This Week @ NASA

Latest Edition of “This Week @ NASA” (Posted April 10)
Upcoming Activities and NASA TV Coverage
Monday, April 13
  • SpaceX CRS-6 Launch. The sixth SpaceX cargo mission to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract is scheduled to launch on Monday, April 13, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket will lift off at 4:33 p.m., carrying its Dragon cargo spacecraft to the station. Dragon is filled with more than 4,300 pounds of supplies and payloads, including critical materials to directly support about 40 of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during the space station’s Expeditions 43 and 44.
  • 45th Anniversary: “Houston, We Have a Problem.” At 55 hours, 46 minutes, as the crew finished a 49-minute TV broadcast showing how comfortably they lived and worked in weightlessness, Lovell said, “This is the crew of Apollo 13 wishing everybody there a nice evening, and we’re just about ready to close out our inspection of Aquarius and get back for a pleasant evening in Odyssey. Good night.” Nine minutes later, oxygen tank No. 2 blew up, causing the No. 1 tank to also fail. The command module’s normal supply of electricity, light and water was lost, and they were about 200,000 miles from Earth. The message came in the form of a sharp bang and vibration at 9:08 p.m. April 13. Swigert saw a warning light that accompanied the bang and said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”
  • 3:30 p.m. - Coverage of the Launch of the SpaceX/Falcon 9 CRS-6 Mission to the ISS (all channels)
  • 6 p.m. - SpaceX CRS-6 Post-Launch News Conference – KSC (all channels)
Tuesday, April 14
  • Administrator Bolden at Space Symposium
  • New Horizons Media Briefings. NASA Television will air media briefings at 1 p.m. EDT and 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14, to discuss plans and related upcoming activities about the agency’s historic New Horizons spacecraft flyby of Pluto this summer. The two briefing event, which is open to the public, will take place in the Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street SW in Washington. Briefers will describe the mission’s goals, scientific objectives and encounter plans, including the types of images and other data that can be expected and when. New Horizons will fly past Pluto on July 14. The spacecraft already has covered more than 3 billion miles since it launched on January 19, 2006. It will pass Pluto at a speed of 31,000 mph taking thousands of images and making a wide range of other science observations. Given the distance between Pluto and Earth, data from the spacecraft during the encounter will take approximately 4.5 hours to reach our planet.
  • 1 p.m. - New Horizons Media Briefing: Seeing Pluto as Never Before (all channels)
  • 2:30 p.m. - New Horizons Media Briefing: Getting to Pluto (all channels)
Wednesday, April 15
  • SpaceX CRS-6 Arrives at the International Space Station. Monday launch will have the Dragon spacecraft arriving at the space station Wednesday, April 15. Expedition 43 Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) will use the station’s 57.7-foot robotic arm to reach out and capture Dragon at approximately 7 a.m. Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA will support Cristoforetti as they operate from the station’s cupola. NASA TV coverage of grapple will begin at 5 a.m. Coverage of Dragon’s installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module will begin at 9:15 a.m. After about five weeks at the space station, Dragon will return to Earth filled with more than 3,000 pounds of cargo including crew supplies, hardware and computer resources, science experiments, and space station hardware.
  • 5th Anniversary of President Obama’s Space Policy Speech at Kennedy Space Center. On April 15, 2010, President Obama visited Kennedy Space Center to outline his plan for space exploration in the 21st century. In his remarks, he outlined his plan to have private companies carry cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station, set a goal of reaching Mars by the 2030s, and pledged to increase Earth observation. His full remarks can be found here:
  • 5 a.m. - Coverage of the Rendezvous and Grapple of the SpaceX/Dragon Cargo Craft at the ISS (all channels)
  • 9:15 a.m. - Coverage of the Installation of the SpaceX/Dragon CRS-6 Cargo Craft to the ISS (all channels)
Thursday, April 16
  • Administrator Bolden Budget Hearings.
  • 9 a.m. – House Subcommittee on Space. The hearing will be webcast.
  • 2:30 p.m. – Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. The hearing will be webcast.
Friday, April 17
  • Student Rover Challenge. The annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge will take place April 17-18 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA Television will provide coverage of both days’ races from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EDT. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s UStream channel will broadcast the races and the awards ceremony, which will take place at 5 p.m. CDT on April 18 in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration in Huntsville. This year’s competition will feature more than 80 high school and college teams from 18 states, Puerto Rico and international teams from Germany, India, Mexico and Russia racing against the clock in this engineering design competition. The Rover Challenge requires students to design, construct, test and race human-powered rovers through an obstacle course simulating the terrain potentially found on distant planets, asteroids or moons. Teams race to finish the three-quarter-mile-long obstacle course in the fastest time, vying for prizes in various divisions. The event concludes with a ceremony where corporate sponsors will present awards for best design, rookie team and other accomplishments.
  • 12 p.m. - Live Coverage of the NASA Rover Challenge from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama (all channels)
News Highlights
Solar System & Beyond – The April 7 event about the search for water in our solar system led to nearly 400 news articles, including pieces fromUSA TodayThe Washington Post, and CNN.  New Horizons and Pluto were also covered in the news last week.
Technology – The video of the first items manufactured in space being unboxed at MSFC led to more than 100 articles. The Washington Post called it “the ultimate unboxing video.” ABC News and are two other outlets that reported on the video. The Space Apps Challenge also received quite a bit of coverage.
ISS – With the start of baseball season, Astronaut Terry Virts’ effort to take pictures of all cities with baseball stadiums received some press attention. Jimmy Fallon did a bit on his show about the pros and cons of spending a year in space, which led to a response from Scott Kelly. That message led to another video from Fallon and many more exchanges on Twitter.
Aeronautics – Several outlets reported on NASA’s ecoDemonstrator tests, focusing in particular on the non-stick coating to repel bugs. Coverage included articles from Popular Science and Engadget.
Mars – News that MAVEN had made its 1000th orbit around Mars was reported on about 30 times.
EarthBustle reported on the launch of the #NoPlaceLikeHome social media campaign for Earth Day.
Press Releases & Web Features April 6-10
International Space Station
Sixth SpaceX Delivery of Station Research With a Side of Caffeine (April 10)

From improving LCD screens to testing espresso machines, a variety of research is headed to the International Space Station aboard the sixth SpaceX contracted resupply mission. The Dragon spacecraft will deliver research equipment for physical science, biology, biotechnology, human research and a myriad of technology demonstrations to the station. These new and ongoing investigations continue to assist researchers in pursuing scientific breakthroughs not possible on Earth.
NASA Joins Forces to Put Satellite Eyes on Threat to U.S. Freshwater (April 7)

NASA has joined forces with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Geological Survey to transform satellite data designed to probe ocean biology into information that will help protect the American public from harmful freshwater algal blooms. Algal blooms are a worldwide environmental problem causing human and animal health risks, fish kills, and taste and odor in drinking water. In the United States, the cost of freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated at $64 million annually. In August 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it was contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie.
The TRMM Rainfall Mission Comes to an End after 17 Years (April 9)

In 1997 when the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, or TRMM, was launched, its mission was scheduled to last just a few years. Now, 17 years later, the TRMM mission has come to an end. NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) stopped TRMM’s science operations and data collection on April 8 after the spacecraft depleted its fuel reserves. TRMM observed rainfall rates over the tropics and subtropics, where two-thirds of the world’s rainfall occurs. TRMM carried the first precipitation radar flown in space, which returned data that were made into 3-D imagery, enabling scientists to see the internal structure of storms for the first time.
NASA/Forest Service Maps Aid Fire Recovery (April 9)

New maps of two recent California megafires that combine unique data sets from the U.S. Forest Service and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are answering some of the urgent questions that follow a huge wildfire: In all the acres of blackened landscape, where are the live trees to provide seed and regrow the forest? Which dead trees could endanger workers rebuilding roads and trails? What habitats have been created for fire-dependent wildlife species? The maps, so detailed that they show individual trees, cover the areas of two California megafires — the 2013 Rim fire, which burned more than 250,000 acres (1,000 square kilometers) near and in Yosemite National Park, and 2014′s very intense King fire near Lake Tahoe — before, during and after the active burns. As the Forest Service directs ongoing recovery and restoration projects in the two areas, it is using the maps to target its efforts toward important goals such as reducing soil erosion and protecting wildlife.
MAVEN Completes 1,000 Orbits around Mars (April 8)

