Monday, May 31, 2010

NASA May Open Competition for Space Station Crew Lifeboat

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NASA officials are quietly assessing whether to hold a new competition to build an emergency lifeboat for international space station crews, a move that would scuttle current plans to use the Lockheed Martin-designed Orion capsule for that purpose under an existing contract that would only have to be modified, NASA and congressional sources said.

“Continuing on the current contract is the option being assessed, but there is forward work to verify that it is contractually appropriate and the best approach for the emergency return module acquisition,” Orion program executive Thomas Rathjen said in a May 27 e-mail to Space News.

The White House in February unveiled a NASA 2011 budget proposal featuring plans to cancel the Constellation program, a 5-year-old effort to replace the retiring space shuttle with new rockets and spacecraft that would transport crews to the space station and eventually to the Moon. That hardware includes the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, being developed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver.

In an April 15 speech, however, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a modified plan retaining a slimmed-down version of Orion that could serve as a rescue vehicle for astronauts inhabiting the space station. Since then, NASA officials have scrambled to shoehorn Orion into the administration’s plan to scrap Constellation by the end of the year — which requires congressional approval — to make way for a new strategic direction in human space exploration that would bypass the Moon.

During a House Science and Technology Committee hearing May 26, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the agency’s cost estimate for developing the Orion lifeboat is still being refined, but that it could run in the neighborhood of $4.5 billion over five years. Privately, NASA and congressional sources say Bolden’s estimate is optimistic, and that the likely cost is somewhere between $5 billion and $7 billion, a range that the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), cited during the hearing.

“I understand that NASA’s preliminary estimates indicate that it could cost $5 billion to $7 billion to develop such a vehicle, and that number doesn’t include the annual cost to launch it and rotate the vehicles once it is operational,” Gordon said in opening remarks.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

NASA Spacecraft Penetrates Mysteries Of Martian Ice Cap

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Data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have helped scientists solve a pair of mysteries dating back four decades and provided new information about climate change on the Red Planet.

The Shallow Radar, or SHARAD, instrument aboard MRO revealed subsurface geology allowing scientists to reconstruct the formation of a large chasm and a series of spiral troughs on the northern ice cap of Mars. The findings appear in two papers in the May 27 issue of the journal Nature.

"SHARAD is giving us a beautifully detailed view of ice deposits, whether at the poles or buried in mid-latitudes, as they changed on Mars over the last few million years," said Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

On Earth, large ice sheets are shaped mainly by ice flow. According to this latest research, other forces have shaped, and continue to shape, polar ice caps on Mars. The northern ice cap is a stack of ice and dust layers up to two miles deep, covering an area slightly larger than Texas. Analyzing radar data on a computer, scientists can peel back the layers like an onion to reveal how the ice cap evolved over time.

One of the most distinctive features of the northern ice cap is Chasma Boreale, a canyon about as long as Earth's Grand Canyon but deeper and wider. Some scientists believe Chasma Boreale was created when volcanic heat melted the bottom of the ice sheet and triggered a catastrophic flood. Others suggest strong polar winds carved the canyon out of a dome of ice.

Other enigmatic features of the ice cap are troughs that spiral outward from the center like a gigantic pinwheel. Since the troughs were discovered in 1972, scientists have proposed several hypotheses about how they formed. Perhaps as Mars spins, ice closer to the poles moves slower than ice farther away, causing the semi-fluid ice to crack. Perhaps, as one mathematical model suggests, increased solar heating in certain areas and lateral heat conduction could cause the troughs to assemble.

Data from Mars now points to both the canyon and spiral troughs being created and shaped primarily by wind. Rather than being cut into existing ice very recently, the features formed over millions of years as the ice sheet grew. By influencing wind patterns, the shape of underlying, older ice controlled where and how the features grew.

"Nobody realized that there would be such complex structures in the layers," said Jack Holt, of the University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics. Holt is the lead author of the paper focusing on Chasma Boreale. "The layers record a history of ice accumulation, erosion and wind transport. From that, we can recover a history of climate that's much more detailed than anybody expected."

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched on Aug. 12, 2005. SHARAD and the spacecraft's five other instruments began science operations in November 2006.

"These anomalous features have gone unexplained for 40 years because we have not been able to see what lies beneath the surface," said Roberto Seu, SHARAD team leader at the University of Rome. "It is gratifying to me that with this new instrument we can finally explain them."

