wish you happy prosperous new year



wish you happy prosperous new year





Saturn's moons

Saturn's moons give Tchaikovsky's classic ballet, "The Nutcracker," a graceful new spin in this video compiled from some 61 images taken by the Cassini spacecraft.

Like sugar plum fairies in "The Nutcracker," the moons of Saturn performed a celestial ballet before the eyes of NASA's Cassini spacecraft. New movies frame the moons' silent dance against the majestic sweep of the planet's rings and show as many as four moons gliding around one another.

Mayon Volcano, The Phillipines


Tens of thousands of people living within the danger zone of Mayon Volcano in the Philippines were forced to evacuate to emergency shelters in mid-December 2009 as small earthquakes, incandescent lava at the summit and minor ash falls suggested a major eruption was on the way. On the evening of Dec. 14, the local volcano observatory raised the alert level to Level 3, which means "magma is close to the crater and hazardous explosive eruption is imminent."

This natural-color image of Mayon was captured on Dec. 15, 2009, by the Advanced Land Imager on NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. A small plume of ash and steam is blowing west from the summit. Dark-colored lava or debris flows from previous eruptions streak the flanks of the mountain. A ravine on the southeast slope is occupied by a particularly prominent lava or debris flow.

The Phillipine Star said on Dec. 22 that "ashfall blanketed at least three towns in Albay, raising new health fears for thousands already bracing for an eruption that could come at any time ... Health officials warned the tiny particles could cause respiratory problems or skin diseases, and could affect the thousands of people crammed into evacuation centers.

Also on Dec. 22, CNN reported that "tens of thousands of people have already fled their homes. More than 9,000 families -- a total of 44,394 people -- are being housed in evacuation camps after authorities raised the alert status of the country's most active volcano" as "fountains of red-hot lava shot up from the intensifying Mayon volcano."

spacewalks

NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi docked with their new home at 5:48 p.m. EST Tuesday. The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft at 4:52 p.m. Sunday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

From inside the station, Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev monitored the approach of the Russian spacecraft as it docked to the Earth-facing port of the Zarya module.

After completion of leak checks, the hatches between the two vehicles were opened at 7:30 p.m. Williams and Suraev, who arrived at the station Oct. 2 aboard the Soyuz TMA-16, welcomed the new Expedition 22 flight engineers aboard their orbital home for the next five months.

Creamer, 50, is making his first flight into space. Selected as an astronaut in 1998, Creamer was a support astronaut for the Expedition 3 crew and worked with hardware integration and robotics.

Kotov, 44, is making his second spaceflight, having previously served six months aboard the station as an Expedition 15 flight engineer in 2007. Kotov will be a flight engineer for Expedition 22 and assume the duties of Expedition 23 commander when Williams and Suraev depart in March 2010.

Noguchi is making his second spaceflight. He flew on the STS-114 return-to-flight mission of Discovery in 2005 and conducted three spacewalks totaling more than 20 hours.

Expedition 22 Keeps Busy While Awaiting Additional Crew Members

High above the Earth, the International Space Station’s Expedition 22 crew kept busy with science and maintenance Monday as they awaited Tuesday’s scheduled arrival of additional crew members.

Commander Jeff Williams performed an inspection of an important piece of the crew’s exercise equipment, the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED). Used as part of a daily workout routine, ARED helps the station inhabitants preserve muscle strength during their extended time in microgravity.

Williams also recorded some video of the Advanced Plant EXperiments on Orbit - Cambium (APEX-Cambium) experiment. APEX-Cambium uses willow plants flown on the International Space Station to better understand the fundamental processes by which plants produce cellulose and lignin, the two main structural materials found in plant matter. Understanding the role of gravity in wood formation is expected to enable wiser management of forests for carbon sequestration as well as better utilization of trees for wood products. Later, he harvested some of the plant specimens that will be chemically preserved for post-flight analysis.

Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev worked on a replacement of the condensate separation and pumping unit, part of the water reclamation system in the Russian segment of the orbital outpost. He then spent the majority of his afternoon performing maintenance on the station’s smoke detectors.

Additionally, Suraev completed his periodic fitness evaluation using one of the station’s treadmills.

NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, all space station flight engineers, launched in their Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:52 p.m. EST Sunday to begin a two-day journey to the International Space Station.

Space shuttle Endeavour

Space shuttle Endeavour was lowered onto the mobile launcher platform and attached to the massive external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters. Early in January the entire stack will be rolled out to Launch Pad 39A for the STS-130 mission to the International Space Station.

In addition, the Endeavour astronauts will fly to Kennedy in January to participate in the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT, to familiarize themselves with the hardware and payload they'll be working with while on the mission.

Endeavour and its crew will deliver a third connecting module, the Tranquility node, to the station and a seven-windowed cupola to be used as a control room for robotics. The mission will feature three spacewalks.

Orion Launch Abort System

NASA, Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and Lockheed Martin performed a ground test of a full-scale attitude control motor for the launch abort system of the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The test was conducted at ATK's facility in Elkton, Md.

The motor operates to keep the crew module on a controlled flight path in the event it needs to jettison and steer away from the Ares I launch vehicle in an emergency, and then it reorients the module for parachute deployment and landing. Together, the eight-proportional valves can exert up to 7,000 pounds of steering force to the vehicle in any direction upon command from the crew module.

TMA-17 spacecraft

The Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Friday, Dec. 18, 2009. The launch of the Soyuz spacecraft with Expedition 22 NASA Flight Engineer Timothy J. Creamer of the U.S., Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov of Russia and Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi of Japan, is scheduled for Monday, Dec., 21, 2009 at 3:52a.m. Kazakhstan time.

International Space Station

Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev were busy aboard the International Space Station Thursday with a variety of maintenance activities and science experiments as they await the arrival of the remainder of the Expedition 22 crew.

Williams worked in the Kibo laboratory troubleshooting the System Laptop Terminal 2. He also performed a routine scrub of the coolant loops on the spacesuits inside the Quest airlock.

Williams also collected water and surface samples from around the station for analysis as part of the SWAB (Surface Water and Air Biocharacterization) experiment. The primary goal of this experiment is to use advanced technologies to better understand the types of organisms that the crew could encounter, identify their sources and assess the potential risks.

Space shuttle

NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians are completing the shuttle interface and hydraulic leak tests in the Vehicle Assembly Building today.

Space shuttle Endeavour and its solid rocket boosters will be powered down and prepared for their move, or rollout, to Launch Pad 39A scheduled for early January 2010.

The six STS-130 mission astronauts will carry out a variety of administrative duties this morning at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Commander George Zamka and Pilot Terry Virts also will practice shuttle landing techniques in T-38 jets and NASA's Shuttle Training Aircraft.

spacewalks

Space shuttle Endeavour was lowered onto the mobile launcher platform and attached to the massive external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters. Early in January the entire stack will be rolled out to Launch Pad 39A for the STS-130 mission to the International Space Station.