MAVEN completed 1,000 orbits around the Red Planet on April 6, four-and-a-half months into its one-year primary mission. MAVEN is in its science mapping orbit and has been taking data since the start of its primary mission on Nov. 16, 2014. The furthest point in the spacecraft’s elliptical orbit has been 6,500 kilometers (4,039 miles) and the closest 130 kilometers (81 miles) above the Martian surface.
Special 3-D Delivery From Space to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (April 7)

Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, unboxed some special cargo from the International Space Station on April 6: the first items manufactured in space with a 3-D printer. The items were manufactured as part of the 3-D Printing in Zero-G Technology Demonstration on the space station to show that additive manufacturing can make a variety of parts and tools in space. These early in-space 3-D printing demonstrations are the first steps toward realizing an additive manufacturing, print-on-demand “machine shop” for long-duration missions and sustaining human exploration of other planets, where there is extremely limited ability and availability of Earth-based resupply and logistics support. In-space manufacturing technologies like 3-D printing will help NASA explore Mars, asteroids, and other locations.
Solar System & Beyond

Dawn In Excellent Shape One Month After Ceres Arrival (April 6)

Since its capture by the gravity of dwarf planet Ceres on March 6, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has performed flawlessly, continuing to thrust with its ion engine as planned. The thrust, combined with Ceres’ gravity, is gradually guiding the spacecraft into a circular orbit around the dwarf planet. All of the spacecraft’s systems and instruments are in excellent health. Dawn has been following its planned trajectory on the dark side of Ceres — the side facing away from the sun — since early March. After it entered orbit, the spacecraft’s momentum carried it to a higher altitude, reaching a maximum of 46,800 miles (75,400 kilometers) on March 18. Today, Dawn is about 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers) above Ceres, descending toward the first planned science orbit, which will be 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) above the surface.
The Solar System and Beyond is Awash in Water (April 7)

As NASA missions explore our solar system and search for new worlds, they are finding water in surprising places. Water is but one piece of our search for habitable planets and life beyond Earth, yet it links many seemingly unrelated worlds in surprising ways. “NASA science activities have provided a wave of amazing findings related to water in recent years that inspire us to continue investigating our origins and the fascinating possibilities for other worlds, and life, in the universe,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for the agency. “In our lifetime, we may very well finally answer whether we are alone in the solar system and beyond.”

Seasonal, Year-Long Cycles Seen on the Sun (April 8)

Our sun is constantly changing. It goes through cycles of activity – swinging between times of relative calm and times when frequent explosions on its surface can fling light, particles and energy out into space. This activity cycle peaks approximately every 11 years. New research shows evidence of a shorter time cycle as well, with activity waxing and waning over the course of about 330 days.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Celebrates Hubble Space Telescope’s 25th Anniversary (April 9)

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is a quarter-century old this month. Though only projected to be in service for 10 years when it launched aboard space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the unique telescope is still a technological marvel 25 years later. Orbiting 340 miles above the Earth and traveling at about 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second), Hubble continues to reach back into time to capture stunning images of the universe and our own Milky Way Galaxy with its 100-inch-wide primary mirror. The telescope is credited with discovering many distant galaxies, confirming the existence of supermassive black holes in galactic centers, and discovering birthplaces of stars, relaying images almost too mind-boggling to comprehend.
NASA Study Finds Small Solar Eruptions Can Have Profound Effects On Unprotected Planets (April 9)

While no one yet knows what’s needed to build a habitable planet, it’s clear that the interplay between the sun and Earth is crucial for making our planet livable – a balance between a sun that provides energy and a planet that can protect itself from the harshest solar emissions. Our sun steadily emits light, energy and a constant flow of particles called the solar wind that bathes the planets as it travels out into space. Larger eruptions of solar material, called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, occur too, which can disrupt the atmosphere around a planet. On Earth, some of the impact of these CMEs is deflected by a natural magnetic bubble called the magnetosphere.