The MRO mission is managed by JPL for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA's Headquarters in Washington. SHARAD was provided by the Italian Space Agency, and its operations are led by the InfoCom Department, University of Rome.

To view images and learn more about MRO, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/mro

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Space Shuttle Atlantis Returning From Final Scheduled Mission

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The space shuttle Atlantis is set to return to Earth today, ending its final scheduled mission as NASA ponders whether to launch it on one last trip next year.

The spacecraft is scheduled to land at 8:48 a.m. local time at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, following a 12-day trip to the International Space Station. There are no more missions planned for Atlantis, and just two shuttle trips are slated before the program is shut down.

Atlantis will be prepared as a potential rescue vehicle for the final shuttle trip, which is scheduled for no earlier than November. NASA is also considering sending it on a mission to resupply the space station around June of next year.

The space shuttle program was canceled under President George W. Bush’s Constellation plan, which envisioned a return to the moon in a new spacecraft as a steppingstone to further exploration of the solar system.

President Barack Obama in February announced a plan for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that would scrap Constellation and direct the agency to focus instead on developing rocket systems that might eventually take humans into deep space. Private companies would build vessels to carry astronauts into orbit, especially to the space station, under that program.

Obama’s strategy has met with criticism from lawmakers in states with NASA operations, such as Florida and Texas, who say it surrenders leadership in space to other countries.

Extended Funding Sought

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, introduced a bill in March that would extend funding for the shuttle as work continues on the next generation of space vehicles. Texas is home to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, which serves as mission control for U.S. human space flight.

Obama’s budget for NASA, which must be approved by Congress, provides an additional $600 million to Kennedy Space Center for the space shuttle program in case the last missions are delayed until the first quarter of next year.

Atlantis, built by Rockwell International and named after a sailing ship operated for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts from 1930 to 1966, was delivered to Kennedy Space Center in April 1985 and made its first voyage into space in October 1985.

The orbiter was the first to dock with Russia’s Mir space station and carried the U.S. laboratory named Destiny to the International Space Station. It also took the Magellan and Galileo planetary probes into space.

During the latest mission, Atlantis’s crew of six astronauts delivered a new Russian research module to the space station, installed a spare antenna and replaced six new batteries.

--Editors: Mark Schoifet, Robin Meszoly

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NASA TV Carrying Space Station Crew Landing And Next Crew's Launch

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NASA Television will cover the June 1 return to Earth of three International Space Station crew members and the June 15 launch of the newest trio of station residents. The new crew will be the 24th to live and work on the orbiting laboratory.

Expedition 23 Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov, NASA Flight Engineer T.J. Creamer and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi are scheduled to land their Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft June 1 on the southern region steppe of Kazakhstan, completing almost six months on the station.

On June 15, Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA Flight Engineers Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker will launch on the Soyuz TMA-19 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They will dock to the station June 17, joining Expedition 24 Commander Alexander Skvortsov, NASA Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russian Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko, who have been aboard the station since April 4.

Upcoming NASA TV broadcasts of these events and surrounding activities include (all times CDT):

May 27
2 p.m. -- Video File of the Expedition 24 prelaunch news conference at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, and a tour of Red Square in Moscow

June 1
10 a.m. -- ISS Update commentary hour that includes a replay of the May 31 change of command ceremony aboard the station, in which Kotov will hand over command of the station to Skvortsov. The ceremony also will be replayed during landing coverage
3:30 p.m. -- Coverage of Expedition 23 farewells and hatch closure, scheduled at 3:50 p.m.
6:45 p.m. -- Coverage of Expedition 23 undocking from station, scheduled at 7:08 p.m.
9:15 p.m. -- Coverage of deorbit burn, scheduled for 9:37 p.m., and landing in Kazakhstan, scheduled for 10:27 p.m.

June 2
11 a.m. -- Video File of post-landing activities, including interviews with Creamer and Noguchi

June 3
11 a.m. -- Video File of Expedition 24 farewell activities at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

June 11
11 a.m. -- Video File of Expedition 24 prelaunch activities in Baikonur

June 13
11 a.m. -- Video File of activities in Baikonur, including Soyuz rocket mating and rollout to the launch pad

June 14
4 p.m. -- Video File of the final prelaunch news conference and Russian State Commission Meeting in Baikonur

June 15
3 p.m. -- Video feed of Expedition 24 crew's final prelaunch activities in Baikonur
3:45 p.m. -- Coverage of launch from Baikonur, scheduled for 4:35 p.m., and replays
7 p.m. -- Video File of prelaunch activities, launch and postlaunch interviews from Baikonur

June 17
5 p.m. -- Coverage of Soyuz docking to station, scheduled at 5:34 p.m., and post-docking news conference from Korolev, Russia
8:15 p.m. -- Hatch opening, scheduled at 8:34 p.m., and welcome ceremony
11 p.m. -- Video File of docking, hatch opening and welcome ceremony

Operational activity could result in some changes to the programming schedule. For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and schedule information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

For more information about the space station and its crew members, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

Monday, May 24, 2010

Astronauts need a last inspection of Atlantis

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The Atlantis astronauts have some surveying work ahead of them, now that they're flying free of the International Space Station.

The six shuttle astronauts will pull out their newly repaired inspection boom on Monday to check for any micrometeorite damage that might have occurred during the past week and a half. A snagged cord prevented them from conducting a proper survey of their ship following liftoff on May 14. The cable was untangled during a spacewalk last week.

The survey will also provide a full 3-D scan of the left wing. Some sections of the wing were missed in the initial check because of the boom problem.

Atlantis undocked from the space station Sunday. Landing is set for Wednesday.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Atlantis Astronauts Gear Up for Third and Final Spacewalk

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The spacewalking crew of NASA's space shuttle Atlantis will take one final spacewalk of their mission to wrap up a battery upgrade service call on the solar arrays outside the International Space Station.

It will be the final spacewalk conducted with Atlantis while it is docked at the station, because this STS-132 mission is the orbiter's last planned flight before retirement.

The shuttle Atlantis crew woke Friday morning at 1:50 a.m. EDT (0550 GMT). The spacewalkers are due to begin their excursion – called an extravehicular activity (EVA) in NASA parlance – at 6:45 a.m. EDT (1045 GMT), and stay outside about 6 1/2 hours. They will exit out of the station's Quest airlock.

Mission specialists Garrett Reisman and Michael Good will follow up two previous spacewalks on this mission to complete the job of installing new batteries on the left-most edge of the station's backbone-like truss.

Good and fellow mission specialist Stephen Bowen began the chore on Wednesday's spacewalk, when they got ahead of schedule and installed four of six batteries, leaving only two more for the final excursion.

"Originally we thought we'd have to perform three battery changes but because of the excellent work the crew did yesterday in our second spacewalk... that allows us an opportunity to get ahead," lead shuttle flight director Mike Sarafin said Thursday.

The batteries are ungainly, weighing about 375 pounds (170 kg) each. The spacewalkers will remove new ones from a cargo carrier in the shuttle's payload bay, and then swap them out with the aging units currently on the station.

In addition to the battery work, the spacewalkers will remove a robot arm tool called a grapple fixture from the shuttle's payload bay. For now, the astronauts will take it back inside the station with them; it will be installed during a later spacewalk on the station's Russian Zarya module.

"So when we repressurize and go back into station it won't be just Garrett and I in that airlock," Good said in a preflight interview. "We'll have this great big grapple fixture in there with us so hopefully there'll be room for everybody in there."

Mission Control has also planned a medley of various get-ahead tasks for Good and Reisman to do that will help outfit the station for the future.

"On EVA 3 it's kind of a clean-up day," Good said. "It's to get everything done that we had hoped to get done on the whole mission, so whatever's left."

The spacewalkers will install a hose for the ammonia coolant system on the station's exterior, and replace some errant tools in outside toolboxes.

Mission specialist Piers Sellers will help out from inside the orbiting lab by operating the station's robotic arm.

Overall, Atlantis' mission is going very well, the astronauts said.

"We are all absolutely thrilled at how this mission is going so far," Atlantis commander Kenneth Ham said Thursday. "We're just going to stay focused and hopefully get through the next few days."

The crew plans to undock from the space station on Sunday and land back at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Wednesday, May 26.

NASA And World Science Festival Host Special Tweetup In New York

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NASA and the World Science Festival are inviting Twitter followers to a unique behind-the-scenes Tweetup at 2 p.m. EDT on Saturday, June 5, in New York City. The event will bring together 100 Twitter users with some of the world's best and brightest scientific minds.

Tweetup attendees will have the opportunity to speak with festival co-founder Brian Greene, Nobel-prize winning NASA astrophysicist John C. Mather, and astronaut Leland Melvin, known as @Astro_Flow on Twitter.

