NASA News: NASA Launches Mission To Study Moon From Crust To Core

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's twin lunar Gravity Recovery and
Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral
Air Force Station in Florida at 9:08 a.m. EDT Saturday to study the
moon in unprecedented detail.

GRAIL-A is scheduled to reach the moon on New Year's Eve 2011, while
GRAIL-B will arrive New Year's Day 2012. The two solar-powered
spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon to measure its
gravity field. GRAIL will answer longstanding questions about the
moon and give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and
other rocky planets in the solar system formed.

"If there was ever any doubt that Florida's Space Coast would continue
to be open for business, that thought was drowned out by the roar of
today's GRAIL launch," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "GRAIL
and many other exciting upcoming missions make clear that NASA is
taking its next big leap into deep space exploration, and the space
industry continues to provide the jobs and workers needed to support
this critical effort."

The spacecraft were launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II
rocket. GRAIL mission controllers acquired a signal from GRAIL-A at
10:29 a.m. GRAIL-B's signal was eight minutes later. The telemetry
downlinked from both spacecraft indicates they have deployed their
solar panels and are operating as expected.

"Our GRAIL twins have Earth in their rearview mirrors and the moon in
their sights," said David Lehman, GRAIL project manager at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "The mission team is
ready to test, analyze and fine tune our spacecraft over the next
three-and-a-half months on our journey to lunar orbit."

The straight-line distance from Earth to the moon is approximately
250,000 miles (402,336 kilometers). NASA's Apollo moon crews needed
approximately three days to cover that distance. However, each
spacecraft will take approximately 3.5 months and cover more than 2.5
million miles (4 million kilometers) to arrive. This low-energy
trajectory results in the longer travel time. The size of the launch
vehicle allows more time for spacecraft check-out and time to update
plans for lunar operations. The science collection phase for GRAIL is
expected to last 82 days.

"Since the earliest humans looked skyward, they have been fascinated
by the moon," said GRAIL principal investigator Maria Zuber from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "GRAIL will take
lunar exploration to a new level, providing an unprecedented
characterization of the moon's interior that will advance
understanding of how the moon formed and evolved."

JPL manages the GRAIL mission. It is part of the Discovery Program
managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. Launch
management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA's Launch
Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida

For more information about GRAIL, visit:




NASA Offers Shuttle Tiles And Space Food To Schools And Universities

WASHINGTON -- NASA is offering space shuttle heat shield tiles and
dehydrated astronaut food to eligible schools and universities. The
initiative is part of the agency's efforts to preserve the Space
Shuttle Program's history and technology and inspire the next
generation of space explorers, scientists and engineers.

The lightweight tiles protected the shuttles from extreme temperatures
when the orbiters re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. The food, which
was precooked or processed so that refrigeration is unnecessary, is
ready to eat or could be prepared simply by adding water or by
heating. Schools can register for a login ID and request a tile or food at:


Click on the appropriate icon to log on to the request page. Eligible
institutions use National Center for Education Statistics or
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System numbers assigned by
the U.S. Department of Education to apply for the artifacts. Requests
will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Because the tiles and food are government property, a transfer
protocol is observed. Recipients will be responsible for a shipping
and handling fee, which is payable to the shipping company through a
secure website. "Tiles for Teachers" are offered for the shipping and
handling fee of $23.40. "Space Food for Schools" is offered in one
package containing about three space food items for a shipping and
handling fee of $28.03.

If additional assistance is needed with registration, send an email to:


For more information on tiles, food and other NASA artifacts available
to museums and libraries, visit:


For lesson plans based on the tiles, visit:



Expedition 30/31 Space Station Crew Conducts Briefing, Interviews

HOUSTON -- Three International Space Station crew members will discuss
their upcoming Expedition 30 and 31 missions in a news conference at
1 p.m. CDT Tuesday, Sept. 20, from NASA's Johnson Space Center in
Houston. The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA Television and
the agency's website. Reporters may ask questions from participating
NASA centers or by phone.

NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and
European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers are set to launch to
the station aboard a Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft later this year. They
will round out the six-man crew aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Following the news conference, round-robin interview opportunities are
available in-person, by phone or via satellite. To reserve an
interview opportunity, U.S. media representatives must contact the
Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 by 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16.
To participate in the news conference from a NASA center, U.S.
journalists must call the center's public affairs office by 5 p.m.
local time on Monday, Sept. 19. Reporters participating in the
briefing by phone must call the Johnson newsroom by 12:45 p.m. on
Tuesday, Sept. 20. Priority will be given to media participating in
person and questions from reporters on the phone will be taken as
time permits.

