kin of mumbai attack victims welcome

Relatives of victims of the 2008 Mumbai attack victims on Wednesday welcomed the execution of the lone surviving attacker, Ajmal Kasab, saying justice has been finally delivered. In Varanasi, Sunita Yadav, wife of victim Upendra Yadav, expressed her gratitude to the authorities for carrying out the execution.

Daily Bollywood News:Bipasha Basu - Bollywood will remain a hero-centric business

Women are active in show business like never before, but will they surpass the status Bollywood heroes enjoy? Never, says Bipasha Basu, who feels there is minimum opportunity for female actors in the Hindi film industry

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

LCROSS Set For Lunar Impact Friday

LCROSS Centaur Separation

Image of the Centaur separation as viewed from the infrared camera.
Credit: NASA

LCROSS Centaur Separation occurred at 9:50 p.m. EDT (6:50 p.m. PDT), Oct. 8. After separation, the spacecraft performed a 180 degree pitch maneuver (turning around) to reorient the LCROSS science payload towards the receding Centaur.

Centaur Separation


Image of the centaur separation as viewed from the mid infrared camera.
Credit: NASA
Click for full resolution.

Image of the centaur separation as viewed from the mid infrared camera.
Credit: NASA
Click for full resolution.

STK (satellite toolkit) image of the LCROSS spacecraft after centaur separation.
Credit: NASA
Click for full resolution.

Orion Main Parachute Testing Technique Demonstrated

NASA and engineering support contractors completed a demonstration test of the main parachute test equipment for the Orion crew exploration vehicle Oct. 2, 2009 at the U.S Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz. This picture captures the beginning of the drop. Image credit: NASA

NASA and engineering support contractors completed a demonstration test of the main parachute test equipment for the Orion crew exploration vehicle Oct. 2 at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz.

The demonstration is part of a series of tests to support the design and development of the Orion parachute recovery system, which is derived from the system NASA used to recover the Apollo spacecraft.

In August 2008, NASA experienced an anomaly in the test technique when deploying a full-scale Orion boilerplate parachute test vehicle (PTV). To improve the testing technique and prevent such an anomaly from occurring again, NASA is developing “smart” systems to make the extraction of large, oversized payloads from the C-17 aircraft repeatable and creation of the right test conditions more reliable.

For the recent test, a 20,700-pound test vehicle was extracted from a C-130 aircraft at an altitude of 20,500 feet. The test conditions simulated the dynamic environment that the test vehicle experiences when extracted from an aircraft. The new “smart” avionic systems are designed to sense the attitude and pitch rate of the test vehicle and trigger the proper time to release the vehicle from the test platform to begin the parachute test. All of the new avionics worked as planned, recorded the proper release points and the equipment landed safely.

The test vehicle consisted of a nine-foot-wide by 24-foot-long platform with a 16-foot-long weight tub. The tub included a backstop structure to provide a positive angle of attack when the vehicle was descending under the programmer parachute. Honeycomb was built up on the weight tub to simulate the profile and aerodynamics of the actual test vehicle that will be used in later testing. Simulating the aerodynamics of the vehicle is important since that contributes to the pitch motion when the vehicle is extracted from an aircraft.

The demonstration test is part of a series of tests to support the design and development of the Orion parachute recovery system, which is derived from the system NASA used to recover the Apollo spacecraft. Image credit: NASA

The next demonstration of the new test equipment is scheduled for November 2009. A third demonstration focused on better understanding the wake effects of the programmer parachute is scheduled for January 2010. Tests for the pilots, drogues and main parachutes are scheduled to begin in late 2010 and continue through 2014.

To gather additional useful data during this demonstration of the testing technique, two Orion main parachutes were deployed with over-inflation control lines to investigate their effects on drag oscillation.

One of the causes of drag oscillation is the “breathing” of the large ring sail parachutes resulting in time-varying drag performance. Better understanding the drag performance will improve the calculations of Orion’s touchdown velocity and the impact loads the vehicle must be designed to sustain. Engineers will study the data collected to see if the design modifications can be used to optimize the main parachute performance.

Orion will carry NASA's next generation of astronauts to the International Space Station and beyond. NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston manages the Orion Project for the Constellation Program and leads the design and development of the crew exploration vehicle recovery system. The Houston division of Jacobs Technology Inc. in conjunction with Airborne Systems of Santa Ana, Calif. are designing, developing and testing the parachutes in Yuma.

NASA to Hold Symposium for Small Businesses

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will host a Small Business Symposium and awards ceremony Nov. 16 and 17, in Bethesda, Maryland, open to industry, academia, and domestic small businesses. Image credit: NASA/JPL

October 08, 2009

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA will host its second annual NASA/JPL Small Business Symposium and Awards Ceremony Nov. 16 and 17 at the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel and Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Rd., Bethesda, Md.

