Monday, November 30, 2009

NASA'S WISE Spacecraft Ready for Launch Dec. 9 from California


The launch of NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, aboard a Delta II rocket is scheduled to occur between 9:09 a.m. and 9:23 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 9, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA will provide television and Internet coverage of prelaunch activities and launch.

After launch, WISE will scan the entire sky in infrared light with a sensitivity hundreds of times greater than ever before, picking up the glow of hundreds of millions of objects and producing millions of images. The mission will uncover objects never seen before, including the coolest stars, the universe's most luminous galaxies and some of the darkest near-Earth asteroids and comets.

A prelaunch news conference on NASA Television will be held on Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. at the NASA Vandenberg Resident Office. Reporters can ask from participating NASA centers. A WISE mission science briefing will immediately follow the prelaunch news conference. The briefings will be webcast at:

On Dec. 9, NASA TV coverage of the countdown and launch will begin at 7 a.m. A WISE webcast with launch and mission principals is scheduled for noon on Dec. 8. To access WISE features, visit NASA's WISE Web site at:

Audio of the prelaunch news conference and the launch coverage will be available by dialing 321-867-1220/1240/1260. This is a listen-only audio system. Mission audio of countdown activities without NASA launch commentary will be carried on 321-867-7135 beginning at 6 a.m.

Launch coverage of WISE/Delta II countdown activities also will be available on the NASA Web site at:

Live countdown coverage on NASA's launch blog begins at 7 a.m. Coverage features real-time updates of countdown milestones, as well as streaming video clips highlighting launch preparations and liftoff.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NASA'S WISE Spacecraft Ready for Launch Dec. 9 from California


The launch of NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, aboard a Delta II rocket is scheduled to occur between 9:09 a.m. and 9:23 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 9, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA will provide television and Internet coverage of prelaunch activities and launch.

After launch, WISE will scan the entire sky in infrared light with a sensitivity hundreds of times greater than ever before, picking up the glow of hundreds of millions of objects and producing millions of images. The mission will uncover objects never seen before, including the coolest stars, the universe's most luminous galaxies and some of the darkest near-Earth asteroids and comets.

A prelaunch news conference on NASA Television will be held on Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. at the NASA Vandenberg Resident Office. Reporters can ask from participating NASA centers. A WISE mission science briefing will immediately follow the prelaunch news conference. The briefings will be webcast at:

On Dec. 9, NASA TV coverage of the countdown and launch will begin at 7 a.m. A WISE webcast with launch and mission principals is scheduled for noon on Dec. 8. To access WISE features, visit NASA's WISE Web site at:

Audio of the prelaunch news conference and the launch coverage will be available by dialing 321-867-1220/1240/1260. This is a listen-only audio system. Mission audio of countdown activities without NASA launch commentary will be carried on 321-867-7135 beginning at 6 a.m.

Launch coverage of WISE/Delta II countdown activities also will be available on the NASA Web site at:

Live countdown coverage on NASA's launch blog begins at 7 a.m. Coverage features real-time updates of countdown milestones, as well as streaming video clips highlighting launch preparations and liftoff.

Operation Ice Bridge Concludes; DC-8 Returns to Palmdale


NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory returned to its base at NASA's Dryden Flight Operations Center in Palmdale, Calif., Nov. 24, ending this fall's Operation Ice Bridge science campaign to survey and map glaciers, sea ice and ice sheets on Antarctica.

The aircraft departed Santiago, Chile, early Nov. 24 with air sampling sensors collecting data en route to California. Five instruments were operational on the aircraft during the more than 11-hour flight from Chile to Los Angeles International Airport, with atmospheric chemistry samples collected at altitudes up to 40,000 feet. After briefly stopping at the Los Angeles airport to clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the DC-8 and its complement of scientists and flight crew flew the short 25-minute flight north to NASA Dryden's Palmdale facility.

The aircraft flew more than 210 flight hours on more than 20 data collection and transit flights during the Operation Ice Bridge campaign, most flights of more than 10 hours duration.

Atmospheric chemistry instruments operating on the transit flight from Chile included:

* NASA Langley Research Center's Differential Absorption CO (carbon monoxide) Measurement, or DACOM, sensor is a laser that measures several gases.
* A second NASA Langley instrument, the Atmospheric Vertical Observations of Carbon Dioxide in the Earth's Troposphere, or AVOCET, measures carbon dioxide with an infrared analyzer.
* The University of California at Irvine's Whole Air Sampler collects gases in tubes stored in racks on the aircraft and analyzes the samples using gas chromatography.
* The University of California at Santa Cruz's Position and Orientation system provide precision attitude and position data for several instruments on the DC-8.
* The University of Ohio's Digital Mapping System provides geo-rectified nadir imagery.

An additional flight using two of the instruments employed during Operation Ice Bridge is planned over Southern California the first week in December. The Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor developed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the primary instrument for this flight, will complete topographical mapping of the San Andreas Fault. The Airborne Topographical Mapper will undergo a post-deployment calibration during the flight.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NASA TV to Broadcast Space Station Crew Soyuz Landing Events


NASA Television will air the events surrounding the landing of three International Space Station crew members who will return to Earth Dec. 1. The space travelers have lived and worked aboard the space station for the past six months. NASA TV coverage will include the broadcast of farewells aboard the orbiting laboratory, hatch closure and undocking on Nov. 30, and the deorbit burn and landing on Dec. 1.

Frank De Winne of the European Space Agency, Russian cosmonaut and Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko and Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk of the Canadian Space Agency will undock their Soyuz spacecraft from the station at 9:53 p.m. CST Nov. 30. They will land in Kazakhstan at about 1:16 a.m. (1:16 p.m. Kazakhstan time) on Dec. 1. The three men spent 188 days in space, including 186 days aboard the station, following their Soyuz launch on May 27 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

NASA's Jeff Williams took over command of the station on Nov. 24 from De Winne, who served as the first European Space Agency commander of the complex. Williams also will lead the new Expedition 22 crew along with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev. Expedition 22 begins with the undocking of the Soyuz Monday evening. It will be the first time the station has been tended by only two crew members since July 2006. Oleg Kotov of the Russian Federal Space Agency, NASA's Timothy J. Creamer and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Space Agency, are set to launch in another Soyuz vehicle from Kazakhstan on Dec. 21 and join Expedition 22 on the station on Dec. 23.

Upcoming NASA TV Soyuz landing programming events (all times CST):

Monday, Nov. 30:

-- 6:30 p.m. Farewells and Hatch Closure (hatch closure scheduled at 6:53 p.m.)
-- 9:30 p.m. Undocking (undocking scheduled at 9:53 p.m.)

Tuesday, Dec. 1:

-- 12 a.m. Deorbit burn and landing (deorbit burn scheduled at 12:25 a.m.; landing scheduled at 1:16 a.m.)
For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and schedule information, visit:

For more about the space station, visit:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Science Magazines Honor Cutting-Edge NASA Programs


NASA's revolutionary planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has been honored with the 2009 Best of What's New Grand Award from Popular Science Magazine and a 2009 Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics Magazine.

"The Kepler Space Telescope is a stunning new tool that has a very targeted mission: studying planetary systems," the Popular Mechanics magazine editors wrote in recognizing Kepler. "It is the first instrument able to detect Earth-like planets, potentially capable of hosting life, as they circle distant suns. About 100,000 stars in our region of the Milky Way will be observed."

Popular Science also honored NASA's new moon mapping mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Orion Launch Abort System with Best of What's New awards in the aviation and space category. Popular Science announced the award winners in its December issue. Popular Mechanics made the announcement in its November issue.

"The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in June, will use seven instruments to deliver the most detailed picture of the moon yet," Popular Science magazine editors wrote. "In addition to photographing the lunar surface in high resolution and creating a 3-D topographical map, it will beam back reams of information on surface radiation, surface temperature, soil composition, the presence of water ice and more."

