• 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).

Crew Prepares for Kounotori2 Departure

ISS026-E-034321: Dmitry Kondratyev and Paolo Nespoli
Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli are pictured in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
Following the Expedition 27 crew’s daily planning conference with flight control teams around the world, Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli kicked off the workday Wednesday morning loading additional trash into the Japanese Kounotori2 H-II Transfer Vehicle for disposal. Kounotori2, which arrived at the station in late January, will be grappled with the station’s robotic arm and unberthed from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony node on Monday for a destructive re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere Tuesday night.

Nespoli also spent some time sharpening his digital photography skills for the imagery he will collect of space shuttle Endeavour’s thermal protection system as it performs a back flip known as the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver prior to docking. Currently targeted to launch April 19 on the STS-134 mission, Endeavour will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and spare parts to the orbiting complex.

As part of her role as chief medical officer, Coleman conducted some onboard training to maintain proficiency with the Health Maintenance System hardware, which may be used in contingency situations where crew life is at risk.

Cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, commander of Expedition 27, devoted his time Wednesday to some routine maintenance and checkout activities in the Russian segment of the station.

The station’s residents also had several opportunities to observe and photograph our home planet from their unique vantage point as they orbit the Earth every 90 minutes. Among the sites suggested for photography Wednesday were the capital city of Prague in the Czech Republic and the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe located in the Gulf of Guinea off the western coast of Africa.

JSC2011-E-027674: Expedition 27 and Soyuz booster
The Soyuz TMA-21 crew participates in dress rehearsal activities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov
Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Ron Garan and cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev continue their preparations to launch to the station aboard the Soyuz TMA-21 on April 4 to join the Expedition 27 crew as flight engineers. The Soyuz TMA-21, named for Yuri Gagarin, is scheduled for liftoff just one week shy of the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's historic journey into space from that same launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Jupiter Polar Winds Movie

Bands of eastward and westward winds on Jupiter appear as concentric rotating circles

Jupiter Polar Winds Movie

Bands of eastward and westward winds on Jupiter appear as concentric rotating circles in this movie composed of Cassini spacecraft images that have been re-projected as if the viewer were looking down at Jupiter's north pole and the planet were flattened.

The sequence covers 70 days, from October 1 to December 9, 2000. Cassini's narrow-angle camera captured the images of Jupiter's atmosphere in the near-infrared region of the spectrum.

What is surprising in this view is the coherent nature of the high-latitude flows, despite the very chaotic, mottled and non-banded appearance of the planet's polar regions. This is the first extended movie sequence to show the coherence and longevity of winds near the pole and the features blown around the planet by them.

There are thousands of spots, each an active storm similar to the size to the largest of storms on Earth. Large terrestrial storms usually last only a week before they dissolve and are replaced by other storms. But many of the Jovian storms seen here, while occasionally changing latitude or merging with each other, persist for the entire 70 days. Until now, the lifetime of the high-latitude features was unknown. Their longevity is a mystery of Jovian weather.

Cassini collected images of Jupiter for months before and after it passed the planet on December 30, 2000. Six or more images of the planet in each of several spectral filters were taken at evenly spaced intervals over the course of Jupiter's 10-hour rotation period. The entire sequence was repeated generally every other Jupiter rotation, yielding views of every sector of the planet at least once every 20 hours.

The images used for the movie shown here were taken every 20 hours through a filter centered at a wavelength of 756 nanometers, where there are almost no absorptions in the planet's atmosphere. The images covering each rotation were mosaiced together to form a cylindrical map extending from 75 degrees north to 75 degrees south in latitude and covering 360 degrees in longitude. The movie consists of 84 such maps, spanning 70 Earth days in time or 168 Jupiter rotations.

Transforming the cylindrical maps into polar stereographic projections produces a movie of what Jupiter would look like if viewed from the pole. Jupiter's alternating eastward and westward jet streams flow in concentric rings around the pole, with equatorial motions visible in the corners. The dark features flowing counterclockwise near the equator are"hot spots" where cloud cover is relatively thin.

The high-latitude movements call into question one notion concerning wind circulation on Jupiter. The model in question suggests that Jupiter'a alternating bands of east-west winds are the exposed edges of deeper rotating cylinders that extend north-south through the planet. However, the east-west winds that the movie shows in polar regions don't fit that model. The cylinders whose edges would form those bands would have to go through the innermost portion of the planet, where the cylinders' different rotations could not be maintained. Jupiter's wind pattern may involve a mix of rotation-on-cylinders near the equator and some other circulation mechanism near the poles.

For more information, see the Cassini Project home page, http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and the Cassini Imaging Team home page, http://ciclops.lpl.arizona.edu .

Cassini is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Southwest Research Institute

Craggy Craters on Rhea

NASA's Stardust: Good to the Last Drop

Artist concept of NASA's Stardust spacecraft 

On March 24, at about 4 p.m. PDT, four rocket motors on NASA's Stardust spacecraft, illustrated in this artist’s concept, are scheduled to fire until the spacecraft's fuel is depleted. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
On Thursday, March 24 at about 4 p.m. PDT (7 p.m. EDT), NASA's Stardust spacecraft will perform a final burn with its main engines. 

At first glance, the burn is something of an insignificant event. After all, the venerable spacecraft has executed 40 major flight path maneuvers since its 1999 launch, and between these main engines and the reaction control system, its rocket motors have collectively fired more than 2 million times. But the March 24 burn will be different from all others. This burn will effectively end the life of NASA's most traveled comet hunter. 

"We call it a 'burn to depletion,' and that is pretty much what we're doing – firing our rockets until there is nothing left in the tank," said Stardust-NExT project manager Tim Larson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It's a unique way for an interplanetary spacecraft to go out. Essentially, Stardust will be providing us useful information to the very end."
Burn to depletion will answer the question about how much fuel Stardust had left in its tank.
"We'll take those data and compare them to what our estimates told us was left," said Allan Cheuvront, Lockheed Martin Space Systems program manager for Stardust-NExT. "That will give us a better idea how valid our fuel consumption models are and make our predictions even more accurate for future missions." 

Fuel consumption models are necessary because no one has invented an entirely reliable fuel gauge for spacecraft. Until that day arrives, mission planners can approximate fuel usage by looking at the history of the vehicle's flight and how many times and for how long its rocket motors have fired. 

Stardust's burn to depletion is expected to impart valuable information, because the spacecraft has essentially been running on borrowed time -- for some time. Launched on Feb. 7, 1999, Stardust had already flown past an asteroid (Annefrank), flown past and collected particle samples from a comet (Wild 2), and returned those particles to Earth in a sample return capsule in January 2006 – and in so doing racked up 4.63 billion kilometers (2.88 billion miles) on its odometer. NASA then re-tasked the still-healthy spacecraft to perform a flyby of comet Tempel 1, a new, low-cost mission that required another five years and 1.04 billion kilometers (646 million miles). After all those milestones and all that time logged on the spacecraft, the Stardust team knew the end was near. They just didn't know exactly how close.
Prior to this final burn, Stardust will point its medium-gain antenna at Earth – some 312 million kilometers (194 million miles) away. As there is no tomorrow for Stardust, the spacecraft is expected to downlink information on the burn as it happens. The command from the spacecraft computer ordering the rockets to fire will be sent for 45 minutes, but the burn is expected to last only between a couple of minutes to somewhat above 10 minutes. It is estimated the burn could accelerate the spacecraft anywhere from 2.5 to 35.2 meters per second (6 to 79 mph). ‪ 

"What we think will happen is that when the fuel reaches a critically low level, gaseous helium will enter the thruster chambers," said Larson. "The resulting thrust will be less than 10 percent of what was expected. While Stardust will continue to command its rocket engines to fire until the pre-planned firing time of 45 minutes has elapsed, the burn is essentially over."
Twenty minutes after the engines run dry, the spacecraft's computer will command its transmitters off. They actively shut off their radios to preclude the remote chance that at some point down the road Stardust's transmitter could turn on and broadcast on a frequency being used by other operational spacecraft. Turning off the transmitter ensures that there will be no unintended radio interference in the future.
Without fuel to power the spacecraft's attitude control system, Stardust's solar panels will not remain pointed at the sun. When this occurs, the spacecraft's batteries are expected to drain of power and deplete within hours. 

"When we take into account all the possibilities for how long the burn could be and then the possible post-burn trajectories, we project that over the next 100 years, Stardust will not get any closer than 1.7 million miles of Earth's orbit, or within 13 million miles of Mars orbit," said Larson. "That is far enough from protected targets to meet all of NASA's Planetary Protection directives. "
Some planetary spacecraft, like the Galileo mission to Jupiter, are intentionally sent into the planet's atmosphere to make sure it is destroyed in a controlled way. Others have their transmitters shut off or just fade away, said Larson. "I think this is a fitting end for Stardust. It's going down swinging." 

Stardust-NExT is a low-cost mission to expand the investigation of comet Tempel 1 initiated by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Stardust-NExT project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C., and is part of the Discovery Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Joe Veverka of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., is the mission's principal investigator. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft and manages day-to-day mission operations. 

Use this link to experience Stardust's final hour before decommissioning, then use Eyes on the Solar System to relieve the entire mission from 1999 to 2011: http://go.usa.gov/2ry . A free software download is required. 

For more information about Stardust-NExT, please visit: http://stardustnext.jpl.nasa.gov.

Why did you want to be a cosmonaut?

Q: Why did you want to be a cosmonaut?

A: When I was in kindergarten, our management there of the kindergarten gave us a present and it was a rocket, of three or four meters, but it resembled the rocket that Yuri Gagarin was launched on into space.  Of course, this was a toy and I was about four or five years old.  When I looked at that rocket, I understood that it was mine and I protected that vehicle, I protected that rocket, and everybody called me “Gagarin,” and that was the moment when I understood that I wanted to become a cosmonaut.  I also understood that it was going to be difficult and it took me many, many years to accomplish my goal.  But looking back and looking at myself today, I see that I’ve almost accomplished it.  I have just a few steps that remain in order to accomplish my goal.

I’d like to ask you to help fill in some of the details of that story.  Start by telling me about your hometown in Russia and what it was like for you to grow up in that environment.

I was born in Russia and at that time it was the Soviet Union.  I was born in Penza, the city of Penza, and it’s in the center of Povolzhye; it is not too far away from the mighty Volga River.  I grew up in a regular Soviet family: my father was in the military and my mother was a teacher of physics and mathematics, and I think she was one of the important people who taught me how to love the sciences.  In my childhood I did a lot of sports, and hockey is one of my favorite sports. I went to the professional hockey academy, but also I never forgot my goal.  I always participated in, avior, different groups and studied flights and different other activities.  Then I started to prepare to enter a university, a flight school.  I finished the high school in my hometown and then I entered Chernigov flight school that I completed, and after having done that I continued my development. 
I became a lieutenant and then a pilot.  I became a pilot, a member of the Russian aviation forces, and that was one of the most important events of my life.  Unfortunately it coincided with a not very pleasant development of our country: as you know, the Soviet Union collapsed at that time, but the flight school was then located in the Ukraine and now it is a separate country.  But I also was able to extract some positive events from that as well.  
I found my wife there and I became a family member, I am now a husband, and my wife is from Chernigov, and we decided to move to the far east of Russia where I was in the military.  Right after that I entered the flight school of Moscow   and after having completed my studies there I was offered the opportunity to become a cosmonaut.  I was, of course, very excited but a little worried.  We had to conduct a lot of trainings, our personality trainings, physical trainings, I spent a lot of forces and energy, but I did it successfully and from 2003 I began training in the Star City, at first I became a candidate and then in the year 2005 I was named a Roscosmos cosmonaut, and that’s where I am until today.  And this is a little bit of my personal history.

