Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NASA Awards Space Radiobiology Research Grants


NASA is funding 12 proposals from nine states to investigate questions about the effects of space radiation on human explorers. The selected proposals from researchers in Alabama, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington have a total value of approximately $13.7 million.

The ground-based studies will address the impact of space radiation on astronaut health. Research areas will include risk predictions for cancer and models for potential damage to the central nervous system and the heart.

"The proposals funded this year using systems biology and state-of-the-art cell and molecular biology approaches will lead to improved understanding and identification of approaches to mitigate the risks to astronauts living in space," said Francis A. Cucinotta, chief scientist for the Human Research Program Space Radiation Program Element at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The Human Research Program provides knowledge and technologies to improve human health during space exploration and identifies possible countermeasures for known problems. The program quantifies crew health and performance risks during spaceflight and develops strategies that mission planners and system developers can use to monitor and mitigate health risks.

The 12 projects were selected from proposals that were reviewed by scientific and technical experts from academia and government laboratories. A complete list of the selected principal investigators, organizations and proposals is available at:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Undergrad Proposal Deadline Nears for NASA Reduced Gravity Flights


The deadline is fast-approaching for undergraduate students to submit their team proposals to NASA's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. Proposals must be received by 11:59 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, Oct. 28.

NASA's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program gives aspiring explorers a chance to propose, design and fabricate a reduced gravity experiment. Selected teams will get to test and evaluate their experiment aboard a modified Boeing 727 jetliner provided by the Zero-Gravity Corporation of Las Vegas. Zero-Gravity Corporation will conduct the flights in cooperation with the Reduced Gravity Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The aircraft will fly approximately 30 roller-coaster-like climbs and dips during experiment flights to produce periods of weightlessness and hyper-gravity ranging from 0 g to 2 g.

"Today's students will be conducting tomorrow's space exploration," said Douglas Goforth, the program manager at Johnson. "Conducting a hands-on research and engineering project in a truly reduced gravity laboratory gives students a head start in preparing for those future ventures."

All applicants must be full-time students, U.S. citizens and at least 18 years old. NASA will announce selected teams Dec. 9. Teams will fly in the summer of 2010. Selected teams also may invite a full-time, accredited journalist to fly with them and document the team's experiment and experiences.

Through this program, NASA continues its tradition of investing in the nation's education programs. It is directly tied to the agency's education goal of strengthening NASA and the nation's future workforce. Through this and other college and university programs, NASA will identify and develop the critical science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills and capabilities needed to carry out its space exploration mission.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ares I-X Ready, Weather Remains Unfavorable


At this morning's Ares I-X Launch Status Briefing, Launch Test Director Jeff Spaulding said the flight test vehicle is ready for Tuesday morning liftoff. "I'm very happy to report that we are tracking no problems and the vehicle is in great shape."

Weather Officer Kathy Winters offered less favorable news, reporting that there still remains only a 40 percent chance that the weather on Tuesday morning will cooperate. The issue will be a chance of clouds and precipitation in the area. There is a four-hour launch window, extending from 8 a.m. until 12 noon EDT. If weather scrubs Tuesday's attempt, the launch team will try again on Wednesday, maintaining the same launch window.

Today's preparations at Launch Pad 39B include final ordnance work and electrical testing, as well as testing of the range safety command transmitter. Later tonight, technicians will install the flight doors on the fifth segment simulator.

Launch countdown preparations in Firing Room 1 are scheduled for Monday, and the launch teams "call to stations" will come at 12:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.

Ares I-X Flight Test

Launch Vehicle: Ares I-X
Launch Date: Oct. 27
Launch Time: 8 a.m. EDT
Launch Pad: 39B
Launch Site: NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida

NASA's first flight test for the agency's next-generation spacecraft and launch vehicle system, called Ares I-X, will bring NASA one step closer to its exploration goals. The flight test will provide NASA with an early opportunity to test and prove flight characteristics, hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NASA's Fermi Telescope Celebrates First Year of Gamma-Ray Science


NASA will hold a news briefing at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 29, to discuss the first-year science results from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The briefing will be held in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. S.W., in Washington. It will be carried live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's Web site.

Fermi studies gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light. Findings discussed will include measurements relevant to the search for new theories of gravity.

The panelists are:

- Jon Morse, director, Astrophysics Division, NASA Headquarters.
- Julie McEnery, Fermi project scientist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
- Peter Michelson, Fermi Large Area Telescope principal investigator, Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
- Robert Kirshner, professor of astronomy, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.
- Mario Livio, astrophysicist, Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

Reporters unable to attend the briefing may ask questions by telephone. To reserve a telephone line, journalists should e-mail their name, media affiliation and telephone number to J.D. Harrington at:

For NASA television schedules, downlinks and streaming video, visit:

For more information about NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, visit:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

NASA Selects 18 University Proposals for Steckler Space Grants


NASA has chosen 18 proposals from universities around the country to receive up to $70,000 for Phase One of the NASA Ralph Steckler Space Grant Colonization Research and Technology Development Opportunity.

Grant money will support university research and technology development activities that support a sustained human presence in space, increase understanding of the moon's environment and develop basic infrastructure for future space colonies.

"I'm excited that many of the awards will provide a dual benefit to exploration and to Earth conservation by focusing on important issues such as water recycling, food production and power storage," said Frank Prochaska, manager of the Steckler Space Grant Project at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA selected two proposals from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and the University of Arizona in Tucson and one proposal from each of the following academic institutions:

* Desert Research Institute in Reno
* Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge
* Montana State University in Bozeman
* New Mexico State University in Las Cruces
* Ohio Aerospace Institute in Cleveland
* Old Dominion University Research Foundation in Norfolk, Va.
* Pennsylvania State University in University Park
* Texas Tech University System in Lubbock
* University of California in San Diego
* University of Central Florida in Orlando
* University of Hartford in West Hartford, Conn.
* University of Idaho in Moscow
* University of North Texas in Denton
* University of Wisconsin in Green Bay

The projects selected to receive Steckler Space Grants will be implemented through three funding and development phases. Phase One will last nine months with a maximum award up to $70,000. The purpose of Phase One is to establish the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of a proposed innovation, research, or technology development effort that could enable space colonization or settlement. Primary exploration elements include habitation, rovers, surface power, communications and extravehicular activity systems.

Phase Two, which lasts two years, will provide a maximum of $250,000 each to four of the most promising Phase One projects through a competitive selection based on scientific and technical merit. The purpose of Phase Two is to begin conducting the research and technology development effort. Two awards of up to $275,000 each will be given for the third phase, also two years, during which time the Phase Two efforts will be integrated with NASA programs or projects.

NASA received 35 proposals. The agency released the cooperative agreement notice inviting lead institutions of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program to submit proposals for these grants in November 2008. The Space Grant national network includes more than 850 affiliates from universities, colleges, industry, museums, science centers, and state and local agencies supporting and enhancing science and engineering education, research and public outreach efforts for NASA's aeronautics and space projects. These affiliates belong to one of 52 consortia in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Ralph Steckler was an assistant film director and photographer from southern California who had a lifelong interest in space colonization. He left part of his estate to NASA for the colonization of space and the betterment of mankind. Those funds are now providing universities with NASA research opportunities based on his vision.

With this program and NASA's other college and university programs, the agency continues its tradition of investing in the nation's education programs with the goal of developing science, technology, engineering and math skills and capabilities critical to achieving the nations' exploration goals.

For more information about NASA's education programs visit:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

NASA Sets Briefing about Ares I-X Readiness to Launch


NASA will hold a news conference on Friday, Oct. 23, at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to discuss the status of the Ares I-X rocket launch. The briefing will begin at approximately 5 p.m. EDT, after the conclusion of the Flight Test Readiness Review, a meeting to assess preparations for the flight test. The review is expected to include the selection of an official launch date. Ares I-X currently is targeted to launch at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

The briefing participants are:
- Bob Ess, Ares I-X mission manager
- Ed Mango, Ares I-X launch director

NASA Television and the agency's Web site will broadcast the news briefing live. Journalists may ask questions from participating NASA locations. Reporters should contact their preferred NASA center to confirm its participation. For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and scheduling information, visit:

Live status updates, including the start time for the news conference, will be provided via the NASA Ares I-X Twitter feed during the meeting.

