Friday, January 29, 2010

Stellar Students Selected As NASA Ambassadors

NASA has selected 105 of its best and brightest interns and fellows for the NASA Student Ambassador Program. The agency uses the program to engage undergraduate and graduate students in NASA science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, research and interactive opportunities. Selected students represent 33 states and 81 universities from across the nation.
NASA managers and mentors nominated the recipients from the hundreds of interns and fellows engaged in research and education opportunities across the agency. The NASA Student Ambassadors initiative further recognizes exceptional students.
"To ensure success in meeting future exploration goals, the agency requires greater depth of knowledge and pursuit of innovation than ever before," said Joyce Winterton, assistant administrator for Education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "NASA and the nation must adapt to the changing landscape and develop new strategies to cultivate its future workforce."
Members of the NASA Student Ambassadors virtual community will interact with the agency while sharing information, making professional connections, and collaborating with peers. They also will represent NASA in a variety of venues and help the agency inspire and engage future interns and fellows.
The community's Web site provides participants access to tools needed to serve as a NASA Student Ambassador. The site provides strategic communication opportunities, the latest NASA news, science and technology updates, blogs, and announcements. It contains member profiles, forums, polls, NASA contact information, links to agency mission related communications' research and career resources.
"The virtual community Web site is an outreach vehicle to the nation's students as well as a way to engage exceptional Gen-Y NASA students," said Mabel Matthews, lead for the community and manager of Higher Education at NASA Headquarters. "This activity is a leading effort to help NASA attract, engage, educate and employ the next generation."
With this and the agency's other college and university programs, NASA will identify and develop the critical skills and capabilities needed to achieve its mission. This program is tied directly to the agency's major education goal of strengthening the future STEM workforce for NASA and the nation.
For more information about the NASA Student Ambassadors, including a list of the new 2010 ambassadors, and an interactive map of the United States that identifies the current ambassadors, visit:

For more information about education at NASA, visit:

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

NASA Research Finds Last Decade was Warmest on Record, 2009 One of Warmest Years

A new analysis of global surface temperatures by NASA scientists finds the past year was tied for the second warmest since 1880. In the Southern Hemisphere, 2009 was the warmest year on record.

Although 2008 was the coolest year of the decade because of a strong La Nina that cooled the tropical Pacific Ocean, 2009 saw a return to a near-record global temperatures as the La Nina diminished, according to the new analysis by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The past year was a small fraction of a degree cooler than 2005, the warmest on record, putting 2009 in a virtual tie with a cluster of other years --1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, and 2007 -- for the second warmest on record.

"There's always interest in the annual temperature numbers and a given year's ranking, but the ranking often misses the point," said James Hansen, GISS director. "There's substantial year-to-year variability of global temperature caused by the tropical El Nino-La Nina cycle. When we average temperature over five or ten years to minimize that variability, we find global warming is continuing unabated."

January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record. Looking back to 1880, when modern scientific instrumentation became available to monitor temperatures precisely, a clear warming trend is present, although there was a leveling off between the 1940s and 1970s.

In the past three decades, the GISS surface temperature record shows an upward trend of about 0.36 degrees F (0.2 degrees C) per decade. In total, average global temperatures have increased by about 1.5 degrees F (0.8 degrees C) since 1880.

"That's the important number to keep in mind," said GISS climatologist Gavin Schmidt. "The difference between the second and sixth warmest years is trivial because the known uncertainty in the temperature measurement is larger than some of the differences between the warmest years."

The near-record global temperatures of 2009 occurred despite an unseasonably cool December in much of North America. High air pressures from the Arctic decreased the east-west flow of the jet stream, while increasing its tendency to blow from north to south. The result was an unusual effect that caused frigid air from the Arctic to rush into North America and warmer mid-latitude air to shift toward the north. This left North America cooler than normal, while the Arctic was warmer than normal.

"The contiguous 48 states cover only 1.5 percent of the world area, so the United States' temperature does not affect the global temperature much," Hansen said.

GISS uses publicly available data from three sources to conduct its temperature analysis. The sources are weather data from more than a thousand meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperatures, and Antarctic research station measurements.

Other research groups also track global temperature trends but use different analysis techniques. The Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom uses similar input measurements as GISS, for example, but it omits large areas of the Arctic and Antarctic where monitoring stations are sparse.

Although the two methods produce slightly differing results in the annual rankings, the decadal trends in the two records are essentially identical.

"There's a contradiction between the results shown here and popular perceptions about climate trends," Hansen said. "In the last decade, global warming has not stopped."

For more information about GISS's surface temperature record, visit:
For video and still images about this story, visit:
For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

NASA Schedules News Conference about Next Space Shuttle Launch

NASA managers will hold a news conference on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to discuss the status of the next space shuttle launch. The briefing will begin after the Flight Readiness Review, a meeting to assess preparations for shuttle Endeavour's STS-130 mission to the International Space Station.

Live status updates, including the start time for the news conference, will be provided via the NASA News Twitter feed during the meeting. To access the feed, go to the homepage or visit:
The review is expected to include the selection of an official launch date. Endeavour is targeted to launch at 4:39 a.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 7.

The briefing participants are:
- Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations
- Mike Suffredini, manager, Space Station Program
- Mike Moses, space shuttle launch integration manager, Space Shuttle Program
- Mike Leinbach, space shuttle launch director

NASA Television and the agency's Web site will carry the live briefing. Reporters may ask questions from participating NASA locations and should contact their preferred NASA center to confirm participation.

For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and scheduling information, visit:
For STS-130 crew and mission information, visit:

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Monday, January 25, 2010

NASA Reveals New Batch Of Space Program Artifacts

NASA is inviting eligible education institutions, museums and other organizations to examine and request space program artifacts online. The items represent significant human space flight technologies, processes and accomplishments from NASA's past and present space exploration programs.
NASA partnered with the General Services Administration to provide a first-of-its-kind, Web-based, electronic artifacts prescreening capability last year. On Oct. 1, 2009, the GSA launched a Web initiative for screening and requesting NASA's space shuttle artifacts. The first round ended Nov. 30, and all 913 artifacts were allocated.
A second Web-based screening opportunity begins Tuesday. It includes approximately 2,500 potential artifacts from NASA programs that include the space shuttle, Hubble Space Telescope, Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini. It is available at:
Each artifact will be screened for 90 days. After the screening period closes, and at the completion of the allocation process, requestors will be notified about the status of their request.

Museums and schools will be screened for eligibility through an online registration process or through their state agency for surplus property. Eligible recipients may view the available artifacts and request specific items at the Web site. Prescreening allows potential recipients to identify specific items and provides the time to plan to transport, preserve and properly display artifacts.

Requesting an artifact through the prescreening process does not guarantee the item will be available. Nor does it provide a specific time when it will become available. Allocated artifacts will be incrementally released as they are no longer needed by NASA and in accordance with export control laws and regulations.

Although the artifacts are provided without charge, eligible recipients must cover shipping and any special handling costs. Shipping fees on smaller items will be relatively inexpensive, while larger items may involve extensive disassembly, preparation, shipping and reassembly costs. NASA will work closely with potential recipients, on a case-by-case basis, to address any unique special handling costs.

For information about NASA's space shuttle transition and artifacts, visit
For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

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Bill Dowdell, NASA Kennedy Space Center's deputy director for International Space Station and spacecraft processing, is available for satellite interviews from 6 to 9 a.m. EST on Friday, Jan. 22.

Dowdell will conduct the interviews from Launch Pad 39A, just outside space shuttle Endeavour's payload bay. Tranquility, the next pressurized element bound for the station, will be placed inside Endeavour on 39A for its targeted launch on Sunday, Feb. 7.

Dowdell has worked for NASA since 1989, beginning his career in the Space Shuttle Program as an agency and orbiter test director. He is NASA's manager responsible for giving the "go" to launch the station payload and the readiness of the orbiting laboratory to receive and carry out its installation. Dowdell holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Fairmont State College in Fairmont, W.Va., and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from West Virginia University in Morgantown.

To schedule interviews, reporters should contact Tracy Young at 321-867-9284 or by e-mail to by noon Thursday, Jan. 21.

The NASA Live Interview Media Outlet channel will be used for the interviews. The channel is a digital satellite C-band downlink by uplink provider Americom. It is on satellite AMC 3, Transponder 9C, orbital position 87 Degrees West, transmission format is DVB-S, 4:2:0, downlink frequency 3865.5 Mhz, downlink polarity is horizontal, FEC is 3/4, data rate is 6.0 Mbps, symbol rate is 4.3404 Msps.

For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:
For more information about the STS-130 mission and its crew, visit:

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

President Honors Outstanding Early-Career Scientists

Today at the White House, President Obama will honor more than 100 outstanding early career scientists–the latest winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, including NASA scientists Benjamin Smith and Joshua K. Willis. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. Annually, nine federal departments and agencies nominate the most meritorious young scientists and engineers--researchers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for strengthening America’s leadership in science and technology and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions.

"You have been selected for this honor not only because of your innovative research, but also for your demonstrated commitment to community service and public outreach," President Obama said in a letter to the winners. "Your achievements as scientists, engineers and engaged citizens are exemplary, and the value of your work is amplified by the inspiration you provide to others."

The awards, established by President Clinton in February 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected on the basis of two criteria: Pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and a commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach. Winning scientists and engineers receive up to a five-year research grant to further their study in support of critical government missions.

NASA recipient Joshua K. Willis' research focuses on the system of ocean currents called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). The AMOC helps to regulate the climate across much of Europe and throughout the North Atlantic. It has been theorized that this circulation could play a role in rapid climate change, causing cooling in some regions even as the planet warms overall. AMOC’s exact role in global warming, however, remains a mystery. Using data from several NASA satellites along with observations taken by thousands of Argo floats, which autonomously measure ocean properties and currents, Willis has developed a novel technique for estimating the strength of the AMOC and how it changes over time.

