• 2010 nasa special
    a total eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses Earth's southern Hemisphere. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow crosses the South Pacific Ocean where it makes no landfall except for Mangaia (Cook Islands) and Easter Island (Isla de Pascua).

Socializing Science With Smartphones in Space

One may think that participation with the International Space Station would be restricted to an exclusive club of high ranking officials and agencies. In actuality, students, teachers and commercial companies have also been taking advantage of the station's unique environment for years. One of those commercial companies, Houston-based Odyssey Space Research, plans to bring the experience to the rest of us via our mobile devices!

International Space Station National Laboratory partner NanoRacks LLC has a collaboration with Odyssey and Apple. This relationship enabled Odyssey to send two iPhone 4's to the space station as part of the STS-135 mission on July 8, 2011. These phones are just like the ones you can find at the store, but with certain alterations to meet NASA flight certification standards. It took less than a year to make the necessary changes and launch the devices to the station.

The iPhone 4 was selected for its mix of features, according to Odyssey CEO Brian Rishikof. "It had a three-axis gyro, and accelerometer, a high resolution camera and screen, and the means to manipulate the image. We had done some projects in the past that used all those features, but of course it was big, dedicated equipment and suddenly here it is in this small little package," said Rishikof.

The smartphones use the same software as their Earth counterparts and Odyssey used standard tools to develop a new app called SpaceLab for iOS, which will enable the planned research aboard the station. The app is also available for people to download to their own devices.

These devices are part of an investigation called NanoRacks Smartphone, which looks at how the phones will operate in space. The hope is to use the compact hardware in future research studies and to augment crew performance and productivity in operational activities. Currently there are four separate experiments that will run on the smartphones via SpaceLab for iOS.

The first study is Limb Tracker, a navigation experiment using photos of the Earth and image overlay manipulation to match the horizon to an arc to give an estimate of altitude and off-axis angles. Next is the Sensor Calibration or Sensor Cal experiment, which uses reference photos and the three-axis gyro and accelerometer for calibration to improve measurement accuracy. The State Acquisition or State Acq experiment also uses photos, but this time to estimate spacecraft orbital parameters. After the first three investigations are complete, the Lifecycle Flight Instrumentation or LFI experiment will operate to track the impact of radiation on the phones. To do this, the devices will monitor radiation-induced single bit upsets, which are unintended changes in memory location values.

One of the other goals in sending the phones to the space station is to engage the public. The SpaceLab for iOS app for users on the ground is identical to the software that was downloaded onto the space devices prior to launch. 

According to Rishikof, there is a setting in the application that indicates if the equipment is in microgravity or not. The software operates differently to accommodate the presence of gravity. "There are 200 million devices that run the operating system and could potentially run the application," said Rishikof. "Which means there are 200 million users out there that could get a sense of what it does; a sense of what an experiment in space might look like; a sense of participation."

The investigation is planned to run on the space station in the fall of 2011. The phones are not intended to have the same leisure appeal as they do on Earth, however, given the lack of iTunes, games and Internet or roaming connectivity. "People have asked me if we were loading games on the phones for the crew. No, we did not want them to be distracted, though certainly it would have been fun!" said Rishikof.

Once the investigation completes, the smartphones will return to Earth at the next opportunity. Scientists will then analyze the stored data to better understand how the devices can be used for future research on the space station and how the phones react to the space environment.

Rishikof hopes to be able to share some of the space data with SpaceLab for iOS app users, as well. "We do not have a monopoly on good ideas and hope users will suggest new and compelling things to add," commented Rishikof. "It is not a game, there's no leveling or challenges, the objective is to get data. It really just provides a way to see what's going on and while we don’t expect tons of downloads, we do expect a lot of interest. This would create an unusual opportunity for the entire world to get a look at some space data and explore it on their handheld device."

The NanoRacks Smartphone investigation is not the only phone-related study to launch to the space station with STS-135. The Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites or SPHERES, which has been aboard station since 2006, will also use smartphones to enhance the satellites' capabilities. While the two studies use different hardware, the overall capabilities of these smartphones offer bigger returns for research using a smaller package.

by Jessica Nimon
International Space Station Program Science Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center

NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity Begins Study of Martian Crater

Opportunity at work examining 'Tisdale 2,' 

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its front hazard-avoidance camera to take this picture showing the rover's arm extended toward a light-toned rock, "Tisdale 2," during the 2,695th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Aug. 23, 2011). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Approaching 'Tisdale 2' Rock on Rim of Endeavour Crater, Sol 2690 

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take this picture showing a light-toned rock, "Tisdale 2," during the 2,690th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Aug. 18, 2011). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
PASADENA, Calif. -- The initial work of NASA's Mars rover Opportunity at its new location on Mars shows surface compositional differences from anything the robot has studied in its first 7.5 years of exploration. 

Opportunity arrived three weeks ago at the rim of a 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide) crater named Endeavour. The first rock it examined is flat-topped and about the size of a footstool. It was apparently excavated by an impact that dug a crater the size of a tennis court into the crater's rim. The rock was informally named "Tisdale 2." 

"This is different from any rock ever seen on Mars," said Steve Squyres, principal investigator for Opportunity at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "It has a composition similar to some volcanic rocks, but there's much more zinc and bromine than we've typically seen. We are getting confirmation that reaching Endeavour really has given us the equivalent of a second landing site for Opportunity." 

The diversity of fragments in Tisdale 2 could be a prelude to other minerals Opportunity might find at Endeavour. In the past two weeks, researchers have used an instrument on the rover's robotic arm to identify elements at several spots on Tisdale 2. Scientists have also examined the rock using the rover's microscopic imager and multiple filters of its panoramic camera. 

Observations by Mars orbiters suggest that rock exposures on Endeavor's rim date from early in Martian history and include clay minerals that form in less-acidic wet conditions, possibly more favorable for life. Discontinuous ridges are all that remains of the ancient crater's rim. The ridge at the section of the rim where Opportunity arrived is named "Cape York." A gap between Cape York and the next rim fragment to the south is called "Botany Bay." 

"On the final traverses to Cape York, we saw ragged outcrops at Botany Bay unlike anything Opportunity has seen so far, and a bench around the edge of Cape York looks like sedimentary rock that's been cut and filled with veins of material possibly delivered by water," said Ray Arvidson, the rover's deputy principal investigator at Washington University in St. Louis. "We made an explicit decision to examine ancient rocks of Cape York first." 

The science team selected Endeavor as Opportunity's long-term destination after the rover climbed out of Victoria crater three years ago this week. The mission spent two years studying Victoria, which is about one twenty-fifth as wide as Endeavor. Layers of bedrock exposed at Victoria and other locations Opportunity has visited share a sulfate-rich composition linked to an ancient era when acidic water was present. Opportunity drove about 13 miles (21 kilometers) from Victoria to reach Endeavor. It has driven 20.8 miles (33.5 kilometers) since landing on Mars. 

"We have a very senior rover in good health for having already worked 30 times longer than planned," said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "However, at any time, we could lose a critical component on an essential rover system, and the mission would be over. Or, we might still be using this rover's capabilities beneficially for years. There are miles of exciting geology to explore at Endeavour crater." 

Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed three-month prime missions in April 2004 and continued working for years of extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit ended communications in March 2010. 

"This is like having a brand new landing site for our veteran rover," said Dave Lavery, program executive for NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It is a remarkable bonus that comes from being able to rove on Mars with well-built hardware that lasts." 

NASA will launch its next-generation Mars rover, Curiosity, between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011. It will land on Mars in August 2012. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more about Opportunity, visit http://www.nasa.gov/rovers and http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html . You can also follow the mission on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/marsrovers .
Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington

Ophir Chasma

Ophir Chasma, Mars 

During its examination of Mars, the Viking 1 spacecraft returned images of Valles Marineris, a huge canyon system 5,000 km, or about 3,106 miles, long, whose connected chasma or valleys may have formed from a combination of erosional collapse and structural activity. This synthetic oblique view shows Ophir Chasma, the northern most one of the connected valleys of Valles Marineris. For scale, the large impact crater in lower right corner is about 18.5 miles, or 30 km, wide.

Ophir Chasma is a large west-northwest-trending trough about 62 miles, or 100 km, wide. The Chasma is bordered by high-walled cliffs, most likely faults, that show spur-and-gully morphology and smooth sections. The walls have been dissected by landslides forming reentrants. The volume of the landslide debris is more than 1,000 times greater than that from the May 18, 1980, debris avalanche from Mount St. Helens. The longitudinal grooves seen in the foreground are thought to be due to differential shear and lateral spreading at high velocities.

Discovering New Orbits with Kids in Micro-g

Cady Coleman and Ron Garan measure the orbiting radius of a water droplet 

Cady Coleman and Ron Garan measure the orbiting radius of a water droplet as it circles a piece of statically charged rubber tubing on the International Space Station. (NASA)

An example of water 'bending' towards a static charge created by a balloon 

An example of water 'bending' towards a static charge created by a balloon.
(Image credit: ©Faith Fashion & Photos LLC)

Even simple scientific experiments can yield amazing results and add to the collective knowledge of the research community. Take the winning proposal for the most recent round of the Kids in Micro-g competition, for example, which was designed by two 5th grade girls from Chabad Hebrew Academy in San Diego. Conducted in April 2011 on the International Space Station, this study, called "Attracting Water Drops," looked at static attraction in microgravity to reveal an exciting new understanding of physics in space.

Kids in Micro-g was a hands-on design challenge and part of NASA's Teaching from Space education program. Six finalists were selected in the 2011 Kids in Micro-g competition, earning the chance to have their proposed studies performed on the space station. The Attracting Water Drops experiment involved rubbing a piece of rubber tubing with a pair of nylon shorts to create a static charge. Then astronauts released a droplet of water close by and watched to see what happened.

Marilyn Sniffen, advanced placement science coordinator with Chabad Hebrew Academy, found out about the Kids in Micro-g competition while researching new challenges for her students online. Having previously participated with her classes in other NASA education challenges, she was aware of NASA as a resource to help foster a love of science in students. "I asked my current students if they would like to participate," said Sniffen. "There was no hesitation, as they immediately wanted to check out the list of supplies available for the physics tests that could be done aboard the space station."

Students did their own companion study in the classroom to gain results for the investigation under the force of gravity here on Earth. They observed that a piece of charged rubber tubing held near a stream of running water caused the flow of water to bend toward the tubing. Students learned that the action of rubbing the tubing with nylon transferred negatively charged electrons to the tubing, creating a negative static charge. Since opposite charges attract to each other, and water molecules have a polarity with a positive end, the negatively charged tubing held near the water caused the positive end of the water to draw towards the tubing.