Preflight Interview: Andrey Borisenko

JSC2011-E-024232: Andrey Borisenko
Russian cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko, Expedition 27 flight engineer and Expedition 28 commander, attired in a Russian Sokol launch and entry suit, takes a break from training in Star City, Russia to pose for a portrait. Photo credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
Q: Why did you want to be a cosmonaut?

A: This question is both simple and difficult.  This is what I dreamt of when I was kid.  As a child I liked to read; television was not as popular and as widely spread as it is now, and I wanted to read interesting things.  I read lots of science fiction books not fantasy but science fiction.  I read lots of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Stanislaw Lem, [Alexander] Belyayev, the Strugatsky brothers and other non science fiction writers that wrote about space.  These books really captivated me to the point that I became interested in cosmonautics the cosmonautics we had at that point of time.  At a certain time I understood that this was something I wanted to deal with.  Even when in school I already knew who I was going to become. When I was 15 years old I went to a cosmonautics club for juniors in my home city of St. Petersburg.  That’s where I met kids just like me who wanted to become pilots or cosmonauts, and that’s where I learned a lot about aviation, cosmonautics, astronomy the more I learned the more I became confident that this was something I wanted to dedicate my life to. When I was entering the institute I knew what profession I wanted to have, where I wanted to work, and I knew that I wanted to become a cosmonaut.

I’d like to get you to tell me a little bit about how you got there by asking you to tell me about St. Petersburg.  Tell me about your hometown and what it was like for you growing up there.

My native city, St. Petersburg, is a beautiful, splendid city.  It’s old it was founded in 1703 by Russian Czar Peter.  It was founded as the capital of the Russian Empire.  That’s why the layout of the city were capital-like.  Famous architectures lived there and created their works there.  When you take a stroll in St. Petersburg you feel the history on every step, and when you live in such a city, I think one starts feeling responsible not only for the city but also for his or her country and one starts wishing to dedicate one’s life to huge things which can change not only your life but also that of other people.  Our city was a native city for good scientists, good teachers, it was always renowned for the education provided, and that’s why I got a very good education in the field I wanted to be in.

Well, let’s pick up the story there.  Tell me about your education and how that led you into your professional career, how that led you to be selected as a cosmonaut?

I graduated from the Military and Mechanical Institute in Leningrad.  When I was entering the institute the very same year Krikalev was graduating from it; Sergei Krikalev, the very famous Russian cosmonaut. Even before that, the same institute released Georgi Grechko into the world, and other cosmonauts which never made it to space, unfortunately. The way it happened was that all those who became cosmonauts, they all graduated from our institute in Leningrad, St. Petersburg cosmonauts who come from St. Petersburg in joke we say that our institute was a space institute.  My specialty was dynamics and control of spacecraft and I dealt with rockets, big rockets, small rockets, rockets for different purposes at the institute I understood that I wanted to be busy with space.  I took part in student scientific work in order to get the knowledge I needed.  After the institute I spent several years working at a scientific institute, two years after that I became hired by the Russian space rocket corporation Energia.  When I started working there, I already knew that I wanted to become a cosmonaut; I knew it very well.  I asked if I could work at Mission Control Center in Moscow.  Mission Control Center saw me become a specialist in motion and control systems.  I participated in controlling the Mir space station and I was lucky to control the movements of many other space vehicles.  I also took part in Sea Launch.  Several, uh, few launches that control was, saw me participate in them.  It was the end of the Mir space station existence I was offered a shift flight director position.  I gladly accepted this offer because I knew what kind of job it was, I knew it was very interesting, and as a shift flight director I participated in controlling the Mir space station.  Life ended out that way I had to take part during the very last days of the Mir space station’s existence: it was my shift, and I was the one to provide the space station’s descent from orbit.  We have two shift flight directors on the Mir station shift.  One of those was dealing with the station itself and the other shift flight director was dealing with the Progress cargo vehicle that was docked to the station.  The very burn which is executed in order to de-orbit, and was executed with the help of the Progress vehicle, was direct controlled by the other shift flight director.  I was responsible for the workings of the station, for its attitude and for all the activities which were done on board the station.

JSC2011-E-006635: Andrey Borisenko
Russian cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko, Expedition 27 flight engineer and Expedition 28 commander, responds to a question from a reporter during an Expedition 27/28 preflight press conference at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo credit: NASA
So you were there the day that it was deorbited?

Yes, I was there at Mission Control Center and I had that huge task to close the very last communication session and to announce that the station was deorbited at the targeted spot of the Pacific Ocean.  I remember there were lots of specialists at Mission Control Center they were participating in the whole activity.  They had tears in their eyes.  It was a difficult moment but a rather solemn one because the station was quite old by then and we didn’t really see any other way out other than deorbited, and I hope we performed our task as we should have.  After that I became a shift flight director for the Russian segment of the International Space Station by then I was already taking part in the medical examination so that I could become a cosmonaut, our medical specialists gave me a go in 2003 I’m now in the Russian cosmonaut corps.

And now you are preparing for your first spaceflight, and of course the flying in space part of this chosen career of yours is one that has its dangers, so I wonder, Andrey, what is it that you feel that we get, or what do we learn from flying people in space that makes it worth taking the risk that you’re preparing to take?

