Friday, December 11, 2009

NASA Announces Information Technology Contract Extension

NASA has extended the Unified NASA Information Technology Services, or UNITeS, contract with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of San Diego. The action is intended to allow for the completion of recompetition activities for NASA's Information Technology Infrastructure Integration Program, which encompasses agency-wide management, integration and delivery of information technology infrastructure services.

The contract extension provides NASA with agency-wide information services and integration support for NASA's Integrated Enterprise Management Program, or IEPM, administered by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The contract also provides additional information technology services for the Marshall Center until such time as follow-on contracts are awarded for these efforts.

The contract modification extends the period of performance by 14 months, including an eight-month base period, valued at approximately $120 million, followed by six one-month options. The extension began Dec. 1 and ends Jan. 31, 2011, if all options are exercised.

The UNITeS contract began Jan. 1, 2004. The total value of the UNITeS contract, including this extension, is approximately $1.31 billion.

Marshall's responsibilities for information technology include managing software applications, Web/computer server systems, audio-visual information, telecommunications, information technology security, information technology procurement, documentation storage and protection hardware maintenance. Support provided under the UNITeS contract includes NASA-wide information technology security, encryption security systems, computer networking and digital imaging.

For more information about NASA's Information Technology Infrastructure Integration Program, visit:

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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:

Monday, December 7, 2009

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 and

› Read the UTCSR news release

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:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Space Shuttle Pilot Set to Talk With Tennessee Students from Orbit

Congressman Bart Gordon and Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville will host a live conversation between more than 120 students and NASA astronaut Barry E. Wilmore on Sunday, Nov. 22. Wilmore is the pilot of space shuttle Atlantis, which launched Nov. 16 on an 11-day mission to the International Space Station. Members of Wilmore's family also will attend the event.

The live call from orbit will take place between 11:08 a.m. and 11:28 a.m. CST. Twenty students, ranging from kindergarten to college age, will ask questions of Wilmore and fellow astronauts Nicole Stott and Leland Melvin. Stott has served as a flight engineer and member of the Expedition 21 crew living aboard the International Space Station for more than two months. She will return to Earth aboard Atlantis. Melvin is a mission specialist and crewmate of Wilmore's aboard Atlantis.

Reporters interested in attending the event should contact Monica Greppin at 931-372-3214.

Gordon is the chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee. Wilmore was born and raised in Gordon's district in Tennessee and earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Tennessee Technological University.

The downlink is one in a series with educational organizations in the U.S. and abroad to improve teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is an integral component of NASAs Teaching From Space office. The office promotes learning opportunities and builds partnerships with the education community using the unique environment of human spaceflight.

Tennessee Tech University and WCTE, the local PBS affiliate, will carry a live feed of the event at:


For more information about Wilmore, visit:

For information about NASAs education programs, visit:

For information about the sts-129 space shuttle mission, visit:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NASA Provides Venerable Hubble Hardware to Smithsonian

WFPC-2 on display at the Smithsonian
NASA's Wide Field and Planetary 2 camera on display in the National Air and Space Museum's Space Hall.
Two key instruments from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have a new home in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington after being returned to Earth aboard space shuttle Atlantis last May.

Astronauts brought back the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, or WFPC-2, and the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement, or COSTAR, after more than 15 years in space. The camera returned the iconic images that now adorn posters, album covers, the Internet, classrooms and science text books worldwide.

"This was the camera that saved Hubble," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "I have looked forward for a long time to stand in front of this very instrument while on display to the public."

After Hubble's launch and deployment aboard the shuttle in 1990, scientists realized the telescope's primary mirror had a flaw, known as a spherical aberration. The outer edge of the mirror was ground too flat by a depth of 2.2 microns, roughly equal to one-fiftieth the thickness of a human hair. This tiny flaw resulted in fuzzy images because some of the light from the objects being studied was scattered.

Hubble's first servicing mission provided the telescope with hardware that basically acted as eye glasses. Launched in December 1993 aboard space shuttle Endeavour, the mission added the WFPC-2, about the size of a baby grand piano, and COSTAR, about the size of a telephone booth. The WFPC-2 had the optical fix built in, while the COSTAR provided the optical correction for other Hubble instruments.

Galaxy NGC 4710 is tilted nearly edge-on to our view from EarthThe WFPC-2 made more than 135,000 observations of celestial objects from 1993 to 2009. The camera was the longest serving and most prolific instrument aboard Hubble.

"For years the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 has been taking pictures of the universe," said John Trauger of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Today, we are taking pictures of the WFPC-2 and I guess if there was ever a camera that deserves to have its picture taken, this is it."

The Hubble instruments will be on display in the National Air and Space Museum's Space Hall through mid-December. They then will travel to Southern California to go on temporary display at several venues. In March 2010, the instruments will return to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where they will take up permanent residency.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory designed and built the WFPC-2. The COSTAR instrument was built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colo. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. The project is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc., in Washington.

For more information about the Hubble Space Telescope, visit: