This Week @ NASA

Latest Edition of “This Week @ NASA” (Published July 25, 2014)
Upcoming Activities and NASA TV Coverage
Monday, July 28
  • NASA WB-57F at EAA Airventure Oshkosh (Through August 3). NASA will bring a Martin/General Dynamics WB-57F high-altitude aircraft to Oshkosh this year. Based at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, the WB-57F operates in NASA’s High Altitude Research Program. The aircraft provides unique, high-altitude (up to 70,000 feet MSL) airborne platforms to United States government agencies and other customers for scientific research, advanced technology development, and testing around the world. This will be the first appearance by a WB-57F at AirVenture. [EAA.org]
Tuesday, July 29
  • Launch of the European Space Agency’s Final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) Cargo Craft to the International Space Station. The Georges Lemaître Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), an unmanned cargo craft operated by the European Space Agency, will launch from Kourour, French Guiana, to bring supplies to the International Space Station. The craft is scheduled to dock on August 12. [Media Advisory]
  • Last Day of the 18th NEEMO Mission. The crew members of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 18 project, which began Monday, July 21, tested technologies and training techniques for use aboard the International Space Station and long-duration exploration missions. Mission objectives focused on behavioral health and performance, human health issues, and habitability. Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency commanded the NEEMO 18 mission aboard the Aquarius laboratory. He was joined by NASA astronauts Jeanette Epps and Mark Vande Hei and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet. [Press Release]
  • Livestream of the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower. On the night of July 29-30, a favorable new moon will help darken the skies for the 2014 Delta Aquarid meteor shower (the Southern Delta Aquarids). Although this is considered a minor meteor shower with projected peak rates at 15-20 meteors/hour, the darker skies will help even faint meteors shine more brightly. Most of the world can see the Delta Aquarids, with best viewing in the southern hemisphere and northern hemisphere tropics. With clear, dark skies away from city lights, you can see meteors any time after full dark, with peak viewing times in the two hours before dawn (your local time). On the night of July 29-30, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will offer a live Ustream view of the skies over Huntsville, Alabama (weather permitting). The live stream will begin on July 29 at 10:30 p.m. ADT, 9:30 p.m. EDT, 8:30 p.m. CDT, 7:30 p.m. MST, 6:30 p.m. PDT, 5:30 p.m.Alaska, 3:30 p.m. Hawaii. [NASA.gov]
  • NASA TV
  • 8:15 a.m. - ISS Expedition 40 In-Flight Event with Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst for ESA and the German ARD Network (all channels)
  • 8:45 a.m. - ISS Expedition 40 In-Flight Event with Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst for ESA and the German ARD Network (will be interpreted) (all channels)
  • 7:15 p.m. - Coverage of the Launch of the European Space Agency’s “Georges Lemaitre” Automated Transfer Vehicle to the ISS (all channels)
Wednesday, July 30
  • NASA Advisory Council Meeting at Langley Research Center. The agenda for the meeting will include the following: Aeronautics Committee Report; Human Exploration and Operations Committee Report; Institutional Committee Report; Science Committee Report; Technology, Innovation and Engineering Committee Report. The meeting will be open to the public up to the seating capacity of the room. The meeting is also available telephonically and by WebEx. [NASA.gov]
Thursday, July 31
  • Is It Time to Search for Life on Mars? Panel at American University. This event is being co-sponsored by Explore Mars, Inc. and American University and will feature a stimulating discussion on whether life has been detected on Mars and what we will need to do to confirm the existence of past or present life on the red planet. Moderated by Rebecca Kaiser, participants will include Dr. Gil Levin (Arizona State University; Principal Investigator, Labeled Release experiment, Mars Viking Lander mission), Dr. Chris McKay (Planetary Scientist, NASA Ames; video presentation), Dr. Pamela Conrad (NASA: Deputy Principal Investigator, SAM investigation, Mars Science Laboratory; Research Space Scientist), Dr. Chris Carr (Research Scientist, MIT), and Joe Cassady (Aerojet Rocketdyne: Executive, Space – Washington Operations). [Event Website]
  • NASA TV
  • 1:10 p.m. - ISS Expedition 40 In-Flight Event with ABC “Nightline” (all channels)
News Highlights
Coverage of the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the agency’s next giant leap continued to appear in the news last week. ABC News and the Los Angeles Times are two of the outlets that covered the President’s meeting with Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Carol Armstrong, and Administrator Bolden on July 22.  The Los Angeles Daily News and USA Today reported on the “Next Giant Leap” panel discussion at Comic-Con on July 24.  Also on the 24th, NASA published a post on Buzzfeed explaining the next giant leap using animated GIFs.