In addition, the Endeavour astronauts will fly to Kennedy in January to participate in the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT, to familiarize themselves with the hardware and payload they'll be working with while on the mission.

Endeavour and its crew will deliver a third connecting module, the Tranquility node, to the station and a seven-windowed cupola to be used as a control room for robotics. The mission will feature three spacewalks.

WISE Spacecraft Seeks Near Earth Objects

Stars Using Infrared Wavelengths

NASA committed $320M to the WISE project




Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) represent an extinction level threat to the entire human race. The odds are extremely low that an undetected asteroid or comet will strike the Earth and cause catastrophic damage, but given a long enough period of time anything can happen. It has been hypothesized that a large asteroid impacted the Earth 65 million years ago and led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

NEOs with diameters of less than 10m are typically destroyed in the upper atmosphere, but 50m NEOs can cause massive damage like the Tunguska Event in 1908. A 1km sized NEO is projected to strike the Earth every 500,000 years, while NEOs larger than 5km hit every ten million years.

The possibility of global devastation galvanized the U.S. Congress into action in 2005, mandating NASA to detect 90% of the NEOs ranging from 140m and above by 2020. There are an estimated 20,000 asteroids and comets that have orbits close to Earth, and only 6000 of them have been found so far.

The problem is that many asteroids and comets don't reflect a lot of light, making them hard to detect using conventional telescopes. NASA plans to address this with the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which will scan the entire sky in infrared light. Asteroids and comets emit infrared energy, and WISE is not only expected to detect thousands of them, but also provide data on their size, shape, and composition.

WISE is designed to detect the infrared glow of hundreds of millions of objects besides asteroids and comets. It will detect new galaxies, stars, and brown dwarfs, creating a vast catalog of millions of images. These will be used to find new targets for the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, two other observation missions which focus on specific infrared objects for study.

WISE Spacecraft Begins Mission

The United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite aboard lifts off from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The WISE spacecraft continues to send back data from orbit, confirming that the vents on the cooling tank, or cryostat, have opened, the spacecraft has stabilized its position, and its solar panels are providing power.

A Delta II rocket boosted WISE into space at 6:09 a.m. PST (9:09 a.m. EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. After a coast phase and second stage re-fire, the spacecraft separated from the vehicle and began sending signals back to Earth by way of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.

With its mission now under way, the 1,485-pound WISE spacecraft will circle Earth over the poles, scanning the entire sky one-and-a-half times in nine months. The mission will uncover hidden cosmic objects, including the coolest stars, dark asteroids and the most luminous galaxies.

NASA aeronautics research

The X-15 hypersonic research aircraft flew 199 missions and gathered valuable data to help future generations of high-speed aircraft.


NASA aeronautics research has kicked off an ongoing project to format archived and government-published books that can be read on digital devices.

"NASA's contributions to aviation affect everyone who has ever stepped foot inside an airplane. Now anyone can read about this historic aeronautical research with the convenience of a hand-held device," said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

STS-130 mission

Commander George Zamka will lead the STS-130 mission to the International Space Station aboard space shuttle Endeavour. Terry Virts will serve as the pilot. Mission specialists are Nicholas Patrick, Robert Behnken, Stephen Robinson and Kathryn Hire. Virts will be making his first trip to space.

Endeavour will deliver a third connecting module, the Tranquility node, to the station in addition to the seven-windowed Cupola module, which will be used as a control room for robotics. The mission will feature three spacewalks.

Liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is targeted for February 4, 2010 at 5:52 a.m. EST.

SOFIA Aloft

An F/A-18 mission support aircraft shadows NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, 747SP during a functional check flight Dec. 9, 2009. The flight included an evaluation of the aircraft's systems, including engines, flight controls and communication.

Chopper Drop Tests New Technology

NASA aeronautics researchers recently dropped a small helicopter from a height of 35 feet (10.7 m) to see whether an expandable honeycomb cushion called a deployable energy absorber could lessen the destructive force of a crash.

Researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., are testing the "deployable energy absorber" with the help of a helicopter donated by the Army, a crash test dummy contributed by the Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and a 240-foot (73.2 m) tall structure once used to teach astronauts how to land on the moon.

A sort of "honeycomb airbag" created to cushion future astronauts may end up in helicopters to help prevent injuries instead.

Endeavour to Move to VAB

STS-130 Mission Specialist Nicholas Patrick
Technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida successfully completed all pressure and leak tests on space shuttle Endeavour this past weekend.

Endeavour's side hatch will be closed for Saturday's move from its hangar in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Also, the shuttle's final tire pressurization for flight is set for today.

Meanwhile, the STS-130 astronauts will practice techniques for the mission's first spacewalk in the neutral buoyancy lab near NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Proctor Crater, Mars

Proctor Crater, Mars
This view from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is of the Proctor Crater. The relatively bright, small ridges are ripples. From their study on Earth, and close-up examination by the MER rovers (roving elsewhere on Mars), scientists surmise that the ripples are composed of fine sand (less than 200 microns in diameter) or fine sand coated with coarser sand and granules.

The larger, darker bedforms are dunes composed of sand, most likely of fine size. Ripples tend to move slower than dunes. Because of this, over time, ripples get covered with dust, possibly explaining the bright tone visible here. The dunes are dark probably because they are composed of basaltic sand (derived from dark, volcanic rock) that is blown by the wind enough that dust does not sufficiently accumulate to change their color.

This area in Proctor Crater is being monitored by HiRISE to document any changes over time.

Version 1.1 of the NASA App Is Now Available!

The first official NASA App invites you discover a wealth of NASA information right on your iPhone or iPod Touch. The NASA App collects, customizes and delivers an extensive selection of dynamically updated information, images and videos from various online NASA sources in a convenient mobile package. Come explore with us.

Features:
  • NASA Mission Information
  • Launch Information & Countdown clocks
  • Sighting Opportunities (Visible Passes for ISS, Shuttle and more)
  • Mission Orbit Trackers
  • NASA Image of the Day
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day
  • NASA Videos
  • NASA Twitter Feeds/Mission Updates
What's New In This Version:
  • Visible sighting opportunities listed for near-earth orbiters (shuttle, ISS, etc), by home location and through search for location
  • Richer Mission details and more content
  • Enhancements to Videos and Updates panels
  • High-resolution image option (configured in device settings)
  • Status updates on upcoming launches
  • Prevent sleep mode setting for tracking launches (configured in device settings)

This Month in Exploration - December

Concorde-The British French Supersonic Transport
Visit "This Month in Exploration" every month to find out how aviation and space exploration have changed throughout the years, improving life for humans on Earth and in space. While reflecting on the events that led to NASA's formation and its rich history of accomplishments, "This Month in Exploration" will reveal where the agency is leading us -- to the moon, Mars and beyond.

100 Years Ago

December 5, 1909: George Taylor made the first manned glider flight in Australia in an aircraft that he designed.

80 Years Ago

December 12, 1929: The Smithsonian Institution presented the Langley Medal to Adm. Richard E. Byrd for his flights over the North and South poles and a posthumous Langley Medal to Charles M. Manly for his pioneering development of radial piston airplane engines.