To access the feed, visit:

The two-and-a-half-minute Ares I-X flight will provide NASA with an opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations while gathering critical data for future launch vehicles. For Ares I-X information, visit:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Progress Launches to Space Station


A new Progress cargo resupply vehicle launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 9:14 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Oct. 14. Less than nine minutes later, the ISS Progress 35 reached its preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas.

It replaces the trash-filled Progress 34 which undocked on Sept. 21 and was destroyed on re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific on Sept. 27.

Progress 35 is set to dock to the station on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 9:41 p.m. with more than two tons of oxygen, air, propellant and other supplies and equipment aboard.

The station's 35th Progress unpiloted spacecraft brings to the orbiting laboratory 1,918 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen and air, 926 pounds of water and 1,750 pounds of spare parts and supplies for the Expedition 21 crew.

Once the Expedition 21 crew members have unloaded the cargo, Progress 35 will be filled with trash and station discards. It will be undocked from the station and like its predecessors deorbited to burn in the Earth's atmosphere.

The Progress is similar in appearance and some design elements to the Soyuz spacecraft, which brings crew members to the station, serves as a lifeboat while they are there and returns them to Earth. The aft module, the instrumentation and propulsion module, is nearly identical.

But the second of the three Progress sections is a refueling module, and the third, uppermost as the Progress sits on the launch pad, is a cargo module. On the Soyuz, the descent module, where the crew is seated on launch and which returns them to Earth, is the middle module and the third is called the orbital module.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NASA Spacecraft Provides First View of Our Place in the Galaxy


NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, spacecraft has made it possible for scientists to construct the first comprehensive sky map of our solar system and its location in the Milky Way galaxy. The new view will change the way researchers view and study the interaction between our galaxy and sun.

The sky map was produced with data that two detectors on the spacecraft collected during six months of observations. The detectors measured and counted particles scientists refer to as energetic neutral atoms.

The energetic neutral atoms are created in an area of our solar system known as the interstellar boundary region. This region is where charged particles from the sun, called the solar wind, flow outward far beyond the orbits of the planets and collide with material between stars. The energetic neutral atoms travel inward toward the sun from interstellar space at velocities ranging from 100,000 mph to more than 2.4 million mph. This interstellar boundary emits no light that can be collected by conventional telescopes.

The new map reveals the region that separates the nearest reaches of our galaxy, called the local interstellar medium, from our heliosphere -- a protective bubble that shields and protects our solar system from most of the dangerous cosmic radiation traveling through space.

"For the first time, we're sticking our heads out of the sun's atmosphere and beginning to really understand our place in the galaxy," said David J. McComas, IBEX principal investigator and assistant vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "The IBEX results are truly remarkable, with a narrow ribbon of bright details or emissions not resembling any of the current theoretical models of this region."

NASA released the sky map image Oct. 15 in conjunction with publication of the findings in the journal Science. The IBEX data were complemented and extended by information collected using an imaging instrument sensor on NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Cassini has been observing Saturn, its moons and rings since the spacecraft entered the planet's orbit in 2004.

The IBEX sky maps also put observations from NASA's Voyager spacecraft into context. The twin Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977, traveled to the outer solar system to explore Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. In 2007, Voyager 2 followed Voyager 1 into the interstellar boundary. Both spacecraft are now in the midst of this region where the energetic neutral atoms originate. However, the IBEX results show a ribbon of bright emissions undetected by the two Voyagers.

"The Voyagers are providing ground truth, but they're missing the most exciting region," said Eric Christian, the IBEX deputy mission scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "It's like having two weather stations that miss the big storm that runs between them."

The IBEX spacecraft was launched in October 2008. Its science objective was to discover the nature of the interactions between the solar wind and the interstellar medium at the edge of our solar system. The Southwest Research Institute developed and leads the mission with a team of national and international partners. The spacecraft is the latest in NASA's series of low-cost, rapidly developed Small Explorers Program. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA and the European and Italian Space Agencies. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., provides overall management for Cassini and the Voyagers for the Science Mission Directorate.

To view the sky map and for more information about IBEX, visit:

For more information about other NASA science missions on the Web, visit:

Friday, October 16, 2009

NASA Offers Media Satellite Interviews Oct. 21 for Ares I-X Launch


NASA's Ares I-X Deputy Mission Manager Jon Cowart is available for satellite interviews from 6 to 9 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Oct. 21. He will conduct the interviews from the rocket's launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

To interview Cowart, reporters should contact Amber Philman at 321-861-0370 by noon on Oct. 20. NASA Television will broadcast b-roll of the Ares I-X from 5:30 to 6 a.m. at analog satellite AMC-6 at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 5C, 3800 MHz, vertical polarization, with audio at 6.8 MHz.

The Ares I-X rocket is targeted to launch Tuesday, Oct. 27 on a 28-mile high flight test. The flight test will provide NASA with an early opportunity to test and prove flight characteristics, hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I rocket.

In 2007, Cowart became the senior project manager responsible for all modifications to the launch pad, Vehicle Assembly Building, and mobile launcher platform for Ares I-X. In December 2008, he was chosen as the deputy mission manager for Ares I-X. As part of the Mission Management Office, he is responsible for the Ares I-X flight test mission. Cowart graduated from Georgia Tech in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering and an Air Force commission.

For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:

To follow the Ares I-X flight test on Twitter, go to:

For information about Ares I-X, visit:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

NASA Television to Broadcast Cargo Ship Arrival at Space Station


The residents of the International Space Station will receive a new shipment of food, fuel and supplies at 8:41 p.m. CDT on Saturday, Oct. 17. NASA Television's coverage of the ship's arrival at the station will begin at 8:15 p.m.

The Russian ISS Progress 35 cargo ship, filled with more than two tons of supplies for the station, is set to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 8:14 p.m. There will be no television coverage of the launch.

Expedition 21 Commander Frank De Winne and Flight Engineers Jeff Williams, Nicole Stott, Roman Romanenko, Max Suraev and Bob Thirsk will observe the event from aboard the station as the unpiloted craft automatically docks to the station's Pirs Docking Compartment.

For NASA Television streaming video, downlink and schedule information, visit:

For more about the International Space Station, visit:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NASA Launches Tweetup for Space Shuttle Atlantis Liftoff in Florida


For the first time, NASA Twitter followers are invited to view a space shuttle launch in person at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA is hosting this unique Tweetup on Nov. 11 and 12. Space shuttle Atlantis is targeted to launch at 4:04 p.m. EST, Nov. 12 on its STS-129 mission to the International Space Station.

"This will be NASA's fifth Tweetup for our Twitter community," said Michael Cabbage, director of the News Services division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Each event has provided our followers with inside access to NASA personnel, including astronauts. The goal of this particular Tweetup is to share the excitement of a shuttle launch with a new audience."

NASA will accommodate the first 100 people who sign up on the Web. An additional 50 registrants will be added to a waitlist. Registration opens at noon EDT on Friday, Oct. 16. To sign up and for more information about the Tweetup, visit:

The two-day event will provide NASA Twitter followers with the opportunity to take a tour of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, view the space shuttle launch and speak with shuttle technicians, engineers, astronauts and managers. The Tweetup will include a "meet and greet" session to allow participants to mingle with fellow Tweeps and the staff behind the tweets on @NASA.

To follow NASA programs on Twitter visit:

For more information about space shuttle Atlantis' STS-129 mission, visit:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Orion Main Parachute Testing Technique Demonstrated


NASA and engineering support contractors completed a demonstration test of the main parachute test equipment for the Orion crew exploration vehicle Oct. 2 at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz.

The demonstration is part of a series of tests to support the design and development of the Orion parachute recovery system, which is derived from the system NASA used to recover the Apollo spacecraft.

In August 2008, NASA experienced an anomaly in the test technique when deploying a full-scale Orion boilerplate parachute test vehicle (PTV). To improve the testing technique and prevent such an anomaly from occurring again, NASA is developing “smart” systems to make the extraction of large, oversized payloads from the C-17 aircraft repeatable and creation of the right test conditions more reliable.