Popular Science editors reviewed thousands of products before selecting 100 new products and technologies in 11 categories to receive Best of What's New awards. Award categories include automotive, aviation and space, computing, engineering, gadgets, green technology, home entertainment, security, home technology, personal health and recreation.

"For 22 years, Popular Science has honored the innovations that surprise and amaze us - those that make a positive impact on our world today and challenge our views of what's possible in the future." said Mark Jannot, editor-in-chief of Popular Science. "The Best of What's New Award is the magazine's top honor, and the 100 winners - chosen from among thousands of entrants - represent the highest level of achievement in their fields."

The Kepler Space Telescope is managed by NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. NASA's Orion Launch Abort System is managed by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

For information about the Popular Science awards, visit:

For information about the Popular Mechanics awards, visit:

For more information about NASA and its programs, visit:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Space Station, Space Shuttle Joint Crew News Conference Tuesday


HOUSTON - The 12 crew members aboard space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station will hold a news conference at 7:13 a.m. CST on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Reporters can ask questions from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Kennedy Space Center in Florida and headquarters in Washington. Journalists from Canada, Europe and Russia also will participate in the news conference. U.S. journalists must RSVP by calling the public affairs office at a participating NASA location by noon Nov. 23.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of the 40-minute news conference. For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information, visit:

Atlantis' STS-129 mission includes three spacewalks and the installation of two platforms to the station's truss, or backbone. The platforms will store spare parts needed to sustain station operations after the shuttle fleet is retired. Atlantis will return with station resident Nicole Stott, marking the final time the shuttle is expected to rotate station crew members.

For more information about STS-129 and its crew, visit:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NASA Hosts Native Peoples Workshop to Study Climate Change


NASA will hold a second national strategies workshop to examine the impacts of climate change and extreme weather variability on native peoples and their homelands. The workshop, which will study the impacts from an indigenous cultural, spiritual and scientific perspective, will take place Nov. 18 - 21 at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minn.

"This workshop will bring native indigenous knowledge together with science, education, and technologies to address the challenges of climate and environmental change," said Nancy Maynard of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The workshop will help ensure participation by tribal colleges and universities in the development of response and adaptation policies and recommendations regarding climate change. The goal is to ensure the survival of indigenous communities. The workshop is being held in collaboration with the nation's 36 tribally-controlled colleges and universities, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, and other partners.

"Tribal college students represent many of the future tribal leaders who will inherit the consequences of climate change and be responsible for implementing the adaptation strategies," said Dan Wildcat of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan. "It is critical that they have these kinds of opportunities to participate in key climate change discussions and build their science, technology, engineering and math skills."

For more information about the workshop, including registration information, visit:

Monday, November 16, 2009

NASA Information on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009


Overview of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was signed into law by President Obama on February 17th, 2009. It is an unprecedented effort to jumpstart our economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century. The Act is an extraordinary response to a crisis unlike any since the Great Depression, and includes measures to modernize our nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need.

Implementing the Recovery Act at NASA

Among the key purposes of the Recovery Act are preserving and creating jobs, spurring technological advances in science and health, and promoting economic recovery. NASA has an important role to play in achieving these purposes through the program and facilities investments it will make with Recovery Act funding. As NASA develops and begins implementing its plans, this site will be one of the Agency's primary ways for communicating NASA's plans, progress, and results.

The President and Congress are committed to spending these recovery dollars with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent. Meeting these commitments will require sustained focus by all of us at NASA, particularly in planning, awarding, managing, and overseeing the contracts and grants through which the objectives of the Recovery Act will be achieved. is a website that empowers Citizens to hold the government accountable for every dollar spent. NASA, along with every other federal agency, is required to provide spending and performance data on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and as required basis.

We invite you to visit us regularly and hear about the exciting work NASA is doing to contribute to America's economic recovery.

Agency Plans and Reports

By the end of April, NASA will be working with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to finalize its Recovery plans. As these plans are approved and they are implemented, we will be posting the latest Agency Plans and Reports here.

Learn More About Our Programs

The Administration's priorities entrust NASA with $1 billion for Recovery investments. Among the purposes for these funds indicated by Congress include:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Students Send Microbe Experiment on Space Shuttle Atlantis


An experiment by college students that will study how microbes grow in microgravity is heading to orbit aboard space shuttle Atlantis.

Undergraduate and graduate students at Texas Southern University in Houston developed the experiment that will fly as part of the STS-129 mission. The mission is scheduled to launch at 2:28 p.m. EST on Nov. 16 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"I'm thrilled that giving students the chance to design and research an experiment to fly in space is one of the tools we have at NASA to engage them in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori B. Garver said." These young people are our future, and providing an opportunity to inspire them is a major part of our mission at NASA."

NASA's Office of Education selected Texas Southern University as a 2008 University Research Center. Texas Southern established a Center for Bio-nanotechnology and Environmental Research. Students at the center developed the Microbial-1 experiment to evaluate the morphological and molecular changes in E. coli and B. subtilis bacteria.

"The University Research Center Project is designed to enhance the research infrastructure and capacity at minority institutions," said Katrina Emery, NASA's University Research Center project manager at the agency's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. "By engaging in participatory learning opportunities like this experiment, students can see themselves as researchers, now and in the future."

This space shuttle flight experiment is a proof-of-concept model for the URC project to give students hands-on experience. The experiment provides the university students the opportunity to design, monitor and execute the study in laboratories, as well as near real-time on the space shuttle. Each component of the experiment is designed for easy reproduction in the classroom, providing a valuable experience to students.

"This is an amazing opportunity for our students, and it reflects the growing quality of our research programs at Texas Southern," said John M. Rudley, president of Texas Southern University. "We are excited our students have the opportunity to participate in such relevant research. We are also pleased that with our partnerships with area school districts, we are able to take these projects beyond the university to the school classrooms to encourage more students to study science, math, and technology."

The unique experimental data will be used to develop grade-appropriate microbiology modules for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Data downloaded from NASA's Payload Operations and Control Center will be available on the research center's Web site. In addition, educators will receive a teacher's guidebook featuring background information, lesson plans and student activities for conducting this project in their classrooms. BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado is providing management support and hardware for the experiment.

Texas Southern University is one of 13 universities to receive grant funding from NASA's University Research Center project. The project is designed to enhance the research capabilities of minority-serving institutions and increase the production of underrepresented and underserved students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

For information about NASA education programs, visit:

For information about Texas Southern University's Center for Bio-nanotechnology and Environmental Research, visit:

NASA's Digital Learning Network will host a launch day webcast Nov. 16 beginning at 1:28 p.m. EST and culminating with liftoff. The webcast will feature a discussion about the Microbial-1 experiment. Watch online at:

For information about the STS-129 mission to the International Space Station, visit:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Inventors to Compete for $400,000 in NASA Astronaut Glove Challenge


Reporters and the public are invited to attend the 2009 Astronaut Glove Challenge on Nov. 19 at the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Fla., near NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The $400,000 prize challenge is a nationwide competition that focuses on developing improved pressure suit gloves for astronauts to use while working in the vacuum of space. The competition is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EST on Nov. 19 and conclude with an award ceremony at approximately 5 p.m.

Part of NASA's Centennial Challenges Program, the competition will test gloves independent inventors designed and constructed. The tests will measure the gloves' dexterity and strength during operation in a glove box that simulates the vacuum of space. At least two competitors are expected, including Peter Homer, the winner of the competition held in 2007. This year's entrants must provide a glove that includes an outer thermal protection layer, as well as the inner pressure-containing layer. The result is a complete glove suitable for space operations.

NASA's Centennial Challenges program will provide the prize. Volanz Aerospace Inc. of Owings, Md., manages the competition for NASA. Secor Strategies, LLC of Titusville, Fla., is a sponsor for the event.

Centennial Challenges is NASA's program of technology prizes for the citizen-inventor. Recent Centennial Challenge events included Regolith Excavation, Lunar Lander and Power Beaming Challenges, in which six different competitors won a total of $3.3 million in prizes.