This question is something that gives rise to many discussions among specialists and there are certain people, certain specialists, who believe that automatic machines can perform all the functions in space but I am of the other group who believe that we shouldn’t counter-oppose automatic machines and human beings.  Each space automatic device is very expensive it’s a very expensive system, a very complex one.  If it fails, this will cost the state and the country that sends this device up there.  If a human being was on board this device, then most likely this emergency situation will be contracted on.  No mechanism, no automatic device, doesn’t have those opportunities that a human being has.  One considered a human being is probably one of the most universal systems of the spacecraft that allows this spacecraft to function and to perform its tasks.  Automatic devices ease a human being’s life; such machines perform lots of routine operations, but in order to fine tune these automatic devices and moreover to fix them is something a human being can do.  I can give everybody an example: a Hubble [Space Telescope] flight.  Right after launch it turned out that the Hubble could not perform its tasks and could not do all those operations that were expected, so the crew had to go to the Hubble. They had to do a spacewalk and they had to fix it so that it could function as well.  So unless a human being had been there, then humankind would be left without all that knowledge base that we did receive due to the Hubble’s operations throughout these years.  This is a small example because the history of cosmonautics, the history of space research, showed that spacecraft are supposed to work diligently did not work as expected: they would fail, they would break and there was no way to correct those mistakes decently.  If a human being had access to these spacecraft, most of them would have been fixed and could have continued their operations and their duties then we probably would have known much more about our, surrounding world than we do now.

You’re a member of the International Space Station’s Expedition 27 and 28 crews.  Andrey, give me a summary of the goals of your six-month flight and tell me what your main responsibilities will be on board?

The goals of our six-month stay over there are closely linked to the goals of the operations of the International Space Station, and our program is only part of the overall scientific program that has been conducted is being conducted and, I hope, will be conducted for a very long time on the ISS. What was it like for you when you were informed that you had been assigned to your first spaceflight?

I felt overjoyed that finally I had this opportunity to fly into space.  I felt great responsibility as well, and this responsibility fell out of the blue for me even though I have been preparing for it for all my life. I also felt that I had very little to get well prepared for this spaceflight, even though this had been announced one year and a half prior to the flight one year and a half became very short at once.

What are you most looking forward to about getting to spend six months off of the planet?

I expect that I will be able to carry out over the program that has been planned for me, and I expect that I will be working in such manner that I will be able to carry out additional tasks which haven’t yet been planned but will always be found on board the station.  I also expect that I will be able to enjoy the spectacular views of space and Earth from the station, given that now a day’s configuration of the station has a very beautiful module which is called Cupola.

Let me get you to tell me about this place that you’re going to live.  Describe the International Space Station and the various laboratories and other modules that are there that you’re going to be living in for half a year.

The main location where I will be living is the Russian segment.  These are two big modules and three modules which are not as big.  I will be spending nights and passing most of my time in the Service Module called SM of the Russian segment, but I’m sure that there will also be jobs on the U.S. segment and this can be linked to the fact that our program is an international program so I’ll have some jobs to do on the U.S. segment as well.  I know that our U.S. colleagues will be spending some time on the Russian segment.  As far as our spare time, we’ll try to spend time so that we can maintain and upgrade our relationship and try to communicate more with each other.

And as you mentioned, more time in the Cupola to see the Earth as you fly over it?

Those views that I will be able to see from the Cupola module will awake an urge to call some of my crew members and share my emotions with them—hey Ron [Garan]; I send beautiful picture.

Well, now you’re going to be on board a space station that has six crew members and it has a number of laboratory modules now so there’s the opportunity for more science work to be done.  A lot of the experiments are designed to find out how human bodies survive and how they can work in space, and I wanted to ask you to tell me about some of the experiment work that you will be involved with that is part of this research into how human beings can live in this environment.

The number of scientific experiments is indeed great.  Over 40 experiments are being planned to be carried out only on the Russian segment, and all of these experiments are connected not only with examining and researching into human behavior and zero g, but also looking into how materials that the space station is made of will behave, how new systems, future systems of future space stations and future interplanetary vehicles, will function.  This work will be very intense and I hope that most of our time will be spent on scientific experiments, scientific work, but, of course, the works of the space station itself will also take significant amount of time.

JSC2010-E-183191: Andrey Borisenko
Russian cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko, Expedition 27 flight engineer and Expedition 28 commander, participates in an advanced cardiac life support training session in an International Space Station mock-up/trainer in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo credit: NASA
In terms of the human experiments what kinds of things do you and your crewmates have to actually do to gather data for this research?

I believe that one of the most important experiments related to how human body behaves is our flight how we are going to feel during this spaceflight how we’ll be performing our physical exercises how we’ll be maintaining our health, and this will show to our scientists how safe spaceflights are for everybody who lives on Earth, and this will possibly open a gateway to space to a bigger number of people who now may be thinking that their health is not good enough to visit the space station.  Moreover, that we can see that since the start of the spaceflights, since 1961, the requirements for such medical parameters of space candidates, spaceflight candidates, have been greatly reduced, and this is the way it should be because space is not something for selected individuals, but so that every human being who wants to go there should have this opportunity.

You mentioned a moment ago that there are other kinds of science research that you and your crew members will be doing apart from research on the physical body.  Tell me about some of the other kinds of science that you will be involved with during your time on orbit.

Experiments which will be conducted in the interest of entire humankind are not only related to the behavior of our bodies in space, but they are also connected with observing Earth surface, monitoring the ecological situation on the surface, monitoring nature disasters that unfortunately do take place on Earth, especially given the fact that in the past few years a number of such natural disasters that cause sufferings of hundreds and thousands and millions of people, they do increase in numbers.  We’ll spend a significant amount of time trying to evaluate the view of these natural disasters from space, and we’ll be trying to understand what type of information will help our scientists and government structures to respond to these natural disasters.

When you are not working on science experiments, crew members are taking care of the space station itself and preparing it for its continued life on orbit.  Give us a sense of the other sorts of work that an International Space Station crew member must do in terms of station maintenance on a regular weekly or monthly basis.

We do it every day starting early morning right after we awake.  The first thing we do is look at what has been occurring at night.  You see, a space station is a very complex mechanism and its much more complex than say cars that we use every day.  Even though you wake up in the morning and you drive to work, when you get into your car what do you do?  You check how the car has passed the night, whether you have a flat tire or maybe there is some gas on the ground or oil is out, and that’s what we do on board the station.  We check the parameters of our environment, whether we have enough oxygen on board the station or maybe CO2 [carbon dioxide] has exceeded permissible levels; maybe it’s too humid; we check whether equipment that produces oxygen is working properly, whether we are warm, or maybe a communication configuration has gone wrong, maybe the ground doesn’t hear us, and we also check whether guiding computers work fine as well, that monitor the workings of all the systems aboard the station.

