Lori B. Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator

Lori Garver, NASA Deputy AdministratorNominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Lori Beth Garver began her duties as the Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on July 17, 2009.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles F. Bolden, Jr., NASA Administrator (July 17, 2009 - present)

Charles Bolden, 12th Administrator of NASANominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., began his duties as the twelfth Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on July 17, 2009. As Administrator, he leads the NASA team and manages its resources to advance the agency's missions and goals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

WISE Snug in Its Nose Cone

WISE is shown inside one-half of the nose cone, or fairing, that will protect it during launchNASA'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.

More information is online at http://www.nasa.gov/wise and http://wise.astro.ucla.edu .

NASA Receives Tranquility

From left, Michael Suffredini, International Space Station program manager: Secondino Brondolo, head of the Space Infrastructure, Thales Alenia Space Italy; and, Bernardo Patti, head of International Space Station, Program Department, ESA
The last major component set to be added to the International Space Station, the Node 3 module known as Tranquility, was officially transferred from the European Space Agency to NASA during a ceremony Nov. 20.

Inside the cavernous Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, officials from the two cooperating space agencies took the opportunity to reflect on the nearly completed station and its role in future space exploration.

"Station is truly a phenomenal engineering accomplishment, but as important as all that hardware is on orbit, what it really is, it’s the unity of all of us as partners," said Bob Cabana, Kennedy's director and a former astronaut who commanded the first space station construction mission. "All those different cultures coming together and working together as one for the betterment of not just our own countries, but our world, and preparing us to go beyond low Earth orbit to explore in space."

The pressurized node will provide additional room for crew members and many of the space station's life support and environmental control systems already on board. These systems include air revitalization, oxygen generation and water recycling. A waste and hygiene compartment and a treadmill also will be relocated from other areas of the station.

"ISS is the first necessary step in human's exploration beyond low Earth orbit," echoed Michael Suffredini, NASA's program manager for the International Space Station. "That's what the ISS was built to start, and that's what the ISS is now ready to do."

In the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, an overhead crane lowers the Tranquility module, or Node 3, toward a work standTranquility was built for NASA by Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, under contract to the European Space Agency. The module was part of ESA's barter agreement for which NASA delivered the Columbus laboratory to the station.

"The goal of tomorrow is to use this station, this beautiful achievement, to the maximum extent," said Bernardo Patti, head of the European Space Agency's space station program. "Now the ISS is becoming a full development program and it will be used as a platform to support an exploration program. We have all the ingredients to make that a success. We have the talent, we have the experience, and we have all the passion and the ideas."

Spanning about 22 feet in length and 14 feet in diameter, the node arrived at Kennedy aboard an Airbus "Beluga" aircraft in May 2009, and has been undergoing processing at Kennedy ever since.

Tranquility's connection point on the station will be on the Earth-facing side of the Unity node. The new component will provide an additional docking point for space shuttles and other crew vehicles visiting the station. Attached to Tranquility will be Cupola, a unique work module with six windows on the sides and one on top.

Both Tranquility and Cupola are set for delivery to the station early next year during space shuttle Endeavour's STS-130 mission.

Space Shuttle Crew Returns Home after 11-Day Mission

Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven astronauts ended an 11-day journey of nearly 4.5 million miles with a 9:44 a.m. EST landing Friday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The mission, designated STS-129, 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.

STS-129 Commander Charlie Hobaugh was joined on Atlantis' STS-129 mission by Pilot Barry Wilmore and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Randy Bresnik, Mike Foreman and Bobby Satcher. Atlantis returned with station resident Nicole Stott, who spent 91 days in space. This marks the final time the shuttle is expected to rotate station crew members.

A welcome ceremony for the astronauts will be held Monday, Nov. 30, in Houston. The public is invited to attend the 4 p.m. CST event at Ellington Field's NASA Hangar 990. Highlights from the ceremony will be broadcast on NASA Television's Video File. For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:


With Atlantis and its crew safely home, the stage is set for launch of shuttle Endeavour on its STS-130 mission, targeted to begin in February. Endeavour will deliver a pressurized module, known as Tranquility, which will provide room for many of the space station's life support systems. Attached to the node is a cupola, a robotic control station with six windows around its sides and another in the center that provides a 360-degree view around the station.

For more about the STS-129 mission and the upcoming STS-130 flight, visit:


STS-129 crew members Melvin, Satcher and Stott are providing mission updates on Twitter. For their Twitter feeds and other NASA social media Web sites, visit:


For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:


President Obama Launches 'Educate to Innovate' Campaign

President Obama has launched an “Educate to Innovate” campaign to improve the participation and performance of America’s students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This campaign will include efforts not only from the Federal Government but also from leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science and engineering societies to work with young people across America to excel in science and math.

As part of the campaign, this Administration hopes to do a series of events, announcements and other activities that build upon the President’s “call to action” and address the key components of national priority.

Why This is Important

We have many great schools, excellent teachers, and successful students in America. But there are also troubling signs that, overall, our students should be doing better in math and science.

What We Must Do

Through “Educate to Innovate” and other efforts, we must:

  • Increase STEM literacy so that all students can learn deeply and think critically in science, math, engineering, and technology.
  • Move American students from the middle of the pack to top in the next decade.
  • Expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and girls.

The First Steps

America is already stepping forward to meet these challenges. As part of the “Educate to Innovate” effort, five major public-private partnerships are harnessing the power of media, interactive games, hands-on learning, and community volunteers to reach millions of students over the next four years, inspiring them to be the next generation of inventors and innovators.