For more information about NASA's Centennial Challenges, visit:

For information about the Astronaut Glove Challenge and Volanz Aerospace Inc., visit:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NASA Briefs Preliminary Plume Findings from Moon Mission

NASA will hold a news conference Friday to talk about early science results from its successful moon impacting mission, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS. The satellite gained worldwide attention when it plunged into a crater near the moon's south pole on Oct. 9.

The briefing from NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., will begin at 9 a.m. PST, on Nov. 13. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's Web site. For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and scheduling information, visit:

The panelists are:
- Doug Cooke, associate administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington
- Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist for Exploration Systems at NASA Headquarters
- Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator from Ames
- Greg Delory, senior fellow, Space Sciences Laboratory and Center for Integrative Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley

To attend or participate by telephone reporters should contact Jonas Dino ( at 650-604-5612 or Rachel Prucey ( at 650-604-0643.

For information about the LCROSS mission, visit:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WISE Star and Asteroid-Hunting Spacecraft Topic of NASA Briefing


NASA will hold a media briefing on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at noon EST, to discuss the upcoming launch of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, mission. WISE is scheduled to launch Dec. 7, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Once in Earth orbit, WISE will scan the entire sky at infrared wavelengths, unveiling hundreds of thousands of asteroids and hundreds of millions of stars and galaxies.

The briefing will take place in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. S.W., in Washington. NASA TV will broadcast the briefing on the NASA Education Channel.

Panelists will be:
-- Jon Morse, NASA's Astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters
-- Edward (Ned) Wright, WISE principal investigator at UCLA
-- William Irace, WISE project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
-- Amy Mainzer, WISE deputy project scientist, JPL
-- Peter Eisenhardt, WISE project scientist, JPL

Reporters may ask questions from participating NASA locations or by phone. To reserve a phone line, journalists should send an e-mail listing name, media affiliation, and telephone number to:

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

For the latest information about the WISE mission, visit:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NASA Awards Institutional Support Services Contract for Kennedy


NASA has selected C&C International Computers and Consultants Inc. of Hollywood, Fla., to provide institutional support services at the agency's Kennedy Space Center.

The new indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with time and material type task orders begins Dec. 1, 2009. It has a 10-month base period with two one-year option periods. The maximum potential value of the contract is approximately $31.5 million, which is comprised of an $11.5-million base value and $10 million for each one-year option.

C&C International Computers and Consultants will provide administrative support services personnel including accountants, accounting clerks, administrative assistants, personnel assistants, procurement specialists and analysts, program analysts, resource analysts, secretaries and general clerks. Programs supported under the contract include the space shuttle, International Space Station, Constellation, launch services, engineering, external relations and the Office of the Center Director.

For information about NASA's Kennedy Space Center, visit:

Monday, November 9, 2009

NASA Spinoff 2009 Highlights Technologies That Improve Life on Earth


The 2009 edition of NASA's Spinoff, a publication that shows how NASA technology is being put to use in everyday life here on Earth, is available in print and online.

The latest Spinoff highlights 49 significant examples of how NASA innovations have been transferred to the commercial marketplace, resulting in healthcare advances, transportation breakthroughs, public safety initiatives, new consumer goods, environmental protection, computer technology, and industrial productivity.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, this year's edition of Spinoff also recaps how Apollo continues to provide tangible benefits to the lives of people in the U.S. and around the world.

Highlights of Spinoff 2009 include:

* How a NASA scientist-licensed Hubble Space Telescope scheduling technology and adapted it to help hospitals handle dynamic rescheduling issues. Using the On-Cue system, one hospital reported a 12 percent increase in procedure volume, a 35 percent reduction in staff overtime, and significant reductions in backlog and technician phone time.

* The Givens Buoy Life Raft incorporates a NASA-developed raft design used for recovering pioneer astronauts after ocean splashdowns, has been credited with saving more than 400 lives.