So there’s maintenance work to be done all the time.

Yes, it all depends on the number of those operations, activities that we do in order to maintain the workings of the station, as do you.  The minimum amount, you can say that once they take a look at your car, in the morning if you take a look whether they have a flat tire or you have enough gas in the tank, and once every three or four months you go to the technical station and you perform an examination of the entire vehicle.  This is something we do on board the station every day.  There are some operations that we do once a week, or some things that we do once a month, and there are certain things that we do when something has broken.

One of the first things that you will have to do once you arrive at the station is to greet the arrival of space shuttle Endeavour and its crew who are delivering the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer as well as other supplies and other hardware to the station.  Tell me about what is in the plan for this visit by a space shuttle crew.

Well, the work with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is something that our U.S. colleagues will be busy with.  We don’t really deal directly with the spectrometer, but I think that our assistance will be of help when transferring the spectrometer on board the station and installing it on its due place.

What other sorts of things will you and your crew be doing during the time that STS-134 is there?

No matter how many people are on board the station, say three people, six people, or ten people during the shuttle mission, every crew member has his or her own timeline and his or her own activity.  Difficult to say right now what we’ll be busy with because it is the ground that schedules and plans for us and the ground won’t let us lose even a single minute of our work time.  It will be pretty much occupied all the time.  Our time is priceless and we cannot spend taxpayer’s money just for nothing.  Cosmonauts need to work.

After Endeavour leaves three of your crewmates will also be leaving: Dmitry Kondratyev, Paolo Nespoli, Cady Coleman will go home, and when that happens you will become the commander of the station’s Expedition 28.  How does that change life for you on board to move from being flight engineer to commanding the station?

I hope there won’t be any major changes; in fact, any changes at all, and I am saying this because on board the station, as I have mentioned, it is the ground that plans all the operations, all the activities. And the main functions of a commander, a commander steps in when you have an emergency, a serious situation on board the station.  While being trained here on the ground for these emergencies, we’re having different scenarios, say the depressurization or a fire case or atmosphere pollution or detoxification, and during these simulations, these training activities, everybody understands what they’re supposed to do, and it is not the commander who says what everybody should be doing, but he’s more like monitoring the situation, he’s giving hints, and he’s suggesting that somebody do something, if they have forgotten something, if there are some difficulties when performing certain tasks  as far as our daily activities are concerned, of course the commander is the one responsible for psychological comfort of everybody who’s on board the station, but actually we spend so much time together when training in different situations also—say winter survival, real extreme things, or sea survival—that we know each other pretty well.  We know particularities of each other’s characters, and I don’t expect any problems whatsoever in our crew.  I hope that my functions as a commander would be more like a reminder to the crew that now it’s time for us to gather in the central post, say in the SM module, and have lunch or have breakfast.

JSC2010-E-181350: Andrey Borisenko
Russian cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko, Expedition 27 flight engineer and Expedition 28 commander, is pictured during a routine operations training session in an International Space Station mock-up/trainer in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo credit: NASA
One thing that will be new for the space station that your crew will see will be a new cargo ship that is being developed under a NASA program, the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.  That Dragon spacecraft has another test flight coming up during Expedition 28.  What will you and your crew members be doing in conjunction with that flyby of the station later this year?

We’ll be observing the vehicle.  We’ll be looking at its behavior and monitoring the situation in general so that there are no emergent situations.  But if such a situation occurs, or say if the vehicle will come too close to the station or not at the time when it should be approaching the station, we will report it to the ground and if the ground cannot do anything in case, or this emergency situation happens, we have certain procedures, emergency procedures, that we should follow in order to prevent the development of such a dangerous situation.  This is a very interesting experiment because when new equipment, new hardware, new vehicle comes up, this is interesting both from the engineer standpoint and just human being standpoint, just interesting.

The current plan for your time on orbit calls for a couple of spacewalks.  One will be out of the U.S. side of the station and one will be a Russian segment spacewalk.  For the Russian spacewalk, what is your role going to be on the team and what will be the plan for the work outside during this EVA?

Unfortunately we do not have training so that we can support a U.S. EVA, spacewalk. We only get ready for Russian spacewalks, and I’m talking about Russian cosmonauts.  The U.S. spacewalk will be performed by U.S. crew members, but should an emergency happen during a U.S. EVA spacewalk we’ll try to respond to the situation and provide any kind of assistance in order to get out of this dangerous situation.  And this is something we simulate here at Johnson Space Center.

For the Russian spacewalk then, what will you be doing and tell me about what the plan is for the cosmonauts who will be making that EVA?

Alexander and I are both preparing for this spacewalk.  We undergo the necessary training and we do the necessary simulations.  It will be decided later which of us will be doing the spacewalk, but in any case we’ll both be ready.  As far as the spacewalk program, this is new scientific equipment on the outside of the station, and this is both for scientific purposes and for future EVA operations on the Russian segment, in order to ease those operations.

And the U.S. spacewalk that’s planned is to occur during the visit of the shuttle mission STS-135 when Ron Garan and Mike Fossum will go outside.  Apart from that spacewalk, what are the other activities that are planned during this visit of shuttle Atlantis and its crew to your space station?

We know only the general plan for our flight, and as far as specific activities go, the specific things that we are supposed to do at certain days, at certain times, we’re unaware of this.  And I believe even the ground isn’t aware of this yet.

Well, we are aware that STS-135 will be the last flight of the space shuttle program.  What are your thoughts about the space shuttle’s place in the history of human spaceflight and its role in building the International Space Station?

I’m a rocket engineer, rocket scientist, and when at the institute I was trying to find some information on the space shuttle and I was getting ready to, this topic, and even then it was clear that even though this is a very technically-complex system, this system is a huge scientific experiment in order to create spaceships of a new type that can return safely to the ground after a spaceflight.  It goes without saying that this U.S. program, and even the Soviet program of the Buran vehicle, provided responses, answers to a great number of questions that came up when creating this type of spaceships. I think that at the present stage of the development of technology and, rockets and space, such system as that of Buran or of the space shuttle, they’re very costly in terms of their operations and workings, and that’s why we’ll have to use other means in order to deliver crews and different types of space cargo in orbit. I do believe that the future lies with such systems as the space shuttle and the Buran vehicle.  Ten years may pass, maybe even 20, and our technologies will allow us to create such spacecraft in a short amount of time and much cheaper, and then, of course, the new shuttles and new Burans will be in space.

There’s another, there are other historic events that will take place during your mission.  Near the beginning of your flight, of course, the April 12th anniversary of the, 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first human spaceflight, as well as the third, that being the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight.  What are your thoughts about these milestones of spaceflight, and about you getting to be in space when they take place?

I’m happy that I have this present to be in space during the year and during the time when the 12th of April is going to happen.  When I was a kid wishing to become a cosmonaut, it would never occur to me that I would have this chance, this opportunity, and I feel a great responsibility.  Great responsibility because I understand that our crew will be a symbol, an emblem of human success in space, and everybody will monitor what we do up there very closely, probably every person who is interested in spaceflights.  And we’ll have to show great work, right results, and also show that the time which has elapsed since the very first flight of Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard hasn’t gone in vain, that we’ve learned something in space.

Another thing that is new, we have recently seen the news that the Roscosmos has announced that the Soyuz vehicle in which you are going to fly will be named for Yuri Gagarin.  That’s a special thing that you will get to take a part in.

It is very unusual because, yes, indeed, proper name is not something which has been in use for the Soyuz vehicles.  This is one more responsibility that we’ll be having, perform our duties such so that everything goes well, and fully perform all the tasks that we’ll be tasked with.

Things have, in spaceflight, have changed quite a bit from the flights of Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard 50 years ago to the International Space Station that you’re going to be flying on today.  Andrey, where do you think that we will be in human space exploration 50 years into the future, and how will the International Space Station contribute to getting us ready for that future?

I think that the International Space Station not only can help, it does help.  It does help prepare us to what we will have 50 years from now.  Now a day the space station is the best field for working scientific experiments.  There is nothing we can think of which would be better, so if space station were not there we’d have to think it up. I strongly hope that 50 years from now a human being will step on the Red Planet, on Mars, and I want to believe we will come back to the moon.  I want to believe as well that a human being will be able to step on an asteroid, and probably will personally reach the satellites of Jupiter.  This may be something of nonsense, fiction, science fiction, ’cause there are many more problems on Earth other than spaceflights, but after the end of the Second World War in 1945 and all of Europe was destroyed, nobody would think that 15 years from that time human beings would be in space, and this is probably even more of science fiction than our plans 50 years from now.

NASA Light Technology Successfully Reduces Cancer Patients Painful Side Effects from Radiation and Chemotherapy

Glowing red light from High Emissivity Aluminiferous Luminescent Substrate, or HEALS technology, has been proven to aid in the healing of human wounds, burns, diabetic skin ulcers and oral mucositis. 

Glowing red light from High Emissivity Aluminiferous Luminescent Substrate, or HEALS technology has been proven to aid in the healing of human wounds, burns, diabetic skin ulcers and oral mucositis. (NASA/MSFC/Higginbotham)
A nurse in the Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Unit at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital demonstrates use of a WARP 75 device. 

A nurse in the Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Unit at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital demonstrates use of a WARP 75 device. (NASA/MSFC/Higginbotham)
 A NASA technology originally developed for plant growth experiments on space shuttle missions has successfully reduced the painful side effects resulting from chemotherapy and radiation treatment in bone marrow and stem cell transplant patients.

In a two-year clinical trial, cancer patients undergoing bone marrow or stem cell transplants were given a far red/near infrared Light Emitting Diode treatment called High Emissivity Aluminiferous Luminescent Substrate, or HEALS, to treat oral mucositis -- a common and extremely painful side effect of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The trial concluded that there is a 96 percent chance that the improvement in pain of those in the high-risk patient group was the result of the HEALS treatment.

"Using this technology as a healing agent was phenomenal," said Dr. Donna Salzman, clinical trial principal investigator and director of clinical services and education at the Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Unit at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital. "The HEALS device was well tolerated with no adverse affects to our bone marrow and stem cell transplant patients."

The HEALS device, known as the WARP 75 light delivery system, can provide a cost-effective therapy since the device itself is less expensive than a day at the hospital and a proactive therapy for symptoms of mucositis that are currently difficult to treat without additional, negative side effects.

The device could offer patients several benefits: better nutrition since eating can be difficult with painful mouth and throat sores; less narcotic use to treat mouth and throat pain; and an increase in patient morale -- all of which can contribute to shorter hospital stays and less potential for infection, added Salzman.

LEDs are light sources releasing energy in the form of photons. They release long wavelengths of light that stimulate cells to aid in healing. HEALS technology allows LED chips to function at their maximum irradiancy without emitting heat. NASA is interested in using HEALS technology for medical uses to improve healing in space and for long-term human spaceflight.

Ron Ignatius, founder and chairman of Quantum Devices Inc., of Barneveld Wis., developed the WARP 75 light delivery system for use in the trial. The device uses the HEALS technology to provide intense light energy: the equivalent light energy of 12 suns from each of the 288 LED chips -- each the size of a grain of salt. It is one of many devices using HEALS technology, developed in collaboration with NASA.

In the early 1990s, Quantum teamed with the Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics – a NASA-sponsored research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison – to develop Astroculture 3, a plant growth chamber using near infrared HEALS technology for plant growth experiments on shuttle missions. Over the years, Quantum has worked to develop HEALS technology for use in medical fields, specifically with pediatric brain tumors and hard-to-heal wounds such as diabetic skin ulcers, serious burns and oral mucositis.