Registration is open from 10 a.m. EDT, Friday, May 21, to 10 a.m., Monday, May 24. NASA and the World Science Festival will randomly select 100 participants from Web registrants. Additional applicants will be placed on a waiting list. For more Tweetup and sign up information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/tweetup

The Tweetup is just one of 40 special programs scheduled during the third annual World Science Festival, which runs from June 2-6. The Tweetup also will include a social session for participants to mingle with fellow tweeps and the staff behind the tweets on @NASA and @WorldSciFest.

To follow NASA programs on Twitter, visit:

http://www.twitter.com/NASA

To follow the World Science Festival on Twitter, visit:

http://www.twitter.com/WorldSciFest

Thursday, May 20, 2010

NASA's Mars Rovers Set Surface Longevity Record

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NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project will pass a historic Martian longevity record on Thursday, May 20. The Opportunity rover will surpass the duration record set by NASA's Viking 1 Lander of six years and 116 days operating on the surface of Mars. The effects of favorable weather on the red planet could also help the rovers generate more power.

Opportunity's twin rover, Spirit, began working on Mars three weeks before Opportunity. However, Spirit has been out of communication since March 22. If it awakens from hibernation and resumes communication, that rover will attain the Martian surface longevity record.

Spirit's hibernation was anticipated, based on energy forecasts, as the amount of sunshine hitting the robot's solar panels declined during autumn on Mars' southern hemisphere. Unfortunately, mobility problems prevented rover operators from positioning Spirit with a favorable tilt toward the north, as during the first three winters it experienced. The rovers' fourth winter solstice, the day of the Martian year with the least sunshine at their locations, was Wednesday, May 12 (May 13 Universal time).

"Opportunity, and likely Spirit, surpassing the Viking Lander 1 longevity record is truly remarkable, considering these rovers were designed for only a 90-day mission on the surface of Mars," Callas said. "Passing the solstice means we're over the hump for the cold, dark, winter season."

Unless dust interferes, which is unlikely in the coming months, the solar panels on both rovers should gradually generate more electricity. Operators hope that Spirit will recharge its batteries enough to awaken from hibernation, start communicating and resume science tasks.

Unlike recent operations, Opportunity will not have to rest to regain energy between driving days. The gradual increase in available sunshine will eventually improve the rate of Opportunity's progress across a vast plain toward its long-term destination, the Endeavour Crater.

This month, some of Opportunity's drives have been planned to end at an energy-favorable tilt on the northern face of small Martian plain surface ripples. The positioning sacrifices some distance to regain energy sooner for the next drive. Opportunity's cameras can see a portion of the rim of Endeavour on the horizon, approximately eight miles away, across the plain's ripples of windblown sand.

"The ripples look like waves on the ocean, like we're out in the middle of the ocean with land on the horizon, our destination," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Squyres is the principal investigator for Opportunity and Spirit. "Even though we know we might never get there, Endeavour is the goal that drives our exploration."

The team chose Endeavour as a destination in mid-2008, after Opportunity finished two years examining the smaller Victoria Crater. Since then, the goal became even more alluring when orbital observations found clay minerals exposed at Endeavour. Clay minerals have been found extensively on Mars from orbit, but have not been examined on the surface.

"Those minerals form under wet conditions more neutral than the wet, acidic environment that formed the sulfates we've found with Opportunity," said Squyres. "The clay minerals at Endeavour speak to a time when the chemistry was much friendlier to life than the environments that formed the minerals Opportunity has seen so far. We want to get there to learn their context. Was there flowing water? Were there steam vents? Hot springs? We want to find out."

Launched in 1975, Project Viking consisted of two orbiters, each carrying a stationary lander. Viking Lander 1 was the first successful mission to the surface of Mars, touching down on July 20, 1976. It operated until Nov. 13, 1982, more than two years longer than its twin lander or either of the Viking orbiters.

The record for longest working lifetime by a spacecraft at Mars belongs to a later orbiter: NASA's Mars Global Surveyor operated for more than 9 years after arriving in 1997. NASA's Mars Odyssey, in orbit since in 2001, has been working at Mars longer than any other current mission and is on track to take the Mars longevity record late this year.

Science discoveries by the Mars Exploration Rover have included Opportunity finding the first mineralogical evidence that Mars had liquid water, and Spirit finding evidence for hot springs or steam vents and a past environment of explosive volcanism.

JPL manages the Mars rovers for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the rovers, visit http://www.nasa.gov/rovers . The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two Atlantis astronauts complete second spacewalk of mission

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Two U.S. astronauts conducted the second of three spacewalks for space shuttle Atlantis' STS-132 mission on Wednesday, NASA said.

According to the U.S. space agency, Atlantis's mission specialists Steve Bowen and Michael Good began the spacewalk at 6:38 a.m. EDT (1038 GMT). During the seven-hour spacewalk, they plugged in four new batteries at the International Space Station and even repaired a loose antenna.

Besides, Bowen adjusted a cable on the end of the orbiter boom and used a plastic tie to hold it in position. This brief task was added after discovering early in the flight that the cable was inhibiting a camera from maneuvering correctly.

Two more batteries will be replaced Friday during the third and final spacewalk of Atlantis' flight.

Atlantis lifted off on Friday afternoon from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the scheduled final voyage for Atlantis, which has flown 31 missions since it was put into service in 1985. It will have one final assignment: remain on standby in case the last shuttle crew needs a rescue.

Only two shuttle flights remain after Atlantis' flight. Discovery is targeted for launch in September with spare parts and equipment. Endeavour is due to launch in November carrying a 2-billion-dollar, multinational particle detector known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Atlantis astronauts complete walk

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Astronauts on the shuttle Atlantis's latest, and probably, last mission to the space station have made their first spacewalk.

Mission specialists Garrett Reisman and Steve Bowen ventured outside the platform to install an antenna and a robot tool tray.

Atlantis arrived at the station on Sunday following a picture perfect launch from Florida on Friday.

The ship's crew of six are spending the next week at the 350km-high outpost.

Other key tasks will include the replacement of six large batteries and the addition to the underside of the platform of a Russian docking and storage module.

The berthing on Tuesday of the Rassvet module to the Earth-facing port of the station's Zarya unit is likely to be the trickiest operation of the entire mission.

Cable niggle

The Atlantis crew were unable to do their usual full post-launch inspection of the orbiter's external surfaces on Saturday due to a snagged cable that prevented the ship's robotic arm from picking up a high-resolution laser imager and TV camera.

To compensate for some of the missing data, mission managers instead ordered more pictures than usual to be taken from the space station of the shuttle as it moved in for its docking.

Three station crew-members took a total of 398 photographs of Atlantis's heat-shield as the orbiter performed a back-flip. The pictures were then sent down to Earth for analysis.

The docking occurred at 1428 GMT, with the hatch opening and the movement of the Atlantis crew through into the International Space Station (ISS) taking place a little under two hours later.

"It's bigger than we remember and, speaking for myself, better than I remember," shuttle commander Ken "Hock" Ham was heard to say on the radio. "I love this place."

Atlantis is undertaking what many expect to be its last mission before retirement.
'Standby' role.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nasa shuttle Atlantis arrives at space station for its final mission

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The space shuttle Atlantis has arrived safely at the International Space Station on its final mission to the orbital outpost.

Atlantis commander Ken Ham inched his 100-tonne spaceship into a docking port yesterday afternoon as the shuttle and station soared around the planet at 17,500 mph.

'Welcome to station,' flight engineer Soichi Noguchi radioed to the Atlantis crew.

The hatch between the two spacecrafts were opened at 4.18pm (GMT), when the Atlantis crew doubled the population on the ISS to twelve.

It's bigger than when we remember and, speaking for myself, better than we remember. I love this place,' said shuttle Commander Ken Ham.

Atlantis is carrying a Russian module called Rassvet - Russian for "dawn" - a combination research lab and docking port for Russian and European capsules.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1279027/Nasa-space-shuttle-Atlantis-arrives-ISS-final-mission.html?ito=feeds-newsxml#ixzz0oBUlb5wL

The shuttle crew are also delivering an equipment rack filled with fresh batteries for the station's solar power system and a work platform for the station's Canadian-built robot arm.

All the equipment will be installed by the shuttle crew during three spacewalks this week. The first is scheduled for today.

Atlantis blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday for what is expected to be its final mission before retirement.

Sister ships Discovery and Endeavour are scheduled to make their final flights to the space station later this year and then Nasa plans to end its shuttle program.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1279027/Nasa-space-shuttle-Atlantis-arrives-ISS-final-mission.html?ito=feeds-newsxml#ixzz0oBUoSQZl

Before docking, the shuttle performed its usual backflip yesterday morning so astronauts aboard the space station could check the underside of the shuttle for any damage it may have sustained during the launch.