Benjamin Smith’s research is in the area of understanding changes in the Earth’s ice sheets and their contributions to sea level using satellite remote sensing. In particular, he has been a leader in the analysis of ICESat data and has been a key figure in the science definition activities of ICESat-ll. He has been instrumental in extracting elevation change information from ICESat in its compromised operations scenario (as a result of the premature failure of two of ICESat’s three lasers) and has published some of the most significant ICESat-based ice sheet change assessments to date.

Read the White House press release for more information.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

NASA Chooses Student Teams to Drop Science Experiments

NASA has selected teams of middle school and high school students to test their science experiments in microgravity competitions that simulate the microgravity in space. High school students will participate in "Dropping In a Microgravity Environment," or DIME, and students in sixth through ninth grades in "What If No Gravity?" or WING.

DIME and WING challenge students to design and build a microgravity science experiment that is tested in a 2.2 second drop tower at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. While in free fall, the students' experiments will experience microgravity conditions, as if they were on the International Space Station.

Four high school student teams were selected in the nationwide DIME competition. NASA will provide funding for up to four students and one adult advisor from each team to come to Glenn in April 2010 to conduct its experiment and review the results with Glenn engineers and scientists. While at the center, they will tour Glenn facilities and participate in workshops. Teams were selected from the following high schools:

- Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Ill.
- Plattsburgh High School in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
- St. Ursula Academy in Toledo, Ohio
- Tualatin High School in Tualatin, Ore.

Additional high school student teams selected in the DIME competition will ship their science experiments to NASA to be tested in the drop tower. The experiments and the resulting data will be returned to the teams so they can prepare reports about their findings. Additional DIME teams were selected from the following high schools:

Columbus High School in Columbus, Ga.
Emerson Preparatory School in Washington
Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Ill.
Northbrook High School in Houston
Troy Athens High School in Troy, Mich. (4 teams)

Student teams in sixth through ninth grades were selected for the WING competition. Each team will ship its experiment to Glenn for testing. The experiments and the resulting data will be returned to the teams so they can analyze the experiment results and submit a written report back to NASA. One student team not affiliated with a school was selected from within the community of Basking Ridge, N.J. Additional teams were selected from the following schools:

Crestwood Middle School in Mountaintop, Pa. (2 teams)
Dunstan Middle School in Littleton, Colo.
Gate of Heaven School in Dallas, Pa. (2 teams)
Good Shepherd Academy from the Diocese of Scranton in Kingston, Pa.
Hanover Area School District in Hanover Township., Pa. (2 teams)
Hazleton Area School District in Drums, Pa. (2 teams)
Lake-Lehman School District in Lehman, Pa.
Northwood Elementary School in Mooresville, Ind.
Smith Middle School in Troy, Mich.
Tunkhannock Area Middle School in Tunkhannock, Pa.
Wyoming Area Secondary Center in Exeter, Pa.
Wyoming Valley West School District in Kingston, Pa. (2 teams)

These and other NASA educational programs help the agency attract and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, disciplines critical to space exploration. The Teaching from Space Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston funds the DIME and WING competitions.

For information about NASA's DIME and WING student competitions, visit:
For more information about NASA's education programs, visit:
For information about NASA's Glenn Research Center, visit:

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

NASA's Space Shuttle Crew in Washington, Available for Interviews

NASA Headquarters in Washington will welcome space shuttle Atlantis' STS-129 astronauts for a visit on Monday, Jan. 11, through Thursday, Jan. 14. The crew wrapped up an 11-day journey in space of nearly 4.5 million miles on Nov. 27.

Commander Charlie Hobaugh, Pilot Barry Wilmore, Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Randy Bresnik, Mike Foreman and Bobby Satcher will share mission highlights with NASA employees, school children, college students and the general public while in the nation's capital. Reporters interested in covering the events or interviewing a crew member should contact NASA Public Affairs at 202-358-1100.

To kick off their visit, the crew will give a postflight presentation to NASA employees, their families and reporters at 10 a.m. EST, Monday, at NASA Headquarters' James E. Webb Auditorium, 300 E. Street, S.W. The crew's presentation will air live on NASA Television's education channel.

On Tuesday, Melvin and Satcher will present mission highlights from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Howard University School of Science and Mathematics on campus. For more information, please contact 2nd Lt. Janay Wilson at 202-806-6789.

The crew also will attend the Washington Wizards game against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday at the Verizon Center. They will participate in pregame activities and view the game, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The astronauts will bring with them an NBA jersey that was flown on their shuttle flight. The jersey is expected to be returned to the NBA during the All-Star game in Dallas.

Wilmore, Foreman, Bresnik and Melvin will give a public presentation about their spaceflight from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Thursday at the National Air and Space Museum's new "Moving Beyond Earth" exhibit. The audience will consist of 250 students (grades 6th through 12th), visitors, employees and invited guests.

The STS-129 shuttle 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.

For NASA TV schedule information and links to streaming video, visit:
For more information about the STS-129 mission, visit:

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Galaxy History Revealed in Colorful Hubble View

Hubble mosaic image of thousands of galaxies
NASA, ESA, R. Windhorst, S. Cohen, and M. Mechtley (Arizona State University, Tempe), R. O'Connell (University of Virginia), P. McCarthy (Carnegie Observatories), N. Hathi (University of California, Riverside), R. Ryan (University of California, Davis), and H. Yan (Ohio State University). Photo No. STScI-PRC10-01
› Larger image
More than 12 billion years of cosmic history are shown in this unprecedented, panoramic, full-color view of thousands of galaxies in various stages of assembly.

This image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, was made from mosaics taken in September and October 2009 with the newly installed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and in 2004 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The view covers a portion of the southern field of a large galaxy census called the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), a deep-sky study by several observatories to trace the evolution of galaxies.

The final image combines a broad range of colors, from the ultraviolet, through visible light, and into the near-infrared. Such a detailed multi-color view of the universe has never before been assembled at such a level of clarity, accuracy, and depth.

Hubble's sharp resolution and new color versatility, produced by combining data from the two cameras, is allowing astronomers to sort out the various stages of galaxy formation. The image reveals galaxy shapes that appear increasingly chaotic at each earlier epoch, as galaxies grew through accretion, collisions, and mergers. The galaxies range from the mature spirals and ellipticals in the foreground, to smaller, fainter, irregularly shaped galaxies, most of which are farther away, and therefore existed farther back in time. These smaller galaxies are considered the building blocks of the larger galaxies we see today.

Astronomers are using this multi-color panorama to trace many details of galaxy evolution over cosmic time, including the star-formation rate in galaxies, the rate of mergers among galaxies, and the abundance of weak active galactic nuclei.

The image shows a rich tapestry of 7,500 galaxies stretching back through most of the universe's history. The closest galaxies seen in the foreground emitted their observed light about a billion years ago. The farthest galaxies, a few of the very faint red specks, are seen as they appeared more than 13 billion years ago, or roughly 650 million years after the Big Bang. This mosaic spans a slice of space that is equal to about a third of the diameter of the full Moon (10 arc minutes).

The new Hubble view highlights a wide variety of stages in the galaxy assembly process. Ultraviolet light taken by WFC3 shows the blue glow of hot, young stars in galaxies teeming with star birth. The orange light reveals the final buildup of massive galaxies about 8 to 10 billion years ago. The near-infrared light displays the red glow of very distant galaxies -- in a few cases as far as 12 billion to 13 billion light-years away-whose light has been stretched, like a toy Slinky, from ultraviolet light to longer -- wavelength infrared light due to the expansion of the universe.

In this ambitious use of Hubble's observing time, astronomers used 100 Hubble orbits to make the ACS optical observations of this slice of the GOODS field and 104 orbits to make the WFC3 ultraviolet and near-infrared exposures. WFC3 peered deeper into the universe in this study than comparable near-infrared observations from ground-based telescopes. This set of unique new Hubble observations reveals galaxies to about 27th magnitude in brightness.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. in Washington.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sun Glints Seen from Space Signal Oceans and Lakes

In two new videos from NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft, bright flashes of light known as sun glints act as beacons signaling large bodies of water on Earth. These observations give scientists a way to pick out planets beyond our solar system (extrasolar planets) that are likely to have expanses of liquid, and so stand a better chance of having life.

These sun glints are like sunshine glancing off the hood of a car. We can see them reflecting off a smooth surface when we are positioned in just the right way with respect to the sun and the smooth surface. On a planetary scale, only liquids and ice can form a surface smooth enough to produce the effect—land masses are too rough—and the surface must be very large. To stand out against a background of other radiation from a planet, the reflected light must be very bright. We won’t necessarily see glints from every distant planet that has liquids or ice.

“But these sun glints are important because, if we saw an extrasolar planet which had glints that popped up periodically, we would know that we were seeing lakes, oceans or other large bodies of liquid, such as water,” says Drake Deming, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Deming is the deputy principal investigator who leads the team that works on the Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh) part of Deep Impact’s extended mission, called EPOXI. “And if we found large bodies of water on a distant planet, we would become much more optimistic about finding life.”

One of EPOCh’s goals is to observe the Earth from far away—in this case, about 11 million miles away—so that we know what an Earth-like planet would look like when viewed from our spacecraft. The images in these videos were collected when the spacecraft was close enough to resolve some of Earth’s features, but at the same time, Earth could be treated as a very distant, single point. “This allows us to properly simulate what we would have observed if Earth were an extrasolar planet,” says Michael A’Hearn, principal investigator for EPOXI.

The researchers expected to see the sun glints but were surprised by the intensity and small focus of some, says Goddard’s Richard K. Barry. Glints appeared over oceans, most likely in relatively calm patches, and over a few land masses, probably caused by large inland lakes. Barry, who is leading the Earth-glint research effort, is putting together a catalog that will relate each glint to an exact location on Earth.

Together, the new videos provide the first view of Earth for a full rotation from the north pole (shown in one video) and south pole (the second video). The resolution is high enough to distinguish land masses, bodies of water and clouds. Each 16-second video is a compilation of a series of green, blue and near-infrared images taken every 15 minutes on a single day. Each is also the end product of months of planning, sophisticated data processing and analysis by the team.

