A Nice Liftoff

Spectators at the NASA News Center at Kennedy Space Center get a birds-eye-view of Space Shuttle Discovery as it roars through a stray cloud after liftoff at 10:39 a.m. EDT from Launch Pad 39B on the historic Return to Flight mission STS-114. It is the 114th Space Shuttle flight and the 31st for Discovery. The 12-day mission will end with touchdown at the Shuttle Landing Facility on Aug. 7.
Nine New Astronauts

After reviewing more than 3,500 applications, NASA has selected nine people for the 2009 astronaut candidate class. They will begin training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston this August.

"This is a very talented and diverse group we've selected," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "They will join our current astronauts and play very important roles for NASA in the future. In addition to flying in space, astronauts participate in every aspect of human spaceflight, sharing their expertise with engineers and managers across the country. We look forward to working with them as we transcend from the shuttle to our future exploration of space, and continue the important engineering and scientific discoveries aboard the International Space Station."

The new astronaut candidates are:

Serena M. Aunon, 33, of League City, Texas; University of Texas Medical Branch flight surgeon for NASA's Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation Programs; born in Indianapolis. Aunon holds degrees from George Washington University, University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston and the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Jeanette J. Epps, 38, of Fairfax, Va.; technical intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency. Born in Syracuse, N.Y., Epps holds degrees from LeMoyne College in Syracuse and the University of Maryland.

Jack D. Fischer, major, U.S. Air Force, 35, of Reston, Va.; test pilot; U.S. Air Force Strategic Policy intern, Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Pentagon. Born in Boulder, Colo., Fischer is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co., and MIT.

Michael S. Hopkins, lieutenant colonel, U.S. Air Force, 40, of Alexandria, Va.; special assistant to the Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Pentagon. Born in Lebanon, Mo., Hopkins holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Stanford University.

Kjell N. Lindgren, 36, of League City, Texas; University of Texas Medical Branch flight surgeon for NASA's Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation Programs. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Lindgren has degrees from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado State University, the University of Colorado, the University of Minnesota and the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Kathleen (Kate) Rubins, 30, of Cambridge, Mass.; principal investigator and fellow, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT. Born in Farmington, Conn., Rubins conducts research trips to the Congo and has degrees from the University of California-San Diego and Stanford University.

Scott D. Tingle, commander, U.S. Navy, 43, of Hollywood, Md.; test pilot and assistant program manager-Systems Engineering at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Born in Attleboro, Mass., Tingle holds degrees from Southeastern Massachusetts University (now the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) and Purdue University.

Mark T. Vande Hei, lieutenant colonel, U.S. Army, 42, of El Lago, Texas; flight controller for the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Center as part of the U.S. Army NASA Detachment. Born in Falls Church, Va., Vande Hei is a graduate of Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minn., and Stanford University.

Gregory R. (Reid) Wiseman, lieutenant commander, U.S. Navy, 33, of Virginia Beach, Va.; test pilot; department head, Strike Fighter Squadron 103, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, in Oceana, Va. Born in Baltimore, Wiseman is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Johns Hopkins University.
Planning For "Tracking Test" By NASA

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, crews continue work to repair a plate that attaches a gaseous hydrogen vent line to space shuttle Endeavour's external fuel tank. Hydrogen leaks in the area of the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate, or GUCP, postponed Endeavour's launch attempts June 13 and 17, delaying its 16-day flight to the International Space Station. Seals in the GUCP were removed overnight and will be shipped to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. today for inspection.

A "tanking test" is planned for Wednesday, July 1, starting at 7 a.m. EDT to ensure repairs were successful. Endeavour's external tank will be filled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, just as it is before launch. NASA managers will hold a news conference following the test to discuss the results at approximately 1 p.m. The test will be shown live on NASA television.

Endeavour's next launch attempt is targeted for July 11 at 7:39 p.m.

At NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the STS-127 mission astronauts will spend today in the fixed base simulator brushing up on procedures for their first spacewalk. They'll also rehearse the installation of the Japanese Experiment Facility platform that will be attached as the "porch" for the Kibo science laboratory on Flight Day 4 of the mission.

NASA Selects Proposals in the direction of Develop Science Education and Outreach

NASA has selected four organizations to share approximately $18 million over five years for education and public outreach activities to help inspire the next generation of science leaders and explorers. The cooperative agreements support the astrophysics, heliophysics, planetary and Earth divisions of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, which is providing the funding for the activities.

"NASA seeks to work with the best of the nation's science and educational communities to help champion and elevate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics," said Paul Hertz, chief scientist of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Stimulating and informative activities, along with experiences created and executed by experts, inspire our future scientists. This provides a productive return on the public's investment for future scientific research."

These activities contribute to NASA's overall education and outreach efforts through development and dissemination of new educational and outreach products that use the directorate's science discoveries. The agreements provide opportunities for students and educators, citizen scientists and the public to engage in authentic experiences working with NASA and research communities. Activities will include comprehensive public awareness and engagement plans coordinated with NASA, the selected proposers and other institutions nationwide.