"With the help of NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program, Quantum Devices and its medical partners have been able to take a space technology and adapt it for an entirely different application to significantly help people here on Earth," said Glenn Ignatius, president of Quantum Devices. "This collaboration between NASA and commercial companies has spurred innovation that is touching millions of lives on Earth -- for the better."

Watch a short video about HEALS in action:

The clinical trial was funded by NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. It included 20 cancer patients from Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and 60 cancer patients from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital and the Children's Hospital of Alabama, also in Birmingham. The trial was the brainchild of Brian Hodgson, DDS, a pediatric dentist at Marquette University and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin – both in Milwaukee, Wis. Dr. Harry T. Whelan, Bleser Professor of Neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, served as the clinical trial principal investigator at Medical College of Wisconsin and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Patients participated in the multi-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled research study – a way of testing a medical therapy where some groups receive treatment and others receive a placebo treatment that is designed to have no real effect. Participants were randomly placed in one of four study groups: low- and high-risk patients receiving the experimental light therapy through the WARP 75 device, and other low- and high-risk patients receiving light through a similar device without therapeutic effects. The low-risk patients were those whose chemotherapy and radiation treatment tended to cause mild or no mucositis and the high-risk patients were those whose therapy treatment tended to cause severe cases of mucositis.

Patients received the light therapy by a nurse holding the WARP 75 device -- about the size of an adult human hand – in close proximity to the outside of the patient's left and right cheek and neck area for 88 seconds each, daily for 14 days at the start of the patient's bone marrow or stem cell transplant. During that time, trained clinicians assessed the patient's mouth and patients completed a simple form to indicate their level of pain.

"NASA is proud to be a part of the HEALS technology medical advancements that are improving the lives of cancer patients and providing new, innovative medical applications," said Helen Stinson, technical monitor for the NASA HEALS contract. "It's exciting to see the spinoffs from NASA's science and technology initiatives continually improve the quality of life for people here on Earth."

The WARP 75 device is currently undergoing Food and Drug Administration premarket approval.

Making the Grade

NASA chief defends space budget in Congress

NASA chief Charles Bolden visited Capitol Hill Wednesday to defend the space agency's 2012 budget request against detractors in Congress who said it didn't adhere closely enough to the plans they approved last year. 

The debate, heated at times, came down to how much money NASA will spend encouraging the development of commercial spacecraft compared to the funding allocated to building NASA's own next-generation space vehicle. President Barack Obama has proposed an $18.7 billion budget for NASA in 2012, one that would keep it locked at 2010 levels. 

Last year, Congress passed – and Obama signed into law – a bipartisan NASA authorization bill. While that act did include funding for privately developed spaceships to take over the job of transporting astronauts to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station, it also instructed NASA to start building a heavy-lift rocket for future spaceships as a backup. 

NASA's shifting programs Under the 2012 budget proposed by Obama, the priorities are somewhat shifted so that more money would be routed toward a commercial crew capsule, and less money would be pumped into NASA's next-generation spacecraft.
That change had some lawmakers up in arms Wednesday during hearings of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. 

"While last year's Authorization Act was by no means a perfect bill, it did clearly articulate Congress' intention: that NASA pursue a means of transportation that builds on all the work that’s been done over the past five years," said the committee's ranking Democratic member, Eddie Bernice Johnson. D-Texas. "I do not see it reflected in the proposed NASA budget request."
The committee's chairman Ralph Hall, R-Texas, agreed. 

Commercial spaceflight under fire Some lawmakers object to the new privatization push because they don't trust commercially built spacecraft to be as safe as vehicles owned and operated by NASA.
"Trying to stimulate commercial competition is a worthy goal that I support, but not at the expense of ensuring the safest or most robust systems for our astronauts," Hall said. "There are simply too many risks at the present time not to have a viable fallback option." 

Bolden disagreed that private spacecraft are any less safe than NASA's, which have traditionally always been built, and operated, through commercial contractors anyway. The new model, he said, was mainly a different acquisition format. 

"Safety of our crew is always my priority," Bolden said. "The best, most efficient, perhaps fastest way to do that is by relying on the commercial entities. Anyone who would try to convince you that American industry cannot produce is just not being factual."
Commercial spaceflight did have some backers in Congress today, including Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who introduced a letter signed by more than 55 space leaders promoting the private space industry. 

"These credentialed experts are urging that NASA fully fund the use of commercial companies to carry crew to the station because it is a strategy that is critical for the nation's success in our space efforts," Rohrabacher said. He compared having the government manage, operate and build all the space transportation vehicles today to people who wanted the government to manage all aircraft 20 or 30 years ago. 

The debate comes as Congress is trying to settle on a budget for the 2011 fiscal year. So far, NASA and the rest of the federal government have been operating with 2010 funding levels under the current continuing resolution. Today the Senate passed a House resolution that would extend funding another two weeks to buy them a little more time, but the outlook for a longer-term budget is not yet decided.

Discovery Crew Steps Out on Second Spacewalk

Discovery's crew preps for the second spacewalk of the shuttle's final mission to space.

After a brief delay to fix what NASA called a "minor leak" in crew member Steve Bowen's spacesuit, Discovery astronauts March 2 began their second spacewalk of the mission.

The spacewalk began shortly before 11 a.m. EST. According to a tweet from NASA, the leak in Bowen's space suit was caused by a problem with an O-ring inserted in a lithium hydroxide canister. A replacement O-ring was  put in place, and the spacewalk began. Earlier in the morning, the shuttle crew was awakened by a call from Mission Control Houston that featured the song, “The Speed of Sound” by Coldplay, which was played for Pilot Eric Boe.
Mission Specialist Nicole Stott is choreographing the spacewalk as the intravehicular officer while Mission Specialist Mike Barratt and station Commander Scott Kelly operate the Canadarm2 from the robotic workstation in the station’s cupola. The spacewalkers are scheduled to perform several tasks during their excursion, including venting ammonia from the failed pump module they moved to a storage location the spacewalk Feb. 28. 

