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NASA Probe Sees Solar Wind Decline

The 33-year odyssey of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind. Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion...

Super-Earth Atmosphere

A team of astronomers, including two NASA Sagan Fellows, has made the first characterizations of a super-Earth's atmosphere, by using a ground-based telescope...

Kepler Discovers

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star...

Pulverized Planet

Tight double-star systems might not be the best places for life to spring up, according to a new study using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope....

Dark Asteroids

NASA is set to launch a sensitive new infrared telescope to seek out sneaky things in the night sky -- among them, dark asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth....

Archive for July 2009

Space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to land at Florida's Kennedy Space Center today with a touchdown at 10:48 a.m. EDT. The shuttle would begin its descent from orbit with a deorbit engine firing at 9:42 a.m. Weather conditions at Kennedy are forecast to be favorable for landing, although a slight chance of rain is possible.

A second opportunity exists for a landing in Florida today, beginning with a deorbit engine firing at 11:16 a.m., leading to a 12:22 p.m. touchdown. No other shuttle landing sites are being considered for a landing today. If weather prevents a landing today, alternate landing sites would be called up for Saturday’s landing opportunities.

Thursday, Endeavour Commander Mark Polansky and Pilot Doug Hurley checked out the systems the shuttle will use as it returns home, finding everything in excellent shape. The crew also deployed two pairs of small satellites from canisters in the shuttle’s payload bay.

This Hubble picture, taken on July 23, by the new Wide Field Camera 3, is the sharpest visible-light picture taken of the atmospheric debris from a comet or asteroid that collided with Jupiter on July 19. This is Hubble's first science observation following its repair and upgrade in May. The size of the impactor is estimated to be as large as several football fields.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the sharpest visible-light picture yet of atmospheric debris from an object that collided with Jupiter on July 19. NASA scientists decided to interrupt the recently refurbished observatory's checkout and calibration to take the image of a new, expanding spot on the giant planet on July 23.

Discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley, the spot was created when a small comet or asteroid plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere and disintegrated. The only other time such a feature has been seen on Jupiter was 15 years ago after the collision of fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

"Because we believe this magnitude of impact is rare, we are very fortunate to see it with Hubble," said Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Details seen in the Hubble view shows a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere."

The new Hubble images also confirm that a May servicing visit by space shuttle astronauts was a big success.

"This image of the impact on Jupiter is fantastic," said U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. "It tells us that our astronauts and the ground crew at the Goddard Space Flight Center successfully repaired the Hubble telescope. I'm so proud of them and I can't wait to see what's next from Hubble."

For the past several days, Earth-based telescopes have been trained on Jupiter. To capture the unfolding drama 360 million miles away, Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, gave observation time to a team of astronomers led by Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

"Hubble's truly exquisite imaging capability has revealed an astonishing wealth of detail in the impact site," Hammel said. "By combining these images with our ground-based data at other wavelengths, our Hubble data will allow a comprehensive understanding of exactly what is happening to the impact debris."

Simon-Miller estimated the diameter of the impacting object was the size of several football fields. The force of the explosion on Jupiter was thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded over the Siberian Tunguska River Valley in June 1908.

The image was taken with the Wide Field Camera 3. The new camera, installed by the astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis in May, is not yet fully calibrated. While it is possible to obtain celestial images, the camera's full power has yet to be seen.

"This is just one example of what Hubble's new, state-of-the-art camera can do, thanks to the STS-125 astronauts and the entire Hubble team," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "However, the best is yet to come."

Spacewalkers Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy conducted a four-hour, 54-minute spacewalk and completed the mission’s work on the outside of the Japanese Kibo laboratory Monday.

The pair installed video cameras on the front and back of the new Japanese Exposed Facility. The cameras will provide views to help with rendezvous and berthing of the H-II Transfer Vehicle scheduled to make its first deliveries to the International Space Station in September.

Marshburn and Cassidy also completed miscellaneous tasks around the station. They secured multi-layer insulation around the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator known as Dextre, split out power channels for two space station Control Moment Gyroscopes, tied down some cables and installed handrails and a portable foot restraint to aid future spacewalkers. The deployment of the Payload Attach System on the S3 Truss was deferred to another spacewalk sometime in the future.

The shuttle and station crews will awaken around 3 a.m. EDT Tuesday to prepare for undocking. They will bid each other farewell and close the hatches at 10:23 a.m., followed by undocking at 1:26 p.m.

The crew of space shuttle Endeavour was awakened by the song “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” performed by Steve Tyrell and played especially for Commander Mark Polansky.

Spacewalkers Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy head outside to begin STS-127’s final spacewalk at 8:28 a.m. EDT. They first will secure multi-layer insulation around the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator known as DEXTRE. On the Zenith 1 patch panel, they will split out power channels for two of the four space station Control Moment Gyroscopes, which provide non-propulsive attitude control for the station. Currently two of the gyros are fed from the same power channel, and this activity will prevent a failure on one channel from disabling both of the gyros. Next, Marshburn and Cassidy will install video cameras on the front and back of the new Japanese Exposed Facility. And their final task will be to deploy a Payload Attach System on the Starboard 3 truss that will provide storage capability for spare space station hardware. The spacewalk is planned to last no more than six hours, 30 minutes.

Astronauts Set for Final Spacewalk of STS-127 Mission

The final full day of activities for the joint crew of Endeavour and the International Space Station will focus on the fifth and final spacewalk of the mission.

Spacewalkers Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn spent the night camped out in the Quest airlock. The primary objective of the spacewalk is to install two cameras on Japan’s Kibo laboratory that will provide views to help with rendezvous and berthing of the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV). The HTV is scheduled to make its first deliveries to the station in September.

The six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk also includes an electrical cable swap and adjustment of insulation blankets on the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator. If time permits, the pair also will deploy a Payload Attachment System on the Starboard 3 truss structure that will allow an external spare parts stowage platform to be installed on a future shuttle mission.

Inside the complex, Polansky and Mission Specialist Dave Wolf will support the spacewalkers, and Pilot Doug Hurley will continue cargo transfers, which are more than 80 percent complete.

Twenty-nine undergraduate and graduate students are participating in a six-week NASA Airborne Science field experience designed to immerse them in NASA's Earth Science research. The students represent 26 colleges and universities across the U.S. and nine foreign countries.

