This Week @ NASA

Latest Edition of “This Week @ NASA” (Published August 22, 2014)

Upcoming Activities and NASA TV Coverage

·         NASA Science Briefings. Media and the public are invited to attend two events Monday, Aug. 25 from 1-3 p.m. EDT to learn more about the agency’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and its historic connection to the Voyager spacecraft’s visit to Neptune in 1989. The events, which will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website, will take place in the Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street SW in Washington. New Horizons will conduct a six -month-long study of Pluto and its five moons, including a close approach in July 2015. [Media Advisory]

·         NASA TV

o   1 p.m. - NASA Science Briefing, New Horizons Pluto Mission: Mirroring the Voyager Spacecraft Legacy (all channels)

o   2 p.m. - NASA Science Briefing, The Voyager Mission Experience: Memories from the Team (all channels)

Wednesday, August 27

·         NASA TV

o   1:10 p.m. - ISS Expedition 40 In-Flight Educational Event with the Elliot Ranch Elementary School in Elk Grove, CA and NASA Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman (all channels)

News Highlights

Last week there were a number of pieces about the upcoming commercial crew contract announcement, including articles fromVoxThe Houston ChronicleNBC News, and The Washington Post.

There were more than 200 articles about last week’s Russian spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The Associated PressThe WireThe Telegraph, and Florida Today covered the EVA.

Press Releases & Web Features August 18-22

Station Spacewalkers Deploy Nanosatellite, Install and Retrieve Science (August 18)

Two Expedition 40 spacewalkers, clad in Russian Orlan spacesuits, wrapped up a 5-hour, 11-minute excursion outside the International Space Station at 3:13 p.m. EDT Monday.  Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev deployed a small science satellite, retrieved and installed experiment packages and inspected components on the exterior of the orbital laboratory. LINK

Remembering ‘First Flights’ on National Aviation Day (August 18)

Orville Wright wasn’t sure exactly how long his first flight lasted. He and his brother, Wilbur, think it was about 12 seconds, but according to what Orville wrote in his diary of that December day in 1903 at Kill Devil Hills, N.C., the time is “not known exactly as watch was not promptly stopped.” … But it was Orville who made the first flight. In honor of that fact, President Franklin Roosevelt declared in 1939 that August 19, Orville’s birthday, would be National Aviation Day – an annual occasion to celebrate the importance of aviation.  In observance of this year’s National Aviation Day, NASA asked some of its own leaders to share memories of their first flight experiences. LINK

Flight Test Preparations Draw on Launch Services Program’s Expertise (August 19)

The upcoming flight test of NASA’s Orion spacecraft will be a mission of firsts. This new crew vehicle, making its debut on Exploration Flight Test-1, will become the first of its kind in four decades to venture beyond low-Earth orbit. The mission also marks the first time a spacecraft designed to carry humans will be lofted to orbit by a modern-day expendable launch vehicle. Orion, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, will fly aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket. NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, specializes in the management of missions flying on expendable rockets, single-use vehicles that aren’t reused. The program is providing its expertise in an advisory capacity for Orion’s first flight. LINK

NASA Announces Awards to Expand Informal STEM Education Network (August 20)

NASA has selected 12 informal educational institutions to receive approximately $6 million in agency funding to provide compelling science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities in informal education settings, such as museums, science centers, planetariums and NASA visitor centers. The selected projects will complement and enhance STEM curricula taught in traditional kindergarten through 12th grade academic settings. LINK

Ozone-Depleting Compound Persists, NASA Research Shows (August 20)

NASA research shows Earth’s atmosphere contains an unexpectedly large amount of an ozone-depleting compound from an unknown source decades after the compound was banned worldwide. Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), which was once used in applications such as dry cleaning and as a fire-extinguishing agent, was regulated in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol along with other chlorofluorocarbons that destroy ozone and contribute to the ozone hole over Antarctica. Parties to the Montreal Protocol reported zero new CCl4 emissions between 2007-2012. However, the new research shows worldwide emissions of CCl4 average 39 kilotons per year, approximately 30 percent of peak emissions prior to the international treaty going into effect. LINK

Engineers and Technicians Install Protective Shell on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft (August 20)

The heat shield on NASA’s Orion spacecraft gets all the glory when it comes to protecting the spacecraft from the intense temperature of reentry. Although the blunt, ablative shield will see the highest temperatures – up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit on its first flight this December – the rest of the spacecraft is hardly left in the cold. Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center have finished installing the cone-shaped back shell of Orion’s crew module – the protective cover on the sides that make up Orion’s upside down cone shape. It’s made up of 970 black tiles that should look very familiar – the same tiles protected the belly of the space shuttles as they returned from space. LINK

How the Sun Caused an Aurora This Week (August 20)

This auroral display was due to a giant cloud of gas from the sun – a coronal mass ejection or CME – that collided with Earth’s magnetic fields on Aug. 19, 2014, at 1:57 a.m. EDT. This event set off, as it often does, what’s called a geomagnetic storm.  This is a kind of space weather event where the magnetic fields surrounding Earth compress and release. This oscillation is much like a spring moving back and forth, but unlike a spring, moving magnetic fields cause an unstable environment, setting charged particles moving and initiating electric currents. The geomagnetic storm passed within 24 hours or so but, while it was ongoing, the solar particles and magnetic fields caused the release of particles already trapped near Earth.  These, in turn, triggered reactions in the upper atmosphere in which oxygen and nitrogen molecules released photons of light.