The symposium provides a forum for attendees to learn about NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located in Pasadena, Calif., and agency plans for future missions in space and Earth science.

Attendees will learn about the skills, resources and technologies needed to participate in the agency's missions, programs and research. Business-to-business networking with NASA, JPL and prime contractors will be the objective throughout the event. Participation in this symposium is open to industry, academia and small businesses. The registration deadline for the symposium is Nov. 9.

The two-day event will culminate with the NASA Small Business Industry and Advocates Awards Ceremony. The NASA Small Business Awards recognize outstanding contributions NASA employees and industry representatives have made in support of the agency's small business program.

The Business Opportunities Office at JPL and NASA's Office of Small Business Programs are hosting the symposium.

To register for the symposium, visit: .

For information about NASA's Office of Small Business Programs, visit: .

For information about JPL's Business Opportunities Office, visit: .

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

NASA Refines Asteroid Apophis' Path Toward Earth

Asteroid Apophis was discovered on June 19, 2004. Image credit: UH/IA

October 07, 2009

PASADENA, Calif. -- Using updated information, NASA scientists have recalculated the path of a large asteroid. The refined path indicates a significantly reduced likelihood of a hazardous encounter with Earth in 2036.

The Apophis asteroid is approximately the size of two-and-a-half football fields. The new data were documented by near-Earth object scientists Steve Chesley and Paul Chodas at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. They will present their updated findings at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences in Puerto Rico on Oct. 8.

"Apophis has been one of those celestial bodies that has captured the public's interest since it was discovered in 2004," said Chesley. "Updated computational techniques and newly available data indicate the probability of an Earth encounter on April 13, 2036, for Apophis has dropped from one-in-45,000 to about four-in-a million."

A majority of the data that enabled the updated orbit of Apophis came from observations Dave Tholen and collaborators at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy in Manoa made. Tholen pored over hundreds of previously unreleased images of the night sky made with the University of Hawaii's 2.2-meter (88-inch) telescope, located near the summit of Mauna Kea.

Tholen made improved measurements of the asteroid's position in the images, enabling him to provide Chesley and Chodas with new data sets more precise than previous measures for Apophis. Measurements from the Steward Observatory's 2.3 meter (90-inch) Bok telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona and the Arecibo Observatory on the island of Puerto Rico also were used in Chesley's calculations.

The information provided a more accurate glimpse of Apophis' orbit well into the latter part of this century. Among the findings is another close encounter by the asteroid with Earth in 2068 with chance of impact currently at approximately three-in-a-million. As with earlier orbital estimates where Earth impacts in 2029 and 2036 could not initially be ruled out due to the need for additional data, it is expected that the 2068 encounter will diminish in probability as more information about Apophis is acquired.

Initially, Apophis was thought to have a 2.7 percent chance of impacting Earth in 2029. Additional observations of the asteroid ruled out any possibility of an impact in 2029. However, the asteroid is expected to make a record-setting -- but harmless -- close approach to Earth on Friday, April 13, 2029, when it comes no closer than 29,450 kilometers (18,300 miles) above Earth's surface.

"The refined orbital determination further reinforces that Apophis is an asteroid we can look to as an opportunity for exciting science and not something that should be feared," said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. "The public can follow along as we continue to study Apophis and other near-Earth objects by visiting us on our AsteroidWatch Web site and by following us on the @AsteroidWatch Twitter feed."

The science of predicting asteroid orbits is based on a physical model of the solar system which includes the gravitational influence of the sun, moon, other planets and the three largest asteroids.

NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., operates the Arecibo Observatory under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va.

For more information about asteroids and near-Earth objects, visit:

For more information about NASA, visit:

New Set of High-Resolution Mars Images Online

Thousands of image products from 233 recent telescopic observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show a diversity of surface shapes and textures on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Full image and caption

October 07, 2009
Thousands of image products from 233 recent telescopic observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show a diversity of surface shapes and textures on Mars. These views, captured during August 2009 by the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, are on the camera team's University of Arizona Web site, at: .

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been studying Mars with an advanced set of instruments since 2006. It has returned more data about the planet than all other spacecraft combined. For more information about the mission, visit: .

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the instrument was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.

Today World Weather Report

Today World Weather Report

WWE - RAW Guest Host Ben Roethlisberger Highlights

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger served as RAW special guest host! Check out for more.

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WWE - Hell in a Cell Encore Presentation

Relive all the action of steel cage bouts and championship matches. Check out for more.