NASA's Student Airborne Research program runs from July 6 to Aug. 14 in California. The program began with lectures from university faculty members, research institutions and NASA scientists at the University of California, Irvine. One of the speakers is Sherwood Rowland of the University of California, Irvine, a Nobel Laureate in chemistry, who is a long-time user of NASA's DC-8 airborne capabilities for his research on atmospheric chemistry.

Using the DC-8 flying laboratory based at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., the students will get a rare behind-the-scenes look at instrument integration, flight planning and payload testing that is the basis of every successful Earth Science airborne campaign carried out by NASA. These airborne research campaigns play a pivotal role in the calibration and validation of NASA's space-borne Earth observations, remote sensing measurements and the high-resolution imagery for Earth system science.

Divided into the investigative groups of atmospheric science, algal blooms and crop classification, students will have the opportunity to fly aboard one of two six-hour DC-8 flights departing from NASA's Palmdale facility. The aircraft will travel north over the San Joaquin Valley for an air-quality investigation, over the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to observe vegetation, and south over Monterey Bay to research algae blooms.

The student program is one of NASA's tools for training future scientists for Earth Science missions that can assist with studies and the development and testing of new instruments and future satellite mission concepts. The program's goal is to stimulate interest in NASA's Earth Science research and aid in recruitment of the next generation of engineers and scientists. Through this and the agency's other college and university programs, NASA is developing critical skills and capabilities needed for the agency's engineering, scientific and technical missions.

The Student Airborne Research Program is managed through the National Suborbital Education and Research Center at the University of North Dakota, with funding and support from NASA's Airborne Science Program. The center was established through a cooperative agreement between the University of North Dakota and NASA.

For additional information about NASA's DC-8, visit:

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

For additional information about the National Suborbital Education and Research Center at the University of North Dakota, visit:

Spacewalkers Dave Wolf and Chris Cassidy wrapped up a five-hour, 59-minute spacewalk at 4:31 p.m. EDT. The spacewalk ended earlier than planned because of higher than normal carbon dioxide levels in Cassidy's spacesuit.

The pair removed multilayer insulation from the Kibo module and readied the Japanese Exposed Section payloads for their transfer to the Exposed Facility on Thursday, but they were unable to replace all six of the original batteries on the International Space Station's Port 6 truss 2B power channel. The remaining batteries will be replaced on a future spacewalk.

This was the third of five STS-127 spacewalks, the 128th in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, totaling 798 hours, 30 minutes. It was the 100th spacewalk out of space station airlocks and the 216th American spacewalk in history. It was Wolf's seventh spacewalk, totaling 41 hours, 57 minutes and placing him 14th on the all-time list. It was Cassidy's first excursion.

NASA Television airs a Mission Status briefing at 7:30 p.m. with STS-127 Lead Flight Director Holly Ridings and STS-127 Lead Spacewalk Officer Kieth Johnson.

At 3 p.m. EDT, NASA Television will air the edited video footage from STS-127 Solid Rocket Booster cameras.

Endeavour’s crew is enjoying off-duty time this afternoon before undertaking preparations for Wednesday’s third spacewalk. At 5:58 p.m. the crew will conduct a spacewalk procedure review and at 8:28 p.m. spacewalkers Dave Wolf and Chris Cassidy will camp out in the Quest Airlock. The International Space Station crew goes to sleep at 9:33 p.m., followed 30 minutes later by the shuttle crew.

Crews Tackle Robotics, Spacewalk Preparations

The combined efforts of the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Endeavour crews were successful in installing the Japanese Logistics Module-Exposed Section using two robotic arms.

Commander Mark Polansky and mission specialist Julie Payette operated the robotic arm aboard the space shuttle to pass the platform from Endeavour to Canadarm2 on the space station. Canadarm2 was operated by mission specialist Koichi Wakata and shuttle pilot Doug Hurley.

The Japanese Exposed Section was installed at about 9:30 a.m. The Japanese robotic arm on the station will be used Thursday to take experiments from that Exposed Section and install them on the new porch of the Kibo laboratory.

Astronauts Dave Wolf and Chris Cassidy began preparations for their spacewalk Wednesday, which is scheduled to begin at 9:58 a.m. Wolf and Cassidy changed out a series of spacesuit batteries to prepare for their spacewalk.

Tonight they will sleep in the airlock where they will adjust to a lower pressure, going from 14.7 psi to 10 psi, to adapt for the conditions in their spacesuit. This spacewalk will be the third spacewalk of the mission and will focus on the installation of four of the six Port 6 (P6) Truss batteries.

Polansky, Hurley, Payette and Wolf took time to answer questions posed by visitors on YouTube and Twitter. Polansky is providing regular updates on the mission’s progress from space via Twitter at

Spacewalkers Dave Wolf and Tom Marshburn wrapped up a six hour, 53 minute spacewalk at 6:20 p.m. EDT.

Wolf and Marshburn completed most of their planned tasks, deferring a video camera setup to a future spacewalk. Wolf removed three hardware spares – a Ku-Band Space-to-Ground Antenna, a Pump Module and a Linear Drive Unit, from the Integrated Cargo Carrier – Vertical Light Deployable (ICC-VLD). With each spare in hand, Wolf rode the space station robotic arm from the ICC to the Port 3 external stowage platform (ESP-3), where he and Marshburn attached them for long-term storage. Julie Payette and Doug Hurley operated the robotic arm. Marshburn mounted a grapple bar onto an ammonia tank assembly so that the STS-128 space shuttle mission in August can move the tank by robotic arm. Marshburn also attached two insulation sleeves for the Station to Shuttle Power Transfer System.

This was the second of five STS-127 spacewalks, the 127th in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, totaling 792 hours, 31 minutes. It was the 215th American spacewalk in history. It was Wolf’s sixth spacewalk, totaling 38 hours, 44 minutes and placing him 19th on the all-time list. It was Marshburn’s first excursion.

NASA Television airs a Mission Status briefing at 8:30 p.m. with STS-127 Lead Flight Director Holly Ridings and STS-127 Lead Extravehicular Activity Officer Kieth Johnson.

Neil Armstrong was supposed to be asleep. The moon walking was done. The moon rocks were stowed away. His ship was ready for departure. In just a few hours, the Eagle's ascent module would blast off the Moon, something no ship had ever attempted before, and Neil needed his wits about him. He curled up on the Eagle's engine cover and closed his eyes.

But he could not sleep.

