellite will enhance forecasts and warnings for solar disturbances. GOES-P data will help protect billions of dollars in investments by the government and private sector for assets on the ground and in space.

GOES-P will feature a highly stable pointing platform that will improve the performance of its Imager and Sounder, instruments used for creating daily weather-prediction models and hurricane forecasting. Data from GOES-P will be valuable for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service, which provides oceanographic circulation models and forecasts for U.S. coastal communities.

As with all of NOAA's geostationary and polar-orbiting weather satellites, GOES-P will be able to relay distress signals detected from emergency locator beacons on the ground and at sea in support of the international search and rescue system. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., was responsible for designing and developing the spacecraft and its instruments for NOAA.

GOES-P is the last of three in the series of geostationary weather and environmental satellites built for NASA by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. The spacecraft will be checked out by Goddard and Boeing before being turned over to NOAA for operational use.

Endeavour Lights Up the Sky 

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Space shuttle Endeavour lit up the predawn sky above Florida's Space Coast on Monday with a 4:14 a.m. EST launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle's last scheduled night launch began a 13-day flight to the International Space Station and the final year of shuttle operations.

Endeavour's STS-130 mission will include three spacewalks and the delivery of the Tranquility node, the final major U.S. portion of the station. Tranquility will provide additional room for crew members and many of the space station's life support and environmental control systems.

Attached to Tranquility is a cupola with seven windows, which houses a robotic control station. The windows will provide a panoramic view of Earth, celestial objects and visiting spacecraft. After the node and cupola are added, the orbiting laboratory will be approximately 90 percent complete.

Shortly before liftoff, Commander George Zamka said, "Thanks to the great team that got Tranquility, cupola and Endeavour to this point. And thanks also to the team that got us ready to bring Node 3 and cupola to life. We'll see you in a couple of weeks. It's time to go fly."

Virts is making his first trip to space.

Endeavour's first landing opportunity at Kennedy is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 20, at 10:01 p.m. The STS-130 mission will be Endeavour's 24th flight and the 32nd shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.

NASA's Web coverage of STS-130 includes mission information, interactive features, news conference images, graphics and videos. Mission coverage, including the latest NASA TV schedule, is available on the main space shuttle Web site at: http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

NASA Managers Agree on Endeavour's Sunday Launch Thu, 04 Feb 2010 10:02:00 -0600

"Everything thus far is going exceeding well… we're right on schedule where we're supposed to be and we'll continue to work through the day on our preparations," said NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding during this morning's L-3 Countdown Status Briefing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Preps and tests at Launch Pad 39A will continue with final flight crew stowage occurring after communications checks Saturday. The rotating service structure that protects the shuttle from inclement weather prior to launch will be moved away from the vehicle at about 8 a.m. EST Saturday.

NASA Payload Manager Joe Delai described the processing of the Tranquility node as one of the most complex modules he's had the privilege of working with. "We all should be proud of what we've done… and I'm very proud to work with this team," Delai said.

Shuttle Weather Officer Kathy Winters said the forecast is looking good for launch day with a 70 percent chance that weather will cooperate for liftoff. Winds will continue to be monitored, but Winters said it looks like they should subside enough for launch. Weather also is looking very good for the loading of space shuttle Endeavour's external fuel tank with propellants at about 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

Endeavour's 13-day, STS-130 mission is scheduled for liftoff at 4:39 a.m. Sunday. 

Mars Rover Opportunity

1-23-2010 PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars exploration rover Opportunity is allowing scientists to get a glimpse deep inside Mars.

Perched on a rippled Martian plain, a dark rock not much bigger than a basketball was the target of interest for Opportunity during the past two months. Dubbed "Marquette Island," the rock is providing a better understanding of the mineral and chemical makeup of the Martian interior.

"Marquette Island is different in composition and character from any known rock on Mars or meteorite from Mars," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Squyres is principal investigator for Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. "It is one of the coolest things Opportunity has found in a very long time." During six years of roving, Opportunity has found only one other rock of comparable size that scientists conclude was ejected from a distant crater. The rover studied the first such rock during its initial three-month mission. Called "Bounce Rock," that rock closely matched the composition of a meteorite from Mars found on Earth.

Marquette Island is a coarse-grained rock with a basalt composition. The coarseness indicates it cooled slowly from molten rock, allowing crystals time to grow. This composition suggests to geologists that it originated deep in the crust, not at the surface where it would cool quicker and have finer-grained texture.

"It is from deep in the crust and someplace far away on Mars, though exactly how deep and how far we can't yet estimate," said Squyres.

The composition of Marquette Island, as well as its texture, distinguishes it from other Martian basalt rocks that rovers and landers have examined. Scientists first thought the rock could be another in a series of meteorites that Opportunity has found. However, a much lower nickel content in Marquette Island indicates a Martian origin. The rock's interior contains more magnesium than in typical Martian basalt rocks Spirit has studied. Researchers are determining whether it might represent the precursor rock altered long ago by sulfuric acid to become the sulfate-rich sandstone bedrock that blankets the region of Mars that Opportunity is exploring.

"It's like having a fragment from another landing site," said Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada. Gellert is lead scientist for the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on Opportunity's robotic arm. "With analysis at an early stage, we're still working on some riddles about this rock."

The rover team used Opportunity's rock abrasion tool to grind away some of Marquette Island's weathered surface and expose the interior. This was the 38th rock target Opportunity has ground into, and one of the hardest. The tool was designed to grind into one Martian rock, and this rock may not be its last.

"We took a conservative approach on our target depth for this grind to ensure we will have enough of the bit left to grind the next hard rock that Opportunity comes across," said Joanna Cohen of Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corp., in New York, which built and operates the tool.

Opportunity currently is about 30 percent of the way on a 12-mile trek begun in mid-2008 from a crater it studied for two years. It is en route toward a much larger crater, Endeavour. The rover traveled 3.3 miles in 2009, farther than in any other year on Mars. Opportunity drove away from Marquette Island on Jan. 12.

"We're on the road again," said Mike Seibert, a rover mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The year ahead will include lots more driving, if all goes well. We'll keep pushing for Endeavour crater but watch for interesting targets along the way where we can stop and smell the roses."

Since landing on Mars in 2004, Opportunity has made numerous scientific discoveries, including the first mineralogical evidence that Mars had liquid water. After working 24 times longer than originally planned, Opportunity has driven more than 11 miles and returned more than 133,000 images. JPL manages the rovers for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington./font>

Final Training Day for STS-130 Crew

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the six STS-130 crew members climbed aboard space shuttle Endeavour on Launch Pad 39A. They will go through a complete launch countdown simulation right up to the point of liftoff.The astronauts will complete their prelaunch training at Kennedy this afternoon with a bench review of flight crew equipment and are scheduled to fly back to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston tomorrow.

Launch teams at the pad conducted a walkdown of the shuttle to ensure there was no damage from the unusually icy weather conditions experienced last week. They also will continue testing and maintenance until liftoff.

Endeavour is targeted to launch at 4:39 a.m. EST Feb. 7 to deliver the Italian-built Tranquility with its attached cupola to the International Space Station.

On Jan. 27, an executive-level Flight Readiness Review meeting will be held at Kennedy to assess the readiness of the shuttle, flight crew and payloads to proceed with the countdown.

The official launch date will be set at the review and announced during a press briefing following the meeting.

Endeavor Preparations

1-11-2010 Technicians on Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida will begin prelaunch propellant servicing on space shuttle Endeavour today, which will continue through Thursday.

Meanwhile at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Endeavour's six STS-130 astronauts continue their review of flight equipment and rendezvous procedures.

Teams continue to work toward a target launch of Feb. 7, as engineers review data from the test of a high-pressure ammonia jumper hose assembly that failed during a prelaunch test last week. The analysis is expected to continue for several days and the results will determine if there will be any impact to the shuttle mission.

Crews Prepare for Truss Installation, Spacewalk

A busy day in orbit for the crews of Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station has set the stage for another station assembly task, the installation of the final truss segment and American solar power panels. As the crew prepared for the first spacewalk to assist with the truss installation, Mission Control radioed that no further inspection of Discovery’s heat shield is necessary clearing the way for an earlier deployment of the solar wings Friday.

Near the end of the crew day, the station’s robotic arm maneuvered the 31,000 pound, 45-foot-long truss segment to an overnight “park” position to await the start of the first spacewalk by Mission Specialists Steve Swanson and Ricky Arnold. They will “campout” in the Quest airlock of the station at a reduced air pressure overnight to prepare their bodies for the spacewalk planned to last six and a half hours. Meanwhile, the newest station crew member Koichi Wakata is settling in for a three-month stay on board after swapping places with Sandy Magnus who returns home aboard Discovery after four months in space. Wakata is the first Japanese astronaut to stay long-term aboard the station.

Discovery's STS-119 flight is delivering the space station's fourth and final set of solar array wings, completing the station's truss, or backbone. The arrays will provide the electricity to fully power science experiments and support the station's expanded crew of six in May. The 14-day mission will feature four spacewalks to help install the S6 truss segment to the starboard, or right, side of the station and the deployment of its solar arrays. The flight also will replace a failed unit for a system that converts urine to potable water.

Commander Lee Archambault is joined on STS-119 by Pilot Tony Antonelli and Mission Specialists Joseph Acaba, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold, John Phillips and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata. Wakata will replace space station crew member Sandra Magnus, who has been aboard the station for more than four months. He will return to Earth during the next station shuttle mission, STS-127, targeted to launch in June 2009.

 

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