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WWE - John Cena Honored by the Make-a-Wish Foundation

WWE Superstar John Cena receives a special award from the Make-a-Wish Foundation for granting over 140 wishes! Learn more at

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WWE Bragging Rights - SmackDown vs RAW

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Orton/Cena? WWE Gimmick PPVs? Undertaker Retiring? Lashley MMA? Express Q&A - 10/6/09

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tories To Put Public Before Criminals' Rights

Police would be free to "name and shame" dangerous criminals in the community under proposals to be announced by the Conservatives today.

The Tories say the Human Rights Act all too frequently puts offenders first
They say criminals enjoy an "automatic privacy" which has often meant the public being kept in the dark about offenders living in their midst.
The Tories blame the Human Rights Act and flawed Government policy which they maintain puts the interest of criminals ahead of public safety.
As an example they cite the killing of young mother Naomi Bryant from Winchester by a rapist on licence from a life sentence.

Naomi Bryant suffered a brutal death

Anthony Rice strangled and stabbed the 40 year old
while under the supervision of probation and other officials.

Rice's solicitor had argued that restrictions placed on his freedom breached his human rights.
A report on the killing said Rice was too dangerous to have been released from jail.
Plans to be unveiled at the Tory party's annual conference in Manchester today will include new guidance on when a convicted criminal's identity could be disclosed.

Rice: 'Too dangerous'

They will be outlined by Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve, who wants to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights.
He said: "Under Labour, the rights of criminals have been put before the rights of law-abiding citizens.
"A Conservative Government will free the police, probation and prison services to name offenders where necessary in order to protect the public and prevent crime."
But the idea has been dismissed by Justice Secretary Jack Straw as a "deeply confused populist announcement" which ignored the facts.

Jack Straw: 'Hasty policy'

"This is yet another piece of policy hastily cobbled together by the Tories," Mr Straw said.
"The outcomes of court cases are already on the public record. Courts are open so that justice can be seen to be done.

"Police are able to use this information to inform the public, and regularly make announcements about wanted criminals."


New Antenna May Reveal More Clues About Lightning


Launch scrubs are nothing new at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. In fact, there have been 116 space shuttle scrubs; 72 for technical reasons and 45 for inclement weather.

During the summer, bad weather, particularly lightning, seems to strike as the countdown clock nears zero. Maybe it's because Kennedy and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are well within what meteorologists call, "Lightning Alley."

Of course, NASA already can locate lightning strikes when they hit the ground with the Cloud to Ground Lightning Surveillance System, or CGLSS, and the National Lightning Detection Network. The agency also can locate lightning channels in a cloud with the Lightning Detection and Ranging Network, or LDAR II.

But according to Professor Tom Marshall of the University of Mississippi, humans have yet to truly figure out lightning.

Image above: University of Mississippi Professor Tom Marshall and student Lauren Vickers, say they hope their lightning tests using a newly designed antenna can produce results NASA can use for future launches. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

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Image above: University of Mississippi Professor Tom Marshall hopes to someday get several more new antenna lightning detectors. Marshall says more detectors would provide invaluable data. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

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So, Marshall and one of his senior students, Lauren Vickers, visited Kennedy to test a new antenna that might someday measure the level of individual lightning flashes and their return strokes. A measurement that could give launch managers information to make their "go-no go" decisions easier... decisions that might save money.

"We're trying to extend some measurement of cloud-to-ground lightning here at Kennedy," Marshall said. "We may find a return stroke is larger, and therefore, one for us to target."

The strength of these strokes might someday determine if future launch vehicles, such as Ares I, must undergo testing if lightning strikes nearby.

"What Professor Marshall's work is going to enable us to do is determine more precisely than we can now exactly where charges are located in clouds and how big those charges are when lightning strikes," said Dr. Frank Merceret, director of research for the Kennedy Weather Office. "The problem lies in the fact that NASA does not know where the charge center is located in the clouds.

"The Lightning Advisory Panel (LAP), which develops and recommends our lightning launch commit criteria (LLCC), has been wrestling with that issue for quite some time and his project may give the panel information that will help provide more accurate lightning readings before a launch."

A launch vehicle traveling through an anvil cloud, a cloud mostly made of ice that forms on top of thunderstorms, can trigger lightning at much lower electric field levels than natural lightning requires. This triggered lightning can damage vehicles or its cargo. In 1987, an Atlas-Centaur rocket was destroyed when its launch triggered such lightning. To prevent such accidents, the LLCC -- a strict set of lightning avoidance rules -- was modified by the LAP.

The LAP, which is made up of top lightning experts from various government agencies and academia, continues to review and modify those criteria for both the Eastern and Western ranges.