The survey could not be completed on schedule due to a snagged cable.

'Once we get all that imagery on the ground, the team will determine if we need to go get additional information or views of Atlantis before we're ready to declare the heat shield ready to go,' flight director Mike Sarafin said.

The routine safety check was implemented after the 2003 Columbia accident.

Atlantis is due to land at the Kennedy Space Center on May 26.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis Lifts Off to Put Finishing Touches on the International Space Station

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One of the final space shuttle visits to the International Space Station began at 2:20 p.m. Friday with the launch of Atlantis and six astronauts from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will deliver cargo, critical spare parts and a Russian laboratory to the station.

The third of five shuttle missions planned for 2010, this was the last planned launch for Atlantis. The Russian-built Mini Research Module-1 is inside the shuttle's cargo bay. Also known as Rassvet (dawn in Russian), it will provide additional storage space and a new docking port for Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. The laboratory will be attached to the bottom port of the station's Zarya module.

Commander Ken Ham is joined on the STS-132 mission by Pilot Tony Antonelli and Mission Specialists Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Steve Bowen, and Piers Sellers, all veteran space fliers. Good and Sellers rode Atlantis into orbit on their first space missions in 2009 and 2002, respectively.

The shuttle crew is scheduled to dock to the station at 10:27 a.m. EDT on Sunday, May 16. The mission's three spacewalks will focus on storing spare components outside the station, including six batteries, a communications antenna and parts for the Canadian Dextre robotic arm.

After completing the 12-day STS-132 mission, the shuttle's first landing opportunity at Kennedy is scheduled for 8:44 a.m. on Wednesday, May 26. STS-132 is the 132nd shuttle flight, the 32nd flight for Atlantis and the 34th shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.

NASA's Web coverage of STS-132 includes mission information, a press kit, interactive features, news conference images, graphics and videos. Mission coverage, including the latest NASA Television schedule, is available on the main space shuttle website at:

http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

NASA is providing continuous television and Internet coverage of the mission. NASA TV features live mission events, daily status news conferences and 24-hour commentary. For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and schedule information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

Daily news conferences with STS-132 mission managers will take place at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Johnson will operate a telephone bridge for media briefings outside of normal business hours. To use this service, reporters must have valid media credentials issued by a NASA center or issued specifically for the STS-132 mission.

Journalists planning to use the service must contact the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 15 minutes prior to the start of a briefing. Newsroom personnel will verify credentials and transfer reporters to the phone bridge. Phone bridge capacity is limited, so it will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Live updates to the NASA News Twitter feed will be added throughout the mission and landing. To access the feed, go to the NASA.gov homepage or visit:

http://www.twitter.com/nasa

For more information about the space station, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

Friday, May 14, 2010

Space Shuttle Launch Today – NASA is All Set to Launch Space Shuttle Atlantis

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On Wednesday, NASA confirmed the launch of space shuttle Atlantis for May 14th at 2:20 pm, Eastern. The countdown has begun and the shuttle will be launched today from Florida’s Kennedy Space center. The shuttle will carry out it’s 12 day trip to the International Space Station to deliver an integrated cargo carrier and a mini research module that was built by Russia.

The shuttle will carry 6 crew members. In addition to the Russian module, they’ll also be delivering supplies to the Space Station for the post-space shuttle era that is soon to come.

NASA reported that they have had a clean countdown and there are no issues. Even the weather department has cleared any fears, by confirming a clear forecast for the space shuttle launch today.

Today’s space shuttle launch will be one of the last, as the space shuttle program is scheduled for cancellation at the end of 2010.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

NASA To Fund Innovative Museum Exhibits And Planetarium Shows

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Innovative planetarium shows and traveling museum exhibits are among nine projects NASA has selected to receive agency funding this year. NASA's Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums will provide $7 million in grants to enhance educational outreach related to space exploration, aeronautics, space science, Earth science and microgravity.

This year's grants to nine informal education providers range from approximately $177,000 to $1.25 million and have a maximum five-year performance period. The projects are located in Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Utah and Washington. The selected projects will work with NASA's Shared Service Center in Mississippi to complete the business review necessary before a NASA award is issued.

"Science centers and planetariums contribute significantly to engaging people of all ages in science, technology, engineering and math," said James Stofan, acting associate administrator for NASA's Office of Education. "NASA wants to give the informal education community access to a variety of agency staff and resources while offering professional development opportunities for informal science educators and encouraging the formation of collaborative partnerships."

The selected organizations will partner with NASA's Museum Alliance, an Internet-based, national network of more than 400 science and nature centers, planetariums, museums, aquariums, zoos and related organizations. The projects will engage the public and educators by providing NASA-inspired space, science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning opportunities.

Congress initiated the Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums in 2008. The first group of projects began in 2009. NASA's Office of Education and agency mission directorates collaborated to solicit and review the grant applications.

For a list of the selected projects, visit:

http://nspires.nasaprs.com

Click on "Selected Proposals" and look for Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., leads the Museum Alliance for the agency. For more information about the Museum Alliance, visit:

http://informal.jpl.nasa.gov/museum

For more information about NASA's education programs, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/education

Thursday, May 6, 2010

NASA Sets Launch Date For Space Shuttle Atlantis

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Space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to begin a 12-day flight to the International Space Station with a launch at 2:20 pm EDT on Friday, May 14, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-132 mission is Atlantis' final scheduled flight.

Atlantis' launch date was announced Wednesday at the conclusion of a flight readiness review at Kennedy. During the meeting, senior NASA and contractor managers assessed the risks associated with the mission and determined the shuttle and station's equipment, support systems and personnel are ready.

STS-132 is the third of five shuttle missions planned for 2010. Two flights remain until the retirement of the shuttle fleet. The STS-133 and STS-134 launches are targeted for September and November, respectively.

The six astronauts for Atlantis' STS-132 mission will deliver the Russian-built Mini Research Module-1, also known as Rassvet (dawn in Russian) to the station. The flight also will transport critical spare parts and cargo, including six new solar array batteries and Ku-band antenna systems. During the mission, three spacewalks are planned to put those spare parts on the station.

Commander Ken Ham and his crew are scheduled to arrive at Kennedy at approximately 7 p.m. on Monday, May 10, for final launch preparations. Joining Ham are Pilot Tony Antonelli, and Mission Specialists Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Steve Bowen, and Piers Sellers.

STS-132 will be Atlantis' 32nd mission and the 34th shuttle flight dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.

For more information about the STS-132 mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

For more information about the space station, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

For information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NASA Flight Directors Available For Interviews On Shuttle Atlantis' Last Scheduled Mission

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NASA Flight Directors Michael Sarafin of Herkimer, N.Y., and Emily Nelson of Austin, Texas, are available for live satellite interviews from 6 to 7 a.m. CDT Friday, May 7. Nelson and Sarafin will discuss the upcoming space shuttle Atlantis STS-132 mission to the International Space Station and their roles as flight directors.

The shuttle and its crew are scheduled to lift off at 2:20 p.m. EDT, Friday, May 14 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission currently is the last flight scheduled for Atlantis. Including STS-132, there are only three remaining shuttle missions scheduled before the fleet is retired.

To participate in the interviews, reporters should contact Jeremiah Maddix at 281-483-8631 before 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 6.

Sarafin will be available from 6 to 6:30 a.m. He is the lead shuttle flight director for STS-132. Sarafin, a NASA flight director since 2005, has supported 10 shuttle missions, including three as the lead shuttle flight director. He served in NASA's Mission Control as a shuttle flight controller for 10 years and graduated from Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y.

Nelson will be available from 6:30 to 7 a.m. She is the lead space station flight director for STS-132 and has been a NASA flight director since 2007. Since 1998, Nelson served as a flight controller overseeing the station's thermal systems. She is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin.

The six astronauts for the mission will deliver the Russian-built Mini Research Module, also known as Rassvet (dawn in Russian) to the station. The flight also will deliver critical spare parts and cargo. During the 12-day mission, three spacewalks are planned.

The NASA Television Live Interview Media Outlet channel will be used for the interviews. The channel is a digital satellite C-band downlink by uplink provider Americom. It is on satellite AMC 3, transponder 9C, located at 87 degrees west, downlink frequency 3865.5 Mhz based on a standard C-band, horizontal downlink polarity, FEC is 3/4, data rate is 6.0 Mbps, symbol rate is 4.3404 Msps, transmission DVB-S, 4:2:0.

The NASA TV Live Interview Media Outlet channel will air b-roll footage of preparations for the STS-132 mission beginning at 5:30 a.m. The interviews also will be broadcast live on NASA TV. For streaming video, downlink and scheduling information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

For more information about the STS-132 mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

For more information about the space station, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station