Selected proposals are:

  • "Astrophysics Science Education and Public Outreach Forum," Denise Smith, principal investigator, Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
  • Planetary Science Education and Public Outreach Forum: "Extending the Coherence and Reach of NASA Planetary Science and SMD Education and Public Outreach," Stephanie Shipp, principal investigator, Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, a division of the University Space Research Association
  • Heliophysics Science Education and Public Outreach Forum: "A Forum to Support Excellence in Heliophysics Education and Public Outreach through Sustained Collaboration," Bryan Mendez, principal investigator, University of California, Berkeley
  • Earth Science Education and Public Outreach Forum: "Building a Cohesive and Effective Community," Theresa Schwerin, principal investigator, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Arlington, Va.

Each selected proposer will receive approximately $850,000 per year. Further funding will be provided after NASA review and subsequent approval of progress reports.

This opportunity was open to U.S. organizations, including NASA centers, industry, educational institutions, not-for-profit organizations, federally funded research and development centers, and other government agencies. Fourteen proposals were received in response to the January 2009 announcement. A peer review panel of education and public outreach professionals evaluated each proposal.

NASA's Science Mission Directorate has a diverse portfolio of education and public outreach investments and activities in higher education, elementary and secondary education, informal education, and outreach.
Moon Returns

Unidentified flying objects cached By NASA

Successful Entry of NASA Lunar Mission into Moon Orbit

After a four and a half day journey from the Earth, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has successfully entered orbit around the moon. Engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., confirmed the spacecraft's lunar orbit insertion at 6:27 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

During transit to the moon, engineers performed a mid-course correction to get the spacecraft in the proper position to reach its lunar destination. Since the moon is always moving, the spacecraft shot for a target point ahead of the moon. When close to the moon, LRO used its rocket motor to slow down until the gravity of the moon caught the spacecraft in lunar orbit.

"Lunar orbit insertion is a crucial milestone for the mission," said Cathy Peddie, LRO deputy project manager at Goddard. "The LRO mission cannot begin until the moon captures us. Once we enter the moon's orbit, we can begin to buildup the dataset needed to understand in greater detail the lunar topography, features and resources. We are so proud to be a part of this exciting mission and NASA's planned return to the moon."

A series of four engine burns over the next four days will put the satellite into its commissioning phase orbit. During the commissioning phase each of its seven instruments is checked out and brought online. The commissioning phase will end approximately 60 days after launch, when LRO will use its engines to transition to its primary mission orbit.

For its primary mission, LRO will orbit above the moon at about 31 miles, or 50 kilometers, for one year. The spacecraft's instruments will help scientists compile high resolution, three-dimensional maps of the lunar surface and also survey it at many spectral wavelengths.

The satellite will explore the moon's deepest craters, examining permanently sunlit and shadowed regions, and provide understanding of the effects of lunar radiation on humans. LRO will return more data about the moon than any previous mission.
Test of Max Launch Abort System for June 25

NASA has scheduled the test launch of the Max Launch Abort System, or MLAS, to no earlier than June 25 at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. The launch window will extend from approximately 5:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. EDT.

Because of the prospect of further schedule changes, news media representatives should contact Rebecca Powell at 757-824-1139 or Ashley Edwards at 202-358-1756 to confirm the accurate date and time of the launch.

The unpiloted test is part of an effort to design a system for safely propelling future spacecraft and crews away from hazards on the launch pad or during the climb to orbit. This system was developed as an alternative concept to the launch abort system chosen for NASA's Orion crew capsule.

The 33-foot-high MLAS vehicle will be launched to an altitude of approximately one mile to simulate an emergency on the launch pad. A full-scale mockup of the crew capsule will separate from the launch vehicle and parachute into the Atlantic Ocean.
Successful Lunar Impactor Launch

NASA effectively launched the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, Thursday on a charge to search for water ice in a everlastingly shadowed crater at the moon's South Pole. The satellite lifted off on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 5:32 p.m. EDT, with a companion mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.

LRO safely estranged from LCROSS 45 minutes later. LCROSS then was powered-up, and the assignment operations team at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., done system checks that confirmed the spacecraft is fully functional.

LCROSS and its attached Centaur upper stage rocket separately will collide with the moon at approximately 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 9, 2009, creating a pair of debris plumes that will be analyzed for the presence of water ice or water vapor, hydrocarbons and hydrated materials. The spacecraft and Centaur are tentatively targeted to impact the moon's south pole near the Cabeus region. The exact target crater will be identified 30 days before impact, after considering information collected by LRO, other spacecraft orbiting the moon, and observatories on Earth.

"LCROSS has been the little mission that could," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We stand poised for an amazing mission and possible answers to some very intriguing questions about the moon."

The 1,290-pound LCROSS and 5,216-pound Centaur upper stage will perform a swing-by maneuver of the moon around 6 a.m. on June 23 to calibrate the satellite's science instruments and enter a long, looping polar orbit around Earth and the moon. Each orbit will be roughly perpendicular to the moon's orbit around Earth and take about 37 days to complete. Before impact, the spacecraft and Centaur will make approximately three orbits.

On the final approach, about 54,000 miles above the surface, LCROSS and the Centaur will separate. LCROSS will spin 180 degrees to turn its science payload toward the moon and fire thrusters to slow down. The spacecraft will observe the flash from the Centaur's impact and fly through the debris plume. Data will be collected and streamed to LCROSS mission operations for analysis. Four minutes later, LCROSS also will impact, creating a second debris plume.

"This mission is the culmination of a dedicated team that had a great idea," said Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager at Ames. "And now we'll engage people around the world in looking at the moon and thinking about our next steps there."

The LCROSS science team will lead a coordinated observation campaign that includes LRO, the Hubble Space Telescope, observatories on Hawaii's Mauna Kea and amateur astronomers around the world.

Ames manages LCROSS and also built the instrument payload. Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif., built the spacecraft.

Source : NASA
Problem in Launching the Space Shuttle

NASA delayed the launch of space shuttle Endeavour's STS-127 mission Wednesday because of a leak related with the gaseous hydrogen venting system outside the shuttle’s outside fuel tank.

Endeavour's next launch prospect is July 11. This date comes after the end of an orbital sun-angle condition called a beta angle cut-out, which occurs between June 22 and July 10. The cut-out creates a thermal condition that prohibits shuttle and space station docked operations.

The gaseous hydrogen venting system is used to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad. Wednesday's leak is similar to one that prevented Endeavour's launch on June 13.

The 16-day mission to the International Space Station will feature five spacewalks and complete construction of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory. Astronauts will attach a platform to the outside of the Japanese module that will allow experiments to be exposed to space.

New Inhabitants of Enormous Stars

This merged color infrared picture of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals new inhabitants of enormous stars and new details in compound structures in the hot ionized gas swirling around the central 300 light-years. This extensive view is the sharpest infrared picture ever made of the Galactic core. It offers a nearby laboratory for how massive stars form and persuade their environment in the often violent nuclear regions of other galaxies. This view combines the sharp imaging of the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) with color imagery from a previous Spitzer Space Telescope examination done with its Infrared Astronomy Camera (IRAC). The Galactic core is covered in visible light by intervening dust clouds, but infrared light penetrates the dust. The spatial resolution of NICMOS corresponds to 0.025 light-years at the distance of the galactic core of 26,000 light-years. Hubble reveals details in objects as small as 20 times the size of our own solar system. The NICMOS images were taken between February 22 and June 5, 2008.

Source : NASA
NASA Plans for Hydrospheric and Biospheric Science Services Contract

The news from the Washington that NASA has chosen Sigma Space Corporation of Lanham, Md., to offer Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Support Services. The entire maximum ordering value of the cost-plus fixed fee contract will be $120 million.

Sigma will provide sustain to the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Sigma will support research relating satellite remote sensing as well as field and aircraft instruments for measuring Earth, oceanic, biospheric and atmospheric processes; scientific and engineering sustain for the development and calibration of remote sensing instruments; and the development of data systems for the production and sharing of satellite products.

This contract will support the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project Science Data Segment; Earth Observing-1; Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project and the Earth Observing System missions Terra, Aqua and Aura.

The work will be performed mainly at Goddard. The period of performance for the contract is from June 1, 2009, through May 31, 2014.

Source : NASA
Next Space Shuttle is ready to Launch

NASA managers are likely to compose a final decision by this afternoon about whether to launch space shuttle Endeavour on Wednesday, June 17 or wait until later in the week.

Technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center continue to make progress as they work to fix a leak related with the gaseous hydrogen venting system outside Endeavour's external fuel tank. The leak postponed Endeavour's Saturday morning scheduled launch to the International Space Station. Overnight, teams on Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39A completed changing out internal seals in the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate, or GUCP, which is attached to the external tank. They’re now in the process of reattaching the vent line. The vent line runs from the GUCP, away from the launch pad to a "flare stack" where surplus hydrogen is safely burned off. The reattachment is expected to be completed late tonight.

The earliest the shuttle could be ready for liftoff is June 17, however there is a conflict on that date with the scheduled launch of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter/Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

NASA managers are looking to maximize launch opportunities this week for both the shuttle and the LRO/LCROSS missions. If there are no issues with Endeavour’s repair work, the shuttle would attempt to launch on June 17 and LRO/LCROSS would have launch opportunities on June 19 and 20. If Endeavour doesn’t launch on June 17 and LRO/LCROSS launches on that day, the shuttle could make a launch attempt on June 20.

Endeavour's leak is similar to what happened during the first launch attempt of space shuttle Discovery's STS-119 mission in March. Technicians are using the same repair method, which led to Discovery's successful launch on its next attempt.

Source : NASA