Space Station Inspired Robot to Help Heal Sick Children (August 20)

Children love robots. In all shapes, sizes, “personalities” and “smarts,” these electronic wonders have been found under Christmas trees by kids and unwrapped on birthdays for years. The gift of space-inspired robotics now goes beyond toys. They are lending a helping arm to pediatric doctors for children who require intensive surgical care. The same companies which developed the robotic arms that helped astronauts build the International Space Station have now created a new research platform. Called KidsArm, this robot allows surgeons to quickly navigate to surgical sites in the body. It has an advanced imaging and control system that makes it extremely precise, and it is designed to explore the potential for automating certain demanding tasks in minimally invasive pediatric surgery — a challenge before without the tool’s assistance. LINK

Why NASA Studies the Ultraviolet Sun (August 20)

You cannot look at the sun without special filters, and the naked eye cannot perceive certain wavelengths of sunlight. Solar physicists must consequently rely on spacecraft that can observe this invisible light before the atmosphere absorbs it. “Certain wavelengths either do not make it through Earth’s atmosphere or cannot be seen by our eyes, so we cannot use normal optical telescopes to look at the spectrum,” said Dean Pesnell, the project scientist for the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. LINK

NASA and Commercial Partners Review Summer of Advancements (August 21)

NASA’s spaceflight experts in the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) met throughout July with aerospace partners to review increasingly advanced designs, elements and systems of the spacecraft and launch vehicles under development as part of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) and Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiatives. Blue Origin, The Boeing Co., Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX are partners with NASA in these initiatives to develop a new generation of safe, reliable, and cost-effective crew space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit. LINK

Voyager Map Details Neptune’s Strange Moon Triton (August 21)

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first glimpse of Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. Like an old film, Voyager’s historic footage of Triton has been “restored” and used to construct the best-ever global color map of that strange moon. The map, produced by Paul Schenk, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, has also been used to make a movie recreating that historic Voyager encounter, which took place 25 years ago, on August 25, 1989. The new Triton map has a resolution of 1,970 feet (600 meters) per pixel. The colors have been enhanced to bring out contrast but are a close approximation to Triton’s natural colors. Voyager’s “eyes” saw in colors slightly different from human eyes, and this map was produced using orange, green and blue filter images. LINK

NASA Scientists Watching, Studying Arctic Changes This Summer (August 21)

As we near the final month of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, NASA scientists are watching the annual seasonal melting of the Arctic sea ice cover. The floating, frozen cap that stretches across the Arctic Ocean shrinks throughout summer until beginning to regrow, typically around mid-September. As of Aug. 19, Arctic sea ice covered about 2.31 million square miles. While this is on track to be larger than the record-breaking low year in 2012, the sea ice extent is still well below average for the past 30 years, and continues a trend of sea ice loss in the Arctic. From 1981 to 2010, the average sea ice extent on Aug. 19 was 2.72 million square miles – 18 percent larger than on that same date this year. LINK

NASA Picks Top Earth Data Challenge Ideas, Opens Call for Climate Apps (August 22)

NASA has selected four ideas from the public for innovative uses of climate projections and Earth-observing satellite data. The agency also has announced a follow-on challenge with awards of $50,000 to build climate applications based on OpenNEX data on the Amazon cloud computing platform. Both challenges use the Open NASA Earth Exchange, or OpenNEX, a data, cloud computing, and knowledge platform where users can share modeling and analysis codes, scientific results, information and expertise to solve big data challenges in the Earth sciences. OpenNEX provides users a large collection of climate and Earth science satellite data sets, including global land surface images, vegetation conditions, climate observations and climate projections. LINK

Mars Rover Team Chooses Not to Drill ‘Bonanza King’ (August 22)

Evaluation of a pale, flat Martian rock as the potential next drilling target for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover determined that the rock was not stable enough for safe drilling. The rock, called “Bonanza King,” moved slightly during the mini-drill activity on Wednesday, at an early stage of this test, when the percussion drill impacted the rock a few times to make an indentation. Instead of drilling that or any similar rock nearby, the team has decided that Curiosity will resume driving toward its long-term destination on the slopes of a layered mountain. It will take a route skirting the north side of a sandy-floored valley where it turned around two weeks ago.