  • Time-Warner Cable, Discovery Communications, Sesame Street, and other partners will get the message to kids and students about the wonder of invention and discovery.
  • National Lab Day will help build communities of support around teachers across the country, culminating in a day of civic participation.
  • National STEM design competitions will develop game options to engage kids in scientific inquiry and challenging designs.
  • Five leading business and thought leaders (Sally Ride, Craig Barrett, Ursula Burns, Glen Britt, and Antonio Perez) will head an effort to increase private and philanthropic involvement in support of STEM teaching and learning.

NASA'S WISE Spacecraft Ready for Launch Dec. 9 from California

The launch of NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, aboard a Delta II rocket is scheduled to occur between 9:09 a.m. and 9:23 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 9, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA will provide television and Internet coverage of prelaunch activities and launch.

After launch, WISE will scan the entire sky in infrared light with a sensitivity hundreds of times greater than ever before, picking up the glow of hundreds of millions of objects and producing millions of images. The mission will uncover objects never seen before, including the coolest stars, the universe's most luminous galaxies and some of the darkest near-Earth asteroids and comets.

A prelaunch news conference on NASA Television will be held on Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. at the NASA Vandenberg Resident Office. Reporters can ask from participating NASA centers. A WISE mission science briefing will immediately follow the prelaunch news conference. The briefings will be webcast at:


On Dec. 9, NASA TV coverage of the countdown and launch will begin at 7 a.m. A WISE webcast with launch and mission principals is scheduled for noon on Dec. 8. To access WISE features, visit NASA's WISE Web site at:


Audio of the prelaunch news conference and the launch coverage will be available by dialing 321-867-1220/1240/1260. This is a listen-only audio system. Mission audio of countdown activities without NASA launch commentary will be carried on 321-867-7135 beginning at 6 a.m.

Launch coverage of WISE/Delta II countdown activities also will be available on the NASA Web site at:


Live countdown coverage on NASA's launch blog begins at 7 a.m. Coverage features real-time updates of countdown milestones, as well as streaming video clips highlighting launch preparations and liftoff.


Beginning Dec. 3, a WISE mission news center will be operational at the NASA Vandenberg Resident Office. Reporters should call 805-605-3051 for launch information. Recorded status reports also will be available at that time by dialing 805-734-2693.

NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis Crew Set to Land in Florida Friday

Space shuttle Atlantis and its seven-member crew are expected to return to Earth on Friday, Nov. 27, after an 11-day mission. The two landing opportunities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are at 9:44 a.m. and 11:19 a.m. EST.

NASA will evaluate weather conditions at Kennedy before permitting Atlantis and its crew to land. If bad weather prevents a return to Florida on Friday or Saturday, both Kennedy and the backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California will be activated for consideration on Sunday. For recorded updates about the shuttle landing, call 321-867-2525.

Approximately two hours after landing, NASA officials will hold a briefing to discuss the mission. The participants will be:

- Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for Space Operations
- Mike Moses, space shuttle launch integration manager
- Mike Leinbach, NASA shuttle launch director

After touchdown in Florida, the astronauts will undergo physical examinations and meet with their families. They are expected to make brief remarks at the runway and hold a news conference approximately six hours after landing. The news events will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's Web site.

The Kennedy news center will open for landing activities at 5 a.m. Friday and close at 5 p.m., or one hour after the last media event.

The STS-129 media badges are in effect through landing. The media accreditation building on State Road 3 will be open Friday from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The last bus will depart from the news center for the Shuttle Landing Facility one hour before landing.

If the landing is diverted to Edwards, reporters should call NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center public affairs office at 661-276-3449. Dryden has limited facilities available for previously accredited journalists.

The NASA News Twitter feed is updated throughout the shuttle mission and landing. To access the feed, visit:


For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:


For the latest information about the STS-129 mission and accomplishments, visit:


Thin Blue Line

Thin Blue Line
The thin line of Earth's atmosphere and the setting sun are featured in this image photographed by the crew of the International Space Station while space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-129 mission was docked with the station.

Prometheus Plays Tug of War with One of Saturn's Rings

Saturn and its moon Prometheus
The diminutive moon Prometheus whips gossamer ice particles out of Saturn's F ring in this image taken by the Cassini spacecraft on Aug. 21, 2009. The moon and the ring have eccentric, offset orbits, so Prometheus dips in and out of the F ring as it travels around Saturn. Its gravitational force drags the dust-sized particles at the edge of the F ring along for the ride.

The ability of the potato-shaped Prometheus to pull material out of the F ring was first theorized in the late 1990s and finally imaged by Cassini in 2004. But because these so-called "streamer-channels" have constantly shifted as Prometheus and the F ring have moved, the F ring has never looked the same twice. The gravitational pull of other moons on other rings has created waves in the edges, but nothing quite as extreme as the streamer-channels of Prometheus.

No Wheel Stall in Diagnostic Drive

Tracks in, Path out?
On Sol 2095 (Tuesday, Nov. 24), Spirit performed a set of diagnostic actions related to a stall of the right-rear wheel on the previous drive, three days earlier. The diagnostics showed a fully functioning wheel free of obstruction. The rover was commanded forward with 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of wheel spin. The rover moved 2.1 millimeters (0.08 inch) forward, 1.1 millimeters (0.04 inch) to the left, and 0.3 millimeters (0.01 inch) down.

The cumulative results from Sols 2088 to 2095 (Nov. 17 to 24) are 8.1 meters (27 feet) of commanded motion, 15.7 millimeters (0.6 inch) of forward progress, 9.9 millimeters (0.4 inch) of movement to the left, and 4.8 millimeters (0.2 inch) of sinkage.

The plan for a drive during the long holiday weekend is another two-step drive, with each step 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) of commanded wheel spin. All wheels will be straight and run at the same speed. Results of this commanded drive will be analyzed Monday, Nov. 30.

NASA Honors Biloxi's Apollo Astronaut Fred Haise with Moon Rock

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will present astronaut Fred Haise, Jr., with NASA's Ambassador of Exploration Award during a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at the Gorenflo Elementary School in Biloxi, Miss. Haise will present the award, consisting of a moon rock encased in Lucite for display, to Paul Tisdale, superintendent of the Biloxi Public School System, and Tina Thompson, the school's principal. Haise attended Gorenflo.

NASA is giving the Ambassador of Exploration Award to the first generation of explorers in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs for realizing America's goal of going to the moon. The moon rock is part of the 842 pounds of lunar samples collected during six Apollo expeditions from 1969 to 1972.

Haise was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 13 in 1970 and has logged 142 hours and 54 minutes in space. Apollo 13 was scheduled for a 10-day lunar mission, but the flight plan was modified because of a failure of the service module's cryogenic oxygen system. Haise and fellow crew members, James A. Lovell and John L. Swigert, working closely with NASA ground controllers in Houston, converted their lunar module Aquarius into an effective lifeboat. Their emergency activation and operation of lunar module systems conserved enough electrical power and water to assure their safety and survival in space and for their return to Earth.

Haise also was the backup lunar module pilot for the Apollo 8 and 11 missions, and backup spacecraft commander for the Apollo 16 mission. He was commander of one of two crews that piloted critical approach and landing test flights during the development of the space shuttle.

Haise was born in Biloxi, and received his bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1959. For more biographical information about Haise, visit:


NASA's Digital Learning Network, which allows students and teachers to connect with NASA through videoconferences and webcasts, will broadcast the event online Dec. 2 from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. EST at:


Beginning Dec. 2, NASA Television will air a video file with highlights from Haise's mission. For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information, visit:


For information about and pictures of the NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award, visit:


To learn more about Biloxi schools, visit:


For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:


NASA TV to Broadcast Space Station Crew Soyuz Landing Events

NASA Television will air the events surrounding the landing of three International Space Station crew members who will return to Earth Dec. 1. The space travelers have lived and worked aboard the space station for the past six months. NASA TV coverage will include the broadcast of farewells aboard the orbiting laboratory, hatch closure and undocking on Nov. 30, and the deorbit burn and landing on Dec. 1.

Frank De Winne of the European Space Agency, Russian cosmonaut and Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko and Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk of the Canadian Space Agency will undock their Soyuz spacecraft from the station at 9:53 p.m. CST Nov. 30. They will land in Kazakhstan at about 1:16 a.m. (1:16 p.m. Kazakhstan time) on Dec. 1. The three men spent 188 days in space, including 186 days aboard the station, following their Soyuz launch on May 27 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

NASA's Jeff Williams took over command of the station on Nov. 24 from De Winne, who served as the first European Space Agency commander of the complex. Williams also will lead the new Expedition 22 crew along with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev. Expedition 22 begins with the undocking of the Soyuz Monday evening. It will be the first time the station has been tended by only two crew members since July 2006. Oleg Kotov of the Russian Federal Space Agency, NASA's Timothy J. Creamer and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Space Agency, are set to launch in another Soyuz vehicle from Kazakhstan on Dec. 21 and join Expedition 22 on the station on Dec. 23.

Upcoming NASA TV Soyuz landing programming events (all times CST):

Monday, Nov. 30:
-- 6:30 p.m. Farewells and Hatch Closure (hatch closure scheduled at 6:53 p.m.)
-- 9:30 p.m. Undocking (undocking scheduled at 9:53 p.m.)

Tuesday, Dec. 1:
-- 12 a.m. Deorbit burn and landing (deorbit burn scheduled at 12:25 a.m.; landing scheduled at 1:16 a.m.)
For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and schedule information, visit:


For more about the space station, visit:


The Big Thaw? NASA Satellites Detect Unexpected Ice Loss in East Antarctica

Grace estimate of changes in Antarctica's ice mass, measured in centimeters of equivalent water height change per yearUsing gravity measurement data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) mission, a team of scientists from the University of Texas at Austin has found that the East Antarctic ice sheet-home to about 90 percent of Earth's solid fresh water and previously considered stable-may have begun to lose ice.

The team used Grace data to estimate Antarctica's ice mass between 2002 and 2009. Their results, published Nov. 22 in the journal Nature Geoscience, found that the East Antarctic ice sheet is losing mass, mostly in coastal regions, at an estimated rate of 57 gigatonnes a year. A gigatonne is one billion metric tons, or more than 2.2 trillion pounds. The ice loss there may have begun as early as 2006. The study also confirmed previous results showing that West Antarctica is losing about 132 gigatonnes of ice per year.

"While we are seeing a trend of accelerating ice loss in Antarctica, we had considered East Antarctica to be inviolate," said lead author and Senior Research Scientist Jianli Chen of the university's Center for Space Research. "But if it is losing mass, as our data indicate, it may be an indication the state of East Antarctica has changed. Since it's the biggest ice sheet on Earth, ice loss there can have a large impact on global sea level rise in the future."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., developed the twin Grace satellites. The University of Texas Center for Space Research in Austin has overall Grace mission responsibility. Grace was launched in 2002.

More information on Grace is online at http://www.csr.utexas.edu/grace/ and http://grace.jpl.nasa.gov/.

› Read the UTCSR news release

Cassini Captures Ghostly Dance of Saturn's Northern Lights

In the first video showing the auroras above the northern latitudes of Saturn, Cassini has spotted the tallest known "northern lights" in the solar system, flickering in shape and brightness high above the ringed planet.
Cassini Captures Ghostly Dance of Saturn's Northern Lights

› Play animation unannotated (mp4 10Mb)
› Play animation annotated (mp4 10Mb)
› Play video Saturn's Aurora in a New Light (mp4 40Mb)

The new video reveals changes in Saturn's aurora every few minutes, in high resolution, with three dimensions. The images show a previously unseen vertical profile to the auroras, which ripple in the video like tall curtains. These curtains reach more than 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) above the edge of the planet's northern hemisphere.

The new video and still images are online at: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini , http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://ciclops.org .

Auroras occur on Earth, Jupiter, Saturn and a few other planets, and the new images will help scientists better understand how they are generated.

"The auroras have put on a dazzling show, shape-shifting rapidly and exposing curtains that we suspected were there, but hadn't seen on Saturn before," said Andrew Ingersoll of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who is a member of the Cassini imaging team that processed the new video. "Seeing these things on another planet helps us understand them a little better when we see them on Earth."

Auroras appear mostly in the high latitudes near a planet's magnetic poles. When charged particles from the magnetosphere -- the magnetic bubble surrounding a planet -- plunge into the planet's upper atmosphere, they cause the atmosphere to glow. The curtain shapes show the paths that these charged particles take as they flow along the lines of the magnetic field between the magnetosphere and the uppermost part of the atmosphere.

The height of the curtains on Saturn exposes a key difference between Saturn's atmosphere and our own, Ingersoll said. While Earth's atmosphere has a lot of oxygen and nitrogen, Saturn's atmosphere is composed primarily of hydrogen. Because hydrogen is very light, the atmosphere and auroras reach far out from Saturn. Earth's auroras tend to flare only about 100 to 500 kilometers (60 to 300 miles) above the surface.

The speed of the auroral changes in the video is comparable to some of those on Earth, but scientists are still working to understand the processes that produce these rapid changes. The height will also help them learn how much energy is required to light up auroras.

"I was wowed when I saw these images and the curtain," said Tamas Gombosi of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who chairs Cassini's magnetosphere and plasma science working group. "Put this together with the other data Cassini has collected on the auroras so far, and you really get a new science."

A Cassini scientist explains the flickering northern lights high above Saturn, shown for the first time in a visible-light movie

Ultraviolet and infrared instruments on Cassini have captured images of and data from Saturn's auroras before, but in these latest images, Cassini's narrow-angle camera was able to capture the northern lights in the visible part of the light spectrum, in higher resolution. The movie was assembled from nearly 500 still pictures spanning 81 hours between Oct. 5 and Oct. 8, 2009. Each picture had an exposure time of two or three minutes. The camera shot pictures from the night side of Saturn.

The images were originally obtained in black and white, and the imaging team highlighted the auroras in false-color orange. The oxygen and nitrogen in Earth's upper atmosphere contribute to the colorful flashes of green, red and even purple in our auroras. But scientists are still working to determine the true color of the auroras at Saturn, whose atmosphere lacks those chemicals.

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 the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

NASA Chooses Small Business High Tech Projects for Development

NASA has selected for development 368 small business innovation projects that include research to minimize aging of aircraft, new techniques for suppressing fires on spacecraft and advanced transmitters for deep space communications.

Chosen from more than 1,600 proposals, the competitively selected awards will address agency research and technology needs. The awards are part of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, and Small Business Technology Transfer, or STTR, programs.

The SBIR program selected 335 proposals for negotiation of Phase 1 contracts, and the STTR program chose 33 proposals for negotiation of Phase 1 contract awards. The selected SBIR projects have a combined value of approximately $33.5 million. The selected STTR projects have a combined value of approximately $3.3 million.

The SBIR contracts will be awarded to 245 small, high technology firms in 36 states. The STTR contracts will be awarded to 31 small high technology firms in 19 states. As part of the STTR program, selected firms will partner with 26 universities and research institutions in 20 states.

Past innovations from the program have benefited a number of NASA efforts, including air traffic control systems, Earth observing spacecraft, the International Space Station and the development of spacecraft for exploring the solar system.

A few of the research areas among this group of selected proposals include:

- Advanced aerospace adhesives to minimize aging and increase durability of aircraft
- Novel computational tools to better design future hypersonic spacecraft
- New approaches to fire suppression in spacecraft environments
- Technologies to monitor crew health and well being using very small scale testing devices
- New instruments for small lunar rovers or landers to enable critical mineralogical analysis for studying regolith, rock, ice, and dust samples
- Advanced transmitters for deep space communications

The SBIR program is a highly competitive, three-phase award system. It provides qualified small businesses -- including women-owned and disadvantaged firms -- with opportunities to propose unique ideas that meet specific research and development needs of the federal government.

The criteria used to choose these winning proposals included technical merit and feasibility, experience, qualifications and facilities, effectiveness of the work plan and commercial potential and feasibility.

The SBIR and STTR programs are part of NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NASA works with U.S. industry to infuse pioneering technologies into agency missions and transition them into commercially available products and services.

NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SBIR and STTR programs for the Innovative Partnerships Program. Each of NASA's 10 field centers manages individual projects.

For a list of selected companies and more information about the program, visit:


NASA Updates Time of Tuesday News Conference with Space Station

The 12 crew members aboard space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station will hold a news conference Tuesday at 7 a.m. CST, 13 minutes earlier than previously announced.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of the 40-minute news conference. For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information, visit:


Atlantis' STS-129 mission includes three spacewalks and the installation of two platforms to the station's truss, or backbone. The platforms will store the spare parts needed to sustain station operations after the shuttle fleet is retired. Atlantis will return with station resident Nicole Stott, marking the final time the shuttle will be used to rotate station crew members.

For more information about STS-129 and its crew, visit:


Spitzer Telescope Observes Baby Brown Dwarf

image shows two young brown dwarfs, objects that fall somewhere between planets and stars in terms of their temperature and mass
This image shows two young brown dwarfs, objects that fall somewhere between planets and stars in terms of their temperature and mass.
› Full image and caption

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has contributed to the discovery of the youngest brown dwarf ever observed -- a finding that, if confirmed, may solve an astronomical mystery about how these cosmic misfits are formed.

Brown dwarfs are misfits because they fall somewhere between planets and stars in terms of their temperature and mass. They are cooler and more lightweight than stars and more massive (and normally warmer) than planets. This has generated a debate among astronomers: Do brown dwarfs form like planets or like stars?

Brown dwarfs are born of the same dense, dusty clouds that spawn stars and planets. But while they may share the same galactic nursery, brown dwarfs are often called "failed" stars because they lack the mass of their hotter, brighter stellar siblings. Without that mass, the gas at their core does not get hot enough to trigger the nuclear fusion that burns hydrogen -- the main component of these molecular clouds -- into helium. Unable to ignite as stars, brown dwarfs end up as cooler, less luminous objects that are more difficult to detect -- a challenge that was overcome in this case by Spitzer's heat-sensitive infrared vision.

To complicate matters, young brown dwarfs evolve rapidly, making it difficult to catch them when they are first born. The first brown dwarf was discovered in 1995 and, while hundreds have been found since, astronomers had not been able to unambiguously find them in their earliest stages of formation until now. In this study, an international team of astronomers found a so-called "proto brown dwarf" while it was still hidden in its natal star-forming region. Guided by Spitzer data collected in 2005, they focused their search in the dark cloud Barnard 213, a region of the Taurus-Auriga complex well known to astronomers as a hunting ground for young objects.

"We decided to go several steps back in the process when (brown dwarfs) are really hidden," said David Barrado of the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid, Spain, lead author of the paper on the discovery in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal. "During this step they would have an (opaque) envelope, a cocoon, and they would be easier to identify due to their strong infrared excesses. We have used this property to identify them. This is where Spitzer plays an important role because Spitzer can have a look inside these clouds. Without it this wouldn't have been possible."

Spitzer's longer-wavelength infrared camera penetrated the dusty natal cloud to observe a baby brown dwarf named SSTB213 J041757. The data, confirmed with near-infrared imaging from Calar Alto Observatory in Spain, revealed not one but two of what would potentially prove to be the faintest and coolest brown dwarfs ever observed.

Barrado and his team embarked on an international quest for more information about the two objects. Their overarching scientific objective was to observe and characterize the presence of this dusty envelope -- proof of the celestial womb of sorts that would indicate that these brown dwarfs were, in fact, in their earliest evolutionary stages.

The twins were observed from around the globe, and their properties were measured and analyzed using a host of powerful astronomical tools. One of the astronomers' stops was the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory in Hawaii, which captured the presence of the envelope around the young objects. That information, coupled with what they had from Spitzer, enabled the astronomers to build a spectral energy distribution -- a diagram that shows the amount of energy that is emitted by the objects in each wavelength.

From Hawaii, the astronomers made additional stops at observatories in Spain (Calar Alto Observatory), Chile (Very Large Telescopes) and New Mexico (Very Large Array). They also pulled decade-old data from the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre archives that allowed them to comparatively measure how the two objects were moving in the sky. After more than a year of observations, they drew their conclusions.

"We were able to estimate that these two objects are the faintest and coolest discovered so far," Barrado said. Barrado said the findings potentially solve the mystery about whether brown dwarfs form more like stars or planets. The answer? They form like low-mass stars. This theory is bolstered because the change in brightness of the objects at various wavelengths matches that of other very young, low-mass stars.

While further study will confirm whether these two celestial objects are in fact proto brown dwarfs, they are the best candidates so far, Barrado said. He said the journey to their discovery, while difficult, was fun. "It is a story that has been unfolding piece by piece. Sometimes nature takes its time to give up its secrets."

These observations were made before Spitzer ran out of its liquid coolant in May 2009, beginning its "warm" mission.

The paper's other authors are M. Morales-Calderon, Centro de Astrobiología and Spitzer Science Center; A. Palau and A. Bayo, Centro de Astrobiología; I. de Gregorio-Monsalvo, European Southern Observatory; C. Eiroa, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; N. Huelamo, Centro de Astrobiología; H. Bouy, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and European Space Agency; O. Morata, Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics and National Taiwan Normal University; and L. Schmidtobreick, European Southern Observatory.

More information on the Spitzer Space Telescope is online at http://spitzer.caltech.edu and http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer .

Wise a Bit Closer to the Sky

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or Wise, is seen here being hoisted to the top of its United Launch Alliance Detla II rocket at Vandenberg Air Force BaseNASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or Wise, is now perched atop its rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base, north of Santa Barbara, Calif. The mission, which will scan the whole sky in infrared light, is scheduled to blast off on Dec. 9. It was hoisted to the top of its United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket on Friday, Nov. 20.

JPL manages the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The mission's 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.

More information is online at http://www.nasa.gov/wise and http://wise.astro.ucla.edu

Inventors Answer Call for New Glove Designs

Inventor Peter Homer, left, participates in the dexterity and flexibility test during NASA's 2009 Astronaut Glove Challenge at the Astronaut Hall of Fame near Kennedy Space CenterTwo independent inventors answered NASA's call for innovative new designs for the next generation of astronaut gloves. Today's spacewalkers have to contend with bulky gloves that stiffen when pressurized, making it tough to grip and flex while completing tasks in the vacuum of space.

Peter Homer and Ted Southern put their prototypes to the test during NASA's 2009 Astronaut Glove Challenge, held Nov. 19 at the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Fla., near NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Homer, an engineer from Southwest Harbor, Maine, was awarded $250,000 after placing first. Southern, a sculpture major at New York's Pratt Institute, earned second place and $100,000.

The ultimate goal of the Astronaut Glove Challenge is to improve the current design, resulting in a stronger and more flexible glove that will reduce the hand fatigue experienced by astronauts working in space.

For the first Astronaut Glove Challenge held in 2007, competitors supplied only the inner pressure-restraining layer. The outer layer, which provides protection against extreme temperatures and micrometeoroids, was an added requirement this year. Representatives from NASA and the agency's spacesuit contractor, ILC Dover, observed and noted the gloves' performances in a series of three tests.

The competitor inserted his gloved arm and hand into a depressurized glove box for the dexterity and flexibility test, completing cycles of movements and tasks, such as gripping a handle, using tools, flexing the hand and wrist, and touching the tip of the thumb to the tip of each finger.

In the joint force test, test operators from ILC Dover sealed and pressurized each glove to 4.3 pounds per square inch (psi) of internal pressure, then tugged it through its full range of motion while measuring the amount of force each movement required.

Finally, the gloves' strength capabilities were measured in the burst test. The room quieted as test operators sealed the glove and filled it with water, slowly increasing the pressure. Competitors, judges and other spectators leaned forward, watching the glove for signs of weakness or rupture.

The event was sponsored by Secor Strategies LLC of Titusville, Fla., and non-profit Volanz Aerospace of Owings, Md., managed the event for NASA.

"Both of you did better than the (current) Phase VI glove, and you both get a round of applause for that," said Alan Hayes, Volanz Aerospace chairman. "The test results were incredibly close."

Both Homer and Southern began working on the project in spring 2006 and competed in the first Astronaut Glove Challenge. Homer took home $200,000 after winning that event. After the 2007 challenge, Southern teamed up with former competitor Nikolay Moiseev.

Prior to the challenge, competitors were in the dark about who else would participate or what their designs might be.

"You're sort of developing in the vacuum of your own little world," Homer said. "You're hoping that you're going far enough with your design. And then there's the aspect of, 'Who am I going to be going up against?' I didn't know Ted was competing until we walked in and saw each other."

The Astronaut Glove Challenge is one of six Centennial Challenges prize competitions managed by NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program.

For more information about NASA's Centennial Challenges, visit:


NASA Assessing New Roles for Ailing QuikScat Satellite

NASA mission managers are assessing options for future operations of the venerable QuikScat satellite following the age-related failure of a mechanism that spins the scatterometer antenna. This spinning antenna had been providing near-real-time ocean- surface wind speed and direction data over 90 percent of the global ocean every day.

QuickScatIn recent months, the QuikScat project team has been monitoring a pattern of increasing friction in the bearings that allow the antenna to spin, leading to increased resistance and strain on the motor that turns QuikScat's rotating antenna. This degradation was fully expected, as the spin mechanism was designed to last about 5 years.

After experiencing further difficulties over the weekend, the antenna stopped spinning early today, Nov. 23. The QuikScat spacecraft and scatterometer instrument themselves remain in otherwise good health. Should engineers be unable to restart the antenna, QuikScat will be unable to continue its primary science mission, as the antenna spin is necessary to estimate wind speed and direction and form the wide data swath necessary to obtain nearly global sampling.

Over the coming days, NASA managers will review contingency plans for restarting the antenna and assess options for using the mission in its present degraded state to advance Earth system science in the event the antenna cannot be restarted. For example, degraded scatterometer measurements from QuikScat can still be useful for cross-calibrating the mission's climate data record with measurements from other scatterometers, including the operational EUMETSAT ASCAT instrument, India's recently launched Oceansat-2 and a planned Chinese scatterometer. Specific operational forecasting applications such as polar ice measurements and limited hurricane observations may also be supportable.

By any measure of success, the 10-year-old QuikScat mission is a unique national resource that has achieved and far surpassed its science objectives. Designed for a two-year lifetime, QuikScat has been used around the globe by the world's operational meteorological agencies to improve weather forecasts and identify the location, size and strength of hurricanes and other storms in the open ocean. The mission has also provided critical information for monitoring, modeling, forecasting and researching our atmosphere, ocean and climate. More information on QuikScat is online at: http://winds.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/quikscat/index.cfm.

The Crab Nebula: A Cosmic Icon

Crab Nebula 2009
A star's spectacular death in the constellation Taurus was observed on Earth as the supernova of 1054 A.D. Now, almost a thousand years later, a super dense object -- called a neutron star -- left behind by the explosion is seen spewing out a blizzard of high-energy particles into the expanding debris field known as the Crab Nebula. X-ray data from Chandra provide significant clues to the workings of this mighty cosmic "generator," which is producing energy at the rate of 100,000 suns.

This composite image uses data from three of NASA's Great Observatories. The Chandra X-ray image is shown in blue, the Hubble Space Telescope optical images are in yellow and red, and the Spitzer Space Telescope's infrared image is in purple. The X-ray image is smaller than the others because extremely energetic electrons emitting X-rays radiate away their energy more quickly than the lower-energy electrons emitting optical and infrared light. Along with many other telescopes, Chandra has repeatedly observed the Crab Nebula over the course of the mission’s lifetime. The Crab Nebula is one of the most studied objects in the sky, truly making it a cosmic icon.

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NASA Awards $350,000 to Winning Astronaut Glove Designers

NASA's Centennial Challenges program awarded $350,000 this week to a pair of designers who developed concepts for more flexible space gloves that could make it easier for astronauts to perform tasks.

The 2009 Astronaut Glove Challenge awarded a first place prize of $250,000 to Peter Homer of Southwest Harbor, Maine, and a second place prize of $100,000 to Ted Southern of Brooklyn, N.Y. The competition seeks innovative spacesuit glove design concepts to reduce the effort needed to do work during spacewalks. In this challenge, competitors demonstrated their glove design by performing a range of tasks with the glove in a pressurized chamber.

"It is remarkable that two designers working on their own could create gloves that meet the requirements for spaceflight -- a task that normally requires a large team of experts," said Kate Mitchell, an engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The competition was held at the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Fla., on Nov. 19. It was managed for NASA by Volanz Aerospace, a non-profit space education organization based in Owings, Md. Secor Strategies LLC of Titusville was a commercial sponsor of the event.

In order to qualify for a prize, the gloves had to meet all of the basic requirements of NASA's current spacesuit gloves and exceed their flexibility. The gloves also were tested to ensure they would not leak.

For the 2009 challenge, teams had to develop a complete glove, including the outer, thermal-micrometeoroid-protection layer and the inner, pressure-restraining layer. In a previous 2007 competition, only the pressure-restraining layer was required.

The two competitors were tied in several categories, but Peter Homer, who won $200,000 in the first Astronaut Glove Challenge in 2007, claimed first prize again this time by outscoring his rival in the joint-flexibility and pressure tests. Ted Southern, who captured second place, also competed in 2007. The designs presented in the competition were measured and evaluated by engineers from Johnson, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and NASA's spacesuit manufacturer, ILC Dover of Dover, Del.

The Astronaut Glove Challenge is one of six Centennial Challenges prize competitions managed by NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program, which provides the prize funds. This was the fourth consecutive Centennial Challenge event with prize winners. The program has awarded $3.65 million in 2009.

"Our challenges have been difficult, multi-year efforts and in many cases it has taken several years for competitors to perfect their designs," said Andrew Petro, the Centennial Challenges Program manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We are now seeing the results of their perseverance."

For more information on Centennial Challenges, visit:


For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:


NASA Pushes Social Media Experience to New Heights

NASA launched a social media experience at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida that quickly turned into an unprecedented world-wide event as more than 100 Twitter users got a unique look inside America's space program and front row seats to the Nov. 16 liftoff of the space shuttle Atlantis.

People from as far away as New Zealand participated in Kennedy's first Tweetup, an event where bloggers meet face-to-face and share their experiences in 140 character online bursts. During the two-day event Twitter users, or Tweeps, took behind-the-scenes tours of Kennedy, spoke at length with NASA astronauts, technicians, engineers and managers, and saw a launch from the vantage point usually reserved for more traditional media.

"We were very excited by the extraordinary number of people from all over the world who participated," said Lori Garver, NASA's deputy administrator. "NASA will continue to evolve with the social media environment and look for new ways to engage the public and spread the word about the tremendous things we do."

The Tweetup, identified by the search term #nasatweetup, was the third highest trending topic Nov. 15 on the social networking service. The micro-blogs, or tweets, are text-based Internet posts that are delivered to the author's subscribers. The more than 100 people in attendance had over 150,000 followers. As people share and forward the information, the potential online reach could be in the millions.

People from 21 states and the District of Columbia attended, as did guests who flew from Canada, England, Morocco and New Zealand. Participants ranged in age from 18 to more than 60, with most being under age 40. NASA Television also streamed video of Tweetup events online where more than 7,500 viewers watched the events prior to launch.

"The way people are communicating and receiving information is undergoing a global revolution," said Morrie Goodman, NASA's assistant administrator for Public Affairs. "NASA is a recognized leader in adopting social media and this is another exciting 'first' for the agency."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory held the first NASA Tweetup on Jan. 21. NASA Headquarters held its first Tweetup on July 21, followed by another from Headquarters Sept. 24 that featured the STS-127 space shuttle crew. On Oct. 21, NASA held a smaller Tweetup, allowing 35 Tweeps to talk with Nicole Stott and Jeff Williams aboard the International Space Station via a live downlink.

In April, Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) became NASA's first astronaut to tweet. Astro_Mike reached 1 million Twitter followers on Sept. 23. He sent his first tweet from space while flying on the STS-125 Hubble servicing mission in May. Since then, 12 other NASA astronauts have set up Twitter accounts. You can follow them individually or through the NASA Astronauts Twitter account at:


To view the Nov. 15 portion of the Tweetup on YouTube, visit:


To view photos from the STS-129 launch Tweetup, visit:


For more information about NASA's Tweetup events, visit:


To view all NASA's Twitter and other social media accounts at:


For more information about space shuttle Atlantis' STS-129 mission, visit:


Science Magazines Honor Cutting-Edge NASA Programs

NASA's revolutionary planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has been honored with the 2009 Best of What's New Grand Award from Popular Science Magazine and a 2009 Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics Magazine.

"The Kepler Space Telescope is a stunning new tool that has a very targeted mission: studying planetary systems," the Popular Mechanics magazine editors wrote in recognizing Kepler. "It is the first instrument able to detect Earth-like planets, potentially capable of hosting life, as they circle distant suns. About 100,000 stars in our region of the Milky Way will be observed."

Popular Science also honored NASA's new moon mapping mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Orion Launch Abort System with Best of What's New awards in the aviation and space category. Popular Science announced the award winners in its December issue. Popular Mechanics made the announcement in its November issue.

"The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in June, will use seven instruments to deliver the most detailed picture of the moon yet," Popular Science magazine editors wrote. "In addition to photographing the lunar surface in high resolution and creating a 3-D topographical map, it will beam back reams of information on surface radiation, surface temperature, soil composition, the presence of water ice and more."

Popular Science editors reviewed thousands of products before selecting 100 new products and technologies in 11 categories to receive Best of What's New awards. Award categories include automotive, aviation and space, computing, engineering, gadgets, green technology, home entertainment, security, home technology, personal health and recreation.

"For 22 years, Popular Science has honored the innovations that surprise and amaze us - those that make a positive impact on our world today and challenge our views of what's possible in the future." said Mark Jannot, editor-in-chief of Popular Science. "The Best of What's New Award is the magazine's top honor, and the 100 winners - chosen from among thousands of entrants - represent the highest level of achievement in their fields."

The Kepler Space Telescope is managed by NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. NASA's Orion Launch Abort System is managed by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

For information about the Popular Science awards, visit:


For information about the Popular Mechanics awards, visit:


For more information about NASA and its programs, visit:


Cassini Sends Back Images of Enceladus as Winter Nears

Unprocessed image from Cassini's Enceladus flyby
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has sailed seamlessly through the Nov. 21 flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus and started transmitting uncalibrated temperature data and images of the rippling terrain. These data and images will be processed and analyzed in the coming weeks. They will help scientists create the most-detailed-yet mosaic image of the southern part of the moon's Saturn-facing hemisphere and a contiguous thermal map of one of the intriguing "tiger stripe" features, with the highest resolution to date.

"These first raw images are spectacular, and paint an even more fascinating picture of Enceladus," said Bob Pappalardo, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The Cassini teams will be delving into the data to better understand the workings of this bizarre, active moon."

Scientists are particularly interested in the tiger stripes, which are fissures in the south polar region, because they spew jets of water vapor and other particles hundreds of kilometers, or miles, from the surface. This flyby was scientists' last peek at the tiger stripes before the south pole fades into the darkness of winter for several years. The thermal imaging work focused on the tiger stripe known as Baghdad Sulcus.

Unprocessed image from Cassini's Enceladus flyby

The Nov. 21 encounter, which is sometimes called "E8" because it is the eighth targeted flyby of Enceladus, brought Cassini to within about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) of the moon's surface, at around 82 degrees south latitude. Cassini is now cruising toward Rhea, another one of Saturn's moons, for more imaging and mapping work.

KSC Powers on Solar Energy Future

NASA's Kennedy Space Center turned a shade greener Nov. 19 with the addition of five acres of electricity-producing solar panels to the spaceport's power grid.

Cabana and Silagy discuss the innovations incorporated into the solar farm at KennedyThe Kennedy Solar Energy Center is the first of two new power facilities being built at Kennedy that use solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. The process creates no carbon emissions and requires no fuel, such as oil or natural gas, to generate power.

It is the first large-scale power plant of its kind at a NASA center, and part of a small but growing solar infrastructure under development in Florida.

"We are taking a leadership role in supporting an important national goal and that's to increase America's energy independence while protecting the climate," said Bob Cabana, director of Kennedy.

A ceremony commissioning the first of two power plants also offered a glimpse at future projects that could include permanent renewable energy research and development center proposed for Kennedy. A plan to build solar panels on up to 500 acres of fallow agricultural land also is under consideration depending on the environmental and economic feasibility.

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, left, Roderick Roche of SunPower Corp., and Florida power & LIght's Eric Silagy symbolically turn on the one megawatt solar energy center at KSCFor now, the solar farms under construction help show the way for electricity generation.

Built in the center's Industrial Area south of the Vertical Integration Facility, the solar farm is large enough to create one megawatt of electricity, or enough to power 110 homes. For Kennedy, the power output equates to about 1 percent of the center's electricity uses.

A second, much larger, solar energy complex is under construction in a former citrus grove at the south end of the center. That location will produce 10 megawatts of electricity and is scheduled to be finished in April 2010. It will be plugged into FPL's network and distributed to the utility's other customers.

"The fuel for this is always free," said Eric Silagy, FPL vice president and chief development officer. "Solar power is ready to take center stage here in the sunshine state."

SunPower Corp. designed and built the facility by mounting 3,344 panels atop 1,183 piers. The structures are designed to withstand 130 mph winds.

More than 3,300 solar panels have been erected on a vacant five acres at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to create the Solar Energy CenterCompared with a conventionally fueled power plant, the solar energy center is relatively simple. All the panels have to do is let the sun hit them to produce current. It can be monitored remotely and its maintenance needs are expected to be quite small, said Roderick Roche, senior manager in SunPower's program office.

The panels are tilted 20 degrees facing south. Their greatest energy producing time will be in April, from 11 a.m. to noon. Predictably, January conditions are the least favorable for power generation, but that won't stop the panels from working even in the winter.

Jim Ball, program manager for Center Development at Kennedy, said it would take a tremendous amount of new solar facilities to fulfill all of the center's electricity requirements, but that may become possible as the technology improves and new efficiencies develop.

"We're in the right place at the right time," Ball said.