75 Years Ago

December, 1934: December 23: Sylvanus Albert Reed gave an endowment to the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences (IAS) to be used for an annual award. The Sylvanus Albert Reed Award is given to individuals whose experimental or theoretical investigations have a beneficial influence on the development of practical aeronautics.

60 Years Ago

December 2, 1949: The United States Air Force first fired the Aerobee research rocket (RTV-A-1a) at Holoman Air Force Base.

50 Years Ago

December 10, 1959: U.S. Ambassador Lodge presented a resolution to the Assembly of the United Nations (U.N.) recommending that an international conference on the peaceful uses of outer space be convened within the next year or two. Two days later, the United Nations created a permanent 24-nation committee for this purpose.

45 Years Ago

December 8, 1964: A United Airlines Caravelle made the U.S.A.’s first computer controlled landing at Dulles International Airport.

40 Years Ago

December 17, 1969: The U.S. Air Force closed its 22-year investigation into sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), otherwise known as Project Blue Book.

35 Years Ago

Dec 2, 1974: NASA’s Pioneer 11 spacecraft flew by Jupiter, passing 26,725 miles above Jupiter's cloud top. The spacecraft returned dramatic images of Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot and determined the mass of Jupiter's moon, Callisto.

30 Years Ago

December 16, 1979: The British Airways supersonic transport airplane, Concorde, flew from New York to London in just under three hours at an average speed of 1,172 mph.

25 Years Ago

December 27, 1984: Members of the ANSMET (Antarctic Search for Meteorites) Project discovered meteorite ALH 84001 in the Allen Hills region of Antarctica. ALH 84001 is the famous Mars meteorite that sparked excitement in 1996 about past life on Mars.

20 Years Ago

December 26, 1989: A U.S. patent was awarded for the invention and construction method for the Miniature Traveling Wave Tube (TWT). This technology allowed satellites to carry a greater number of messages in a particular radio frequency signal, and resulted in commercial television applications.

10 Years Ago

December 18, 1999: NASA launched Terra, a weather satellite project undertaken jointly with Japan and Canada, on an Atlas rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The 4,864 kg spacecraft was part of an international program and was intended to enable new research into the ways that Earth's lands, oceans, air, ice, and life function as a total system.

Present Day

December 9, 2009: NASA will launch the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) aboard the Delta II 7320 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base between 6:10 – 6:23 a.m. PST. This mission will survey the entire sky in the mid-infrared range, producing over a million images from which hundreds of millions of astronomical objects will be cataloged using far greater sensitivity than any previous mission or program.

Endeavour Testing Continues, Crew Practice on Mock-up Cupola

Thermal protection system on Endeavour
At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 are completing three days of leak testing on Endeavour's environmental control and life support system. They'll also finish structural leak tests today and begin orbiter positive pressure tests that will continue throughout the weekend.

The pressure tests confirm the crew compartment holds pressure before a shuttle is moved from its hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building.

The six STS-130 astronauts wrap up the week rehearsing Cupola relocation techniques today at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Dry Valleys, Antarctica

Dry Valleys, Antarctica
The McMurdo Dry Valleys are a row of valleys west of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, so named because of their extremely low humidity and lack of snow and ice cover. Photosynthetic bacteria have been found living in the relatively moist interior of rocks. Scientists consider the Dry Valleys to be the closest of any terrestrial environment to Mars.

With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of about 50 to 300 feet, ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on NASA's Terra satellite. The instrument was built by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and the data products.

The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER provides scientists with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring of dynamic conditions and temporal change.

Space Station 2010 Calendar Celebrates a Decade of Research

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of people continuously living aboard the International Space Station, NASA is providing a special 2010 calendar to teachers and the public.

The calendar contains unique images and highlights historic space exploration milestones and educational facts about the international laboratory. Each month has its own theme and offers a glimpse into topics such as a typical day in the life of a crew member, the staff that supports the station, and the massive dimensions of the orbiting research facility.

The calendar is available for free download at:

http://www.nasa.gov/station


"As we enter into our 10th year of human presence on the space station, we celebrate that fact and acknowledge the success of the station as one of the greatest technological, political and engineering accomplishments in human history," said Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini. "I hope people enjoy the calendar and are inspired to learn something new and exciting about NASA and the station throughout the year."

Nearly 100,000 copies of the calendar are being delivered to classrooms in all 50 states through NASA education programs and affiliated education networks.

Moon Work Design Contest Offers NASA Internships to Winners

Talented engineering students who have ideas on how future explorers might live on the moon could find themselves working at NASA as paid interns.

The 2010 NASA Moon Work engineering design challenge seeks to motivate college students by giving them first-hand experience with the process of developing new technologies. To participate in the contest, students will submit their original design for tools or instruments that can help astronauts live and work on the moon. Top-ranked students will be offered a chance to intern with a team from NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program.

The Exploration Technology Development Program develops new technologies that will enable NASA to conduct future human exploration missions while reducing mission risk and cost. The program is maturing near-term technologies to help enable the first flight of the Orion crew exploration vehicle and developing long-lead technologies needed for possible lunar exploration missions.

Winning Moon Work contestants also will have a chance to attend field tests conducted by the Desert Research and Technology Studies Program, managed by NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program conducts annual tests of new technologies in landscapes that are close analogs of the moon and other harsh space environments.

Students should submit a notice of intent to enter the contest by Dec. 15. Final entries for the Moon Work challenge are due May 15, 2010. All entries must be from students at U.S. colleges or universities. Although non-citizens may be part of a team, only U.S. citizens may win NASA internships or travel awards.

Endeavour Readied for VAB Trip

External tank being mated with the SRBs
In Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians are halfway complete with a three-day leak test on space shuttle Endeavour's environmental control and life support system, as well as structural leak tests.

The shuttle's move, also known as rollover, to the Vehicle Assembly Building is scheduled for Dec. 12. Once inside, the Endeavour will be hoisted and then lowered onto the waiting mobile launcher platform where the massive external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters stand ready.

Today, the six STS-130 astronauts are studying flight procedures at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Shuttle Endeavour, with its payload of the Tranquility node and the seven-windowed Cupola module, is targeted to launch Feb. 4, 2010.

Suzaku Spies Treasure Trove of Intergalactic Metal

Image of 100-million-degree Fahrenheit gas that fills the Perseus cluster
Every cook knows the ingredients for making bread: flour, water, yeast, and time. But what chemical elements are in the recipe of our universe?

Most of the ingredients are hydrogen and helium. These cosmic lightweights fill the first two spots on the famous periodic table of the elements.

Less abundant but more familiar to us are the heavier elements, meaning everything listed on the periodic table after hydrogen and helium. These building blocks, such as iron and other metals, can be found in many of the objects in our daily lives, from teddy bears to teapots.

Recently astronomers used the Suzaku orbiting X-ray observatory, operated jointly by NASA and the Japanese space agency, to discover the largest known reservoir of rare metals in the universe.

