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NASA Office of Legislative Affairs Weekly Update 14 January 2005

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Friday, January 14, 2005

From: Lisa Gibson lisa.gibson@nasa.gov
Date: January 14, 2005 5:04:21 PM EST
To: (key staff) Subject: NASA Weekly Update

Good Afternoon,

The Vision is transforming NASA:

January 14, 2005

NASA SUMMER HIGH SCHOOL PROGRAM CELEBRATES SILVER ANNIVERSARY: The NASA Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program (NSHARP) celebrated 25 years of selecting high-achieving students to serve as apprentices in a variety of NASA professions. Students, representing nearly every state, Puerto Rico and American Samoa have participated in the education program. Created in 1980, NSHARP is designed to attract and increase participation among under represented students in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Applications for 2005 are available via the Internet and must be submitted by February 14, 2005. To view the application on the Web, visit: http://www.nasasharp.com.

January 13, 2005

NASA ANNOUNCES SPACEWALK PREVIEW BRIEFING & NASA TV COVERAGE: The first spacewalk by the International Space Station (ISS) residents is the subject of a news conference Friday, Jan. 21, at 2 p.m. EST at the Johnson Space Center, Houston. The spacewalk (EVA) by Expedition 10 Commander and NASA Station Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov is scheduled for Jan. 26. Both the news conference and spacewalk will be broadcast live on NASA TV. Both the news conference and the spacewalk will be available live on the Internet at: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.

January 11, 2005

VETERAN NASA SPACE SHUTTLE COMMANDER RETIRES: After a career featuring six space missions, five as commander, and multiple senior agency management positions, astronaut James D. Wetherbee (Capt., USN, Ret.) retired from NASA to pursue other interests. Wetherbee flew six times aboard the Space Shuttle. He is the only U.S. astronaut to command five space flights. Most recently, Wetherbee served as the Space Shuttle Lead in the Independent Technical Authority at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC). Earlier positions included service as Technical Assistant to the Director of JSC's Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate, two years as Director of Flight Crew Operations at JSC and five years as the Deputy Director of JSC. For biographical information for Wetherbee on the Internet, visit: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/.

SAHARAN DUST AFFECTS THUNDERSTORM BEHAVIOR IN FLORIDA: Scientists using NASA satellite data have discovered tiny particles of dust blowing across the Atlantic Ocean from the Sahara Desert can affect Florida thunderstorms. Dust affects the size of the top or "anvil" of a thunderstorm, the strength and number of updrafts of warm winds. It also affects the strength of convective (heat generated) thunderstorms by influencing the amount of rain that builds up and falls. For more information and images about this research on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/florida_dust.html.

NASA FREE COMPUTER MODEL AVAILABLE TO CLASSROOMS: A free NASA global climate model is available for high school and university desktop computers. The Educational Global Climate Model (EdGCM), available for both Windows and Mac platforms, incorporates a 3-D climate model developed at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York. It wraps complex computer modeling programs with a graphical interface familiar to most PC users. The climate model runs on a desktop computer to allow teachers and students to conduct experiments identical to those scientists run on supercomputers to simulate past and future climate changes. EdGCM links the climate model to both a database and scientific visualization utilities, making it simpler to create and organize data and images. For more information about the EdGCM, visit: http://www.edgcm.org. To download EdGCM software from the Internet, visit: http://www.edgcm.org/EdGCMCooperative/Downloads.php.

January 10, 2005

NASA USES HIGH-TECH X-RAY EQUIPMENT TO EXAMINE DINOSAUR SKULL: As NASA charts a bold new course into the future, the space agency is briefly taking a step back in time to examine a dinosaur skull. NASA scientists are using equipment at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to scan the skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex. The state-of-the-art equipment was originally designed to examine rocket motor assemblies and turbine blades. Discovered on a South Dakota ranch in 1992, it is believed to be the most complete and well-preserved T-rex skull ever discovered. Discoverers dubbed the find "Samson," recognizing the beast's reputation as the strongest dinosaur to roam the Earth during the late Cretaceous period. For more information about Samson, visit the Carnegie Museum on the Internet at: http://www.carnegiemnh.org/exhibits/samson.htm.