They also are removing a lightweight adapter plate previously used to attach experiments to the exterior of the Columbus laboratory and remove insulation from the Tranquility node and the newly installed Express Logistics Carrier 4. The spacewalkers also will install a light on one of the crew equipment and translation aid carts; install a light and a pan and tilt assembly on Dextre, the space station’s Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator; and troubleshoot a loose radiator grapple fixture stowage beam, which would be used if a radiator ever needed to be replaced.
The spacewalk is expected to last 6 hours and 30 minutes. Meanwhile, crew members inside the complex will continue transferring more cargo from Discovery and loading trash into the Japanese Kounotouri2 H-II Transfer Vehicle for eventual disposal. In addition, the International Space Station has a new room, filled with equipment, supplies and a new device that could be a precursor of spacewalking robots.

The PMM Leonardo, was installed on the Earth-facing port of the station’s Unity node Tuesday. The PMM adds 2,472 cubic feet of pressurized storage space to the station, and it brings to the station, in addition to a humanoid robot called Robonaut 2, a payload of about 28,000 pounds. It includes an express rack capable of housing a variety of scientific experiments, five resupply stowage racks, six resupply stowage platforms and two integrated stowage platforms.

Bowen replaced Tim Kopra as mission specialist 2 following a bicycle injury Jan. 15 that prohibited Kopra from supporting the launch window. Bowen last flew on Atlantis in May 2010 as part of the STS-132 crew. Flying on the STS-133 mission will make Bowen the first astronaut ever to fly on consecutive missions.

The shuttle has flown 38 flights, completed 5,247 orbits and spent 322 days in orbit. The shuttle is the orbiter fleet leader, having flown more flights than any other orbiter in the fleet, including four in 1985 alone. Discovery also flew all three “return to flight” missions after the Challenger and Columbia disasters. 

Discovery was also the shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope and the Ulysses probe designed to study the Sun. In addition, Discovery carried Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn, who was 77 at the time, back into space during STS-95 in October 1998, making him the oldest person to venture into space.

Spacewalkers complete to-do list outside station

 A pair of shuttle Discovery astronauts floated outside the International Space Station on Wednesday and completed a long list of chores to prepare the outpost for life after shuttle retirement.
Spacewalkers Stephen Bowen and Alvin Drew wrapped up the second of two spacewalks planned for Discovery's eight-day stay at the station, the shuttle's 39th and final mission.
During the spacewalk that stretched over six hours, Bowen and Drew vented ammonia from a failed pump module that NASA plans to return to Earth on the final shuttle flight in June and removed an equipment pallet from outside Europe's Columbus module, among other tasks.
The pair got a late start due to a leak in Bowen's pressurized suit, which was caused by a damaged seal that crewmates easily fixed.
The helmet lights on Drew's spacesuit became detached late in the spacewalk, spurring ground controllers to order him back to the station airlock after Bowen was unable to reattach it.
"What have you been doing?" Bowen asked Drew. "I know we gave these a good shake test."
The six-member Discovery crew, on the 133rd mission in shuttle history, already has completed the primary goals of the 12-day flight. They attached an outside storage platform for spare parts shortly after reaching the station on Saturday. On Tuesday, they installed a combination storage room and mini-research lab to the outpost, completing assembly of the U.S. side of the station.
The space station is a $100 billion project of 16 nations that has been under construction 220 miles above Earth for the past 12 years. Russia plans to launch a final research module in May 2012.

Discovery is NASA's oldest surviving spaceship. Upon return to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida next week, Discovery will be prepared for its new mission as a museum piece.
Discovery is promised to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Retirement homes for sister ships Endeavour and Atlantis, which are scheduled to make their final flights in April and June, have not yet been announced.
NASA is ending the shuttle program due to high operating costs and to free up money to develop new spacecraft capable of flying to the moon, asteroids and other destinations in the solar system.

NASA's budget proposal upsets House committee

WASHINGTON - House lawmakers voiced exasperation Wednesday with budget plans that call for NASA to throttle back from a government rocket and accelerate development of commercial rockets.
"I'm concerned that the future of our space program is in serious jeopardy," said Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, chairman of the House space committee. "Frankly, we're exasperated that NASA is not listening to our message."
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the agency is striving to meet the goals Congress established in an authorization law enacted last year that sets NASA policy. He said 44 percent of the agency's budget is devoted to space exploration.
"I think we are complying with the major elements of the authorization act," Bolden told lawmakers.
Wednesday's dispute over rocket priorities revived a battle that Congress waged last year.
Lawmakers largely favored a heavy-lift rocket to succeed the space shuttle program scheduled to end later this year. But President Barack Obama urged greater support for commercial rockets to ferry people to the International Space Station within a few years.
Last year's policy law called for $3 billion in fiscal 2012 for a heavy-lift rocket and capsule, and $500 million to develop commercial rockets. But Obama's fiscal 2012 budget proposes $2.8 billion for the heavy-lift rocket and $850 million for commercial rockets.
The policy law calls on NASA to launch a heavy-lift rocket by 2016, but NASA officials said in January that's probably impossible, even with the extra money in the law.
"I am concerned that you're really not interested in meeting that deadline," Rep. Sandy Adams, D-Orlando, told Bolden.
Bolden said he expects to give Congress a schedule for the rocket's development by summer.
"I have not said I cannot do that, but I don't want to mislead anyone and say that we can do that," Bolden said.
Another focus of concern is how to pay for a third shuttle flight this year, given threatened spending cuts.
A House-passed spending bill for the rest of fiscal 2011 would cut $600 million from NASA's $18.7 billion budget. The bill is pending in the Senate.
Bolden said he expects Congress to approve a compromise bill that would allow him to launch the third shuttle flight as scheduled in June.