Several outlets covered the 15th anniversary of the Chandra X-Ray Space Telescope, including the Seattle Post-IntelligencerTime, the Smithsonian, and AL.com.
Press Releases & Web Features July 18-25
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory Celebrates 15th Anniversary – July 22
Fifteen years ago, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. Since its deployment on July 23, 1999, Chandra has helped revolutionize our understanding of the universe through its unrivaled X-ray vision. Chandra, one of NASA’s current “Great Observatories,” along with the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, is specially designed to detect X-ray emission from hot and energetic regions of the universe. LINK
The Heart of an Astronaut, Five Years On – July 22
The heart of an astronaut is a much-studied thing. Scientists have analyzed its blood flow, rhythms, atrophy and, through journal studies, even matters of the heart. But for the first time, researchers are looking at how oxidative stress and inflammation caused by the conditions of space flight affect those hearts for up to five years after astronauts fly on the International Space Station. Lessons learned may help improve cardiovascular health on Earth as well.  LINK
NASA’s Fermi Finds A ‘Transformer’ Pulsar – July 22
In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar’s radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. LINK
NASA Partners Punctuate Summer with Spacecraft Development Advances – July 22
Spacecraft and rocket development is on pace this summer for NASA’s aerospace industry partners for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program as they progress through systems testing, review boards and quarterly sessions under their  Space Act Agreements with the agency. NASA engineers and specialists continue their review of the progress as the agency and partners move ahead with plans to develop the first American spacecraft designed to carry people into space since the space shuttle. LINK
NEOWISE Spots a Comet That Looked Like an Asteroid – July 23
Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) has been observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft just one day after passing through its closest approach to the sun. The comet glows brightly in infrared wavelengths, with a dust tail streaking more than 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across the sky. Its spectacular activity is driven by the vaporization of ice that has been preserved from the time of planet formation 4.5 billion years ago. LINK
NASA Seeks Proposals for Commercial Mars Data Relay Satellites – July 23
NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to investigate the possibility of using commercial Mars-orbiting satellites to provide telecommunications capabilities for future robotic missions to the Red Planet.LINK
The Most Precise Measurement of an Alien World’s Size – July 23
Thanks to NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer Space Telescopes, scientists have made the most precise measurement ever of the radius of a planet outside our solar system. The size of the exoplanet, dubbed Kepler-93b, is now known to an uncertainty of just 74 miles (119 kilometers) on either side of the planetary body. The findings confirm Kepler-93b as a “super-Earth” that is about one-and-a-half times the size of our planet. Although super-Earths are common in the galaxy, none exist in our solar system. Exoplanets like Kepler-93b are therefore our only laboratories to study this major class of planet. LINK
Hubble Finds Three Surprisingly Dry Exoplanets – July 24
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the sun — and have come up nearly dry. The three planets, known as HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away from Earth and were thought to be ideal candidates for detecting water vapor in their atmospheres because of their high temperatures where water turns into a measurable vapor. LINK
Satellite Study Reveals Parched U.S. West Using Up Underground Water – July 24
A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought. This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years. LINK
NASA’s Mars Spacecraft Maneuvers to Prepare for Close Comet Flyby (July 25)
NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19. The comet’s nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers), shedding material hurtling at about 35 miles (56 kilometers) per second, relative to Mars and Mars-orbiting spacecraft. At that velocity, even the smallest particle — estimated to be about one-fiftieth of an inch (half a millimeter) across — could cause significant damage to a spacecraft. NASA currently operates two Mars orbiters, with a third on its way and expected to arrive in Martian orbit just a month before the comet flyby. Teams operating the orbiters plan to have all spacecraft positioned on the opposite side of the Red Planet when the comet is most likely to pass by. LINK