Although some launch weather guidelines involving shuttles and expendable rockets may differ because a distinction is made for the individual characteristics of each, the LLCC are identical for all vehicles.

"If the shuttle is on the launch pad and a lightning strike occurs nearby, we need to know the distance from the shuttle and the intensity of the lightning to determine if there are any possible effects on the vehicle. If the lightning was close enough and intense enough, operations, including a launch, will be delayed so the team can ensure the shuttle was not damaged," said Kathy Winters, shuttle launch weather officer.

Did You Know:

The basic weather launch commit criteria on the pad at liftoff that must be met are: temperature, wind, precipitation, lightning (and electric fields with triggering potential), clouds, supporting table, range safety cloud ceiling and visibility constraints.
During shuttle launch countdowns, weather forecasts are provided by the U. S. Air Force Range Weather Operations Facility at Cape Canaveral beginning at launch minus three days in coordination with the NOAA National Weather Service Space Flight Meteorology Group, or SMG, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. These include weather trends and possible effects on launch day.

A formal prelaunch weather briefing is held on launch minus one day to discuss specific weather conditions for all areas of shuttle operations.

Launch weather forecasts, ground operations forecasts and launch weather briefings for the mission management team and the shuttle launch director are prepared by the shuttle launch weather officer.

Forecasts that apply after launch are prepared by SMG. These include all emergency landing forecasts and end-of-mission forecasts presented to the flight director and mission management team.

Frank Ochoa-Gonzales
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center

Arctic Sea Ice Extent is Third Lowest on Record


> Click to view visualization (8 Mb)

Sea ice cover reaches its minimum extent at the end of each summer. This animation shows the summer retreat of sea ice over the Arctic from July 1 through September 12, as recorded by the AMSR-E instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite. Credit: Cindy Starr and Trent Schindler, NASA Scientific Visualization Studio U.S. satellite measurements show Arctic sea ice extent in 2009 – the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by floating ice – was the third lowest since satellite measurements were first made in 1979. The ice area at minimum was an increase from the past two years, but still well below the average for the past 30 years.

Arctic sea ice reached its minimum extent around September 12, as shown in the image and video to the right. According to scientists affiliated with the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), sea ice coverage dropped to 5.10 million square kilometers (1.97 million square miles) at its minimum. The ice cover was 970,000 square kilometers (370,000 square miles) greater than the record low of 2007 and 580,000 square kilometers (220,000 square miles) greater than 2008.

NSIDC is sponsored by several U.S. government agencies, including NASA. Ice data are derived from measurements made by U.S. Department of Defense and NASA satellites, with key work in interpreting the data and developing the 30-year history done by scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

"The changes from year to year are interesting since there has been large variability," said Josefino Comiso, a sea ice expert at NASA Goddard. "But we need to look at several years of data to examine the long-term trends."

> Click to view close captioned video

Tom Wagner, NASA's cryosphere program manager, describes the shrinking of Arctic sea ice and the significance of the problem for the rest of the planet. Credit: Jefferson Beck, NASA "Our three decades of continuous satellite measurements show a rapid decline of about 11.6 percent per decade," Comiso said. Arctic sea ice has declined about 34 percent since measurements were first made in the late 1970s.

The four lowest ice extents on record have occurred between 2005 and 2009, with the record minimum reached during a dramatic drop in ice cover in 2007 that was exacerbated by unusual polar winds.

Several recent studies based on data from NASA’s ICESat and QuikScat satellites have shown that, in addition to shrinking geographic ice coverage, the amount of multi-year ice cover – thicker ice that survives more than one summer -- has been declining in recent years.

"The oceans are crucial to Earth's climate system, since they store huge amounts of heat," said Comiso. "Changes in sea ice cover can lead to circulation changes not just in the Arctic Ocean, but also in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. If you change ocean circulation, you change the world's climate."

> Click to view movie

Each winter existing sea ice thickens and new, thinner ice is formed. This conceptual animation shows a cutaway view of the seasonal advance and retreat of Arctic sea ice, demonstrating the current trend toward a thinning ice pack, with less of the thicker multi-year ice surviving each summer's melt. Credit: Megan Willy, UMBC Changes in the Arctic ice cover could also mean a new paradigm for life in the sea. "The waters at high latitudes are some of the most biologically productive in the world because of the presence of sea ice," Comiso added. "Many of our richest fisheries are the seas around the Arctic Ocean, and we don't know what the consequences might be if the seasonal sea ice disappears in these regions."

