This Week @ NASA

Latest Edition of “This Week @ NASA” (Published December 12, 2014)

Upcoming Activities and NASA TV Coverage

Tuesday, December 16

  • American Geophysical Union (AGU) Briefing: Early Results from the MAVEN Mission. NASA’s newest Mars orbiter, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, spacecraft began its science phase in mid-November. As the first mission devoted to observing the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars, MAVEN is helping scientists determine how much of the atmosphere has been lost throughout the planet’s history and which processes have been driving that loss. A panel of MAVEN mission scientists will discuss early observations made by MAVEN that are revealing new information about the composition and behavior of the upper atmosphere of Mars. LINK
  • AGU Briefing: Latest Look at X-rays and Gamma-rays in Thunderstorms. The intense electrical fields generated within thunderstorms produce bursts of high-energy radiation as well as lightning. This session includes new results from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which is helping scientists explore the connection between brief flashes of gamma rays and the range of storms capable of producing them. LINK
  • AGU Briefing: Surprising findings in Greenland’s melt dynamics. As Greenland’s climate warms, liquid water runoff has become the island’s dominant contributor to global sea level rise. A panel of cryospheric researchers will discuss recent surprising discoveries about Greenland’s melt water: thick ice lenses that contribute to heavy runoff and damaging floods; surface lakes that hold liquid water through Greenland’s frigid winters; and extensive year round near-surface aquifers that store huge amounts of water within the ice. The panel begins with 90-year-old photographs of Greenland glaciers and continues with unexpected findings from field and satellite work (including results from NASA’s Operation IceBridge) exploring the fates of Greenland and its ice melt. LINK
    • 9:55 a.m. - ISS Expedition 42 In-Flight Event for ESA with Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (all channels)

Tuesday, December 16

  • AGU Briefing: California’s epic drought as viewed from space. California’s multi-year drought is stressing freshwater availability to its limits and has cost Californians $2 billion in 2014 alone. But when did the current drought begin and when can we say it’s over? Harnessing the power of remote observations, researchers can now answer those questions. Speakers will discuss how they are using the latest satellite and aircraft-based analyses of snowpack, surface water, reservoir storage, soil moisture, groundwater and freshwater to identify the birth and death of California’s droughts. LINK
  • AGU Briefing: Recent Findings from NASA’s Curiosity Rover about Modern and Ancient Mars. NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover, more than two years after landing inside Gale Crater, is continuing its investigations in an extended mission of the Mars Science Laboratory Project. Members of the Curiosity science team will present findings about present and past Martian environmental conditions, as indicated by compositional measurements of atmosphere and rock. LINK
  • AGU Briefing: Holidays in Lights: Tracking Culture from Space. It’s not just the days that are merry and bright this holiday season – festive lights illuminate the nights in cities across the United States. In this briefing, scientists will present a new way of studying satellite data that can illustrate patterns in holiday lights, both during Christmas and the holy month of Ramadan, and show images of where and when the lights shine brightest. These new tools can provide new insights into how energy consumption behaviors vary across different cultural settings. LINK

Wednesday, December 17

  • AGU Briefing: Rosetta comet science results. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission rendezvoused with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on August 6. On November 12, the mission’s Philae lander became the first spacecraft to soft land on a comet’s surface. The Rosetta science team will present images and science results from the mission to date, and discuss future goals for the mission, as the spacecraft and comet approach perihelion (closest point to the sun). LINK
  • AGU Briefing: Arctic heating: 15 years of sea ice loss—and absorbed solar radiation gains. The retreat of summer sea ice in the Arctic is driving increased absorption of solar radiation due to the conversion of bright, reflective sea ice into dark, exposed ocean waters. Now, armed with 15 years of satellite observations from NASA’s CERES mission, scientists will present a new estimate of just how much the rate of solar energy gain has increased over the Arctic Ocean since 2000. They will also discuss the implications of this trend for sea ice, the Arctic climate and beyond. LINK
  • AGU Briefing: After the pulse flow: Greening the Colorado River Delta. In spring 2014, 130 million cubic meters of water was released from Morelos Dam on the lower Colorado River, allowing water to reach the Gulf of California for the first time in 16 years. Now, six months later, scientists have analyzed some of the first effects of this historic experiment, the result of a new U.S.-Mexico agreement. In this panel, researchers will present satellite and on-the-ground observations of the wide-ranging effects of this brief flow of water, including recovery of native trees and vegetation in the river’s corridor, recharge of the aquifer, the water’s path, and the public’s reaction to this event. LINK

Thursday, December 18

  • One Year Expedition Crew News Conference. NASA and its International Space Station partners will hold a news conference in Paris at 10 a.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 18, to discuss the upcoming one-year expedition on the International Space Station. NASA Television and the agency’s website will carry the briefing live. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly will launch to the space station in March 2015 to begin a yearlong stay aboard the orbiting laboratory — the longest single space mission ever undertaken by an American. He will be joined by Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) on this one-year mission. Thursday’s briefing will take place at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris and will include participants from NASA, its international partner space agencies, and UNESCO. LINK
  • SpaceX-5 Cargo Resupply Launch. The fifth SpaceX cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract now is scheduled to launch no earlier than 1:20 p.m. EST Friday, Dec. 19, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA Television coverage of the launch begins at 12:15 p.m. An on-time launch on Dec. 19 will result in the Dragon spacecraft arriving at the space station onSunday, Dec. 21. Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore of NASA will use the station’s 57.7-foot robotic arm to reach out and capture it at approximately 6 a.m. Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency will support Wilmore as they operate from the station’s cupola. NASA TV coverage of grapple will begin at 4:30 a.m. Coverage of Dragon’s installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module will begin 9 a.m. LINK
  • AGU Briefing: Early Results from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 Mission. In 2014, NASA launched four new missions to study our home planet, including the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 in July – NASA’s first mission dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide. This press conference will present early results from the OCO-2 mission. Fossil fuel combustion, deforestation and other human activities are adding almost 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, yet less than half of it stays airborne. The rest is apparently being absorbed by natural processes at the surface, whose identity and location are poorly understood. Ground-based carbon dioxide measurements accurately record the global atmospheric carbon dioxide budget and its trends but do not have the resolution or coverage needed to identify the “sources” emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or the natural “sinks” absorbing this gas. LINK
  • AGU Briefing: New Horizons on Pluto’s Doorstep. After nine years and three billion miles in flight, it’s “mission on” for New Horizons at Pluto! The historic encounter begins with long-distance observations in January 2015, and culminates with a flight past Pluto and its moons in July 2015. In this workshop, New Horizons team members will cover why we’re traveling to Pluto, what we want to learn, how we’re going to collect this new information, and our efforts to bring the excitement of this incredible voyage to the public. LINK

o   10 a.m. - One-Year Expedition Crew News Conference at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France (all channels)

o   11:30 a.m. - Space Station Live (all channels)

o   12 p.m. - Space X Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) -5 Prelaunch News Conference (all channels)

o   1:30 p.m. - NASA ISS Research and Technology Briefing (all channels)

o   3 p.m. - NASA ISS Earth Science Briefing: Cloud Aerosol Transport System (CATS) (all channels)

Friday, November 19

    • 11:45 p.m. - Video B-Roll of SpaceX/Dragon CRS-5 Processing (all channels)
    • 12:15 p.m. - Coverage of the Launch of the SpaceX/Dragon CRS-5 Cargo Ship to the ISS (Launch scheduled at 1:22 p.m. ET) (all channels)
    • 3 p.m. - SpaceX/Dragon CRS-5 Post-Launch News Conference – KSC (all channels)

News Highlights

Federal Times and The Washington Post reported on the remarks made by President Obama praising the successful Orion test flight and highlighting the work of Orion Chief Engineer Julie Kramer White.

Politico and The Washington Post were two of the outlets to report on the fact that NASA was again named the best place to work in the federal government.

The “All About That Space” parody video made by interns at JSC was shared by outlets like The Baltimore SunMashableNBC News, and CNET.

Press Releases & Web Features December 8-15


Signs of Ancient Mars Lakes and Quakes Seen in New Map (December 12)

Long ago, in the largest canyon system in our solar system, vibrations from “marsquakes” shook soft sediments that had accumulated in Martian lakes. The shaken sediments formed features that now appear as a series of low hills apparent in a geological map based on NASA images. The map was released today by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). This map of the western Candor Chasma canyon within Mars’ Valles Marineris is the highest-resolution Martian geological map ever released by USGS. LINK


Printing Challenges for First 3D Printer Aboard International Space Station (December 9)

America has always been a nation of tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. In recent years, a growing number of Americans have gained access to technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, easy-to-use design software, and desktop machinery. These tools are enabling more Americans to design and make almost anything, and the applications to space exploration will help our astronauts to be less reliant on materials from Earth as they explore farther out into the solar system. NASA in conjunction with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation, has issued a series of “Future Engineers” 3D Space Challenges for students focused on solving real-world space exploration problems. Students will become the creators and innovators of tomorrow by using 3D modeling software to submit their designs and have the opportunity for their design to be printed on the first 3D printer aboard the International Space Station. The winning student will watch from NASA’s Payload Operations Center with the mission control team as the item is printed in space. LINK

New “Brain” for RS-25 Engine is No Technological Flashback to the ’80s (December 10)

Take a look at your current devices. Can you imagine swapping that smartphone for a gigantic cellphone from the 1980s? Surfing the Internet with dial-up speed? Working out to your favorite music with a cassette player? Today’s technology is better, faster and more innovative. People have to keep up with the rapidly changing times, and so does the “brain” for the RS-25 rocket engine. The engine controller unit on the RS-25 — formerly known as the space shuttle main engine — helped propel all of the space shuttle missions to space. It allows communication between the vehicle and the engine, relaying commands to the engine and transmitting data back to the vehicle. The controller also provides closed-loop management of the engine by regulating the thrust and fuel mixture ratio while monitoring the engine’s health and status. LINK

Solar System and Beyond

Rosetta Instrument Reignites Debate on Earth’s Oceans (December 10)

The question about the origin of oceans on Earth is one of the most important questions with respect to the formation of our planet and the origin of life. The most popular theory is that water was brought by impacts of comets and asteroids. Data from the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft indicate that terrestrial water did not come from comets like 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The findings were published today in the journal Science…. The ROSINA instrument on the Rosetta spacecraft has found that the composition of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s water vapor is significantly different from that found on Earth. LINK

Galactic Get-Together Has Impressive Light Display (December 11)

At this time of year, there are lots of gatherings often decorated with festive lights. When galaxies get together, there is the chance of a spectacular light show as is the case with NGC 2207 and IC 2163 Located about 130 million light years from Earth, in the constellation of Canis Major, this pair of spiral galaxies has been caught in a grazing encounter. NGC 2207 and IC 2163 have hosted three supernova explosions in the past 15 years and have produced one of the most bountiful collections of super bright X-ray lights known. These special objects – known as “ultraluminous X-ray sources” (ULXs) – have been found using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. LINK

International Space Station

Boeing Covers Groundwork in Second Milestone (December 10)

The momentum of certifying American space transportation systems capable of carrying astronauts to the International Space Station continued on pace as NASA took a comprehensive look at all of Boeing’s ground-based system designs. This Ground Segment Critical Design Review marks the second milestone in the company’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract, NASA’s Launch America initiative designed to return human spaceflight launches to the United States and end our reliance on Russia. The three-week-long review covered Boeing’s plans for constructing and processing its Crew Space Transportation System, called the CST-100, in a former orbiter processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Boeing will process its CST-100. It also covered the development of a nearby mission control center that would be the hub of the company’s engineering operations. LINK