The choice of infrared light, which is beyond the range of human sight, instead of visible red produces a better contrast between land and water. “People think of land as being greenish, but that’s because our eyes aren’t sensitive in the infrared,” Deming explains. “Vegetation actually shows up better in the infrared.”

Seen from very far away, Earth looks like a blue dot. “But the blue comes from Rayleigh scattering in our atmosphere rather than from the oceans,” says Nicolas Cowan, an EPOCh team member at the University of Washington. “That means that our planet appears blue even to an observer located above the North Pole, despite the fact that there isn’t always much ocean in sight. As Earth spins, different surface features rotate in and out of view, causing the color of the blue dot to change slightly from one hour to the next.”

For an observer above the pole, most of the visible part of Earth is covered in snow, ice and clouds. From far away, these appear grayish and are hard to tell apart because they are all basically water molecules in different forms. “But when a large expanse of bare land, like the Sahara Desert, rotates into view, Earth gets a bit redder because continents reflect near infrared light relatively well,” Cowan explains.

Given just this limited amount of information, the researchers could begin to describe an extrasolar planet’s surface—perhaps even infer the existence of oceans and continents.

Of course, gathering this type of information about an exoplanet is a big undertaking. Once gathered, though, such data could point scientists toward the best targets to investigate first. “This is just the first step in trying to understand the nature of the surfaces of extrasolar planets,” says A’Hearn.

The University of Maryland is the Principal Investigator institution, leading the overall EPOXI mission. NASA Goddard leads the extrasolar planet observations. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages EPOXI for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The spacecraft was built for NASA by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

NASA Names New Dryden Flight Research Center Director

NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden has named David D. McBride director of the agency's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"David has done a terrific job as the acting Dryden director, and I am pleased he will be continuing as director," Bolden said. "David's expertise, leadership and flight research acumen will benefit NASA and the entire aerospace community."

McBride will direct all aspects of facility management, strategy and operations at Dryden, one of NASA's 10 field centers. McBride became Dryden's acting director on April 4, 2009, upon the retirement of former center director Kevin L. Petersen. He also served as Dryden's deputy director since June 8, 2008, first in an acting capacity before his official appointment on Jan. 4, 2009.

McBride's prior management assignments at Dryden include serving as associate director for programs, a role overseeing the complete portfolio of center projects supporting exploration, science, and aeronautics.

He also managed NASA's Flight Research Program at Dryden. The program conducted flight research that expanded aerospace knowledge and capabilities. Activities included the record-breaking flight of the solar-powered Helios aircraft, the Active Aeroelastic Wing flight project and the revolutionary Intelligent Flight Control System, demonstrating adaptive neural network flight control systems.

McBride began his career at Dryden as a cooperative education student in 1982, specializing in digital flight control systems analysis. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Mexico in 1985 and an executive Masters of Business Administration from the University of New Mexico in 1998.

For McBride's biography, visit:
For more information about Dryden, visit:

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nature's Most Precise Clocks May Make "Galactic GPS" Possible

Radio astronomers have uncovered 17 millisecond pulsars in our galaxy by studying unknown high-energy sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The astronomers made the discovery in less than three months. Such a jump in the pace of locating these hard-to-find objects holds the promise of using them as a kind of "galactic GPS" to detect gravitational waves passing near Earth.

A pulsar is the rapidly spinning and highly magnetized core left behind when a massive star explodes. Because only rotation powers their intense gamma-ray, radio and particle emissions, pulsars gradually slow as they age. But the oldest pulsars spin hundreds of times per second -- faster than a kitchen blender. These millisecond pulsars have been spun up and rejuvenated by accreting matter from a companion star.

"Radio astronomers discovered the first millisecond pulsar 28 years ago," said Paul Ray at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. "Locating them with all-sky radio surveys requires immense time and effort, and we've only found a total of about 60 in the disk of our galaxy since then. Fermi points us to specific targets. It's like having a treasure map."

Millisecond pulsars are nature's most precise clocks, with long-term, sub-microsecond stability that rivals human-made atomic clocks. Precise monitoring of timing changes in an all-sky array of millisecond pulsars may allow the first direct detection of gravitational waves -- a long-sought consequence of Einstein's relativity theory.

"The Global Positioning System uses time-delay measurements among satellite clocks to determine where you are on Earth," explained Scott Ransom of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Va. "Similarly, by monitoring timing changes in a constellation of suitable millisecond pulsars spread all over the sky, we may be able to detect the cumulative background of passing gravitational waves."

Radio searches netted 17 new millisecond pulsars by examining the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope's list of unidentified sourcesThe sources Fermi detected are not associated with any known gamma-ray emitting objects and did not show evidence of pulsing behavior. However, scientists considered it likely that many of the unidentified sources would turn out to be pulsars.

For a more detailed look at radio wavelengths, Ray organized the Fermi Pulsar Search Consortium and recruited a handful of radio astronomers with expertise in using five of the world's largest radio telescopes -- the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in W.Va., the Parkes Observatory in Australia, the Nancay Radio Telescope in France, the Effelsberg Radio Telescope in Germany and the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico.

After studying approximately 100 targets, and with a computationally intensive data analysis still under way, the discoveries have started to pour in.

"Other surveys took a decade to find as many of these pulsars as we have," said Ransom, who led one of the discovery groups. "Having Fermi tell us where to look is a huge advantage."

Four of the new objects are "black widow" pulsars, so called because radiation from the recycled pulsar is destroying the companion star that helped spin it up.

"Some of these stars are whittled down to masses equivalent to tens of Jupiters," said Ray. "We've doubled the known number of these systems in the galaxy's disk, and that will help us better understand how they evolve."

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wiring, Safety Work Earn Chemist Top Accolades

Tracy Gibson of ASRC Aerospace Corp. works in the Space Life Sciences Lab at NASA's Kennedy Space CenterYou may not know who Tracy Gibson is, but one day you might ride on an airplane he has made safer.

Gibson is a senior principal investigator for ASRC Aerospace Corp.'s work at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The invention he hopes will revolutionize spaceflight and air travel is self-healing wiring. If he and his team of researchers can perfect the right compound, odds are a lot of people, from astronauts and pilots to aircraft passengers, will have him to thank for preventing a potentially catastrophic short circuit.

Because the wiring repair field is so fresh, many approaches are being examined. Some designs embed tiny capsules inside wiring insulation. When the insulation rips open or tears, the capsules break and the material inside oozes out and then hardens to close the gap. But that method won't likely work for aerospace applications because spacecraft and airplanes require flexible wiring, Gibson said.

He is searching basically for a compound that pulls itself back together after a tear.

Gibson's research into that burgeoning field and his scientific work on other projects has been recognized with Kennedy's first Engineer/Scientist of the Year award for contractor employees. Gibson's other projects range from a chemical analyzer that can fit on a rover to refining hazardous materials detectors. NASA's Bob Youngquist earned the honor for the agency's researchers at Kennedy.

Scientists here note that research at Kennedy is expected to produce a tangible product that can be applied to a spacecraft, ground support equipment or another aspect of launch, processing or operations. For Gibson, the payoff of applying his work is one of the many rewards of his post.

"I feel pretty privileged with the work I get to do and at the end you get to see how it might impact the future of space and aerospace," he said. "It's exciting work, it keeps me on my toes. I'm not sure I could ask for anything more."

Gibson and his team spend considerable time in labs at Kennedy, whether at the Space Life Sciences Laboratory or inside the Operations and Checkout Building's facilities. Sometimes, the field work takes him far off-center.

For example, his team took a trip to Hawaii last year to evaluate a very small mechanism that could analyze moon dust looking for signs of chemicals which could be turned into water or used as rocket fuel for astronauts living on the moon.

Gibson praises the team approach employed at Kennedy, saying there aren't many trouble spots his group isn't willing to delve into.

"What I view our group as is problem solvers," Gibson said. "We've got very talented folks here at Kennedy. We can sit and brainstorm and overcome the problem."

At 39, Gibson has plenty more time for research and development. Even if he doesn't revolutionize wiring, he and his team are gaining expertise in a variety of areas that he thinks will pay off for the agency and public at some point.

"I just hope that by the time my career ends, I will have developed technologies that will have been utilized by NASA or by some industrial use that's made a difference," Gibson said. "I just would like to know that I've worked hard at what I've done and I've helped push technology forward."

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Moon Rock Gains Traveling Companion for Historic Return to Space

A moon rock collected during the historic Apollo 11 mission more than 40 years ago will be heading back to space and a new home aboard the International Space Station, sharing quarters with a piece of Mt. Everest.

On May 20, 2009, former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski carried the rock to the top of Mt. Everest where he collected a rock from the world's highest mountain to accompany the lunar sample for its return to space.

During an event Jan. 6 at Space Center Houston, Parazynski will present both rocks to NASA astronaut and STS-130 mission Commander George Zamka. Zamka will deliver the rocks to the space station during space shuttle Endeavour's mission next month.

Collected from the Sea of Tranquility on the lunar surface, the moon rock and its Mt. Everest companion will be displayed inside the station's Tranquility module, which the STS-130 crew will deliver to the station.

During the presentation, Parazynski will share the story of his journey to the top of the world and what inspired him to carry along the lunar sample, followed by an audience question and answer session. The event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon CST in the Blast Off Theater in the Mission Status Center at Space Center Houston. NASA Television will air a recording of the event at 3:30 p.m.

Parazynski and Zamka will be available for interviews from noon to 12:30 p.m. Reporters interested in attending should contact Victor Scott at 281-483-4942 or via e-mail at:
Updates, photos and videos during the presentation will be posted on NASA's Johnson Space Center Twitter feed and can be followed using the hashtag #moon_everest. From 12:30 to 1 p.m., Parazynski will answer questions live via Twitter. To follow Johnson on Twitter, visit:
For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

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Monday, January 11, 2010

NASA Extends Chandra Science and Operations Support Contract

NASA has extended a contract with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., to provide science and operational support for the Chandra X-ray Observatory, a powerful tool used to better understand the structure and evolution of the universe.

The contract extension with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory provides continued science and operations support to Chandra. This approximately $172 million modification brings the total value of the contract to approximately $545 million for the base effort. The base effort period of performance will continue through Sept. 30, 2013, except for the work associated with the administration of scientific research grants, which will extend through Feb. 28, 2016. The contract type is cost reimbursement with no fee.

In addition to the base effort, the contract includes two options for three years each to extend the period of performance for an additional six years. Option 1 is priced at approximately $177 million and Option 2 at approximately $191 million, for a total possible contract value of about $913 million.

The contract covers mission operations and data analysis, which includes observatory operations, science data processing and astronomer support. The operations tasks include monitoring the health and status of the observatory and developing and uplinking the observation sequences during Chandra's communication coverage periods. The science data processing tasks include the competitive selection, planning and coordination of science observations and processing and delivery of the resulting scientific data.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala, manages the Chandra program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations.

For more information about NASA visit:
For more information about the Chandra X-ray Observatory visit:

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Friday, January 8, 2010

NASA Chooses Three Finalists for Future Space Science Mission to Venus, an Asteroid or the Moon

The moon, Venus, and an asteroid
From top to bottom, pictured (not to scale) are the moon, Venus, and an asteroid. These three celestial bodies from our solar system are possible candidates for NASA's next space venture.
NASA has selected three proposals as candidates for the agency's next space venture to another celestial body in our solar system. The final project selected in mid-2011 may provide a better understanding of Earth's formation or perhaps the origin of life on our planet.

The proposed missions would probe the atmosphere and crust of Venus; return a piece of a near-Earth asteroid for analysis; or drop a robotic lander into a basin at the moon's south pole to return lunar rocks back to Earth for study.

NASA will select one proposal for full development after detailed mission concept studies are completed and reviewed. The studies begin during 2010, and the selected mission must be ready for launch no later than Dec. 30, 2018. Mission cost, excluding the launch vehicle, is limited to $650 million.

"These are projects that inspire and excite young scientists, engineers and the public," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These three proposals provide the best science value among eight submitted to NASA this year."

Each proposal team initially will receive approximately $3.3 million in 2010 to conduct a 12-month mission concept study that focuses on implementation feasibility, cost, management and technical plans. Studies also will include plans for educational outreach and small business opportunities.

The selected proposals are:
  • The Surface and Atmosphere Geochemical Explorer, or SAGE, mission to Venus would release a probe to descend through the planet's atmosphere. During descent, instruments would conduct extensive measurements of the atmosphere's composition and obtain meteorological data. The probe then would land on the surface of Venus, where its abrading tool would expose both a weathered and a pristine surface area to measure its composition and mineralogy. Scientists hope to understand the origin of Venus and why it is so different from Earth. Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado in Boulder, is the principal investigator. The proposed mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Ca.

  • The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer spacecraft, called Osiris-Rex, would rendezvous and orbit a primitive asteroid. After extensive measurements, instruments would collect more than two ounces of material from the asteriod's surface for return to Earth. The returned samples would help scientists better undertand and answer long-held questions about the formation of our solar system and the origin of complex molecules necessary for life. Michael Drake, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, is the principal investigator. The proposed mission is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md

  • MoonRise: Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return Mission would place a lander in a broad basin near the moon's south pole and return approximately two pounds of lunar materials for study. This region of the lunar surface is believed to harbor rocks excavated from the moon's mantle. The samples would provide new insight into the early history of the Earth-moon system. Bradley Jolliff, of Washington University in St. Louis, is the principal investigator with mission management by JPL.
The proposals were submitted to NASA on July 31, 2009, in response to the New Frontiers Program 2009 Announcement of Opportunity. New Frontiers seeks to explore the solar system with frequent, medium-class spacecraft missions that will conduct high-quality, focused scientific investigations designed to enhance understanding of the solar system.

The final selection will become the third mission in the program. New Horizons, NASA's first New Frontiers mission, launched in 2006, will fly by the Pluto-Charon system in 2014 then target another Kuiper Belt object for study. The second mission, called Juno, is designed to orbit Jupiter from pole to pole for the first time, conducting an in-depth study of the giant planet's atmosphere and interior. It is slated for launch in August 2011.

For more information about the New Frontiers Program, visit:

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Glittering Metropolis

Glittering Metropolis
Like a whirl of shiny flakes sparkling in a snow globe, Hubble caught this glimpse of many hundreds of thousands of stars moving about in the globular cluster M13, one of the brightest and best-known globular clusters in the northern sky. This glittering metropolis of stars is easily found in the winter sky in the constellation Hercules and can even be glimpsed with the unaided eye under dark skies.

M13 is home to over 100,000 stars and located at a distance of 25,000 light-years. These stars are packed so closely together in a ball, approximately 150 light-years across, that they will spend their entire lives whirling around in the cluster.

Near the core of this cluster, the density of stars is about a hundred times greater than the density in the neighborhood of our sun. These stars are so crowded that they can, at times, slam into each other and even form a new star, called a "blue straggler."

The brightest reddish stars in the cluster are ancient red giants. These aging stars have expanded to many times their original diameters and cooled. The blue-white stars are the hottest in the cluster.

Globular clusters can be found spread largely in a vast halo around our galaxy. M13 is one of nearly 150 known globular clusters surrounding our Milky Way galaxy.

Globular clusters have some of the oldest stars in the universe. They likely formed before the disk of our Milky Way, so they are older than nearly all other stars in our galaxy. Studying globular clusters therefore tells us about the history of our galaxy.

This image is a composite of archival Hubble data taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Astronauts Aboard the Space Station Talk With Troops in Iraq

International Space Station

This is one of a series of images featuring the International Space Station photographed soon after the space shuttle Atlantis and the station began their post-undocking relative separation. Some scenes in the series show parts of the Mediterranean Sea and Africa and Spain in the background.>View larger image.
Some U.S. forces in Iraq will get the chance during the holidays to talk with two NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station who also are far away from their families and friends. A 20-minute live video downlink will start at 9 a.m. EST on Dec. 29. The event will be carried live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's Web site.
Station Commander Jeff Williams, a retired U.S. Army colonel, and Flight Engineer T.J. Creamer, an Army colonel, will talk with U.S. forces while orbiting 220 miles above Earth. Service members will have the chance to talk with the astronauts about life on the station, their military careers and what it is like to live in space for up to six months.
Technology developed for the space and Earth science programs at NASA is currently being repurposed for use to protect our soldiers in Iraq and across the globe. Examples include satellite-based communications and weather resources, GPS, and other NASA Spinoffs.
NASA Television will provide live coverage of the conversations, with video from aboard the station during the event. A video file will be available later in the day, with edited footage from both the station and the service members in Iraq.
For more information on NASA TV, including a schedule of events, visit:

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Some U.S. forces in Iraq will get the chance during the holidays to talk with two NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station who also are far away from their families and friends. A 20-minute live video downlink will start at 8 a.m. CST on Dec. 29. The event will be carried live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's Web site.

Station Commander
Jeff Williams, a retired U.S. Army colonel, and Flight Engineer T.J. Creamer, an Army colonel, will talk with U.S. forces while orbiting 220 miles above Earth. Service members will have the chance to talk with the astronauts about life on the station, their military careers and what it is like to live in space for up to six months.
NASA Television will provide live coverage of the conversations, with video from aboard the station during the event. A video file will be available later in the day, with edited footage from both the station and the service members in Iraq.

For more information on
NASA TV, including a schedule of events, visit:
For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

NASA Ames Celebrates 70 Years of Innovation

NASA's Ames Research Center was launched 70 years ago as a high-speed aeronautics research laboratory as part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and was named after NACA's chair, Joseph S. Ames. The center was the second NACA aeronautics research center in the United States.

The world may have changed dramatically since 1939, but one thing remains constant: the center's bold spirit of innovation.

"History is made by those who are willing to take risks and break the mold," said S. Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames. "I’m proud to be a part of a center that has paved the way for advances in aeronautics and space travel, and I look forward to the next 70 years of innovation."

Jack Boyd joined Ames in 1947 and today serves as senior advisor to the center director as well as historian. Boyd recalls when R.T. Jones came up with the idea of a swept-wing.

"People thought he was crazy and would say, ‘birds’ wings aren’t shaped like that,’” said Boyd. “Well, birds also don’t fly too fast."

Today, the swept wing is now used on all high-speed aircraft.

In 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed and the center became NASA Ames Research Center. Boyd said a lot of the behind-the-scenes research going on at Ames during the 1950s and 1960s greatly contributed to the speed at which NASA was able to send a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s.

"The blunt-body concept and materials designed to withstand extreme heat for atmospheric reentry and a lunar guidance system all played a role in the successful Apollo missions," said Boyd. He added that Neil Armstrong practiced his lunar landings at Ames in the Vertical Motion Simulator.

The future looks bright for NASA Ames Research Center, with ongoing research converting algae to biofuel, developments in ‘green aviation’ and the construction of Sustainability Base—an environmentally friendly workspace that will have a platinum rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

To commemorate NASA Ames’ platinum anniversary, Mountain View businesses are featuring exhibits of the center’s colorful history at 12 locations and a 70th anniversary banner hangs above Castro Street in downtown Mountain View.

Photo taken in 1940 showing the construction progress of Ames Research CenterJanuary festivities include a panel of past center directors on Jan. 22, 2010 and a gala dinner on Jan. 23, 2010. William Ballhaus, a former center director and expert on computational fluid dynamics, and Nichelle Nichols, Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek, will be guest speakers. Tickets for the dinner are $135 per person and include a three-course dinner and gift bag filled with a commemorative book, DVD and coin.

The 70th anniversary festivities conclude on Jan. 28, 2010 with a 1930s themed celebration, an antique car parade and a one-man play depicting the past innovators at Ames.

For more information on the history of NASA Ames, visit:

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