Neither could Buzz Aldrin. In the cramped lander, Buzz had the sweet spot, the floor. He stretched out as much as he could in his spacesuit and closed his eyes. Nothing happened. On a day like this, what else could you expect...?

July 20, 1969: The day began on the farside of the Moon. Armstrong, Aldrin and crewmate Mike Collins flew their spaceship 60 miles above the cratered wasteland. No one on Earth can see the Moon's farside. Even today it remains a land of considerable mystery, but the astronauts had no time for sight-seeing. Collins pressed a button, activating a set of springs, and the spaceship split in two. The half named Columbia, with Collins on board, would remain in orbit. The other half, the Eagle, spiraled over the horizon toward the Sea of Tranquillity.

"You are Go for powered descent," Houston radioed, and the Eagle's engine fired mightily. The bug-shaped Eagle was so fragile a child could poke a hole through its gold foil exterior. Jagged moonrocks could do much worse. So when Armstrong saw that the computer was guiding them into a boulder field, he quickly took control. The Eagle pitched forward and sailed over the rocks.

Meanwhile, alarms were ringing in the background.

"Program alarm," announced Armstrong. "It's a 1202." The code was so obscure, almost no one knew what it meant. Should they abort? Should they land? "What is it?" he insisted.

Scrambling back in Houston, a young engineer named Steve Bales produced the answer: The radar guidance system was pestering the computer with too many interruptions. No problem. "We've got you..." radioed Houston. "We're Go on that alarm."

And on they went. Things, however, were not going exactly as planned. The Sea of Tranquillity was supposed to be smooth, but it didn't look so smooth from the cockpit of the Eagle. Armstrong scanned the jumbled mare for a safe place to land. "60 seconds," radioed Houston. "30 seconds." Mission control was hushed as the telemetry came in. Soon, too soon, the ship would run out of fuel.

Capcom later claimed the "boys in mission control were turning blue" when Armstrong announced "I [found] a good spot." As for Armstrong, his heart was thumping 156 beats per minute according to bio-sensors. The fuel gauge read only 5.6% when the Eagle finally settled onto the floor of the Sea of Tranquillity.

Houston (relieved): "We copy you down, Eagle."

Armstrong (coolly): "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Immediately, they prepared to leave. This was NASA being cautious. No one had ever landed on the Moon before. What if a footpad started sinking into the moondust, or the Eagle sprung a leak? While Neil and Buzz made ready to blast off, Houston read the telemetry looking for signs of trouble. There were none, and three hours after touchdown, finally, Houston gave the "okay." The moonwalk was on.

At 9:56 p.m. EDT, Neil descended the ladder and took "one small step" (left foot first) into history. From the shadow of the Eagle, he looked around: "It has a stark beauty all its own--like the high desert of the United States." Houston reminded him to gather the "contingency sample," and Neil put some rocks and soil in his pocket. If, for any reason, the astronauts had to take off in a hurry, scientists back on Earth would get at least a pocketful of the Moon for their experiments.More..

Forty years ago, Apollo astronauts set out on a daring adventure to explore the Moon. They ended up discovering their own planet.

How do you discover Earth … by leaving it? It all started with a single photograph:

Apollo 8 was the first crewed Saturn V launch and the first time humans were placed in lunar orbit. Mission plans called for the astronauts to photograph possible landing sites for future missions. Before this, only robotic probes had taken images of the Moon's far side.

As the astronauts in their spacecraft emerged from behind the Moon, they were surprised and enchanted by an amazing view of Earth rising over the lunar horizon. Bill Anders quickly snapped a picture of the spectacular Earthrise – it was not in the mission script.

His timing could not have been better. It was Christmas Eve, 1968, the close of one of the most turbulent, fractured years in U.S. and world history. The picture offered a much needed new perspective on "home."

For the first time in history, humankind looked at Earth and saw not a jigsaw puzzle of states and countries on an uninspiring flat map – but rather a whole planet uninterrupted by boundaries, a fragile sphere of dazzling beauty floating alone in a dangerous void. There was a home worthy of careful stewardship.

The late nature photographer Galen Rowell described this photo as "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken."

"It changed humanity's entire orientation," says Kristen Erickson of NASA headquarters in Washington, DC. "And similar photos taken by the Apollo 11 through 17 crews reinforced the impact of this first view."

Apollo photos of the big blue marble energized grass-roots green movements and led directly to the modern fleet of Earth observing satellites NASA uses to monitor and predict weather, examine ozone holes, investigate climate change, and much more.1 Like Anders' camera, these satellites have transformed the way we view the planet we call Earth.

Left: 40 years after Apollo, a fleet of satellites encircle Earth, monitoring and studying our home planet. Image credit: NASA
We gained all this by shooting for the Moon.

The Apollo astronauts were, by their own admissions, profoundly moved and changed when they gazed upon Earth from their unique position in space.

"It changed my life,"2 said Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut.

"…You only see the boundaries of nature from there…not those that are manmade," said Eugene Cernan of Apollos 10 and 17. "It is one of the deepest, most emotional experiences I have ever had."3

Apollo 17 was the last crewed Moon mission. Since then, no humans have been to the place where they can float and gaze at the whole Earth. The crew of the International Space Station has a beautiful view of Earth, but not the whole Earth. Because the space station is in low-Earth orbit, only a portion of the planet can be seen at any one time. For the big picture view, the Moon can't be beat.

Soon, we'll be back. Right now, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is circling the Moon gathering critical data NASA scientists need to plan for renewed human exploration. NASA is once again charting a daring mission to the Moon -- this time to stay.

Above: "The Big Blue Marble." This is one of the last Apollo photos of the whole Earth, taken by the crew of Apollo 17. More
There are many compelling reasons to return. Former space shuttle astronaut Joseph Allen thinks our own planet is one of them:

"With all the arguments, pro and con, for going to the Moon, no one suggested that we should do it to look at the Earth. But that may in fact be the most important reason."4

In his recent confirmation hearing to take NASA's helm as administrator, former astronaut Charles F. Bolden said, "I dream of a day when any American can launch into space and see the magnificence and grandeur of our home planet."

Until then, a few astronauts will take the ride for all of us, and they'll be carrying cameras a thousand times more advanced than Apollo.

What the space agency shows us will surely expand our vision. It always has.

Nominated by President Barack Obama, Lori Beth Garver was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 15, 2009, as the Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

As deputy administrator, Garver is NASA's second in command. She is responsible to the administrator for providing overall leadership, planning, and policy direction for the agency. Garver represents NASA to the Executive Office of the President, Congress, heads of government agencies, international organizations, and external organizations and communities. She also oversees the work of NASA’s functional offices, including the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of General Counsel and Office of Strategic Communications.

