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This Week @ NASA As space shuttle Discovery waits at launch

pad 39A for its liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center, the STS-131 crew continues to ready

itself for its upcoming mission to the International Space Station. Commander Alan Poindexter and

his international team of astronauts will deliver science racks for use in the stations

laboratories. The crew has been very busy training and

we finished our Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test last week at the Kennedy Space Center.

We have a few more weeks of training to finish up and well be ready for launch.

Mission specialists Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson are scheduled to perform three, six-and-one-half-hour

spacewalks to replace, retrieve and switch out various elements outside the orbiting

complex. For Mastracchio, thisll be his third shuttle mission and second series of

spacewalks. My first EVA, well remove the new ammonia

tank from the shuttle and get it on the station, well temporarily stow it. The second EVA

well actually swap the two ammonia tanks, the new one for the old one, and then on the

third EVA, well moving the old tank from the space station into the shuttles payload

bay for return. Thats the biggest challenge. Every EVA, between each EVA, were going

to have to move the robotic arm. It has to walk off the robotic arm to a new work site,

basically. So, theres a lot of team work and a lot of integration involved.

Rounding out the STS-131 crew is pilot Jim Dutton, and Mission Specialists Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger,

Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Discoverys

launch is targeted for the morning of April 5.

The final space shuttle mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope is

the subject of a new IMAX film. Hubble 3-D was premiered during a special

event held at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. The movie features the NASA

astronauts from STS-125 who serviced Hubble in May 2009; an IMAX 3D camera mounted in

space shuttle Atlantis' payload bay filmed their progress.

A lot of cameras rolling while we were up there. Of course everybody was watching. It

was a mission that kept me on the edge of my seat while we were do it. I am just thrilled

that everything worked together and it came out as well as it did at the end.

I remember the first Hubble launch, and obviously Charlie Bolden, my boss, was the

pilot on the first launch of Hubble and we talk about this a lot, and I love the fact

that the public gets the story and its the meddling of science and human space flight

in a perfect way and NASA helping to overcome challenges, you couldnt write a better

story. The 43 minute film narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio

will open in IMAX and IMAX 3D theaters worldwide on March 19.

About 25 seventh-grade girls from area middle schools got up close and personal with unique

aircraft and high technology when they participated in a "Tech Trek" tour of the Dryden Flight

Research Center. The Tech Trek, to develop interest and excitement

about math and science and self-confidence among middle-school girls, included tours

of Dryden's main aircraft hangar and several specialized research and support aircraft,

including the modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and the Global Hawk and Ikhana

unmanned science aircraft. They also tested their piloting skills in

one of Dryden's flight simulators, and met with female Dryden engineers and interns who

encouraged them to pursue their science and mathematics interests through high school

and college. Tech Trek was sponsored by the California

branch of the American Association of University Women, or AAUW.

The 48th Robert H. Goddard Memorial space symposium was held in Greenbelt, Maryland,

home to the NASA center bearing the name of Americas pioneering rocketeer. Sponsored

by the American Astronautical Society, the three-day event drew leaders from NASA, the

aerospace industry and academia, and Washington policy-makers to discuss the major issues

facing space exploration. Among other topics, panel discussions and

presentations addressed Commercial Space Missions, Extreme Space Weather, Climate Change, and

Space Science and the future of Human Space Flight.

In March 2006, heliophysicist Lika Guhathakurta was part of a NASA-led science expedition

to Libya to witness a total solar eclipse. This international expedition was an unprecedented

collaboration with Libyan scientists and researchers from across the globe. It was a project befitting

a woman compelled to earn advanced degrees in astrophysics from American universities

by a life-long fascination with the sky that began as a child in her native India.

My parents never stopped me and said no you cant do this because youre a woman.

That young girl grew up to eventually become the lead scientist for NASA's Living with

a Star" program, a set of missions in the relatively-new field of heliophysics that

focuses on understanding changes in the sun and their effects on us here on Earth.

The goal of this program is to really study the Sun as variable star and determine its

impact on life and society. The first Living with a Star mission,

the Solar Dynamics Observatory, is in space and is expected to begin producing important

data about space weather for astrophysicists this spring.

The chain effect is just unbelievable, actually what happens, when you have disturbed

our environment with a blast from the solar storm.

Lika Guhathakurta says her parents never told her she couldnt realize her dreams, something

shes quick to remind other women who want to make the study of the stars their careers.

To pursue something that you believe in just doggedly. Dont let anyone stop

you. And thats This Week @ NASA.

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