Related links:

> Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis
> NASA Satellite Reveals Dramatic Arctic Ice Thinning
> Satellites and Submarines Give the Skinny on Sea Ice Thickness
> Satellites Show Arctic Literally on Thin Ice

Mike Carlowicz
NASA Earth Science News Team

Homemade Submarine: oil barrels of Laughs

When Tao Xiangli started collecting some old oil barrels and a few tools from a second-hand market no one in their wildest dreams expected he would create a...


The incredible underwater feat is fully functional - with a periscope, depth control tanks, electric motors, manometer and two propellers.

The amateur inventor, who works as a labourer during the day, has spent 30,000 yuan ($4,385) on his creation.

It has taken two years for Xiangli to finish the vessel but he predicts it can reach a depth of 10 metres in water.

Xiangli applies the finishing touches to the hatch of the conning tower.

Now it's time to test the water...

Away we go! The sub successfully makes its maiden voyage on a lake on the outskirts of Beijing.


Buzz Lightyear and RC on parade. Buzz, Astronauts Shine as Stars of Disney Parade


Image above: Astronaut Mike Finke rides in a Chevrolet Camaro for the welcome home parade for Buzz Lightyear at Disney's Magic Kingdom. Finke was the Expedition 18 commander on the International Space Station during part of the toy's 15-month stay on the orbiting laboratory. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

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Image above: The Buzz Lightyear toy that went into space took an Earthly spin through Disney's Magic Kingdom on the top of another "Toy Story" character - RC. The ride down Disney's Main Street came complete with confetti and ribbons. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
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Image above: NASA astronaut Mike Finke celebrated Buzz Lightyear's space trip during a presentation to school children at Disney's Magic Kingdom. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
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Image above: Veronica Franco, an education specialist at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, uses "Spaceman" to show what astronauts wear during spacewalks. She also demonstrated chilling air to liquid and other principles of physics that are applied to spaceflight. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
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Buzz Lightyear didn't quite make it to infinity, but he went well beyond the realm of other action figures.

The icon of Disney's "Toy Story" films spent 15 months on the International Space Station and got a ticker-tape parade alongside real-life moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and Expedition 18 Commander and NASA astronaut Mike Finke to welcome him home to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 2.

"Buzz was the perfect crewmate," Finke said. "He lifted our spirits, he didn't talk much and he didn't eat much, so he left us his extra portions."

While Buzz Lightyear is a space ranger, Finke said the character's best work has been in serving as a bridge between the fun, fanciful side of spaceflight and the technical and scientific skills NASA uses to make spaceflight happen in real life.

"Buzz is internationally known, and Buzz is a space ranger, so by sharing some of Buzz's adventures with what we do at NASA, it really highlights a lot of good things for NASA and shows what we really do, what astronauts do," Finke said.

The toy’s popularity gives NASA a head start in getting children's attention in a world in which focus is short-lived, said Joyce Winterton, NASA's associate administrator for Education.

"It's something that students and children can relate to," Winterton said. "So when they see him going up in space on the shuttle or the station it becomes a touch point for them. Sometimes I think they see an astronaut as something they can achieve, but when they see a toy, they somehow think, 'Hey, I can do that, too.'"

The parade coincided with a NASA education initiative that includes an opportunity for students to propose an experiment which will be flown on the International Space Station. There also is a contest to design a mission patch that will go into orbit on the station.

"We've got the attention of thousands of students because of Buzz Lightyear," Winterton said. "And hopefully we'll have a large number of students say let's plan an experiment. And of those we'll pick 12 that will fly on the International Space Station, and that's pretty great."

Disney also developed and posted several Web-based educational games for Buzz's launch and landing based on NASA's missions and goals.

Finke also shared a stage with Buzz at Disney's Magic Kingdom to talk to school children about space travel, science and technology.

Veronica Franco, an education specialist at NASA's Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, led a number of space-related demonstrations, including freezing and crumbling plants using liquid nitrogen. With help from "Spaceman" from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, she showed how astronauts get dressed for a spacewalk.

Then it was Finke's turn to wow the students with firsthand accounts from his two, six-month stays in the weightlessness of space. He looked at stars, conducted research on changes to the body and basically adjusted his body to cope with the unpredictable nature of things in zero gravity.

So what did students want to hear about first? The technologically advanced toilet.

Buzz didn't have to learn that lesson during his time in orbit.

Disney was aware of the somewhat mixed goals for NASA and the entertainment company, and backed down its normal commercial considerations for the chance to send Buzz into space.

"You've got to strike a balance," said Disney's Duncan Wardle, the company's global vice president for Public Relations Integration. "And it's a hard role for a government organization sponsored by the taxpayer, but you've got to excite the next generation of space travelers."

Buzz has proven an attraction in ways Wardle said he didn’t expect. For instance, a U.S. Air Force officer at Edwards Air Force Base in California asked for a photo with Buzz after the shuttle touched down there in September after space shuttle Discovery’s STS-128 mission.

But the idea was hardly a certainty when Wardle pitched it to a roomful of NASA officials.

"My sense was 50 percent loved the idea but probably didn't want to say it, and 50 percent of the room wanted to pick me up and throw me out the window," Wardle recalled.

Once the plan was approved, there was still a significant hurdle for the project: 12-inch Buzz Lightyear action figures had gone out of production months before and Wardle's team of employees could not find them in any store, warehouse or anywhere else.

"I was driving back to the office, and I got a call and all I heard was a voice, 'To Infinity and Beyond,'" Wardle said. "Then my wife said, 'Found it, it's been underneath (my son's) bed. It's been there six months collecting dust. And I was like, 'Right, that's it then, that's the Buzz Lightyear that's going into space. Wasn't quite in the plan, but . . . "

That Buzz went from bedroom floor to Houston in days, and into orbit a couple months later. At that point, there was not any talk of bringing the action figure back. Instead, he would stay on the station as a permanent resident, including during the station's fiery entry when it is de-orbited.

Wardle provided the winning argument for bringing Buzz back on the shuttle: "I said, guys, if you incinerate Buzz Lightyear, I'll have to tell the world's children."

So with his flight home approved, Buzz moved into Discovery during the STS-128 and returned to Earth. His education mission is not over though. Plans call for him to be displayed in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, Wardle said.

"This one is going to be hard to top," Finke said.

Steve Siceloff
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center

NASA Space Telescope Discovers Largest Ring Around Saturn

October 06, 2009

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous ring around Saturn -- by far the largest of the giant planet's many rings.

The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material.

Saturn's newest halo is thick, too -- its vertical height is about 20 times the diameter of the planet. It would take about one billion Earths stacked together to fill the ring.

"This is one supersized ring," said Anne Verbiscer, an astronomer at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. "If you could see the ring, it would span the width of two full moons' worth of sky, one on either side of Saturn." Verbiscer; Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland, College Park; and Michael Skrutskie, of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, are authors of a paper about the discovery to be published online tomorrow by the journal Nature.

An artist's concept of the newfound ring is online at

The ring itself is tenuous, made up of a thin array of ice and dust particles. Spitzer's infrared eyes were able to spot the glow of the band's cool dust. The telescope, launched in 2003, is currently 107 million kilometers (66 million miles) from Earth in orbit around the sun.

The discovery may help solve an age-old riddle of one of Saturn's moons. Iapetus has a strange appearance -- one side is bright and the other is really dark, in a pattern that resembles the yin-yang symbol. The astronomer Giovanni Cassini first spotted the moon in 1671, and years later figured out it has a dark side, now named Cassini Regio in his honor. A stunning picture of Iapetus taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft is online at .

Saturn's newest addition could explain how Cassini Regio came to be. The ring is circling in the same direction as Phoebe, while Iapetus, the other rings and most of Saturn's moons are all going the opposite way. According to the scientists, some of the dark and dusty material from the outer ring moves inward toward Iapetus, slamming the icy moon like bugs on a windshield.

"Astronomers have long suspected that there is a connection between Saturn's outer moon Phoebe and the dark material on Iapetus," said Hamilton. "This new ring provides convincing evidence of that relationship."

Verbiscer and her colleagues used Spitzer's longer-wavelength infrared camera, called the multiband imaging photometer, to scan through a patch of sky far from Saturn and a bit inside Phoebe's orbit. The astronomers had a hunch that Phoebe might be circling around in a belt of dust kicked up from its minor collisions with comets -- a process similar to that around stars with dusty disks of planetary debris. Sure enough, when the scientists took a first look at their Spitzer data, a band of dust jumped out.

The ring would be difficult to see with visible-light telescopes. Its particles are diffuse and may even extend beyond the bulk of the ring material all the way in to Saturn and all the way out to interplanetary space. The relatively small numbers of particles in the ring wouldn't reflect much visible light, especially out at Saturn where sunlight is weak.

"The particles are so far apart that if you were to stand in the ring, you wouldn't even know it," said Verbiscer.

Spitzer was able to sense the glow of the cool dust, which is only about 80 Kelvin (minus 316 degrees Fahrenheit). Cool objects shine with infrared, or thermal radiation; for example, even a cup of ice cream is blazing with infrared light. "By focusing on the glow of the ring's cool dust, Spitzer made it easy to find," said Verbiscer.

These observations were made before Spitzer ran out of coolant in May and began its "warm" mission.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. The multiband imaging photometer for Spitzer was built by Ball Aerospace Corporation, Boulder, Colo., and the University of Arizona, Tucson. Its principal investigator is George Rieke of the University of Arizona.

For additional images relating to the ring discovery and more information about Spitzer, visit and .

Squyres Wins Carl Sagan Medal for Public Outreach

October 05, 2009

For his work making NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission a compelling saga for millions of people, Steven W. Squyres, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy and principal scientific investigator for the mission, has received the 2009 Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society.

The Sagan medal recognizes a planetary scientist for excellence in public communication. Squyres will receive the medal during the AAS's Division for Planetary Sciences annual meeting, Oct. 4 to Oct. 9, in Puerto Rico.

Quick to share credit with the entire Mars rover mission team at Cornell and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Squyres said he has always taken seriously the responsibility of giving people -- the taxpayers who have bankrolled the mission -- a clear window into what they are doing on Mars.

"We feel very strongly that the people who pay have a real right to find out in very clear, simple terms what they're getting for their $900 million," Squyres said.

Since January 2004, when the first rover, named Spirit, bounced down on the red planet, the Rover team has maintained a publicly accessible database of images taken by the rovers. Atypical of most NASA missions, the rover mission has allowed people to access data almost immediately. It was a conscious decision by the rover team, Squyres said, to pipeline the data straight to the Web.

"If I'm asleep and you're awake, you can see the pictures from the rover before I do," he said. "And what that has done is it's really enabled people to share in this voyage of exploration."

Squyres hopes these efforts, including a Web site that provides updates of rover activities, has inspired young people to pursue careers in science and engineering.

"NASA does all kinds of wonderful things in space, from cosmology to gamma ray spectroscopy," Squyres said. "But try explaining gamma ray spectroscopy to a third-grader. It's hard. But you know, these are robots looking at rocks. It's not that complicated. What that means is this mission is almost uniquely accessible to people."

As a Cornell graduate student Squyres '78, Ph.D. '81, worked closely with Sagan. "Carl really pioneered, in a very important way, the way in which scientists interact with the media and the public," Squyres said. "To receive an award that's named after him for trying to do the same sort of thing that he did so brilliantly is a real honor."

For more information on the Mars Exploration Rover mission, including links to the raw images, visit the mission Web site at: .

Source: Cornell University .

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Monday, October 5, 2009

LCROSS Mission Set For Oct. 9 Lunar Impact

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite and its Centaur rocket stage will hit near the lunar south pole in a search for water ice. › LCROSS Section | › Local LCROSS Impact Events | Viewer's Guide

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Pace Radar Reveals Topography of Tsunami Site

Shuttle Radar Topography Mission image of the Independent State of Samoa (left) and American Samoa (right)

Shuttle Radar Topography Mission image of the Independent State of Samoa (left) and American Samoa (right). Image credit: NASA/JPL/NGA
› Larger image

Two color-coded perspective views of the Independent State of Samoa (left) and American Samoa (right), generated with digital elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, illustrate the varying topography of the islands. A tsunami generated by a major undersea earthquake on Sept. 29, 2009, inundated the more heavily populated southern coast of Tutuila, the largest of the islands of American Samoa, with an ocean surge more than 3 meters (10 feet) deep, causing scores of casualties. The tsunami also inundated villages on the southern coast of the Independent State of Samoa with an ocean surge perhaps more than 3 meters (10 feet) deep, and also impacted the more heavily populated northern coasts with a surge measured at nearly 1.5 meters (4 feet) at the capital city of Apia.

Digital topographic data such as those produced by SRTM can be used to aid researchers and planners in predicting which coastal regions are at the most risk from such waves, as well as from the more common storm surges caused by tropical storms and even sea level rise.

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› Full image and caption (American Samoa)
› Full image and caption (Independent State of Samoa)

Expedition 21 Crew Arrives at the International Space Station

The Expedition 21 and 22 crew members

Image above: The Expedition 20 and 21 crew members gathered in the Zvezda service module for a conference with family members and representatives on the ground. Credit: NASA TV

Flight Engineers Jeff Williams and Maxim Suraev along with spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté have arrived at the International Space Station. They docked their Soyuz TMA-16 to the aft end of the Zvezda service module at 4:35 a.m. EDT Friday. They launched Wednesday at 3:14 a.m. from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

› View docking video

The newest station crew members entered the station after opening the hatches between the two spacecraft at 6:57 a.m.

Williams and Suraev are relieving Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt who will depart in several days with their Canadian visitor, Laliberté. The three crew members will enter the Soyuz TMA-14 and undock from the Pirs docking compartment at 9:05 p.m. EDT on Oct. 10. They will land in Kazakhstan about three and a half hours later.