Building a Worldwide Genetic Library BRIC-by-BRIC (December 11)

A house is only as good as its foundation. Built solid and strong, the resulting structure should last for decades. NASA is laying a strong foundation of life science research with results from a recent investigation on the International Space Station called BRIC-19. The Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) series of investigations encapsulates samples inside rectangular containers about the size of shoeboxes. BRIC-19 launched on the fourth SpaceX cargo resupply services mission in September 2014, carrying Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings. The plant — more commonly known as thale cress — germinated and spent weeks growing in petri dishes in BRIC-19 before returning to Earth in a Dragon capsule Oct. 25 for examination by scientists. LINK

Earth Right Now

NASA’s IceBridge Antarctic Campaign Wraps Up (December 10)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge recently completed its 2014 Antarctic campaign, marking the mission’s sixth set of flights over Antarctica. During the six-week-long deployment from Punta Arenas, Chile, researchers aboard NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory measured land and sea ice from above to continue building a record of change in the Antarctic. The campaign began on Oct. 16, with a flight aimed at measuring sea ice in the Weddell Sea. This first flight – like many that followed – was a repeat mission, covering areas that IceBridge studied in previous campaigns. The repeat flights this year were of particular importance because it has been two years since IceBridge was last in Punta Arenas. LINK

NASA Study Shows 13-year Record of Drying Amazon Caused Vegetation Declines (December 10)

A 13-year decline in vegetation in the eastern and southeastern Amazon has been linked to a decade-long rainfall decline in the region, a new NASA-funded study finds. With global climate models projecting further drying over the Amazon in the future, the potential loss of vegetation and the associated loss of carbon storage may speed up global climate change. The study was based on a new way to measure the “greenness” of plants and trees using satellites. While one NASA satellite measured up to 25 percent decline in rainfall across two thirds of the Amazon from 2000 to 2012, a set of different satellite instruments observed a 0.8 percent decline in greenness over the Amazon. The study was published on Nov. 11 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. LINK

Help U.S. Cope with Climate Change: Enter NASA-USGS Data App Challenge (December 11)

NASA in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is offering more than $35,000 in prizes to citizen scientists for ideas that make use of climate data to address vulnerabilities faced by the United States in coping with climate change. The Climate Resilience Data Challenge, conducted through the NASA Tournament Lab, a partnership with Harvard University hosted on Appirio/Topcoder, kicks off Monday, Dec 15 and runs through March 2015. The challenge supports the efforts of the White House Climate Data Initiative, a broad effort to leverage the federal government’s extensive, freely available climate-relevant data resources to spur innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in order to advance awareness of and preparedness for the impacts of climate change. The challenge was announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Dec. 9. LINK


NASA Super Guppy Plane Delivers Large Composite Structure for Testing (December 12)

A plane that looks more like a giant fish than an aircraft hauled a huge, uniquely-shaped, fuselage cross-section across country for testing at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The Super Guppy, which is based at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, carried the 30-foot (9.14 meters) wide, 10,000-pound (4,536 kilograms) composite, double deck multi-bay box from Long Beach, California, to Virginia so researchers can bend, pressurize and eventually break it. The multi-bay box is a test article that represents part of the center section of a futuristic airplane design, called a hybrid wing body. LINK

NASA Tests Software That May Help Increase Flight Efficiency, Decrease Aircraft Noise (December 15)

NASA researchers Friday began flight tests of computer software that shows promise in improving flight efficiency and reducing environmental impacts of aircraft, especially on communities around airports. Known as ASTAR, or Airborne Spacing for Terminal Arrival Routes, the software is designed to give pilots specific speed information and guidance so that planes can be more precisely spaced, enabling pilots to fly a “follow the leader” approach to their destination airport. This type of approach would minimize flight path deviations, allow more efficient use of existing airspace and possibly reduce noise over communities surrounding airports – all of which could lead to reductions in commercial flight delays. LINK