Astronauts Cady Coleman and Ron Garan performed the Attracting Water Droplets experiment aboard the station on April 23, 2011. You can view a video of the investigation being performed here . Their objective was to study the electrostatic interaction of the charged rubber tubing and water drops in microgravity. Students anticipated a greater attraction of the water droplet to the electrostatic charge than found on Earth. "Their hypothesis was that the results in space would be dramatically different than on Earth," commented Sniffen. "This is because the force of gravity on the water was greater than the force attraction to the static charge on the tube."

In addition to successfully proving the hypothesis, however, students and crew members were astonished to see the water droplet actually orbit the charged piece of tubing. "Look at that!" exclaimed Cady Coleman during the experiment on the space station. "It is going around our tubing. You would think it would keep sailing; in microgravity it would keep sailing, but it is coming back to our tubing and around."

Sniffen echoed Coleman's surprise, as she detailed the student's expectations for the water droplets in space. "The students predicted that in micro-g, the drop would be free floating and that it could be 'pulled' around by the charged rubber tube without it falling to the ground. The actual experiment on the station showed they were able to pull the drop around in the air, but it also revealed a surprise we didn't predict. The droplet of water actually orbited the tube at about 6 cm! So our hypothesis was supported, but we learned something entirely new in the process. The kids were amazed, as were we!" said Sniffen.

The school plans to repeat the Earth-bound portion of the experiment while showing the video of the study done on the space station to allow more students to share in the science next school year. "This kind of collaboration is really important for our students as they so often feel that what they are learning in school has no real connection to everyday life," comments Sniffen. "This program has allowed our students to make connections with real science and scientists, real discovery, and other students. It has inspired analytical thinking, creativity and communication for all our students."

Hammin’ It Up

A satellite with amateur radio capabilities and a student-designed experiment was released into orbit around Earth on Aug. 3, 2011, during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The satellite is transmitting signals containing information that students around the world can access.

The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station Satellite-1, or ARISSat-1, is a follow-on project to the unique SuitSat-1. SuitSat-1 was an amateur radio transmitter fitted into a surplus Russian Orlan spacesuit that was released from the station into space in 2006. SuitSat-1 transmitted for about two weeks and orbited Earth for seven months before burning up in Earth’s atmosphere.

The rectangular ARISSat-1 is covered by six solar panels that will charge the batteries in the satellite for about six months as it orbits Earth. Credit: AMSAT]

Formerly known as SuitSat-2 and also called Radioskaf-V and Kedr by the project’s Russian partners, ARISSat-1 contains a student-designed experiment and other equipment that students can use to learn more about space and space exploration. ("Kedr," which is Russian for "Cedar" in English, was the call sign of Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut and the first human in space.)

ARISSat-1 is a project by the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, or AMSAT, and affiliated with the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station. ARISS is an education activity where space station astronauts and cosmonauts use amateur radio equipment aboard the space station to talk with students around the world.

The development, launch and deployment of ARISSat-1 are being conducted as an educational mission with the support of the NASA Office of Education’s ISS National Lab Education Project and RSC-Energia. It is the first of a series of educational satellites planned for deployment from the space station. Future satellites will carry additional student-built experiments, which will have data sent to the ground via amateur radio signals.

AMSAT ARISSat-1 project manager Gould Smith said the educational mission of the project is to use the unique aspects of satellites and amateur radio transmissions to generate student interest in space, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

ARISSat-1 traveled to the space station in late January aboard a Russian Progress cargo vehicle and was released into space during a spacewalk by Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Alexander Samokutyaev.

For ARISSat-1, the onboard experiment is from Kursk State Technical University in Kursk, Russia. The experiment is going to measure the vacuum in space at different altitudes as the satellite’s orbit decays, gathering 90 minutes of data each day and transmitting that data continuously back to Earth. By analyzing these data, student scientists can derive atmospheric density from in situ measurements. These data in turn can be used to better predict the orbital lifetime of ARISSat-1.

Close-up view of an experiment on ARISSat-1
Aboard ARISSat-1 is an experiment that will measure the vacuum in space at different altitudes as the spacecraft de-orbits. Credit: AMSAT

Originally designed -- like its predecessor -- to fit inside an Orlan spacesuit, ARISSat-1 was redesigned when the expired spacesuit allocated for the project was disposed of sooner than AMSAT could use it. The redesign actually turned out to be a good move for the project, project managers said, because it allowed capabilities to be expanded.

The rectangular spacecraft is covered by six solar panels that will charge the batteries in the satellite for about six months as it orbits Earth. Spoken telemetry values, with data such as temperature and battery life, are intended to promote science and mathematics education by encouraging schoolchildren to listen to the satellite, track its progress and plot the changes. AMSAT president Barry Baines said it’s a great opportunity for students to do actual science, by taking real-time, practical readings on a daily basis and plotting the changes. The telemetry data will be available live and over the Internet for schools and radio amateurs to study the operation and changes that the satellite experiences during its orbits around Earth.

The project website provides free downloadable software that can be used to decode the data. "They can look at all the values, but you can also get the Russian experiment data at the same time and actually look at that every day," Baines said. "Plus, that data will be stored online, and they will be able to access it via the Internet to be able to go back and look at historical data or just use it in a lesson to actually take the real data and analyze it."

"The most useful, exciting and effective element of learning in regards to this project is actually doing something hands-on and practical, rather than just sitting and listening to a lecture. If you can actually go out and collect the data and then do something with it, that’s a lesson that’s learned and understood at higher cognitive levels."

In addition to data, the satellite will transmit 24 pre-recorded greetings in 15 different languages -- French, Spanish, German, English and Chinese, to name a few. More than half of the messages were recorded by schoolchildren, Smith said. "Most of them are really creative and interesting to listen to, especially male and female voices, and even kind of a little rap by the Dutch group. Also, most of them have a secret word at the end, and there’s a contest: If you can identify the secret word and send an e-mail, we’ll return an e-mail back to you with a little certificate."

Attached to the inside of the satellite is a memory card containing images and documents from children around the world. A website has been set up to view the files on the card. There is also a contest to see who correctly copies the most Morse Code signals sent by ARISSat-1. The signals will consist of the call signs of all amateur radio operators who worked on the project. Additionally, still images of Earth will be transmitted from four cameras aboard the satellite. ARISSat-1 also will serve as an orbital communications relay station for use by amateur radio operators around the world. The ARISSat-1 website lists all of the ARISSat-1 contests and challenges.

Helping with the project is NASA retiree Lou McFadin. McFadin has been closely involved with amateur radio and human spaceflight through the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment, or SAREX, project, beginning with astronaut Owen Garriott’s first amateur radio communications on the STS-9 shuttle mission in 1983. McFadin is the ARISS hardware manager and has worked with the development of the ARISSat-1 hardware since the start of the project.

"I think if they (students) do the telemetry decode," McFadin said, "there’s a lot of opportunity for learning there. It has solar panel temperatures; it has solar panel data; it has battery voltage and all kinds of information there about what’s going on in the satellite. That kind of learning really connects to our goal of getting children and all Americans interested in space. That’s a big part of what we wanted to do."

A free-floating spacesuit and the curve of Earth
SuitSat-1 in orbit after its release from the International Space Station during Expedition 12. Credit: NASA
ARISSat-1 also will serve as a technology demonstration. "For AMSAT, it certainly was a way to try out some new ideas -- how to build the structure for the dynamics of the satellite itself, it’s a new power system, it’s a new transponder system we’ve not tried before, it’s the first time we’ve flown a software-defined transponder, and it’s paving the path for the future for us," Smith said.

McFadin said the software-defined transponder was the key to how they were able to design a satellite to do so many things at once. "It’s an FM transmitter, it’s a transponder, it’s a telemetry transmitter, and Morse code transmitter, all done with one system, all simultaneously," McFadin said. "We’ve never been able to do that before."

This was AMSAT’s second opportunity to release a satellite from the International Space Station, and Smith said they hope to continue the project with future spacecraft and more student-designed experiments. "It’s not any harder to build four of something than it is to build one, hardly. So we built four space frames, five actually, one for the prototype, and we built four flight versions," Smith said. "So it’ll be easy to do this again."

Mark Severance, manager for the ISS National Laboratory Education Project, sees ARISSat-1 as an important flight test for future educational satellites. "Future ARISSats will carry at least four student-designed and -built experiments," Severance noted. "This will give students the opportunity to go hands-on and build actual spaceflight experiment hardware. Furthermore, they can track the satellite using off-the-shelf amateur radio hardware and obtain the data from their experiment directly from their own ground station. In this manner, ARISSat can provide an 'end-to-end' space mission experience for participating students."

NASA's Office of Education's ISS National Laboratory Project will sponsor future ARISSats. The project provides hands-on opportunities for elementary, secondary and university students, as well as lifelong learners, to participate in the space station mission. The ARISS school contact activity is supported by the ISS National Laboratory Project as well as the Teaching From Space Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Teaching From Space facilitates education opportunities like ARISS that use the unique environment of space to increase student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Check out the ARISSat-1 website at http://arissat1.org/  → for information on data transmissions, contests and student activities.

Space Shuttle Program: Spanning 30 Years of Discovery

Endeavour and Discovery meet during a nose-to-nose photo opportunity 
Image above: Space shuttles Endeavour and Discovery meet in a "nose-to-nose" photo opportunity as the vehicles switch locations Aug. 11 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Now in Orbiter Processing Facility-1 (OPF-1), Discovery will go through more preparations for public display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia next spring. Endeavour will be stored in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) until October, when it will be moved into OPF-2 to continue being readied for display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles next summer. Image credit: NASA/Frankie Martin

NASA's space shuttle fleet began setting records with its first launch on April 12, 1981 and continued to set high marks of achievement and endurance through 30 years of missions. Starting with Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, the spacecraft has carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station. The final space shuttle mission, STS-135, ended July 21, 2011 when Atlantis rolled to a stop at its home port, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

As humanity's first reusable spacecraft, the space shuttle pushed the bounds of discovery ever farther, requiring not only advanced technologies but the tremendous effort of a vast workforce. Thousands of civil servants and contractors throughout NASA's field centers and across the nation have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to mission success and the greater goal of space exploration.

Astronauts go on spacewalk for station repairs

Floating in the International Space Station's Quest airlock compartment, astronauts Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan switched their spacesuits to battery power at 9:22 a.m. EDT to officially kick off a planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk.

"Ronny, you ready to rock and roll?" Fossum asked before floating out of the airlock.

"Ready to rock and roll," Garan replied.

"Let's go, buddy."

Fossum and Garan plan to accomplish their primary goal first, moving a failed ammonia pump module from a storage platform just outside the airlock to a carrier in the shuttle Atlantis' cargo bay. After that, the astronauts will move a robotic refueling demonstration apparatus from the shuttle to the station, install a materials science space exposure experiment and perform a few maintenance chores.

This is the 160th spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance since construction began in 1998, the ninth so far this year, the seventh for Fossum and the fourth for Garan.

For identification, Fossum (call sign EV-1) will be wearing a suit with red stripes around the legs. Garan (EV-2) will be in an unmarked suit.

Atlantis unloads ton of food for space station
Atlantis docks at International Space Station
CBS Space Place: The latest news on shuttle mission

Shuttle pilot Douglas Hurley and Sandra Magnus will operate the station's robot arm during the excursion and shuttle flight engineer Rex Walheim will serve as the spacewalk coordinator, working from the flight deck of Atlantis.

Hurley and Magnus will use a robotics work station in the Tranquility module's multi-window cupola. A U.S. toilet also is located in Tranquility, along with equipment used to recover water from urine. The astronauts reported a strong odor from the equipment Monday and the urine processor will not be turned on during today's spacewalk.

"There are two toilets on the space station," said overnight Flight Director Courtenay McMillan. "There's one in the Russian segment, and it's working fine. And there's one, basically the same design, that's in the U.S. segment and it hooks up to our urine processor. So we got a report from the crew that there was a smell that was unexpected coming from that area, and it was pretty intense.

"At the time, we were processing urine in the urine processor, not the toilet itself, but the machine that it hooks up to recycle the water from the urine. We got some air in that system a little while ago and it needs to basically purge itself out over the course of processing. So we think, because everything looks fine in the system, we think it's just working its way out of the system. So we stopped the urine processing for the time being and we're using the toilet basically in stand-alone mode right now."

Flight controllers likely will resume urine processing Wednesday but "not while the crew is doing EVA support,:" McMillan said. "They'll be using the robotics work station in the cupola, which is in the vicinity of the toilet, so we don't really want to be making a smell while they're working in there."

Today's spacewalk is the first during a shuttle visit that will be carried out by space station personnel. Because of a short training flow and a requirement to launch Atlantis with a reduced crew of four, "we wanted to off load the training tasks on the shuttle crew and sort of level the load," lead station Flight Director Chris Edelen said before launch. "So we took advantage of the EVA experience of Mike Fossum and Ron Garan. They've actually done three spacewalks together on previous shuttle missions (and they) were able to get up to speed very quickly on this EVA."

Fossum has 42 hours and one minute of EVA time in his previous six spacewalks while Garan has 20 hours and 32 minutes of EVA experience.

Photos: NASA's final shuttle flight
Photos: The storied career of Atlantis

Returning the failed ammonia pump module is a high priority objective for NASA. The space station is equipped with two coolant loops that circulate ammonia through huge radiators to get rid of the heat generated by the space station's electrical systems. Last July 30, the pump in one coolant loop failed, forcing the crew to implement an emergency powerdown.

"I remember it because I was on console when it failed," Edelen said. "It was one of those moments where on a quiet Saturday and the crew's off duty and getting ready to go to bed and everything's going real well and it all changed in a second when that pump module failed. All the caution and warnings started going off and the crew had to very quickly scramble to reconfigure the systems and power down some of the systems in order to keep the station limping along on one remaining cooling loop.

"That was a major failure in the history of the space station program, the first major failure that required (U.S.) spacewalks without a shuttle present to fix a problem."

Over the course of three spacewalks, the pump module was successfully replaced by a pre-positioned spare. But the coolant system is critical to the station's long-term health and engineers want to find out what went wrong in the pump that failed. After troubleshooting, engineers plan to repair the pump and re-launch it aboard a Japanese cargo ship.

After mounting the pump module in Atlantis' payload bay, Fossum and Garan plan to move an experimental robotic refueling apparatus from the shuttle to a storage platform used by the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or SPDM, a robot arm extension also known as DEXTRE.

"We are taking up a payload, it's called the robotics refueling module, this is to demonstrate a capability for the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, which hasn't seen a whole lot of use on the International Space Station to date, but we hope to turn that all around with this payload," said shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson.

"I've kind of likened it to a Fisher-Price play toy for a robot. And I don't mean that in a negative sense, it is really an opportunity for the SPDM to get in there and use several different tools and prove the capability to do something extremely novel, and that is to refuel satellites in orbit that were never designed to be refueled.

"So the manipulator will actually go in and pick up special cutter tools and cut safety wire, it has a drill that can actually drill into a fuel tank so there's some very unique capabilities that will be demonstrated using this. What capability will robots provide to us in the future? To think about going out there and perhaps grappling a satellite that was never designed to be refueled ... and refill it and use it for an additional five or 10 years is a dramatic example of how robotics can modify what we're doing in space."

Along with moving the pump module to Atlantis and installing the robotics refueling kit on the station, Fossum plans to inspect a robot arm mounting fixture on the Russian Zarya module to re-position a grounding wire that appears to be caught in an access door. Both spacewalkers then will install a thermal shield over an unused docking port attached to Tranquility before heading back to the Quest airlock.

The Last Space Shuttle Mission: Flight Day 6

When Space Shuttle Atlantis left Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, July 8, it marked the final liftoff for the long-running Space Shuttle Program, which has dominated NASA's manned operations for the past four decades. Over a 12-day mission (since extended to 13 days), the four-person crew on STS-135 will haul the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) Raffaello and a Lightweight Multi-Purpose Carrier (LMC) to the International Space Station. Over the course of the mission, we'll be providing daily updates.