For the recent test, a 20,700-pound test vehicle was extracted from a C-130 aircraft at an altitude of 20,500 feet. The test conditions simulated the dynamic environment that the test vehicle experiences when extracted from an aircraft. The new “smart” avionic systems are designed to sense the attitude and pitch rate of the test vehicle and trigger the proper time to release the vehicle from the test platform to begin the parachute test. All of the new avionics worked as planned, recorded the proper release points and the equipment landed safely.

The test vehicle consisted of a nine-foot-wide by 24-foot-long platform with a 16-foot-long weight tub. The tub included a backstop structure to provide a positive angle of attack when the vehicle was descending under the programmer parachute. Honeycomb was built up on the weight tub to simulate the profile and aerodynamics of the actual test vehicle that will be used in later testing. Simulating the aerodynamics of the vehicle is important since that contributes to the pitch motion when the vehicle is extracted from an aircraft.

The next demonstration of the new test equipment is scheduled for November 2009. A third demonstration focused on better understanding the wake effects of the programmer parachute is scheduled for January 2010. Tests for the pilots, drogues and main parachutes are scheduled to begin in late 2010 and continue through 2014.

To gather additional useful data during this demonstration of the testing technique, two Orion main parachutes were deployed with over-inflation control lines to investigate their effects on drag oscillation.

One of the causes of drag oscillation is the “breathing” of the large ring sail parachutes resulting in time-varying drag performance. Better understanding the drag performance will improve the calculations of Orion’s touchdown velocity and the impact loads the vehicle must be designed to sustain. Engineers will study the data collected to see if the design modifications can be used to optimize the main parachute performance.

Orion will carry NASA's next generation of astronauts to the International Space Station and beyond. NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston manages the Orion Project for the Constellation Program and leads the design and development of the crew exploration vehicle recovery system. The Houston division of Jacobs Technology Inc. in conjunction with Airborne Systems of Santa Ana, Calif. are designing, developing and testing the parachutes in Yuma.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Space Station Joint Crew News Conference


Soyuz Landing Caps Historic Space Station Increment


International Space Station Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt landed their Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft on the steppes of Kazakhstan Sunday, wrapping up a six-month stay. Joining them was spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte, who spent 11 days in space.

Padalka, the Soyuz commander, guided the spacecraft to a parachute-assisted landing at 12:32 a.m. EDT at a site northeast of the town of Arkalyk.

Russian recovery teams were on hand within minutes of landing to help the crew exit from the Soyuz vehicle and reacclimate to gravity. The crew members will return to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside of Moscow, for reunions with their families.

Padalka and Barratt spent 199 days in space and 197 days on the station after their March 26 launch. Laliberte launched with the Expedition 21 crew on a Soyuz vehicle Sept. 30 and returned after nine days on the station.

Padalka and Barratt presided over the inauguration of a six-person crew and two space shuttle assembly and resupply missions to the station. They also were station crew members during the delivery of tons of cargo and new science facilities for expanded research, and the arrival of the first Japanese H-II Transfer cargo vehicle.

The station now is occupied by Expedition 21 Commander Frank De Winne of the European Space Agency and Flight Engineers Roman Romanenko and Max Suraev of Russia, Bob Thirsk of the Canadian Space Agency and Nicole Stott and Jeff Williams of NASA.

Friday, October 9, 2009

NASA Spacecraft Impacts Lunar Crater in Search for Water Ice!

NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, created twin impacts on the moon's surface early Friday in a search for water ice. Scientists will analyze data from the spacecraft's instruments to assess whether water ice is present. The satellite traveled 5.6 million miles during an historic 113-day mission that ended in the Cabeus crater, a permanently shadowed region near the moon's south pole. The spacecraft was launched June 18 as a companion mission to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"The LCROSS science instruments worked exceedingly well and returned a wealth of data that will greatly improve our understanding of our closest celestial neighbor," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator and project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "The team is excited to dive into data."