SPITZER SEES DUSTY AFTERMATH OF PLUTO-SIZED COLLISION: Astronomers say a dusty disc swirling around the nearby star Vega is bigger than earlier thought. It was probably caused by collisions of objects, perhaps as big as the planet Pluto, up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,200 miles) in diameter. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has seen the dusty aftermath of this "run-in." Astronomers think embryonic planets smashed together, shattered into pieces and repeatedly crashed into other fragments to create ever-finer debris. Vega's light heats the debris, and Spitzer's infrared telescope detects the radiation. Imagery and additional information about the Spitzer Space Telescope is available on the Internet, at: http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/Media.

NASA SELECTS STUDENT TEAM TO CONDUCT "REAL-WORLD" SCIENCE: NASA today announced a team from Troy, Mich., is the winner of the first nationwide science contest that provides students a unique opportunity to conduct their own research using one of NASA's state-of-the-art, ground-based hypergravity facilities. NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate officials named the "Centrifu-G's" the Hyper-G contest's main prizewinner. The team will visit NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., in May. The team will conduct research at Ames using the International Space Station Test Bed Centrifuge, a hypergravity centrifuge. For more information about the Hyper-G competition on the Web, visit: http://lifesci.arc.nasa.gov.

CLOSE TO A BLACK HOLE'S EDGE, SCIENTISTS MAKE TWO DISCOVERIES: NASA affiliated scientists are reporting two new results about black holes today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego. One discovery involves a stellar-size black hole in our galaxy. Scientists detected streams of gas that appear to be surfing on a wave of space as the gas falls toward the black hole. This provides compelling evidence for an exotic prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity: how a spinning black hole can drag the fabric of space around with it, creating a choppy sea of space that distorts all that passes through it on a descent into the black hole. The other discovery involves a super massive black hole in a galaxy more than 170 million light years away. Scientists clocked three separate clumps of hot iron gas whipping around the black hole at 20,000 miles per second, which is more than 10 percent of light speed.

January 7, 2005

NASA AWARDS CREW ROBOTICS, VEHICLE EQUIPMENT CONTRACTS: NASA has awarded contracts to two companies and two institutions for Crew Robotics and Vehicle Equipment (CRAVE) work. Total value of each of the four contracts is not to exceed $48 million. Companies selected were Hamilton Sundstrand Services and Oceaneering Space Systems Inc., both of Houston. Also receiving contracts: the Texas Engineering Experiment Station at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Ala. The cost-plus-fixed-fee, performance-based contracts run through December 2009.

SPACE SHUTTLE PROCESSING STATUS REPORT: The Space Shuttle fleet is housed and processed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla. The order the Space Shuttles are listed in this report does not necessarily reflect the chronological order of future missions.

Discovery (OV-103): During the holiday period, technicians completed a tremendous amount of work in preparation for Discovery's Return to Flight mission, designated STS-114, to the International Space Station. Closeouts continue of the Reinforced Carbon-Carbon (RCC) panels and carrier panels, which are the Thermal Protection System between the RCC and the orbiter structure allowing technicians access to the area. The new Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) arrived at KSC on Dec. 22, 2004. It was taken to the Remote Manipulator System lab in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for final checkout and testing prior to moving to the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) for installation into Discovery. The 50-foot long OBSS will attach to the Remote Manipulator System, or Shuttle robotic arm. It is one of the new safety measures for Return to Flight, equipping the orbiter with cameras and laser systems to inspect the Shuttle's Thermal Protection System while in space. The redesigned External Tank (ET) for the STS-114 mission arrived at KSC on Jan. 5 and was moved to the VAB for final processing prior to being attached to the Solid Rocket Boosters for flight.

Atlantis (OV-104): Technicians also completed a tremendous amount of work preparing Atlantis' Return to Flight mission. In OPF Bay 1, Atlantis was powered-up on Dec. 29. That followed an extensive power down period to complete the final wiring for Return to Flight modifications, including the new OBSS, wing leading edge sensors and the ET separation camera. Radiator ground support equipment is installed and connections are in work in preparation for radiator functionals. Thermal Protection System blanket installation continues in the Forward Reaction Control System cavity. Check out of the new wing leading edge instrumentation was completed. Rudder Speed Brake actuators and panels have been installed, and measurements have been taken. The drive lock is scheduled next for installation.

Endeavour (OV-105): Space Shuttle Endeavour is in its Orbiter Major Modification period, which began in December 2003. Endeavour is in the Vehicle Assembly Building for a temporary stay, clearing OPF Bay 2 for a scheduled maintenance period. The orbiter will be rolled back into the bay on Jan. 12.

Previous Space Shuttle processing status reports are available on the Internet at: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/shuttleoperations/index.html. For information about NASA's Return to Flight efforts on the Internet, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/news/highlights/returntoflight.html.

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION STATUS REPORT: SS05-001: The Expedition 10 crew began the new year by embarking on biomedical experiments, unloading contents from the recently arrived Russian Progress cargo vehicle, and troubleshooting the Station's oxygen generator. Commander and NASA Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov rang in the new year Saturday to a special rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" offered from Mission Control. They also received greetings from Russian space officials in Moscow. Today, the crew took time from its activities to observe the Russian Orthodox Christmas. They have a light weekend planned with only a few routine maintenance tasks scheduled. Chiao and Sharipov also offered a message of condolence this week to the victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami in southern Asia. The crew conducted a variety of biomedical experiments throughout the week, including the NEUROCOG experiment that studies how the body's sense of balance, or neurovestibular system, adapts to weightlessness. During the experiment, the crew member moves around the cabin wearing a virtual reality headset. On New Year's Day, the Station's Elektron oxygen-generation system shut down. The crew has had some success in recovering the operation of that system this week. The Elektron, which separates water into hydrogen and oxygen, is one of several systems that can be used to replenish oxygen in the Station cabin. Almost five months of oxygen reserves are aboard the Station in other systems. With help from Russian technical experts, the crew early this week tried to purge gas from the Elektron lines, using both a manual pump and an electrical pump. The gas bubbles were believed to be causing pumps in the Elektron to shut down. As troubleshooting continued, the crew on Thursday replaced the electrolyte in the Elektron with that from a spare unit. The Elektron was then successfully restarted, although later that day the system was switched from a primary pump to a backup pump. The Elektron has continued to operate intermittently since. While the Elektron was out of service on Tuesday, oxygen was added to the Station atmosphere from tanks on the Progress cargo craft. Today Chiao and Sharipov took some time to discuss the progress of their mission with students at the Central Park Middle School in Schenectady, N.Y. For information about NASA education flight programs on the Internet visit: http://education.nasa.gov/divisions/flightprojoffice/overview/. Information on the crew's activities aboard the Space Station and future launch dates, as well as Station sighting opportunities from anywhere on the Earth, is available on the Internet at: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/.

NASA DETAILS EARTHQUAKE AFFECTS ON THE EARTH: NASA scientists using data from the Indonesian earthquake calculated it affected Earth's rotation, decreased the length of day, slightly changed the planet's shape, and shifted the North Pole by centimeters. The earthquake that created the huge tsunami also changed the Earth's rotation. Dr. Benjamin Fong Chao, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and Dr. Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. said all earthquakes have some affect on Earth's rotation. It's just they are usually barely noticeable. For information and images on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/indonesia_quake.html. For the details on the Sumatra, Indonesia Earthquake, visit the USGS Internet site: http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/bulletin/neic_slav_ts.html.

HAVE A GREAT LONG WEEKEND!

Lisa Gibson
NASA Headquarters
Office of Legislative Affairs
300 E Street, SW
Washington, DC 20546
office: 202-358-1067
fax: 202-358-4340
Lisa.Gibson@nasa.gov

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