After a long day -- flight engineers Mike Fossum and Ron Garan completed a spacewalk that lasted more than six hours -- the NASA crew onboard Space Shuttle Atlantis had an early night on flight day 5. For the best, as the morning wakeup song -- Elton John's "Rocket Man" -- came at 2:29 a.m. EDT this morning. Once awake, the astronauts were greeted with a special message from Sir Elton John himself: "Good morning, Atlantis, this is Elton John," he said in a recording. "We wish you much success on your mission. A huge thank you to all the men and women at NASA who worked on the shuttle for the last three decades."
Story continues after the gallery, which will be updated as the mission wears on.
  The Final Spacewalk
The message from Sir John was a good way to get the crew ready for a long day of ... moving, basically. The astronauts onboard Space Shuttle Atlantis spent most of flight day 6 moving equipment and supplies out of the Raffaello multi-purpose module and into the International Space Station. They took a break at 12:54 p.m. to speak with reporters from KGO-TV in San Francisco and WBNG-TV and WICZ-TV in Binghamton, New York.
As I write this daily update, the combined 10-person team on the International Space Station and the docked Space Shuttle are already asleep. Lights out for the day was at 4:59 p.m. EDT for the

NASA footing the bill for many to witness final space shuttle launch

For one career NASA engineer joining the thousands of Houstonians going to Florida this week for the final space shuttle launch, this trip wasn't necessarily a part of the plan.
Really, he'd have no problem staying at Mission Control in Houston, watching data flow into computer monitors about the shuttle's progress and trajectory as it rockets out of the atmosphere.
That is what Mack Henderson, 72, who began his career working on development of the Saturn V rocket, has done for decades. And it's the reason that he's only attended two spacecraft launches in his 51-year career, one of them for Apollo 12.
This time, however, NASA is paying for him and more than 140 other employees to watch the final space shuttle lift off in person.

"My hope is that after this launch, they'll say, 'Oh, we were just kidding. We're going to fly more space shuttle flights,' " said Henderson, who added that he's happy to be able to witness the milestone but will be sad that the program is ending.

Those may be the sentiments of many of the Houston space-industry workers, past and present, traveling in droves to Florida this week to watch the beginning of the end of NASA's space shuttle era, but they are going anyway.

"In some ways, it's just sad to see it end," said Lisa Reed, 50, who worked for nearly 15 years at NASA before leaving to join a private consulting firm. Reed, who helped train astronauts on docking and life support systems, will watch the launch in Florida with her relatives.
"I have so many good memories leading up to it, and just seeing it end and knowing that a lot of my friends will now be out of a job and that I love the space shuttle program and that it is ending" will be difficult, she said.

Though bittersweet, buzz about the final launch, scheduled for Friday, swept over Johnson Space Center in recent weeks as workers tried to secure coveted spaces on the NASA causeway at Cape Canaveral and planned flights, road trips and hotel stays to be a part of the historic day.

Bus space sells out

NASA, after noticing ballooning interest among its workers in seeing the final shuttle launches, began organizing charter buses, accommodations and a designated viewing area to help workers travel and watch the start of the final missions, said Lisa Rasco, who coordinated the travel program for NASA.

Spaces on the buses for this week's launch sold out several weeks ago, Rasco said. The buses set out on the 18-hour journey Wednesday. A total of 130 people had reserved bus or hotel bookings through the NASA service, she said. Thousands of other workers are flying on their own, driving and planning their own stays before meeting at a Kennedy Space Center recreation facility that can accommodate 10,000 viewers. That area is expected to be filled with NASA workers and their families, she said.

The final shuttle launch was a milestone that David Rose, 44, couldn't miss. A Florida native who worked at Johnson Space Center for 18 years before leaving and joining an engineering consulting firm, Rose helped train astronauts and has seen more than a dozen shuttle launches.
His life has been connected and inspired by the space program and industry, with him traveling to California in 2005 to see the first private spacecraft launch out of the atmosphere. He plans to watch Atlantis launch Friday with his parents-in-law and brother from the NASA causeway.

Excited, but also sad

Rose's life inspiration is not unique among the current and former NASA workers who scrambled to make plans to watch the final launch. 

NASA's human space flight program, with the shuttle's 30-year history, stirred the imaginations of many of the professionals who have dedicated their lives to the field. With the shuttle program being the agency's sole human space endeavor of the past three decades, pride in its achievements will draw many Houstonians to Florida this week, said Heather Hinkel, principal engineer of new docking and sensor technology tested in orbit on the final launch of Endeavour in May.

"We are definitely excited for what is next," said Hinkel, 42, who will watch the launch from Banana Creek at Kennedy Space Center. "I know NASA will always have great work, but the human space flight aspect is sort of my favorite thing, so it will just be sad to see that all come to an end."


Read more: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chronicle/7642558.html#ixzz1ROeob6D1

Docked One Last Time

Space Shuttle Mission: STS-134

STS-134 crew

Image above: The STS-134 crew aboard space shuttle Endeavour talks to reporters during a live in-flight media event on Monday. Photo credit: NASA TV

The crew members for space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission are Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.

During the 16-day mission, Endeavour and its crew will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank and additional spare parts for Dextre.

NASA to Launch New Science Mission to Asteroid in 2016

NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm to pluck samples that could better explain our solar system's formation and how life began. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.

"This is a critical step in meeting the objectives outlined by President Obama to extend our reach beyond low-Earth orbit and explore into deep space," said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. "It’s robotic missions like these that will pave the way for future human space missions to an asteroid and other deep space destinations." 

NASA selected OSIRIS-REx after reviewing three concept study reports for new scientific missions, which also included a sample return mission from the far side of the Moon and a mission to the surface of Venus.

Asteroids are leftovers formed from the cloud of gas and dust -- the solar nebula -- that collapsed to form our sun and the planets about 4.5 billion years ago. As such, they contain the original material from the solar nebula, which can tell us about the conditions of our solar system's birth.

conceptual image of OSIRIS-REx 

Conceptual image of OSIRIS-REx. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
  After traveling four years, OSIRIS-REx will approach the primitive, near Earth asteroid designated 1999 RQ36 in 2020. Once within three miles of the asteroid, the spacecraft will begin six months of comprehensive surface mapping. The science team then will pick a location from where the spacecraft's arm will take a sample. The spacecraft gradually will move closer to the site, and the arm will extend to collect more than two ounces of material for return to Earth in 2023. The mission, excluding the launch vehicle, is expected to cost approximately $800 million.

The sample will be stored in a capsule that will land at Utah's Test and Training Range in 2023. The capsule's design will be similar to that used by NASA's Stardust spacecraft, which returned the world's first comet particles from comet Wild 2 in 2006. The OSIRIS-REx sample capsule will be taken to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The material will be removed and delivered to a dedicated research facility following stringent planetary protection protocol. Precise analysis will be performed that cannot be duplicated by spacecraft-based instruments.

RQ36 is approximately 1,900 feet in diameter or roughly the size of five football fields. The asteroid, little altered over time, is likely to represent a snapshot of our solar system's infancy. The asteroid also is likely rich in carbon, a key element in the organic molecules necessary for life. Organic molecules have been found in meteorite and comet samples, indicating some of life's ingredients can be created in space. Scientists want to see if they also are present on RQ36.

"This asteroid is a time capsule from the birth of our solar system and ushers in a new era of planetary exploration," said Jim Green, director, NASA's Planetary Science Division in Washington. "The knowledge from the mission also will help us to develop methods to better track the orbits of asteroids."

The mission will accurately measure the "Yarkovsky effect" for the first time. The effect is a small push caused by the sun on an asteroid, as it absorbs sunlight and re-emits that energy as heat. The small push adds up over time, but it is uneven due to an asteroid's shape, wobble, surface composition and rotation. For scientists to predict an Earth-approaching asteroid's path, they must understand how the effect will change its orbit. OSIRIS-REx will help refine RQ36's orbit to ascertain its trajectory and devise future strategies to mitigate possible Earth impacts from celestial objects.

Michael Drake of the University of Arizona in Tucson is the mission's principal investigator. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will provide overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver will build the spacecraft. The OSIRIS-REx payload includes instruments from the University of Arizona, Goddard, Arizona State University in Tempe and the Canadian Space Agency. NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., the Langley Research Center in Hampton Va., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., also are involved. The science team is composed of numerous researchers from universities, private and government agencies.

This is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. The first, New Horizons, was launched in 2006. It will fly by the Pluto-Charon system in July 2015, then target another Kuiper Belt object for study. The second mission, Juno, will launch in August to become the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter from pole to pole and study the giant planet's atmosphere and interior. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages New Frontiers for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. 

Caterpillar Inc. Participates in NASA's Second Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition

Caterpillar promotes education and technology at international collegiate event

Showcasing its world-class technology leadership, Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) is supporting the NASA Lunabotics Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The event, May 26-28, is designed to engage and retain college students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). For complete coverage, follow the competition on Twitter @CaterpillarInc. or #lmc2011.

Tana Utley, Caterpillar Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, will be a keynote speaker during the opening ceremonies of the three-day event. "Educational outreach has been an important part of our collaboration with NASA, and we look forward to continuing this focus during the Lunabotics Mining Competition," said Utley. "The technologies produced at the competition could one day be used in mine and work sites. What better way to enhance jobsite safety and efficiency than to design autonomous solutions."

Participants in the competition will design and build autonomous systems that could be used for future lunar exploration. Teams will test their designs in a head-to-head challenge to see which machine can excavate the most simulated lunar "dirt" over a specific timeframe. "Caterpillar has a long history of supporting educational opportunities that promote the STEM areas," said Eric Reiners, Caterpillar Automation Manager, who is lending his expertise as a judge at the event. "We need to encourage technology, innovation and ingenuity to students of all ages. The development of autonomous systems will ultimately help our global customers boost safety, efficiency and increase profitability."

Currently, there are 45 graduate and undergraduate student teams enrolled in the competition from various parts of the world. That number has more than doubled from last year's event. Caterpillar will have a 287C semi-autonomous Multi Terrain Loader (MTL) on display to showcase the technologies Caterpillar and NASA are developing.

For updates during the competition, find us on Twitter @CaterpillarInc. or #lmc2011 and www.caterpillar.com. To learn more about the Lunabotics Mining Competition, please go to

About Caterpillar:

For more than 85 years, Caterpillar Inc. has been making sustainable progress possible and driving positive change on every continent. With 2010 sales and revenues of $42.588 billion, Caterpillar is the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. 

The company also is a leading services provider through Caterpillar Financial Services, Caterpillar Remanufacturing Services, Caterpillar Logistics Services and Progress Rail Services. More information is available at: http://www.caterpillar.com.

NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Meeting

Event Format: Advisory Meeting

Date: Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Location: NASA Headquarters, Room 9H40, 300 E. Street, SW., Washington DC, DC 20546, US

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 88 (Friday, May 6, 2011)] [Notices] [Pages 26316-26317] From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov] [FR Doc No: 2011-11028]

[Notice 11- 044]
Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Meeting
ACTION: Notice of meeting; Correction. 

Federal Register Citation of Previous Announcement: 76 FR 23339, Notice Number 11-043, dated April 26, 2011; and 76 FR 19147, Notice Number 11-030, dated April 6, 2011.
SUMMARY: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration published a notice in the Federal Register of April 26, 2011, announcing a meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) to take place on May 24, 2011, at the Kennedy Space Center, FL. 

Correction: Date and time of ASAP public meeting remains the same: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Location has been moved to: NASA Headquarters, Room 9H40, 300 E. Street, SW., Washington, DC 20546. Agenda has been modified accordingly. 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Kathy Dakon, ASAP Executive Director, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, DC 20546, (202) 358-0732. 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel will hold its 2nd Quarterly Meeting for 2011. This discussion is pursuant to carrying out its statutory duties for which the Panel reviews, identifies, evaluates, and advises on those program activities, systems, procedures, and management activities that can contribute to program risk. Priority is given to those programs that involve the safety of human flight.

The agenda will include: Updates on Safety and Mission Assurance; Safety Metrics; and Commercial Space

The meeting will be open to the public up to the seating capacity of the room. Seating will be on a first-come basis. Photographs will only be permitted during the first 10 minutes of the meeting. During the first 30 minutes of the meeting, members of the public may make a 5-minute verbal presentation to the Panel on the subject of safety in NASA. To do so, please contact Ms. Susan Burch at susan.burch@nasa.gov or by telephone at (202) 358-0550 at least 48 hours in advance. Any member of the public is permitted to file a written statement with the Panel at the time of the meeting. 

Verbal presentations and written comments should be limited to the subject of safety in NASA. Attendees will be requested to sign a register and to comply with NASA security requirements, including the presentation of a valid picture ID, before receiving an access badge. 

Foreign nationals attending this meeting will be required to provide a copy of their passport, visa, or green card in addition to providing the following information no less than 10 working days prior to the meeting: Full name; gender; date/place of birth; citizenship; visa/green card information (number, type, expiration date); 

passport information (number, country, expiration date); employer/affiliation information (name of institution, address, country, telephone); title/position of attendee. To expedite admittance, attendees with U.S. citizenship can provide identifying information 3 working days in advance by contacting Susan Burch via e-mail at susan.burch@nasa.gov or by telephone at (202) 358-0550. 

It is imperative that the meeting be held on this date to accommodate the scheduling priorities of the key participants. 

May 2, 2011. P. Diane Rausch, Advisory Committee Management Officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. [FR Doc. 2011-11028 Filed 5-5-11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P

Editorial: Endeavour's last flight: An ode to space exploration

The space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 16, 2011.
We are fast closing in on the end of an era.

The last flight of space shuttle Endeavour (named and spelled in the British fashion for Capt. James Cook's ship) launched from the Kennedy Space Center Monday, and docked at the International Space Station Wednesday morning.
Then, on June 28, Atlantis is scheduled to begin the space shuttle's final journey.
Some reports are predicting that a million people will turn out to see that launch. After that, America will have no manned space rocket program. It seems strange to contemplate that.

On May 5, the U.S. marked a major milestone. As National Aeronautics and Space Administration chief Charles Bolden wrote: "50 years ago today, Alan Shepard rocketed into space on America's first manned space mission.

That flight set our nation on a path of exploration and discovery that continues to this day."
"May 5, 1961, was a good day," Bolden continued. "When Alan Shepard launched toward the stars that day, no American had ever done so, and the world waited on pins and needles praying for a good outcome. The flight was a great success, and on the strength of Shepard's accomplishment, NASA built the leadership role in human spaceflight that we have held ever since."

What people may not realize is the direct impact that our investment in space exploration has had on the quality of life on Earth. 

Because of scientific advances to protect astronauts from extreme heat during takeoff, race car drivers are safer in the cockpits of their cars. Because of scientific advances to protect the food that astronauts eat in space, the incidence of food poisoning among consumers had been reduced. Because of other scientific advances, spurred by the drive to explore space, we have more advanced breast cancer screening, heart defibrillators that restore heart rhythm and satellites that warn of coming hurricanes. 

Infrared cameras developed to monitor the blazing plume from the space shuttle help firefighters locate hot spots in wildfires. Technologies used for exploring space can be used to increase crop yields and find more fish at sea.

The material that NASA developed to protect its launch pads from the destructive effects of hot, humid and salt-laden air today protects the Statue of Liberty and Golden Gate Bridge from degradation.
As we seek our future in space, we also learn about our past.

The images from the Hubble space telescope provide breathtaking visual information. And multispectral imaging methods used to see the Martian surface have been applied to, as the Chicago Tribune reported, "badly charred Roman manuscripts that were buried during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Examining those carbonized manuscripts under different wavelengths of light suddenly revealed writing that had been invisible to scholars for two centuries," because of manuscript degradation.

The famous heart surgeon, Dr. Michael DeBakey, who collaborated with NASA on one of its most beneficial inventions, a tiny artificial heart pump, said, "NASA is engaged in very active research. It has as its goal to explore space. But to do so, you've got to do all kinds of research — biological research, physical research and so on. So it's really a very, very intensive research organization.
"And anytime you have any type of intensive research organization or activity going on, new knowledge is going to flow from it."

The knowledge that flowed from NASA in the past 50 years has saved lives and benefited mankind in countless ways. The return on that investment is beyond calculation.
And don't underestimate the power of those stories. Children around the world have been captivated by these accounts; and some of them went on to become the test pilots and astronauts, scientists and engineers who brought about these miraculous advancements.

Fifty years ago, the notion of a manned space program aroused our competitive spirit. It also brought out the best in us as we worked toward a goal that all could endorse and embrace.

The space shuttle program has served its purpose; its time is over. But that doesn't mean America should look down. The world is out of kilter when we're spending billions for war instead of to explore.
We would be wise to lift our eyes to the stars.