Garver's confirmation as deputy administrator marks the second time she has worked for NASA. Her first stint at the agency was from 1996 to 2001. Initially, she served as a special assistant to the NASA administrator and senior policy analyst for the Office of Policy and Plans, before becoming the associate administrator for the Office of Policy and Plans. Reporting to the NASA administrator, she oversaw the analysis, development and integration of policies and long-range plans, the NASA Strategic Management System, and the NASA Advisory Council.

A native of Michigan, Garver was born May 22, 1961. She graduated from Haslett High School in Haslett, Michigan, in 1979 and four years later, in 1983, she earned a bachelor's degree in political science and economics from Colorado College. Her focus turned to space when she accepted a job working for Sen. John Glenn from 1983 to 1984. She since has served in a variety of senior roles in the nonprofit, government and commercial sectors.

Garver worked at the newly formed National Space Society from 1984 to 1996, becoming its second executive director in 1987. She served as the society's primary spokesperson, making frequent appearances on national television and regularly testifying on Capitol Hill. During that time, she also earned a master's degree in science, technology and public policy from George Washington University in 1989.

After working at NASA from 1996 to 2001, Garver was employed as the vice president of DFI Corporate Services from 2001 to 2003. From January 2001 until her nomination as NASA's deputy administrator, she was a full-time consultant as the president of Capital Space, LLC, and senior advisor for space at the Avascent Group. In these roles, she provided strategic planning, technology feasibility research and business development assistance, as well as merger, acquisition and strategic alliance support, to financial institutions and Fortune 500 companies.

Garver was the lead civil space policy advisor for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign and helped guide the agency review team for NASA during the post-election transition. Previously, she served as the lead space policy advisor for the Hillary Clinton and John Kerry campaigns for president and represented them at various events and conferences. Garver has held numerous advocacy roles for space exploration as a member of the NASA Advisory Council, a guest lecturer at the International Space University, president and board member of Women in Aerospace, and president of the American Astronautical Society. She lives in Virginia with her husband, David Brandt, and their sons Wesley and Mitchell.

Nominated by President Barack Obama, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr. was confirmed on July 15, 2009, by the U.S. Senate as the twelfth Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. As Administrator, he will lead the NASA team and manage its resources to advance the agency's missions and goals.

Bolden's confirmation marks the beginning of his second stint with the nation's space agency. His 34-year career with the Marine Corps included 14 years as a member of NASA's Astronaut Office. After joining the office in 1980, he traveled to orbit four times aboard the space shuttle between 1986 and 1994, commanding two of the missions. His flights included deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission, which featured a cosmonaut as a member of his crew. Prior to Bolden's nomination for the NASA Administrator's job, he was employed as the Chief Executive Officer of JACKandPANTHER LLC, a small business enterprise providing leadership, military and aerospace consulting, and motivational speaking.

A resident of Houston, Bolden was born Aug. 19, 1946, in Columbia, S.C. He graduated from C. A. Johnson High School in 1964 and received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. Bolden earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical science in 1968 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. After completing flight training in 1970, he became a naval aviator. Bolden flew more than 100 combat missions in North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, while stationed in Namphong, Thailand, from 1972-1973.

After returning to the U.S., Bolden served in a variety of positions in the Marine Corps in California and earned a master of science degree in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1977. Following graduation, he was assigned to the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Md., and completed his training in 1979. While working at the Naval Air Test Center's Systems Engineering and Strike Aircraft Test Directorates, he tested a variety of ground attack aircraft until his selection as an astronaut candidate in 1980.

Bolden's NASA astronaut career included technical assignments as the Astronaut Office Safety Officer; Technical Assistant to the director of Flight Crew Operations; Special Assistant to the Director of the Johnson Space Center; Chief of the Safety Division at Johnson (overseeing safety efforts for the return to flight after the 1986 Challenger accident); lead astronaut for vehicle test and checkout at the Kennedy Space Center; and Assistant Deputy Administrator at NASA Headquarters. After his final space shuttle flight in 1994, he left the agency to return to the operating forces in the Marine Corps as the Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Bolden was assigned as the Deputy Commanding General of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the Pacific in 1997. During the first half of 1998, he served as Commanding General of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Forward in support of Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait. Bolden was promoted to his final rank of major general in July 1998 and named Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Japan. He later served as the Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Calif., from 2000 until 2002, before retiring from the Marine Corps in 2003. Bolden's many military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in May 2006.

Bolden is married to the former Alexis (Jackie) Walker of Columbia, S.C. The couple has two children: Anthony Che, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, and Kelly Michelle, a medical doctor now serving a fellowship in plastic surgery.

The following is a series of questions and answers prepared by Michael Collins, command module pilot for Apollo 11. Collins issued the following statement in lieu of media interviews:

These are questions I am most frequently asked, plus a few others I have added. For more information, please consult my book, the 40th anniversary edition of CARRYING THE FIRE, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. All of the following sections in quotation marks are from that reference.

Q. Circling the lonely moon by yourself, the loneliest person in the universe, weren't you lonely?

A. No.

"Far from feeling lonely or abandoned, I feel very much a part of what is taking place on the lunar surface. I know that I would be a liar or a fool if I said that I have the best of the three Apollo 11 seats, but I can say with truth and equanimity that I am perfectly satisfied with the one I have. This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two. I don't mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side."

Q. Did you have the best seat on Apollo 11?

A. No.

"The cancellation of 014 also freed Borman-Stafford-Collins for reassignment, and reassigned we were, but not as a unit. Tom Stafford moved up a notch and acquired his own highly experienced crew, John Young and Gene Cernan; they became McDivitt's back-up. Score one for Tom. Borman and Collins got promoted to prime crew of the third manned flight, picking up Bill Anders as our third member.

In the process, Collins also got 'promoted' from lunar module pilot to command module pilot, and lost right then and there his first chance to walk on the surface of the moon. The reason I had to move up was that Deke at that time had a firm rule that the command module pilot on all flights involving LM must have flown before in space, the idea being that he didn't want any rookie in the CM by himself. Since Bill and Anders had not flown, I was it. Slowly it sunk in. No LM for me, no EVA, no fancy flying, no need to practice in helicopters anymore."

Q. Were you happy with the seat you had?

A. Yes, absolutely. It was an honor.

Q. Has the space program helped young people become interested in careers in math and science? Don't you tell kids to opt for these choices?

A. Yes and no. We definitely have a national problem in that kids seem to be going for money rather than what they consider 'nerdy' careers. Other countries are outstripping us in the quality and quantity of math and science grads, and this can only hurt in the long run. But a liberal arts education, particularly English, is a good entry point no matter what the later specialization. I usually talk up English.

Q. Turning to your flight, what is your strongest memory of Apollo 11?

A. Looking back at Earth from a great distance.

"I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified fa├žade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment. The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied."

Small, shiny, serene, blue and white, FRAGILE.

Q. That was 40 years ago. Would it look the same today?

A. Yes, from the moon, but appearances can be deceiving. It's certainly not serene, but definitely fragile, and growing more so. When we flew to the moon, our population was 3 billion; today it has more than doubled and is headed for 8 billion, the experts say. I do not think this growth is sustainable or healthy. The loss of habitat, the trashing of oceans, the accumulation of waste products - this is no way to treat a planet.

Q. You are starting to sound a little grumpy. Are you grumpy?

A. At age 78, yes, in many ways. Some things about current society irritate me, such as the adulation of celebrities and the inflation of heroism.

Q. But aren't you both?

A. Not me. Neither.

Heroes abound, and should be revered as such, but don't count astronauts among them. We work very hard; we did our jobs to near perfection, but that was what we had hired on to do. In no way did we meet the criterion of the Congressional Medal of Honor: 'above and beyond the call of duty.'

Celebrities? What nonsense, what an empty concept for a person to be, as my friend the great historian Daniel Boorstin put it, "known for his well-known-ness." How many live-ins, how many trips to rehab, maybe--wow--you could even get arrested and then you would really be noticed. Don't get me started.

Q. So, if I wanted to sum you up, I should say "grumpy?"

A. No, no, lucky! Usually, you find yourself either too young or too old to do what you really want, but consider: Neil Armstrong was born in 1930, Buzz Aldrin 1930, and Mike Collins 1930. We came along at exactly the right time. We survived hazardous careers and we were successful in them. But in my own case at least, it was 10 percent shrewd planning and 90 percent blind luck. Put LUCKY on my tombstone.

Q. Okay, but getting back to the space program. What's next?

A. I hope Mars. It was my favorite planet as a kid and still is. As celestial bodies go, the moon is not a particularly interesting place, but Mars is. It is the closest thing to a sister planet that we have found so far. I worry that at NASA's creeping pace, with the emphasis on returning to the moon, Mars may be receding into the distance. That's about all I have to say.

Q. I understand you have become a recluse.

A. I'm not sure that's the word. I think of the Brown Recluse, the deadliest of spiders, and I have a suntan, so perhaps. Anyway, it's true I've never enjoyed the spotlight, don't know why, maybe it ties in with the celebrity thing.

Q. So, how do you spend your time?

A. Running, biking, swimming, fishing, painting, cooking, reading, worrying about the stock market, searching for a really good bottle of cabernet under ten dollars. Moderately busy.

Q. No TV?

A. A few nature programs, and the Washington Redskins, that's about it.

Q. Do you feel you've gotten enough recognition for your accomplishments?

A. Lordy, yes, Oodles and oodles.

Q. Oodles?? But don't you have any keen insights?

A. Oh yeah, a whole bunch, but I'm saving them for the 50th.

Michael Collins (BGEN, USAF, Ret.)
NASA Astronaut (former)

PERSONAL DATA: Born in Rome, Italy, on October 31, 1930. Married to the former Patricia M. Finnegan of Boston, Massachusetts. Three grown children (two daughters, one son). His hobbies include fishing and handball.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Saint Albans School in Washington, D.C.; received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1952.

ORGANIZATIONS: Member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

SPECIAL HONORS: Presented the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 1969 and recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings, and the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross.

PUBLICATIONS: Carrying the Fire, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974.

EXPERIENCE: Collins chose an Air Force career following graduation from West Point. He served as an experimental flight test officer at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, and, in that capacity, tested performance and stability and control characteristics of Air Force aircraft--primarily jet fighters.

He has logged approximately 5,000 hours flying time.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Collins was one of the third group of astronauts named by NASA in October 1963. He served as backup pilot for the Gemini VII mission.

As pilot on the 3-day Gemini X mission, launched July 18, 1966, Collins shared with command pilot John Young in the accomplishments of that record-setting flight. These accomplishments included a successful rendezvous and docking with a separately launched Agena target vehicle and, using the power of the Agena, maneuvering the Gemini spacecraft into another orbit for a rendezvous with a second, passive Agena. Collins' skillful performance in completing two periods of extravehicular activity included the recovery of a micrometeorite detection experiment from the passive Agena. Gemini X attained an apogee of approximately 475 statute miles and traveled a distance of 1,275,091 statute miles--after which splashdown occurred in the West Atlantic, 529 miles east of Cape Kennedy. The spacecraft landed 2.6 miles from the USS GUADALCANAL and became the second spacecraft in the Gemini program to land within eye and camera range of the prime recovery ship.

Collins served as command module pilot on Apollo 11, July 16-24, 1969--the first lunar landing mission. He remained aboard the command module , Columbia, on station in lunar orbit while Neil Armstrong, spacecraft commander, and Edwin Aldrin, lunar module pilot, descended to the lunar surface in their lunar module Eagle. Collins performed the final re-docking maneuvers following a successful lunar orbit rendezvous which was initiated by Armstrong and Aldrin from within the Eagle after their ascent from the lunar surface. Among the accomplishments of the Apollo 11 mission were collection of lunar surface samples for return to earth, deployment of lunar surface experiments, and an extensive evaluation of the life supporting extravehicular mobility unit worn by astronauts.

NASA is offering undergraduate students an opportunity to test experiments in microgravity aboard NASA's "Weightless Wonder" aircraft.

The opportunity is part of NASA's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, which gives aspiring explorers a chance to propose, design and fabricate a reduced gravity experiment. Selected teams will get to test and evaluate their experiment aboard NASA's reduced gravity airplane. The aircraft flies about 30 roller-coaster-like climbs and dips during experiment flights to produce periods of weightlessness and hyper-gravity ranging from 0 g to 2 g.