Suzaku detected the elements chromium and manganese while observing the central region of the Perseus galaxy cluster. The metallic atoms are part of the hot gas, or "intergalactic medium," that lies between galaxies.

"This is the first detection of chromium and manganese from a cluster," says Takayuki Tamura, an astrophysicist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency who led the Perseus study. "Previously, these metals were detected only from stars in the Milky Way or from other galaxies. This is the first detection in intergalactic space."

The cluster gas is extremely hot, so it emits X-ray energy. Suzaku's instruments split the X-ray energy into its component wavelengths, or spectrum. The spectrum is a chemical fingerprint of the types and amounts of different elements in the gas.

The portion of the cluster within Suzaku's field of view is some 1.4 million light-years across, or roughly one-fifth of the cluster's total width. It contains a staggering amount of metal atoms. The chromium is 30 million times the sun's mass, or 10 trillion times Earth's mass. The manganese reservoir weighs in at about 8 million solar masses.

Exploding stars, or supernovas, forge the heavy elements. The supernovas also create vast outflows, called superwinds. These galactic gusts transport heavy elements into the intergalactic void.

Harvesting the riches of the Perseus Cluster is not possible. But researchers will mine the Suzaku X-ray data for scientific insights.

"By measuring metal abundances, we can understand the chemical history of stars in galaxies, such as the numbers and types of stars that formed and exploded in the past," Tamura says.

The Suzaku study data show it took some 3 billion supernovas to produce the measured amounts of chromium and manganese. And over periods up to billions of years, superwinds carried the metals out of the cluster galaxies and deposited them in intergalactic space.

A complete history of the universe should include an understanding of how, when, and where the heavy elements formed -- the chemical elements essential to life itself. The Suzaku study contributes to a larger ongoing effort to take a chemical census of the cosmos. "It's a part of learning the entire history of chemical element formation in the universe," notes Koji Mukai, who heads the Suzaku Guest Observer program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

With more than 10,000 galaxy clusters known, astronomers have just barely begun their work. "The current Suzaku result cannot answer these big questions immediately," Tamura says, "but it is one of the first steps to understand the chemical history of the universe."

The study appeared in the November 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Hitch A Ride On The Glory Satellite

Artist's rendition of Glory in orbit
Want to hitch a ride on NASA's next climate monitoring satellite? Join the Glory mission, which will launch no earlier than Oct. 1, by surfing over to the Send Your Name Around the Earth web page. Names will be recorded on a microchip built into the satellite, and you will get a printable certificate from NASA acknowledging your participation. There are already 225,155 names on the chip, but there's plenty more room. (You cannot submit your name more than once.)

The website is located at: http://polls.nasa.gov/utilities/sendtospace/jsp/sendName.jsp.

Glory carries two scientific sensors dedicated to understanding the effects of aerosols and the sun's variability on Earth's climate. The Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor will collect information about tiny liquid and solid particles suspended in the atmosphere that absorb or reflect sunlight. The Total Irradiance Monitor will measure the intensity of incoming sunlight which can vary over time.

NASA Uses Twin Processes to Develop New Tank Dome Technology

Spherical tank dome combines friction stir welding and spun formation
NASA has partnered with Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, Colo., and MT Aerospace in Augsburg, Germany, to successfully manufacture the first full-scale friction stir welded and spun formed tank dome designed for use in large liquid propellant tanks.

The NASA and Lockheed Martin team traveled to Germany to witness the first successful aerospace application of two separate manufacturing processes: friction stir welding, a solid-state joining process, and spin forming, a metal working process used to form symmetric parts.

The twin processes were used by MT Aerospace to produce an 18-foot-diameter tank dome using high-strength 2195 aluminum-lithium. The diameter of this development dome matches the tank dimensions of the upper stage of the ARES I launch vehicle under development by NASA, as well as the central stage of the European Ariane V launcher.

"This new manufacturing technology allows us to use a thinner, high-strength alloy that will reduce the weight of future liquid propellant tanks by 25 percent, compared to current tank designs that use a lower-strength aluminum alloy that weighs more," said Louis Lollar, project lead for the Friction Stir Weld Spun Form Dome Project at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The concave net shape spin forming process, patented by MT Aerospace, drastically simplifies the manufacturing of large tank domes and reduces cost by eliminating manufacturing steps, such as machining and assembly welding, that are required when manufacturing traditional gore panel - a pie-shaped section of the tank dome --construction domes.

"The success of this project is proof positive that when innovation, partnership and expertise are brought together, we can deliver new capabilities at lower cost with greater reliability for NASA and the nation's space program," said Jeb Brewster, project manager of the Friction Stir Welded Spun Formed Dome project at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "This team has pushed the envelope by using existing commercial materials combined with cutting edge technology. The results provide the potential for a significant improvement over the current processes and materials being used today."

The spherical tank dome was manufactured from a flat plate "blank" made of the 2195 alloy. The blank was constructed by friction stir welding together two commercial off-the-shelf plates in order to produce a large starting blank, reducing the cost of raw materials. The welded plate blank was then spun formed to create the single-piece tank dome.

This is the first time this combination of twin manufacturing processes has been successfully applied to produce a full-scale 2195 aluminum-lithium dome.

"This achievement also demonstrates that international cooperation between the United States and Europe can achieve very promising and concrete results with mutual benefits for future space programs," said Judith Watson, program manager at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. "Lockheed Martin and MT Aerospace have set up a very efficient and effective development team."

Two additional, full-scale development tank domes are scheduled for manufacture and testing in coming months as part of the joint, two-year technology demonstration program.

NASA has invested in the Friction Stir Weld Spun Form Dome Project since 2006, which is managed by the Exploration Technology Development Program for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington.

Honoring Apollo 13's Fred Haise

Ambassador of Exploration Award ceremony
At a 1 p.m. ceremony on Dec 2, 2009, Administrator Charles Bolden presented NASA's Ambassador of Exploration Award to Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise, a Biloxi, Miss., native. The ceremony took place at Biloxi's Gorenflo Elementary School. Pictured from left to right are school principal Tina Thompson, Administrator Bolden, Fred Haise, Biloxi Public School District Superintendent Paul Tisdale and Stennis Space Center Director Gene Goldman.

Endeavour, Crew Prep for STS-130 On-going

Technicians in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are preparing space shuttle Endeavour for its move to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Dec. 12.

Throughout the next three days, they'll leak test Endeavour's environmental control and life support system. Techs also are testing the space shuttle main engine and aerosurface hydraulics, as well as testing and calibrating the Inertial Measurement Units, or IMUs, which provide navigational information for the shuttle while it's in orbit.

Meanwhile, Endeavour's STS-130 astronauts ‪are practicing an integrated launch simulation today at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Profile

STS-129
Surrounded by the blackness of space, this profile view of the space shuttle Atlantis was photographed by the Expedition 21 crew on the International Space Station soon after the shuttle and station began their post-undocking relative separation. Undocking of the two spacecraft occurred at 3:53 a.m. CST on Nov. 25, 2009. Atlantis and the STS-129 crew landed safely at Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 27.

Expedition 21 Crew Lands in Kazakhstan; Space Junk No Threat to Station

Expedition 21 crew members
As the International Space Station’s smaller, two-person, Expedition 22 crew enjoyed its first full day alone in orbit Tuesday, Mission Control monitored a small piece of space junk until tracking updates showed it would not come close enough to require precautions.

At 11:25 a.m. EST, Flight Director Dana Weigel decided not to awaken the crew based on the latest tracking data on the piece of a Russian Cosmos satellite, estimated to be less than four inches in diameter. Mission Control determined the probability of a collision was so low that there was no need to have the crew make a precautionary move into their Soyuz spacecraft, close hatches and be ready to depart the station.

The debris had been so small that tracking sensors initially had trouble providing reliable information about how close it might come to the station, but best estimates were that the closest approach would be about 1 kilometer away at 1:19 p.m.

Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Max Suraev were informed of the possible close pass before they went to bed at 2:30 a.m. following the departure of crewmates Frank De Winne, Roman Romanenko and Bob Thirsk who returned to Earth aboard their Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft northeast of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan at 2:15 a.m. (1:15 p.m. Kazakhstan time). Williams and Suraev were scheduled to enjoy the first of two full days off Tuesday.

The U.S. Space Command routinely tracks space debris in orbit around the Earth, and reports to NASA any possible “conjunctions” or close passes to the space station.

NASA has a set of long-standing guidelines that are used to assess whether the threat of such a close pass is sufficient to warrant evasive action or precautions to ensure the safety of the crew.

These guidelines essentially draw an imaginary box, known as the “pizza box" because of its flat, rectangular shape, around the space station. This box is about half a mile deep by 15 miles across by 15 miles tall (0.75 x 25 x 25 kilometers). When predictions indicate that the debris will pass close enough for concern and the quality of the tracking data is deemed sufficiently accurate, Mission Control centers in Houston and Moscow work together to develop a prudent course of action.

Sometimes these encounters are known well in advance and there is time to move the station slightly, known as a “debris avoidance maneuver” to keep the debris outside of the box. Other times, the tracking data isn’t precise enough to warrant such a maneuver or the close pass isn’t identified in time to make the maneuver. In those cases, the control centers may agree that the best course of action is to move the crew into the Soyuz spacecraft that are used to transport crew members to and from the station so that they could isolate those spaceships from the station by closing hatches, and then leave the station if the debris were to collide with the station and cause a loss of pressure in the life-supporting module. The Soyuz act as lifeboats for crew members in the event of an emergency.

Mission Control also has the option of taking additional precautions, such as closing hatches between some of the station’s modules, if the likelihood of a collision is great enough.

If the tracking data indicates any extra precautions are needed updates will be provided on the web and NASA TV as appropriate.

Meanwhile, De Winne, Romanenko and Thirsk were met by the Russian Search and Recovery Forces in all-terrain vehicles and were extracted quickly from the upright Soyuz. Russian helicopters normally used for recovery operations were grounded due to low clouds and freezing temperatures.

After being extracted from the Soyuz, the crew was then driven back to Arkalyk to spend the night. On Wednesday (Tuesday night, U.S. time), the crew will helicopter from Arkalyk to Kustanai, and then fly on the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center plane to Chkalovsky Airfield near their training base in Star City, Russia, outside Moscow for reunions with their families and dignitaries and the start of a rehabilitation period. Flight surgeons report that the crew is in excellent shape.

2010 International Space Station Calendar

NASA is offering a 2010 calendar that describes the work being done on the International Space Station and gives information about the crews that have lived there. The calendar contains photographs taken from the space station and highlights historic NASA milestones and fun facts about the international construction project of unprecedented complexity that began in 1998.

Another Stall of Right-Rear Wheel Ends Drive

Little Movement in Spirit's Sol 2099 Drive

Spirit's right-rear wheel stalled again on Sol 2099 (Nov. 28, 2009) during the first step of a two-step extrication maneuver. This stall is different in some characteristics from the stall on Sol 2092 (Nov. 21). The Sol 2099 stall occurred more quickly and the inferred rotor resistance was elevated at the end of the stall. Investigation of past stall events along with these characteristics suggest that this stall might not be result of the terrain, but might be internal to the right-rear wheel actuator. Rover project engineers are developing a series of diagnostics to explore the actuator health and to isolate potential terrain interactions. These diagnostics are not likely to be ready before Wednesday. Plans for future driving will depend on the results of the diagnostic tests.

Before the Sol 2099 drive ended, Spirit completed 1.4 meters of wheel spin and the rover's center moved 0.5 millimeters (0.02 inch) forward, 0.25 millimeters (0.01 inch) to the left and 0.5 millimeters (0.02 inch) downward. Since Spirit began extrication on Sol 2088, the rover has performed 9.5 meters (31 feet) of wheel spin and the rover's center, in total, has moved 16 millimeters (0.63 inch) forward, 10 millimeters (0.39 inch) to the left and 5 millimeters (0.20 inch) downward.

King of All He Surveys

American bald eagle
Sitting majestically atop a utility pole at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a bald eagle is king of all he surveys. Kennedy co-exists with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which provides a habitat for 330 species of birds including bald eagles. A variety of other wildlife--117 kinds of fish, 65 types of amphibians and reptiles, 31 different mammals, and 1,045 species of plants--also inhabit the refuge.

Springtime Heatwave in Southeastern Australia

Springtime Heatwave in Southeastern Australia

A spring heat wave scorched southeastern Australia in mid-November 2009, pushing the fire danger to the “catastrophic” category in parts of South Australia and New South Wales and to “extreme” in other surrounding areas. Many cities, including Melbourne and Adelaide experienced record-breaking temperatures that continued for many days.

This pair of images illustrates the impact of the heatwave on the land surface temperatures—which are different from the air temperatures reported in the daily weather report—across the continent. Based on observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, the maps show where temperatures from November 9–16 (left) and November 17–24 (right) were warmer or cooler than the average for those same eight-day periods between 2000–2008.

Around Adelaide in South Australia and Melbourne in Victoria, the land surface temperatures were up to 12 degrees Celsius (22 degrees Fahrenheit) above average in mid-November. For Adelaide, the event was the first springtime heatwave since records began in 1887, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The city had temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) for 8 consecutive days. (Five days at those temperatures constitutes a heatwave). Later in the month, some areas experienced heavy rain, which broke the heatwave in some areas, but not all.

According to the weather and climate agency, the heat wave resulted from a combination of factors: gradually rising temperatures across southern Australia, probably as a result of global warming; an El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean; and a high-pressure weather system that stalled out over the Tasman Sea to the southeast, causing hot, dry winds to blow south over continent.

STS-129 Astronauts Install SpaceCube on ISS

Goddard SpaceCube team
The Goddard SpaceCube team members include (left to right): Manuel Buenfil, Mike Lin, Tom Flatley, Ed Hicks (kneeling), Danny Espinosa, Robin Ripley (seated), Gary Crum, Alessandro Geist, Karin Blank (seated), and Jeff Hosler. Not pictured: Dave Petrick.

SpaceCube is a next-generation computer system developed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The potentially revolutionary computer system, which provides up to 25 times the processing power of a typical flight processor, will be testing special software techniques that would make the computer more immune to upsets that happen when radioactive particles affect the computer. The SpaceCube was demonstrated during the Hubble Servicing Mission earlier this year.

70th Anniversary Exhibits

NASA Ames exhibit at Red Rock Coffee in Mountain View
In celebration of NASA Ames' 70th anniversary, 12 businesses in downtown Mountain View are showcasing exhibits of the center's past. Shown here is a spacesuit replica at Red Rock Cafe.

Expedition 21 Crew Lands in Kazakhstan

Expedition 21
Expedition 21 Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko, European Space Agency Flight Engineer Frank De Winne and Canadian Space Agency Flight Engineer Robert Thirsk have returned to Earth, landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan in their Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft. Landing occurred at 2:15 a.m. EST, 1:15 p.m. Kazakhstan time.

All three crew members were reported to be in good condition. Due to icy conditions at the landing site, the landing support team recalled its helicopters to their bases in Kustanai and Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. Instead the team arrived in all-terrain vehicles from nearby Arkalyk to extract the Expedition 21 crew members from the Soyuz crew module. Unless weather conditions improve, the crew will make the 50-mile journey back to Arkalyk by land.

Romanenko, De Winne and Thirsk spent 188 days in space, 186 of those aboard the orbiting International Space Station. The three arrived at the station in May as part of Expedition 20, which marked the start of six-person crew operations aboard the station. With their arrival, all five of the international partner agencies – NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – were represented on orbit for the first time.

Romanenko, a cosmonaut with Roscosmos, served as a flight engineer for Expeditions 20 and 21. He was selected as a test-cosmonaut candidate of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center Cosmonaut Office in December 1997. The son of veteran Cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko, he qualified as a test cosmonaut in November 1999.

De Winne, an ESA astronaut, served as a flight engineer for Expeditions 20 and 21 and commander for Expedition 21. He spent nine days aboard the station in 2002 as a member of the Odissea mission arriving on a new spacecraft, the Soyuz TMA-1, then leaving on an older Soyuz TM-34.

Thirsk, a CSA astronaut, served as a flight engineer for Expeditions 20 and 21. In 1996, Thirsk flew as a payload specialist astronaut aboard space shuttle mission STS-78, the Life and Microgravity Spacelab mission.

The three are scheduled to fly back to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia outside Moscow early Tuesday for reunions with their families and for the start of their reorientation to a gravity environment after a half year off the planet.

Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev remain on the station, comprising the Expedition 22 crew as a two-man contingent for three weeks until the arrival Dec. 23 of Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, NASA’s T.J. Creamer, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, who will launch to the station Dec. 20 on the Soyuz TMA-17 craft.

Just before the crew went to bed, Mission Control notified Williams that it is tracking debris from a Russian Cosmos satellite. Little data is available on this object, but its time of closest approach will be 10:19 a.m. EST. Due to the late notification, a Debris Avoidance Maneuver is not possible.

The crew will be awakened at 10 a.m. EST if it needs to take shelter in the Soyuz. Williams and Suraev are slated to sleep most of the day Tuesday in what amounts to a full off-duty day. They will resume a normal work schedule on Wednesday

Endeavour, Crew Prepare for Next Mission

STS-130 crew at Kennedy for CEIT
Technicians in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are preparing space shuttle Endeavour for its move to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Dec. 12.

They're taking samples and filling the nitrogen gas system of the environmental control and life support system for the shuttle. Techs also are conducting tests of the space shuttle main engine and aerosurface hydraulics today. The team finished the brake, anti-skid and nose wheel steering checks yesterday.

Endeavour's STS-130 mission astronauts ‪are conducting a variety of systems training exercises today at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Orbiter Puts Itself Into Safe Standby

artist concept of Odyssey
Mars Odyssey Mission Status Report

NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter put itself into a safe standby mode on Saturday, Nov. 28, and the team operating the spacecraft has begun implementing careful steps designed to resume Odyssey's science and relay operations within about a week.

Engineers have diagnosed the cause of the Nov. 28 event as the spacecraft's proper response to a memory error with a known source. The likely cause is an upset in the orbiter's "memory error external bus," as was the case with a similar event in June 2008.

In safe mode over the weekend, Odyssey remained in communication with ground controllers and maintained healthy temperatures and power. To clear the memory error, the team commanded Odyssey today to perform a cold reboot of the orbiter's onboard computer. The spacecraft reported that the reboot had been completed successfully.

"This event is a type we have seen before, so we have a known and tested path to resuming normal operations," said Odyssey Project Manager Philip Varghese of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Odyssey has been orbiting Mars since 2001. In addition to its own major scientific discoveries and continuing studies of the planet, the Odyssey mission has played important roles in supporting the missions of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity and the Phoenix Mars Lander.

Until Odyssey is available again as a communications relay, Spirit and Opportunity will be operating with direct communications to and from Earth.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages Mars Odyssey for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft.

WISE Snug in Its Nose Cone

WISE in the fairing mate
NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer has been wrapped in the outer nose cone, or "fairing," that will protect it during its scheduled Dec. 9 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The fairing will split open like a clamshell about five minutes after launch. The spacecraft will circle Earth over the poles, scanning the entire sky one-and-a-half times in nine months. The mission will uncover hidden cosmic objects, including the coolest stars, dark asteroids and the most luminous galaxies.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The principal investigator, Edward Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Atlantis Astros Feted Today; Endeavour Crew Rehearse for STS-130

STS-129 astronauts after landing at KSC
After a flawless mission to resupply the International Space Station, the STS-129 crew members now are back at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. They will be honored with a homecoming ceremony at nearby Ellington Field today.

Meanwhile, preparations for space shuttle Endeavour and its crew are ramping up for the STS-130 mission targeted to launch Feb. 4, 2010.

Endeavour is scheduled to roll over from the orbiter processing facility to the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in late December. There, it will be lifted and attached to the waiting external tank and twin solid rocket boosters.

The STS-130 crew members, Commander George Zamka, Pilot Terry Virts Jr., Mission Specialists Nicholas Patrick, Robert Behnken, Stephen Robinson and Kathryn Hire, are rehearsing deorbit procedures today at Johnson.

Endeavour will deliver a third connecting module, the Tranquility node, to the station in addition to the seven-windowed Cupola module, which will be used as a control room for robotics.

Homecoming for Atlantis

STS-129
The drag chute unfurled as space shuttle Atlantis landed on Runway 33 at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida after 11 days in space, completing the 4.5-million mile STS-129 mission on orbit 171. Main gear touchdown was at 9:44:23 a.m. EDT. Nose gear touchdown was at 9:44:36 a.m., and wheels stop was at 9:45:05 a.m. On STS-129, the crew delivered 14 tons of cargo to the orbiting laboratory, including two ExPRESS Logistics Carriers containing spare parts to sustain station operations after the shuttles are retired next year.

Crew Transport Vehicle in Place


Following purge and cooling system connections, the crew transport vehicle, or CTV, moved into position alongside the orbiter access hatch on Atlantis' port side.

With the crew hatch opened, the astronauts left the orbiter to enter the CTV.

The CTV contains beds and comfortable seats so that the astronauts can receive a brief medical checkup before stepping onto the tarmac.

Going Through the Safety Checklist

Work to safely shut down Atlantis' systems continues. It's been a little more than 30 minutes since the shuttle and its crew touched down at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A landing convoy is gathering around the vehicle to work on "safing" procedures.

Following purge and cooling system connections, the crew transport vehicle, or CTV, will be moved into position alongside the orbiter access hatch on Atlantis' port side.

Atlantis Lands in Florida

Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven astronauts ended an 11-day journey with a 9:44 a.m. EST landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Atlantis flew 171 orbits around Earth and traveled 4,490,138 miles since its Nov. 16 launch.

The STS-129 mission included three spacewalks and the installation of two platforms to the International Space Station’s truss, or backbone. The platforms hold large spare parts to sustain station operations after the shuttles are retired. The shuttle crew delivered about 30,000 pounds of replacement parts for systems that provide power to the station, keep it from overheating, and maintain a proper orientation in space. The shuttle left the space station 86 percent complete, weighing 759,222 pounds.

Astronaut Nicole Stott returned to Earth after 91 days in space. She had spent 87 days aboard the space station and 80 days as an Expedition 20/21 flight engineer. She is the last astronaut who will be transported to or from the space station by the space shuttle.

Atlantis’ main gear touched down at 9:44:23 a.m., followed by the nose gear at 9:44:36 and wheel stop at 9:45:05 a.m.

STS-129 was the 129th space shuttle mission, the 31st for Atlantis and the 31st shuttle mission to the International Space Station. It was the fifth and final flight of 2009.

Atlantis Completes Deorbit Burn

At 8:37 a.m. EST, space shuttle Atlantis performed the deorbit burn, setting it on a course to return to Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The maneuver occurred while Atlantis was about 220 miles above Indonesia. Entry interface, the point at which Atlantis begins entering the Earth’s atmosphere, will occur at 9:12 a.m. The first roll reversal to slow the spacecraft will take place at 9:28 a.m. and Merritt Island radar tracking systems will acquire the shuttle at 9:31 a.m.

Atlantis will cross the Florida coast south of Bonita Springs and pass north of Lake Okeechobee, triggering dual sonic booms at about 9:40 a.m. as it slows to subsonic speeds. Commander Charlie Hobaugh will line up Atlantis with Kennedy’s southeast to northwest runway 33. Touchdown is expected at 9:44 a.m.

Atlantis Given "Go" for Deorbit Burn

Mission Control Capcom Chris Ferguson radioed a “go for deorbit burn” to space shuttle Atlantis Commander Charlie Hobaugh at 8:14 a.m. EST. The three minute, seven second maneuver scheduled for 8:37 a.m. will slow Atlantis by more than 200 miles per hour and lead to a landing at 9:44 a.m. at Kennedy Space Caenter, Fla.

Crew Given "Go" for Payload Bay Door Closing

At 5:52 a.m. EST, STS-129 entry Flight Director Bryan Lunney and his entry team of flight controllers gave space shuttle Atlantis Commander Charles Hobaugh a "go" to close the payload bay doors. Shortly, Atlantis will transition to the entry software program. The crew members will begin suiting up in their launch and entry suits at 7:14 a.m. and strap into their seats at 7:37 a.m. A "go-no go" call for the 8:37 a.m. deorbit burn is expected at 8:17 a.m.

Weather conditions at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility are observed "go" and forecast "go" for the predicted landing time of 9:44 a.m. EST. NASA Flight Crew Operations Director Brent Jett is flying weather reconnaissance flights at Kennedy and reports the conditions are as predicted. Capcom Chris Ferguson told Hobaugh, "Really good conditions down here."

Landing Day Begins

The seven-astronaut STS-129 crew was awakened at 1:28 a.m. EST with the song "Home Sweet Home" by Motley Crue. Landing is scheduled for 9:44 a.m. at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Atlantis Ready for Landing Friday

The STS-129 crew spent its final full day in space Thursday. The crew tested Atlantis’ flight control system, the flaps and rudders that will guide it through the atmosphere, and test fired the thruster jets that control its orientation in space and during early re-entry.

All crew members spent time stowing items in the shuttle’s cabin in preparation for the return to Earth. Landing is scheduled for 9:44 a.m. EST at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Fermi Telescope Peers Deep into Microquasar


NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has made the first unambiguous detection of high-energy gamma-rays from an enigmatic binary system known as Cygnus X-3. The system pairs a hot, massive star with a compact object -- either a neutron star or a black hole -- that blasts twin radio-emitting jets of matter into space at more than half the speed of light.

Astronomers call these systems microquasars. Their properties -- strong emission across a broad range of wavelengths, rapid brightness changes, and radio jets -- resemble miniature versions of distant galaxies (called quasars and blazars) whose emissions are thought to be powered by enormous black holes.

"Cygnus X-3 is a genuine microquasar and it's the first for which we can prove high-energy gamma-ray emission," said Stéphane Corbel at Paris Diderot University in France.

The system, first detected in 1966 as among the sky's strongest X-ray sources, was also one of the earliest claimed gamma-ray sources. Efforts to confirm those observations helped spur the development of improved gamma-ray detectors, a legacy culminating in the Large Area Telescope (LAT) aboard Fermi.

At the center of Cygnus X-3 lies a massive Wolf-Rayet star. With a surface temperature of 180,000 degrees F, or about 17 times hotter than the sun, the star is so hot that its mass bleeds into space in the form of a powerful outflow called a stellar wind. "In just 100,000 years, this fast, dense wind removes as much mass from the Wolf-Rayet star as our sun contains," said Robin Corbet at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Every 4.8 hours, a compact companion embedded in a disk of hot gas wheels around the star. "This object is most likely a black hole, but we can't yet rule out a neutron star," Corbet noted.

Fermi's LAT detects changes in Cygnus X-3's gamma-ray output related to the companion's 4.8-hour orbital motion. The brightest gamma-ray emission occurs when the disk is on the far side of its orbit. "This suggests that the gamma rays arise from interactions between rapidly moving electrons above and below the disk and the star's ultraviolet light," Corbel explained.

When ultraviolet photons strike particles moving at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light, the photons gain energy and become gamma rays. "The process works best when an energetic electron already heading toward Earth suffers a head-on collision with an ultraviolet photon," added Guillaume Dubus at the Laboratory for Astrophysics in Grenoble, France. "And this occurs most often when the disk is on the far side of its orbit."

Through processes not fully understood, some of the gas falling toward Cygnus X-3's compact object instead rushes outward in a pair of narrow, oppositely directed jets. Radio observations clock gas motion within these jets at more than half the speed of light.

Between Oct. 11 and Dec. 20, 2008, and again between June 8 and Aug. 2, 2009, Cygnus X-3 was unusually active. The team found that outbursts in the system's gamma-ray emission preceded flaring in the radio jet by roughly five days, strongly suggesting a relationship between the two.

The findings, published today in the electronic edition of Science, will provide new insight into how high-energy particles become accelerated and how they move through the jets.
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has made the first unambiguous detection of high-energy gamma-rays from an enigmatic binary system known as Cygnus X-3. The system pairs a hot, massive star with a compact object -- either a neutron star or a black hole -- that blasts twin radio-emitting jets of matter into space at more than half the speed of light.

Astronomers call these systems microquasars. Their properties -- strong emission across a broad range of wavelengths, rapid brightness changes, and radio jets -- resemble miniature versions of distant galaxies (called quasars and blazars) whose emissions are thought to be powered by enormous black holes.

"Cygnus X-3 is a genuine microquasar and it's the first for which we can prove high-energy gamma-ray emission," said Stéphane Corbel at Paris Diderot University in France.

The system, first detected in 1966 as among the sky's strongest X-ray sources, was also one of the earliest claimed gamma-ray sources. Efforts to confirm those observations helped spur the development of improved gamma-ray detectors, a legacy culminating in the Large Area Telescope (LAT) aboard Fermi.

At the center of Cygnus X-3 lies a massive Wolf-Rayet star. With a surface temperature of 180,000 degrees F, or about 17 times hotter than the sun, the star is so hot that its mass bleeds into space in the form of a powerful outflow called a stellar wind. "In just 100,000 years, this fast, dense wind removes as much mass from the Wolf-Rayet star as our sun contains," said Robin Corbet at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Every 4.8 hours, a compact companion embedded in a disk of hot gas wheels around the star. "This object is most likely a black hole, but we can't yet rule out a neutron star," Corbet noted.

Fermi's LAT detects changes in Cygnus X-3's gamma-ray output related to the companion's 4.8-hour orbital motion. The brightest gamma-ray emission occurs when the disk is on the far side of its orbit. "This suggests that the gamma rays arise from interactions between rapidly moving electrons above and below the disk and the star's ultraviolet light," Corbel explained.

When ultraviolet photons strike particles moving at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light, the photons gain energy and become gamma rays. "The process works best when an energetic electron already heading toward Earth suffers a head-on collision with an ultraviolet photon," added Guillaume Dubus at the Laboratory for Astrophysics in Grenoble, France. "And this occurs most often when the disk is on the far side of its orbit."

Through processes not fully understood, some of the gas falling toward Cygnus X-3's compact object instead rushes outward in a pair of narrow, oppositely directed jets. Radio observations clock gas motion within these jets at more than half the speed of light.

Between Oct. 11 and Dec. 20, 2008, and again between June 8 and Aug. 2, 2009, Cygnus X-3 was unusually active. The team found that outbursts in the system's gamma-ray emission preceded flaring in the radio jet by roughly five days, strongly suggesting a relationship between the two.

The findings, published today in the electronic edition of Science, will provide new insight into how high-energy particles become accelerated and how they move through the jets.

Crew Packing and Performing Landing Checks

The STS-129 Crew
The seven-member crew of Atlantis is packing the orbiter and preparing to return home, wrapping up the 31st shuttle flight to the International Space Station. Atlantis is scheduled to land at 9:44 a.m. EST Friday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Commander Charlie Hobaugh and Pilot Barry Wilmore, with help from Mission Specialist Randy Bresnik, will check out Atlantis' flight control surfaces, including the rudder and the wing flaps. Those surfaces will guide Atlantis’ unpowered flight through the atmosphere to a landing. The astronauts also will test fire reaction control system thrusters. The thrusters will control the shuttle’s orientation as it descends and begins its re-entry through the atmosphere.

A recumbent seat for Mission Specialist Nicole Stott will be setup on the shuttle's mid-deck. Stott is returning after 90 days in space, 80 as a station crewmember.

Tuesday at 10 a.m., European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne handed over command of the station to NASA astronaut Jeff Williams. De Winne and Expedition 21 Flight Engineers Roman Romanenko and Robert Thirsk are scheduled to leave the station for return to Earth in a Soyuz capsule on Nov. 30.

Crew Performs Flight Control System Checkout

The Atlantis crew has performed the Flight Control System checkout and the Reaction Control System hot-fire test. Landing is scheduled for Friday at 9:44 a.m. EDT at Kennedy Space Center.

STS-129 Crew Preparing to Return Home

Commander Charlie Hobaugh, Pilot Barry Wilmore and Mission Specialists Randy Bresnik, Mike Foreman, Leland Melvin, Robert Satcher Jr. and Nicole Stott were awakened at 1:28 a.m. EST with the song “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra. It was played for Stott.

The seven-member crew of Atlantis are packing the orbiter and preparing to return home, wrapping up the 31st shuttle flight to the International Space Station.

Flight Controllers Develop Workaround to Bypass Suspect Filter

A routine disposal overboard of waste water and urine collected aboard Atlantis was terminated early. It is not necessary to dump the now half-full collection tank before landing Friday. Flight controllers have a workaround available for the crew to bypass a suspected clogged filter and dump the liquid, if landing is delayed.

The STS-129 astronauts began their sleep shift at 5:28 p.m. EST and will awaken at 1:28 a.m. Thursday. Atlantis’ first landing opportunity is Friday at 9:44 a.m. at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Streamer-channels and Shadow

Saturn and its moon Prometheus
Saturn's moon Prometheus, orbiting near the streamer-channels it has created in the thin F ring, casts a shadow on the A ring in this image taken a little more than a week after the planet's August 2009 equinox.

Potato-shaped Prometheus (86 kilometers, or 53 miles across) periodically creates streamer-channels in the F ring, and the moon's handiwork can be seen on the left of the image.

The novel illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the sun's angle to the ringplane, significantly darkens the rings, and causes out-of-plane structures to look anomalously bright and cast shadows across the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn's equinox, which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. Before and after equinox, Cassini's cameras have spotted not only the predictable shadows of some of Saturn's moons, but also the shadows of newly revealed vertical structures in the rings themselves.

This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from about 8 degrees above the ringplane.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Aug. 21, 2009. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 2.2 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 13 kilometers (8 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission 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 mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

New Report Provides Update on Recent Climate Changes

View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew
A new global scientific synthesis report prepared by 26 of the world's top climate scientists, including JPL research scientist Eric Rignot and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center researcher Robert Bindschadler, concludes that several important aspects of climate change are occurring at the high end of, or even beyond the expectations of just a few years ago. The report, "The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science," documents key findings in climate change science since December 2005. That was the cutoff for scientific inputs used to prepare the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007.