In preparation for impact, LCROSS and its spent Centaur upper stage rocket separated about 54,000 miles above the surface of the moon on Thursday at approximately 6:50 p.m. PDT.

Moving at a speed of more than 1.5 miles per second, the Centaur hit the lunar surface shortly after 4:31 a.m. Oct. 9, creating an impact that instruments aboard LCROSS observed for approximately four minutes. LCROSS then impacted the surface at approximately 4:36 a.m.

"This is a great day for science and exploration," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The LCROSS data should prove to be an impressive addition to the tremendous leaps in knowledge about the moon that have been achieved in recent weeks. I want to congratulate the LCROSS team for their tremendous achievement in development of this low cost spacecraft and for their perseverance through a number of difficult technical and operational challenges."‪

Other observatories reported capturing both impacts. The data will be shared with the LCROSS science team for analysis. The LCROSS team expects it to take several weeks of analysis before it can make a definitive assessment of the presence or absence of water ice.

"I am very proud of the success of this LCROSS mission team," said Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager at Ames. "Whenever this team would hit a roadblock, it conceived a clever work-around allowing us to push forward with a successful mission."

The images and video collected by the amateur astronomer community and the public also will be used to enhance our knowledge about the moon.

"One of the early goals of the mission was to get as many people to look at the LCROSS impacts in as many ways possible, and we succeeded," said Jennifer Heldmann, Ames' coordinator of the LCROSS observation campaign. "The amount of corroborated information that can be pulled out of this one event is fascinating."

"It has been an incredible journey since LCROSS was selected in April 2006," said Andrews. "The LCROSS Project faced a very ambitious schedule and an uncommonly small budget for a mission of this size. LCROSS could be a model for how small robotic missions are executed. This is truly big science on a small budget."

NASA to Rebroadcast Global Event from the Space Station


NASA Television will rebroadcast the Oct. 9 global event International Space Station resident Guy Laliberte designed to raise awareness about the need for clean water. Laliberte, who founded Cirque du Soleil, hosts the event from aboard the station.

"Moving Stars and Earth for Water," will take place in 14 cities across five continents between 9 and 11 p.m. EDT, and will be streamed live on the Web site of Laliberte's ONE DROP foundation at:

NASA Television will re-air the entire broadcast beginning Saturday, Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. with encore broadcasts Oct. 11 and 12. For NASA TV streaming video, schedule and downlink information, visit:

NASA signed a memorandum of understanding with Cirque du Soleil regarding the event, which will include video from aboard the space station and also discussion about water recycling aboard the station and about NASA technologies affecting everyday life. Event participants include former Vice President Al Gore, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette, actress Salma Hayek and singers Shakira and Bono.

Laliberte flew to the station for a nine-day stay under an agreement between the Russian Federal Space Agency and Space Adventures, Ltd. He and two station crewmates, Mike Barratt and Gennady Padalka, will return to Earth on Sunday, Oct. 11.

For more information about the space station, visit:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

NASA Selects High School Students for Inspire Education Program


NASA has selected 1,732 high school students from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to participate in its Interdisciplinary National Science Program Incorporating Research Experience, also known as Inspire. The Inspire project is designed to encourage students in grades nine through 12 to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The selectees will participate in an online learning community in which students and parents have the opportunity to interact with their peers and NASA engineers and scientists. It also provides appropriate grade-level educational activities, discussion boards and chat rooms for participants and their families to gain exposure to the many career opportunities at NASA.

The selected students will have the option to compete for workshops and internships at NASA facilities and participating universities throughout the nation during the summer of 2010. The summer experience provides students a hands-on opportunity to investigate careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The INSPIRE project is part of NASA's education efforts to engaging and retaining students in disciplines critical to the agency's missions.

For information about the program, visit:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Events and Mission Activities at NASA


Buzz, Astronauts Shine as Stars of Disney Parade


Buzz Lightyear didn't quite make it to infinity, but he went well beyond the realm of other action figures.

The icon of Disney's "Toy Story" films spent 15 months on the International Space Station and got a ticker-tape parade alongside real-life moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and Expedition 18 Commander and NASA astronaut Mike Finke to welcome him home to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 2.