International journalists wishing to attend in person at Johnson must
contact the newsroom and submit the required paperwork for
credentials by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers are three of six crew members who will
comprise Expeditions 30 and 31. Aboard the station, they will join
NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov
and Anatoli Ivanishin.

The NASA Live Interview Media Outlet (LIMO) that will be used for
satellite interviews following the news conference is a digital
satellite C-band downlink by uplink provider Americom. It is on
satellite AMC 3, transponder 9C, located at 87 degrees west, downlink
frequency 3865.5 Mhz based on a standard C-band, horizontal downlink
polarity, FEC is 3/4, data rate is 6.0 Mbps, symbol rate is 4.3404
Msps, transmission DVB-S, 4:2:0.

For NASA TV streaming video, schedule and downlink information, visit:


For more information about the International Space Station and its
crew, visit:



Deep Space Capsule Comes Alive With First Weld; Major Progress Made on Nation's New Space Exploration Plan

NEW ORLEANS -- Construction began this week on the first new NASA
spacecraft built to take humans to orbit since space shuttle
Endeavour left the factory in 1991, and marked a significant
milestone in carrying out the ambitious exploration vision President
Obama and Congress have laid out for the nation.

Engineers at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans started
welding together the first space-bound Orion Multi-Purpose Crew
Vehicle. "The Orion team has maintained a steady focus on progress,
and we now are beginning to build hardware for spaceflight," said
Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer, NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston.

"This marks a major milestone in NASA's ambitious plans to send humans
farther into space than the nation has ever been before," said NASA
spokesman David Weaver, Headquarters, Washington. "We're not only
working to send people into deep space, we are putting people to work
right here in America."

The first welds were completed Friday using an innovative new friction
stir welding process, developed especially for Orion construction.
The process creates a seamless, leak-proof bond that has proven
stronger and higher in quality than can be achieved with conventional welding.

After welding is completed at Michoud, the Orion spacecraft orbital
test article will be shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in
Florida, where the heat shield will be installed. At Kennedy, it will
undergo final assembly and checkout operations for flight.

A picture of Friday's work is available at:


To learn more about the development of Orion, visit:


For more information about what's next for NASA, visit:



NASA Awards Space Radiobiology Research Grants

WASHINGTON -- NASA is funding nine proposals from eight states to
investigate space radiation's effect on human explorers. The
proposals from researchers in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia,
Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Texas have a total value of
approximately $12 million.

The ground-based studies will work to better understand and mitigate
risk of damage to the heart and central nervous system from cosmic
rays. The studies also will assess cancer risks and how genetics
affect space radiation risks.

"These studies will pave the way for new approaches to better prepare
astronauts for living in space," said Francis A. Cucinotta, chief
scientist for the Human Research Program Space Radiation Program
Element at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "The proposals
will examine biological changes caused by unavoidable exposure to
cosmic rays and their relation to heart, neuronal and cancer risks."

The Human Research Program provides knowledge and technologies to
improve astronaut health during space exploration and identifies
possible countermeasures for known problems. The program quantifies
crew health and performance risks during spaceflight and develops
strategies that mission planners and system developers can use to
monitor and mitigate health risks.

NASA selected the nine projects from proposals that were reviewed by
scientific and technical experts from academia and government
laboratories. A complete list of the selected principal
investigators, organizations and proposals is available at:


For information about NASA's Human Research Program, visit:


For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:



NASA, ATK Announce New Commercial Crew Agreement

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) managers
will announce an agreement that could accelerate the availability of
U.S. commercial crew transportation capabilities at 3 p.m. EDT on
Tuesday, Sept. 13. The announcement will occur at the Press Site
auditorium at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The event will not be carried live on NASA Television. NASA TV's Video
File segment will air highlights.

The announcement participants are:
-- Ed Mango, Commercial Crew Program manager, NASA
-- Kent Rominger, vice president, Strategy and Business Development,
ATK Aerospace
-- John Schumacher, vice president, Space Programs, EADS North America

Journalists without permanent NASA Kennedy accreditation need to apply
for credentials by 4 p.m., Sept. 12. New international media
accreditation is closed. Badges can be picked up at the Kennedy Space
Center's Badging Office on State Road 405 starting at 10 a.m. on
Sept. 13. Media must apply for credentials online at:


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


For information about ATK, visit:


For information on NASA's Commercial Crew Program, visit:



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