"Today's students will be the ones going to the moon and beyond to live, explore and work," said Douglas Goforth, the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston."This project gives them a head start in preparing for those future ventures by allowing them to conduct hands-on research and engineering today in a truly reduced gravity laboratory."

Proposals are due to NASA by Oct. 28. Interested students also should submit a letter of intent by Sept. 16. This step is optional but serves as an introductory notice that a team plans to submit a proposal for the upcoming competition.

NASA will announce selected teams Dec. 9. They will fly in the summer of 2010. Once selected, teams also may invite a full-time, accredited journalist to fly with them and document the team's experiment and experiences. All applicants must be full-time students, U.S. citizens and at least 18 years old.

With this program, NASA continues its tradition of investing in the nation's education programs. It is directly tied the agency's education goal of strengthening NASA and the nation's future workforce. Through this and other college and university programs, NASA will identify and develop the critical skills and capabilities needed to carry out its space exploration mission.

Liftoff of space shuttle Endeavour on the STS-127 mission has been rescheduled for Wednesday, July 15 at 6:03 p.m. EDT.

Monday's attempt was canceled due to poor weather conditions within the launch area at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Anvil clouds and storm cells containing lightning flared up toward the end of the countdown, violating stringent launch safety rules.

"Technically, we've been really clean the last two days with our vehicle," Launch Integration Manager Mike Moses said of Endeavour's launch attempts on Sunday and Monday. "It's just been the weather scenario that got us."

The outlook is better on Wednesday, with only a 40 percent chance of weather conditions prohibiting liftoff.

Visitor Center
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Join us at the Visitor Center on Saturday, July 18, for a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

Look back at the historic mission that left mankind's first footprints on the moon, and hear about the spacecraft that will take us back -- this time to stay. Tour Glenn's Abe Silverstein Supersonic Wind Tunnel and Zero Gravity Research Facility. Also known as the 10x10, the wind tunnel can create winds that travel faster than three times the speed of sound. The Zero Gravity Research Facility is a drop tower scientists use to create the weightlessness of space. Both facilities were used during the development of the Apollo spacecraft. This free family event includes kid's activities, such as digital photographs from the "Picture Yourself in Space" photo booth, take-home crafts and viewing of moon rock microscope slides.

Apollo-era artifacts on display in the Visitor Center galleries include a moon rock, an Apollo Command Module and a spacesuit used during the Skylab program. A one-third scale model of the Lunar Lander will also be on display for the first time in several years. Make your reservations today by calling (216) 433-9653.


Space is limited so arrive early to get your seats!

11 a.m. - Honoring the Past
Rocket Scientist Bryan Palaszewski discusses the Apollo 11 mission.

1 p.m. - Creating the Future
Randy Humphries, acting director of space flight systems, explains Constellation, NASA's program to return astronauts to the moon.


10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. - Tours of the wind tunnel and drop tower begin every 30 minutes. Tickets are available 30 minutes before each tour begins.

Please note the following important guidelines:

  • Advanced registration guarantees admission to the Visitor Center. Call (216) 433-9653.
  • All adult visitors are required to present government-issued photo identification.
  • Access to the NASA Glenn Visitor Center is limited to U.S. citizens.
  • The Visitor Center is wheelchair accessible. While the research facilities are wheelchair accessible, portions of tours include stairs.

Space shuttle Endeavour's STS-127 launch now is scheduled for July 13 at 6:51 p.m. EDT.

Officials at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida called off Sunday's planned liftoff due to inclement weather. Cumulus clouds and lightning violated rules for launching Endeavour because of weather near the Shuttle Landing Facility. The runway would be needed in the unlikely event that Endeavour would have to make an emergency landing back at Kennedy.

The STS-127 astronauts left Launch Pad 39A at about 8:35 p.m. EDT to return to crew quarters at Kennedy's Operations & Checkout Building for the night.

Monday's live countdown coverage will begin at 1:30 p.m on NASA Television and NASA's Launch Blog.

NASA has announced a competitive funding opportunity for informal education that could result in the award of grants or cooperative agreements to several of the nation's science centers, museums and planetariums. Approximately $6 million is available for new awards.

Proposals for the Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums are expected to use NASA resources to enhance informal education programs related to space exploration, aeronautics, space science, Earth science or microgravity. Full proposals are due Sept. 10.

NASA is uniquely positioned to contribute to informal education through its remarkable facilities, missions, data, images, and employees, including internationally-known engineers and scientists. Proposals for the program are expected to encourage life-long engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and focus on NASA's contributions to these disciplines. NASA already provides interested science centers, museums and planetariums access to informal education resources -- NASA images, visualizations, video, and information -- free of charge through NASA's Museum Alliance.

NASA will accept proposals from institutions of informal education that are science museums or planetariums in the United States or its territories. NASA centers, federal agencies, federally funded research and development centers, education-related companies, and other institutions and individuals may apply through partnership with a qualifying lead organization.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which leads the Museum Alliance, will conduct an external peer review process for the proposals. Authority for final award selections rests with the Office of Education at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Informal education is recognized as a successful tool for learners of all ages. Recently, the National Academy of Sciences published a study, "Learning Science in Informal Settings: People, Places, Pursuits," which found evidence that informal education programs involving exhibits, new media and hands-on experiences -- such as public participation in research -- increase interest in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and related careers for both children and adults.

Congress initiated the Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums in 2008 to enhance programs related to space exploration, aeronautics, space science, Earth science or microgravity. On June 3, NASA selected 13 organizations for the first group of projects.

For detailed information about the funding opportunity, click on "Open Solicitations" and look for Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums (CP4SMP) or solicitation number NNH09ZNE005N at:

This funding opportunity supports NASA's education goal to engage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics related to NASA missions and careers. For more information about NASA's education programs, visit:

For more information about the Museum Alliance and to join, visit:

We've all seen video of astronauts drifting and gliding gracefully around inside the International Space Station like fish in a fishbowl. It looks so relaxing. But as enjoyable as it appears to be, there's a down side to all that freefalling1.

Below Image: Astronaut Clay Anderson floats through the Unity node of the International Space Station.

"When astronauts land back on Earth after a long time in space, not only is their vestibular system mixed up and their kinesthetic sense thrown off," says Dr. Benjamin Levine of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, "but also their bones and muscles have deteriorated."

In space, even more than on Earth, it's "use it or lose it." The human body and all its parts need to work to remain vital. Bones must bear weight to keep their density and strength. Muscles need to push or pull against resistance to stay in shape; without work they waste away.