"Buzz was the perfect crewmate," Finke said. "He lifted our spirits, he didn't talk much and he didn't eat much, so he left us his extra portions."

While Buzz Lightyear is a space ranger, Finke said the character's best work has been in serving as a bridge between the fun, fanciful side of spaceflight and the technical and scientific skills NASA uses to make spaceflight happen in real life.

"Buzz is internationally known, and Buzz is a space ranger, so by sharing some of Buzz's adventures with what we do at NASA, it really highlights a lot of good things for NASA and shows what we really do, what astronauts do," Finke said.

The toy’s popularity gives NASA a head start in getting children's attention in a world in which focus is short-lived, said Joyce Winterton, NASA's associate administrator for Education.

"It's something that students and children can relate to," Winterton said. "So when they see him going up in space on the shuttle or the station it becomes a touch point for them. Sometimes I think they see an astronaut as something they can achieve, but when they see a toy, they somehow think, 'Hey, I can do that, too.'"

The parade coincided with a NASA education initiative that includes an opportunity for students to propose an experiment which will be flown on the International Space Station. There also is a contest to design a mission patch that will go into orbit on the station.

"We've got the attention of thousands of students because of Buzz Lightyear," Winterton said. "And hopefully we'll have a large number of students say let's plan an experiment. And of those we'll pick 12 that will fly on the International Space Station, and that's pretty great."

Disney also developed and posted several Web-based educational games for Buzz's launch and landing based on NASA's missions and goals.

Finke also shared a stage with Buzz at Disney's Magic Kingdom to talk to school children about space travel, science and technology.

Veronica Franco, an education specialist at NASA's Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, led a number of space-related demonstrations, including freezing and crumbling plants using liquid nitrogen. With help from "Spaceman" from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, she showed how astronauts get dressed for a spacewalk.

Then it was Finke's turn to wow the students with firsthand accounts from his two, six-month stays in the weightlessness of space. He looked at stars, conducted research on changes to the body and basically adjusted his body to cope with the unpredictable nature of things in zero gravity.

So what did students want to hear about first? The technologically advanced toilet.

Buzz didn't have to learn that lesson during his time in orbit.

Disney was aware of the somewhat mixed goals for NASA and the entertainment company, and backed down its normal commercial considerations for the chance to send Buzz into space.

"You've got to strike a balance," said Disney's Duncan Wardle, the company's global vice president for Public Relations Integration. "And it's a hard role for a government organization sponsored by the taxpayer, but you've got to excite the next generation of space travelers."

Buzz has proven an attraction in ways Wardle said he didn’t expect. For instance, a U.S. Air Force officer at Edwards Air Force Base in California asked for a photo with Buzz after the shuttle touched down there in September after space shuttle Discovery’s STS-128 mission.

But the idea was hardly a certainty when Wardle pitched it to a roomful of NASA officials.

"My sense was 50 percent loved the idea but probably didn't want to say it, and 50 percent of the room wanted to pick me up and throw me out the window," Wardle recalled.

Once the plan was approved, there was still a significant hurdle for the project: 12-inch Buzz Lightyear action figures had gone out of production months before and Wardle's team of employees could not find them in any store, warehouse or anywhere else.

"I was driving back to the office, and I got a call and all I heard was a voice, 'To Infinity and Beyond,'" Wardle said. "Then my wife said, 'Found it, it's been underneath (my son's) bed. It's been there six months collecting dust. And I was like, 'Right, that's it then, that's the Buzz Lightyear that's going into space. Wasn't quite in the plan, but . . . "

That Buzz went from bedroom floor to Houston in days, and into orbit a couple months later. At that point, there was not any talk of bringing the action figure back. Instead, he would stay on the station as a permanent resident, including during the station's fiery entry when it is de-orbited.

Wardle provided the winning argument for bringing Buzz back on the shuttle: "I said, guys, if you incinerate Buzz Lightyear, I'll have to tell the world's children."

So with his flight home approved, Buzz moved into Discovery during the STS-128 and returned to Earth. His education mission is not over though. Plans call for him to be displayed in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, Wardle said.

"This one is going to be hard to top," Finke said.