At the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, training continues for the next residents of the International Space Station. Expedition 30 Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko, NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers, are reviewing flight procedures and making other preparations in advance of their upcoming launch to the orbiting laboratory. The trio plans to join current ISS crewmembers, Commander Dan Burbank and Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, two days after their scheduled liftoff from Baikonur on Dec. 21.
Members of the news media were on hand to see the test version of the Orion crew capsule make its final water landing test of the year at the Langley Research Center's Hydro Impact Basin. Testing began this summer to certify the Orion spacecraft for water landings. Orion will carry astronauts deeper into space than ever before and ensure a safe re-entry and landing.
And NASA conducted its latest test firing of the J-2X rocket engine. The next-generation engine will help propel Orion beyond low Earth orbit. This test is to give engineers a better understanding of start and shutdown procedures, and the performance of modifications made since previous test firings.
DAWN'S NEW ORBIT JPL
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has embarked on a new phase of science observations of Vesta by successfully maneuvering into its closest orbit of the giant asteroid. For this phase of Dawn's mission, known as the low altitude mapping orbit, the spacecraft will circle Vesta at an average altitude of about 130 miles for at least ten weeks. Launched in 2007, Dawn has been in orbit around Vesta, the second most massive object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
THIRD ROCK ROLLS OUT HQ
"Welcome to Third Rock Radio powered with NASA"
NASA has joined forces with Houston-based RFC Media to establish a new Internet music channel: Third Rock...
"The Space Station. Third"
The alternative/indie rock music...
"cool stuff in the sky alert"
...and information about NASA plays to tech-savvy young adults open to learning about the agency's mission of exploration and discovery.
Patrick Fant, CEO, RFC Media: "We focus on S.T.E.M., and we've all learned that STEM is the science and technology and engineering and math, to remind young adults that a career in that direction is a great way to have a wonderful life possibly end up with a career at NASA."
Third Rock can be reached from NASA's home page, at www.nasa.gov, and will soon be available through NASA iPhone and Droid mobile apps. Developed at no cost to taxpayers, Third Rock could pay off as the sound track for America's next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.
Four teams of experts have been formed by the National Institute for Rocket Propulsion Systems to address challenges to the nation's leadership in rocket and missile propulsion. The announcement was made at the Joint Army-Navy-NASA-Air Force conference in Huntsville. The teams, which include officials from government, industry and academia, will spend several months developing solution strategies.
Dr. Dale Thomas: "The reason it's so critical is because propulsion underlies so much of what NASA does interms of getting its systems up into space. It's also such a key element of our nation's strategic defense capabilities and we draw on a common industrial base. And although we do different things with it, DOD and NASA really share an industrial base ant the health is important for DOD accomplishing their mission and to NASA accomplishing their mission."
TECHNOLOGY SHOWCASE GRC
The Glenn Research Center recently held a daylong technology showcase at Cleveland's Airport Marriott Hotel. More than 200 representatives of firms throughout Ohio learned how thirty-five select technologies at Glenn can improve their business and create jobs.
Dr. Robert Joe Shaw: "This showcase is part of a journey we are on at Glenn ... led by our Center Director Mister Lugo to become a better partner of locally, regionally as well as nationally so that again, we can leverage the seven hundred million dollar investment in NASA Glenn to have a bigger economic impact on our state and on our country."
Among the highlighted technologies and products were solar energy, aerogels for insulation, and materials for windmills. Glenn wants new private-sector partners who can develop jobs in science and technology that'll keep young Ohioans from looking elsewhere for work.
EXPLORER MOVED KSC
The high-fidelity space shuttle model on display at the NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida is making its way to a new home in Texas.
The space shuttle model was part of a display at the visitor complex that also included an external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters.
The model, mounted on a transporter, made an approximately five hour, six mile trek from the Visitor Complex to NASA Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39 turn basin.
When it leaves Kennedy via barge in a few months, the model will be put on display at NASA Johnson Space Center's visitor center, Space Center Houston.
The model's departure from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex clears the way for construction to start next year on a new facility to display space shuttle Atlantis in 2013.
SULLENBERGER AT AMES ARC
Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger recently visited the Vertical Motion Simulator at the Ames Research Center. Sullenberger, an airline safety expert, is best known as the pilot who safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 in New York City's Hudson River in January 2009 after losing power to both engines six-minutes after take-off from LaGuardia Airport. On the visit to Ames, Sullenberger practiced Space Shuttle landings in the simulator and was briefed by VMS staff about how the facility is contributing to aviation and space travel safety.
FIRST LEGO SSC
The 2011 Mississippi Championship FIRST LEGO League Tournament was recently held in Hattiesburg. The tournament, sponsored by NASA, marked the tenth year of FIRST LEGO League activity in Mississippi. About 500 elementary and middle school students participated in this year's competition focused on food safety. The teams built, tested and programmed an autonomous robot to solve a set of food safety missions. As they do each year, volunteers from the Stennis Space Center's Office of Education again served as mentors, referees and other tournament staff.
OPERATION COOKIES HQ
And the Office of Education is one of several headquarters organizations spreading holiday cheer to US service men and women in Southwest Asia. "Operation Cookies Sendoff" supports our soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors and naval aviators stationed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
Shelly Canright: "Each box has enough cookies for 120 service personnel. And we have been having baking marathons all weekend leading up to this event and so we plan to send them off in the next day or two so that they arrive, if not on Christmas Day, the day after Christmas."
The airmen at Al Udeid are volunteering in a science and technology program at the American School in Doha, Qatar. NASA Education provided support for the initiative this past summer.
And that's This Week at NASA.