Is this also true of our most critical muscle – the human heart?

NASA is launching a new study called Integrated Cardiovascular2 to find out.

"We know that astronauts lose heart mass and exercise capacity when they're in microgravity for a long time," says Johnson Space Center's Julie Robinson, ISS program scientist. "We suspect that this could lead to impaired heart function, which could cause low blood pressure and even fainting when astronauts get back to gravity. But we need detailed information. In the future, astronauts will spend longer and longer in space, and even live and work on the moon and Mars. We want to know exactly how space-living will affect their hearts and heart function."

Dr. Levine is a principal investigator for the experiment along with Dr. Michael Bungo of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. They've enlisted the support of several other cardiovascular experts3 to conduct this research – the most comprehensive and advanced study of its kind to date.

"We're investigating how, how much, and how fast deterioration occurs in the heart during long duration space travel," says Levine.

Below Image: A computer-generated diagram of the Integrated Cardiovascular investigation onboard the ISS. Image courtesy of the Johnson Space Center, Human Research Program.

The space station crew, which has recently increased to six members, will help Levine and his team find answers by serving as subjects for Integrated Cardiovascular. The experiment will last for more than 2 years -- long enough to gather plenty of data on 12 different astronauts before, during, and after their stints in space.

"We're incorporating the most sophisticated tools4 ever used in such an experiment to look at the heart and its chambers and valves," says Levine. "This is the first investigation ever to use advanced echo-Doppler techniques to follow the structure and function of the heart during long periods in space and confirm findings by using advanced magnetic resonance imaging tools on the ground. For example, we're using an echocardiogram to determine how heart muscle atrophy influences the way the heart relaxes and fills, and an MRI to quantify this atrophy precisely, and determine whether it scars or gets infiltrated by fat."

An echocardiogram uses high-pitched sound waves that are picked up as they reflect off different portions of the heart. These echoes are turned into a moving picture, allowing researchers to watch a movie of the heart in action as blood flows through the heart. By looking at such movies before, during, and after spaceflight, the team can discern mechanical changes that happen in a person's heart after he or she is away from Earth's gravity for a long time. With the MRI, they can look at detailed computer images of the heart tissues to pinpoint exactly what kind of atrophy occurs.

Below Image: Astronaut Cady Coleman performs a remotely guided echocardiogram on a test subject utilizing Integrated Cardiovascular protocols, while Betty Chen, a training coordinator, observes.

"We're answering questions like 'is the deterioration simply in size, like Arnold Schwarzenegger's muscle loss if he stopped lifting weights, or does the heart scar, do cells die?'"

The team is also studying the effects of heart atrophy on crewmembers' ability to exercise and on the likelihood of their developing unusual heart rhythms both on the space station and after returning to Earth. In addition, the researchers will look closely at other cardiovascular issues, such as how blood pressure responds to the reintroduction of gravity at the levels experienced on Earth, the moon, and Mars.

"All of the results will help us fine-tune exercise protocols for the space station crew," says Robinson. "We'll also learn what to look at in astronauts' hearts before we send them to, say, Mars. We'll identify a set of risk factors that can help flight surgeons determine the best candidates for long space missions."

Levine adds, "We may, however, show that the heart does just fine in space, and that the strategies now used to keep astronauts in shape are adequate to keep the heart functioning normally and in good health. If so, flight surgeons can turn their attention instead to other potentially critical problems such as bone loss or radiation exposure."

Importantly, this study's results will help researchers in developing preventive and rehabilitative regimens for people on Earth.

"The information we get from these experiments will be relevant for patients after long-term bedrest or other physical activity restrictions, as well as for patients with congestive heart failure, heart disease, and even normal aging."

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency invite journalists and the public on Tuesday, July 14, to observe the international, multidisciplinary Pavilion Lake Research Project team as it studies the origin of rare freshwater carbonate rock structures that thrive in Pavilion Lake, British Columbia, Canada.

Reporters will have an opportunity to interview Pavilion Lake Research Project scientists from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT on July 14 as they study and explore the unique underwater formations and conduct research about life in extreme environments. Journalists interested in attending must register before July 13 at:

A park permit is required for filming at Pavilion Lake. Reporters should e-mail Rob Enns at to obtain a permit.

Scientists believe the carbonate rock structures, known as microbialites, first were formed by microorganisms more than 2.5 billion years ago. Today, environments rich in microbialites are seen as potential analogs for the biological, geological and chemical processes of early Earth. Similar processes possibly occurred on other planets, such as Mars.

Using a combination of underwater vehicles and scuba divers, the research project blends science and technology to advance knowledge of astrobiology and examine how humans could explore the moon and Mars.

Pavilion Lake Research Project science team members, including a pair of NASA astronauts, will be available for interviews at the event.

For more information about NASA's plans lunar surface analogs, visit:

The Pavilion Lake Research Project science team is providing mission updates on Twitter at:

For more information about this year's Pavilion Lake Research Project and a list of participants and partner organizations, visit:

NASA's next generation of spacecraft will have the safest-ever astronaut escape system, a modern-day version of the reliable Apollo system. Like Apollo, the Orion launch abort system will swiftly propel the crew capsule away from the nose of the Ares I rocket and out of harm's way in case of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent to orbit.

Also -- as was the practice at times during development of key Apollo elements -- while NASA engineers are working on the Orion launch abort system, another NASA team is investigating an alternate launch abort concept.

The alternate system, called Max Launch Abort System, or MLAS, was successfully tested in a simulated pad abort test at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., July 8.

MLAS was named after Maxime (Max) Faget, a Mercury-era pioneer. Faget was the designer of the Project Mercury capsule and holder of the patent for the "Aerial Capsule Emergency Separation Device," which is commonly known as the escape tower.

The unpiloted test was part of an assessment by the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) of a potential alternate launch abort system concept which could be used for future piloted spacecraft. The prototype, used in the test to evaluate means to safely propel a spacecraft and its crew from an errant rocket, represents a departure from the tower launch abort system used during Apollo launches and retained for the Constellation Program. A primary objective of the MLAS test is to provide the NASA workforce with additional direct implementation experience in flight testing a spacecraft concept useful in the Agency's future efforts to design, optimize and test spacecraft.

The bullet-shaped MLAS concept will not replace the Orion abort system.

NASA's Constellation Program has three years toward designing the Orion crew exploration vehicle and the Ares launch vehicles that will return humans to the moon to live and work. The spacecraft designs are based on the technical principles established during the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs - yet incorporates the latest technology to expand the spacecraft's operational flexibility. The Orion launch abort system offers a proven method of pulling the crew out of danger in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during the climb to Earth orbit.

MLAS is of potential interest because it is theorized to have aerodynamic performance benefits, weight savings and be relatively simple in some spacecraft applications. Much of the potential gains would be accomplished by eliminating the launch abort tower, which also means eliminating the attitude control motors.

The MLAS demonstration vehicle consists of a full-scale composite fairing, a full-scale crew module simulator and four solid rocket abort motors mounted in the boost skirt with motor mass simulators in the forward fairing. Test items of interest began at the seven second mark with burnout of the solid motors. The test is primarily a demonstration of unpowered flight along a stable trajectory, MLAS vehicle reorientation and stabilization, followed by crew module simulator separation from the MLAS fairing, stabilization and the parachute recovery of the crew module simulator.

Data from the MLAS pad abort test has the potential to help the Orion Project in several ways. MLAS is the first demonstration of a passively-stabilized launch abort system on a vehicle in this size and weight class. It is the first attempt to acquire full-scale aero-acoustic data -- the measurement of potentially harmful noise levels due to the capsule moving through the air at high speeds -- from a faired capsule in flight. It also is the first to demonstrate full scale fairing and crew module separation and collect associated aerodynamic and orientation data. In addition, data from the parachute element will help validate simulation tools and techniques for Orion's parachute system development.

The NESC, located at NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., is an independently funded NASA program that draws on technical experts from across all NASA centers to provide objective engineering and safety assessments of critical, high risk projects.

NESC partners in the MLAS effort include Northrop Grumman Corporation. The company developed and produced the MLAS composite fairing, fins, drag plates, and motor cage structure. Company personnel based in Wallops Island, Va., performed the structures and mechanism assembly as well as providing vehicle integration and flight test support. Northrop Grumman's subcontractor, Ensign Bickford Aerospace and Defense, Simsbury, Conn., provided pyrotechnic separation system mechanisms. Jacobs Technology, Tullahoma, Tenn., and partner Airborne Systems, Santa Ana, Calif., provided landing systems design and support.

Wallops contractors who supported the demonstration include Hawk Institute for Space Sciences, Computer Sciences Corporation, VT Griffin and Honeywell Technical Solutions, Inc. The NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract (NSROC) based at Wallops also provided support.

Each of the NASA Centers participated in the Agency-wide MLAS effort by providing engineers and technicians, analysts, designers, mission assurance specialists and/or use of their test facilities.

For images and video of the test firing, visit:

For more information about NASA's Constellation Program, visit:

Convective Weather

A prototype system could provide commercial airline pilots with key weather and turbulence forecasts when flying over remote regions of the ocean where little real- or near-real-time data is available now. The NASA-funded system, being developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), combines computer models and data from five operating NASA satellites with an artificial intelligence system to predict turbulence. The system is on track for testing next year, with the goal of ultimately giving pilots a regularly updated picture of potential storms over the ocean so that they can fly away from or around danger. This photograph, acquired in February 1984 by an astronaut aboard the space shuttle, shows a series of mature thunderstorms in southern Brazil.

Deep Convective Clouds

A 2009 astronaut photo from the International Space Station (ISS) of deep convective clouds, seen from above, over the Atlantic Ocean. Free standing and embedded towering convective clouds are particularly dangerous to aircraft flying over the open ocean.

Turbulence Waves and Deep Convection

NASA and NCAR are working to develop a near-real-time forecast that identifies turbulence from breaking gravity waves that are generated by rapidly rising deep convection. This image from NASA's MODIS instrument (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) shows gravity waves over the ocean. Atmospheric gravity waves (also called atmospheric internal waves) occur either when a uniform layer of air blows over a large obstacle, like a mountain or island or when rapidly rising, deep convection perturbs a stable layer from below, as in the oceanic case we have illustrated. When the air hits the obstacle or is disturbed by rising convection from below, the horizontal ribbons of uniform air are disturbed, which forms a wave pattern. This wave pattern in the air impresses itself onto sea waves when it touches the surface of the ocean. In addition to the surface mimicking the wave pattern, wave clouds can form as well, creating potential turbulence for aircraft.

Slicing through the Atmosphere

NASA uses advanced satellite instruments to study the atmosphere. One instrument, CALIPSO, uses a lidar system to make a 3-D view of clouds. CALIPSO data will be used as a source of precise validation and tuning for these NASA/NCAR applications under development. Click on the image or below to view an animation showing a series of CALIPSO curtain images from around the globe.

Arctic sea ice thinned dramatically between the winters of 2004 and 2008, with thin seasonal ice replacing thick older ice as the dominant type for the first time on record. The new results, based on data from a NASA Earth-orbiting spacecraft, provide further evidence for the rapid, ongoing transformation of the Arctic's ice cover.

Scientists from NASA and the University of Washington in Seattle conducted the most comprehensive survey to date using observations from NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, known as ICESat, to make the first basin-wide estimate of the thickness and volume of the Arctic Ocean's ice cover. Ron Kwok of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., led the research team, which published its findings July 7 in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans.

Figure 1:ICESat measures the distances to the top of the snow cover and to the sea surface. The difference between the two quantities gives the total “freeboard” measurement; that is, the amount of ice above the water line relative to the local sea level. Credit: Courtesy of Norbert Untersteiner, University of Washington. Larger Image

Figure 2: This schematic shows the geometric relationship between freeboard (the amount of ice above the water line), snow depth, and ice thickness. Buoyancy causes a fraction (about 10 percent) of sea ice to stick out above the sea surface. By knowing the density of the ice and applying “Archimedes’ Principle” -- an object immersed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object -- the total thickness of the ice can be calculated. Credit: Ron Kwok, NASA/JPL. Larger Image

Figure 3: ICESat measurements of the distribution of winter sea ice thickness over the Arctic Ocean between 2004 and 2008, along with the corresponding trends in overall, multi-year and first-year winter ice thickness. Credit: Ron Kwok, NASA/JPL. Larger Image

Figure 4: ICESat measurements of winter multi-year ice cover in the Arctic Ocean between 2004 and 2008, along with the corresponding downward trend in overall winter sea ice volume, and switch in dominant ice type from multi-year ice to first-year ice. Credit: Ron Kwok, NASA/JPL. Larger Image