* An adapted Hubble Space Telescope star-mapping algorithm is helping researchers track the elusive whale shark using the unique spots on the shark's skin. Using the algorithm and a photograph database receiving contributions from scuba divers worldwide, researchers last year documented more than 2,400 sightings of the rare animal. Previously, there were only a few hundred documented sightings in total.

* Using NASA satellite data, WorldWinds Inc. supplies about 8,500 XM satellite radio subscribers with its FishBytes fish locator service. FishBytes helps anglers target areas most likely to be frequented by their favorite types of sport fish.

Spinoff 2009 also highlights NASA research and development activities that are helping to make NASA's future missions a reality and profiles NASA education efforts and partnership successes. It also provides reference information and resources available through the NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program.

Print copies of Spinoff 2009 are available on request by calling 301-286-0561. An online version is available at:

An archive of Spinoff features and a searchable database of more than 1,600 NASA-derived technologies featured in past issues of the publication also are available at the Spinoff site.

An interactive Spinoff 2009 DVD featuring videos and Web links will be available through the Spinoff Web site later this month.

To access an interactive feature about how NASA impacts your daily life, visit the NASA City and Home Web site at:

For more information about NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Poisk Poised for Live NASA TV Space Station Docking


NASA Television will air the docking of the newest Russian module to the International Space Station starting at 9 a.m. CST Nov. 12.

The Mini Research Module-2, known as "Poisk," which means "explore" in Russian, will deliver 1,800 pounds of cargo to the station. Poisk is scheduled to automatically dock to the station's Zvezda Service Module at 9:44 a.m.

The 8-ton module is scheduled to launch at 8:22 a.m. Nov. 10 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The combination docking port and airlock will ride atop a Soyuz booster rocket. The Soyuz launch will not be broadcast on NASA TV.

The module will be used as an additional docking port for Russian vehicles, as an airlock for Russian-based spacewalks and as a platform for external science experiments. Its first use will be as a docking port during the relocation of a Soyuz crew vehicle in January.

A companion module, the Mini Research Module-1, will be carried to orbit on space shuttle Atlantis' STS-132 mission, targeted to launch in May 2010. That module will be robotically attached to the station's Zarya module.

For more information about the space station, visit:

For more information about how to access NASA Television, visit:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NASA Sets STS-129 Prelaunch Events and Countdown Details


News conferences, events and operating hours for the news center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., are set for the upcoming launch of space shuttle Atlantis. The shuttle's STS-129 mission to the International Space Station is scheduled to lift off at 2:28 p.m. EST on Monday, Nov. 16.

A NASA blog will update the countdown beginning Nov. 16 at 9:30 a.m. Originating from Kennedy, the blog is the definitive Internet source for information leading up to launch. During the mission, visitors to NASA's shuttle Web site can read about the crew's progress and watch the mission's three spacewalks live. As Atlantis' flight concludes, the NASA blog will detail the spacecraft return to Earth. For NASA's launch blog and continuous mission updates, visit:

The NASA News Twitter feed will be updated throughout the shuttle launch countdown, mission and landing. To follow, visit:

Two STS-129 astronauts are tweeting about their pre-launch preparation and are expected to provide updates to their Twitter accounts during the shuttle mission. Bobby Satcher, an orthopedic surgeon, can be followed at: and The latter account focuses on a discussion of medical issues for space exploration.

His crewmate Leland Melvin can be followed at:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hometown Heroes 2009: West Point Welcomes Home One of Their Heroes


On the morning of Oct. 2, as he had done so many times before, Bill McArthur arrived early for his mechanical engineering class at the U. S. Military Academy at West Point. But this time he wasn’t a student, he was the teacher and he wasn’t wearing the black and gray uniform of a cadet, he was wearing the iconic blue flight suit of an astronaut. Almost four decades after graduating from West Point he had been invited to return to his alma mater as part of the Army’s annual homecoming celebration and NASA’s Hometown Heroes campaign.