Their departure signifies the end of Expedition 20 and the start of Expedition 21. European astronaut Frank De Winne will have completed his duties as Expedition 20 Flight Engineer and assumed command of the International Space Station. De Winne, of the European Space Agency, arrived at the station May 29, 2009. He is scheduled to return to Earth on Dec. 1, 2009 in the same vehicle in which he arrived, the Soyuz TMA-15, which is attached to Zarya’s Earth-facing port. De Winne’s departure in December will leave Jeff Williams in charge of the station as Expedition 22 commander.

Also continuing their stays aboard the station and transitioning to Expedition 21 are Flight Engineers Nicole Stott, Roman Romanenko and Robert Thirsk. Thirsk and Romanenko will continue their long-duration stay until they depart with De Winne. Stott who arrived Aug. 30 aboard space shuttle Discovery will return home in November aboard space shuttle Atlantis.

Atlantis is scheduled to be the last space shuttle to transport a station crew member when it leaves the International Space Station with Nicole Stott on the STS-129 mission. The Russian Soyuz spacecraft will continue crew transportation to and from the orbiting laboratory.

Williams, Padalka and De Winne are all space station veterans. For Williams, Expedition 21 is his third stay aboard the station. His first visit was during shuttle mission STS-101 in May 2000 and then he served as a flight engineer during Expedition 13 in 2006. Expedition 21 is De Winne’s second station mission. He visited the station as part of a Soyuz taxi mission in late 2002. In addition to commanding Expeditions 19 and 20, Padalka was the Expedition 9 commander in 2004.

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› Read more about Expedition 21
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NASA Publishes Report about International Space Station Science

Advances in the fight against food poisoning, new methods for delivering medicine to cancer cells, and better materials for future spacecraft are among the results published in a NASA report detailing scientific research accomplishments made aboard the International Space Station during its first eight years.

The report includes more than 100 science experiments ranging from bone studies to materials research.

› Read more
› Read full report (3.8 Mb PDF)

Herschel's Multi-Hued View of the Sky

Herschel's Multi-Hued View of the Sky


Space dust as viewed from the Herschel Observatory

Some of the coldest and darkest dust in space shines brightly in this infrared image from the Herschel Observatory, a European Space Agency mission with important participation from NASA. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Full image and caption

A new image from the Herschel Observatory shows off the observatory's talents for seeing multiple wavelengths of light. The infrared observatory, a European Space Agency mission with important participation from NASA, can use two science instruments simultaneously to see five different "colors" of infrared, which is light that we can't see with our eyes.

The new composite picture features a dark and cool region of our Milky Way galaxy, where material is just beginning to be stirred together into new batches of stars. Much of this region would appear dark in visible-light views, but Herschel can see the very dim infrared glow of cold dust that is only slightly warmer than the coldest temperature theoretically attainable. Herschel's view reveals that this star-forming region is even richer in cold and turbulent material than previously believed.

"Herschel's infrared vision lets us sense the feeble heat from some of the coldest objects in the cosmos," said Paul Goldsmith, the NASA project scientist for the mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Herschel is still in what is called the performance verification phase, in which its instruments are being fine-tuned and checked out. Some routine science observations have begun.

Space gas and dust as viewed from the Herschel Observatory

This image from the Herschel Observatory reveals some of the coldest and darkest material in our galaxy. The yellow filaments show the coldest dust dotted with the youngest embryonic stars. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Full image and caption

The new image is a combination of data taken with Herschel's photodetector array camera and spectrometer, and its spectral and photometric imaging receiver. By using these two instruments at the same time, Herschel won't need to use as much of its stored liquid coolant, a limited resource expected to last about three-and-a-half years.

In the color-coded image, blue shows warmer dust and red, the coolest, with green representing temperatures in between. The coldest dust can be seen as thin filaments. It is here that stars are in the very earliest stages of their infancy, and can be seen lined up together like glittering beads of water on a blade of grass.

More images like this are expected in the future and will ultimately help astronomers map the "terra incognita," or unknown land, of our Milky Way, as well as other galaxies that are farther away.

Herschel is a European Space Agency cornerstone mission, with science instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and with important participation by NASA. NASA's Herschel Project Office is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL contributed mission-enabling technology for two of Herschel's three science instruments. The NASA Herschel Science Center, part of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, supports the United States astronomical community. Caltech

manages JPL for NASA.

Space gas and dust as viewed from the Herschel Observatory
In this infrared view from the Herschel Observatory, blue shows the warmest dust, and red, the coolest. The choppy clouds of gas and dust are just starting to condense into new stars. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Full image and caption

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