McArthur graduated from West Point in 1973 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He returned to teach at the distinguished military academy in 1983 and in 1987 the Army re-assigned him to work for NASA as a Space Shuttle vehicle integration test engineer at Johnson Space Center. In 1990, he was selected as an astronaut and flew on three shuttle missions followed by a six-month stay onboard the International Space Station (ISS). He now serves as the manager of the Orbiter Project Office for the Space Shuttle Program at JSC.

McArthur’s return to West Point was one of three Hometown Heroes events occurring the weekend of Oct. 3. Throughout the 2009 fall football season, astronauts have been returning to their alma maters to help celebrate two major NASA milestones - the 10th anniversary of the space station in orbit and the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Recognition during the football game along with media, community and educational outreach events are all part of the campaign.

McArthur began his West Point visit the morning of Oct. 2 by sharing the story of his life onboard the space station with Army cadets during three separate mechanical engineering classes. Next was a lunch presentation to a packed conference room of cadets and faculty members before heading off base to spend the afternoon at nearby Highland Falls Middle School (HFMS). About 400 students, teachers and parents listened intently as McArthur stressed the power of how a good education can help dreams, like his to become an astronaut and eventually live in space, come true.

“Col. Bill McArthur's presentation at our school was for most, if not all, a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Ellen Connors, principal of HFMS. “To be witness to a first-hand account of the space program's history is a memory that all will hold in their hearts and minds forever. I assure you that you've made 400 new friends and fans!”

“When she got home Friday, my daughter took one of her old school pictures out of a frame and replaced it with her autographed picture of Col. McArthur,” added Mary Jane Pitt, parent of an HFMS sixth grader. “It's now hanging proudly in her room.”

After signing autographs for more than an hour, McArthur ended his visit by presenting the HFMS staff with a photo of the Highland Falls, NY area taken from the space station.

On Oct. 3, game day at West Point, McArthur spent the morning talking to parents and faculty during a pre-game breakfast and at the Army cadet review that followed. Next was an autograph session just outside Michie Stadium, home of the Army Black Knights football team. Just before kickoff, McArthur joined the more than 24,000 fans in the stadium as the Black Nights hosted the Tulane Green Wave.

At halftime, McArthur was interviewed by the Army radio broadcast team and between the third and fourth quarter was recognized on the field where he received a standing ovation from the fans. “I feel totally recharged,” McArthur said, standing on the sidelines afterwards with a huge smile on his face.

"What strikes me most about Bill MacArthur is that he always has time for everyone,” said Joe Tombrello, deputy director of Public Affairs and Communications for the U.S. Military Academy. “Whether teaching a class to cadets, discussing old times with a classmate, accepting a handshake from a well-wisher, or simply signing an autograph for a 5th grader whose dad is stationed in Korea, Bill made everyone feel as though they were the most important thing in his life at the time.”

And as the sun set on an empty Michie Stadium, McArthur was easy to spot in his blue flight suit just outside the gate talking with cadets and their families and sharing the excitement of both his life as an astronaut and the future of NASA’s space exploration opportunities.

Monday, November 2, 2009

NASA and X Prize Announce Winners of Lunar Lander Challenge


NASA will award $1.65 million in prize money Thursday to a pair of innovative aerospace companies that successfully simulated landing a spacecraft on the moon and lifting off again.

NASA’s Centennial Challenges program will give a $1 million first prize to Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif., and a $500,000 second prize to Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Tex., for their Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge flights. The competition was managed by the X PRIZE Foundation. The Northrop Grumman Corporation is a commercial sponsor that provided operating funds for the contest to the X PRIZE Foundation.

An awards ceremony for the winning teams will be held at noon on Nov. 5 in room 2325 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington. Journalists should contact Sonja Alexander at 202-358-1761 for more information about the ceremony.

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge involves building and flying a rocket-powered vehicle that simulates the flight of a vehicle on the moon. The lander must take off vertically then travel horizontally, flying a mission profile designed to demonstrate both power and control before landing accurately at another spot. The same vehicle then must take off again, travel horizontally back to its original takeoff point and land successfully, all within a two-hour-and-15-minute time period.

The challenge requires exacting control and navigation, as well as precise control of engine thrust, all done automatically. The rocket's engine must be started twice in a short time with no ground servicing other than refueling. This represents the technical challenges involved in operating a reusable vehicle that could land on the moon.

The prize purse is divided into first and second prizes for Level 1 and Level 2. Level 1 requires a flight duration of at least 90 seconds on each flight and Level 2 requires a duration of at least 180 seconds. One of the landings for a Level 2 attempt must be made on a simulated lunar terrain with rocks and craters.

Masten Space Systems met the Level 2 requirements by achieving accurate landings and captured the first place prize during flights of their "Xoie" (pronounced "Zoey") vehicle Oct. 30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Masten also claimed a $150,000 prize as part of the Level 1 competition.

Armadillo Aerospace was the first team to qualify for the Level 2 prize with successful flights of its Scorpius rocket Sept. 12 in Caddo Mills, Tex. Armadillo placed second in the Level 2 competition, earning a $500,000 prize.

The average landing accuracy determined which teams would receive first and second place prizes. The Masten team achieved an average accuracy of 7.5 inches while Armadillo Aerospace's average accuracy was 34 inches.

The events of the past two months have brought the four-year Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge to a conclusion. All $2 million in prize money has been awarded.

"The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge has had its intended impact, with impressive performances by multiple teams representing a new generation of aerospace entrepreneurs" said Andrew Petro, NASA's Centennial Challenge program manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These companies have demonstrated reusable vehicles with rapid turnaround and a surprising degree of precision in flight, and they have done all this at a much lower cost than many thought possible."

Four teams had been in pursuit of the 2009 Lunar Lander Challenge prizes during the competition that opened in July. The BonNova team dropped out of the competition last week. Unreasonable Rocket, a father-and-son team from Solana Beach, Calif., conducted flight attempts during the final days of the competition but did not complete any qualifying flights.

In the Level 1 competition, Armadillo Aerospace previously claimed the first place prize of $350,000 in 2008. Masten Space Systems qualified for the remaining second place prize on Oct. 7, 2009, with an average landing accuracy of 6.3 inches. Because there were no other qualifying Level 1 flights this year, the Masten team will receive the second place prize of $150,000.

NASA's Centennial Challenges program's goals are to drive progress in aerospace technology that is of value to NASA's missions; encourage participation of independent teams, individual inventors, student groups and private companies of all sizes in aerospace research and development; and find innovative solutions to technical challenges through competition and cooperation.

The Northop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge is one of six Centennial Challenges managed by NASA's Innovative Partnership Program. The competition was managed for NASA at no cost to the taxpayer by the X PRIZE Foundation under a Space Act Agreement. NASA provided all of the prize funds.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NASA Invites Reporters to Tranquility Node Ceremony at Kennedy


The European Space Agency, or ESA, will transfer ownership of the Tranquility node to NASA on Thursday, Nov. 19. NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida will host a commemorative ceremony at 3 p.m. EST.

Tranquility is a pressurized module that will provide room for many of the station's life support systems. Attached to the node is a cupola, a unique work station with windows on its six sides and top. The module will be delivered to the station during space shuttle Endeavour's STS-130 mission, targeted for launch Feb. 4, 2010.

Tranquility is the last element of a barter agreement for station hardware. ESA contributed the node in exchange for NASA's delivery of ESA's Columbus laboratory to the station. Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, built the module.

NASA, ESA, Thales and Boeing managers involved in building and processing the node for flight will be available for a question-and-answer session after the ceremony. Media representatives planning to attend must arrive at Kennedy's news center by 2 p.m. for transportation to the Space Station Processing Facility. Participants must be dressed in full-length pants, flat shoes that entirely cover the feet, and shirts with sleeves.

Reporters without permanent Kennedy credentials should submit a request online at:

Foreign journalists must apply for credentials by 4:30 p.m., Nov. 4, and U.S. reporters must apply by 4:30 p.m., Nov. 17. For more information on the space station, visit: