NASA News: NASA Associate Administrator for Human Spaceflight Receives AIAA Von Karman Award


WASHINGTON -- The American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics
(AIAA) has honored Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate with the Von
Karman Lectureship in Astronautics.

The award is given annually to someone who has performed notably and
distinguished themselves technically in the field of astronautics.
Gerstenmaier was recognized for his 30 years of accomplishment in
human spaceflight, culminating in the leadership of the Space Shuttle
and International Space Station Programs.

As part of the award, Gerstenmaier delivered the speech "Global
Outpost in Space: A Platform for Discovery -- The International Space
Station" Wednesday during the AIAA's 50th Aerospace Sciences Meeting
in Nashville, Tenn. The award honors Theodore von Karman, an early
astronautics pioneer responsible for breakthroughs in understanding
supersonic and hypersonic airflow characterization and the value of
the swept wing design.

"It is truly an honor to receive this special recognition from the
AIAA and to have the opportunity to speak at this year's conference
about the International Space Station and its importance to the
future of human exploration," Gerstenmaier said. "Serving as a test
bed for research and new technologies, the space station is the
centerpiece for space operations and a stepping stone toward future
exploration destinations."

Gerstenmaier began his NASA career in 1977 at the Glenn Research
Center in Cleveland performing aeronautical research, after receiving
a B.S. aeronautical engineering from Purdue University. In 1988, he
became head of the Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle (OMV) Operations
Office, Systems Division at the Johnson Space Center. Gerstenmaier
also served as Shuttle/Mir Program Operations Manager from 1995 to
1997. In 1998, he became manager of Space Shuttle Program
Integration. In December 2000, he was named deputy manager of the
International Space Station Program, becoming the associate
administrator for space operations in 2005. Currently, he heads the
agency's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

For Gerstenmaier's complete biography, visit:


For information about NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission
Directorate, visit:



NASA Awards Launch Services Program Support Contract

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA has selected a.i. solutions Inc. of
Lanham, Md., to receive a contract award that will enable the
agency's Launch Services Program (LSP) to provide integrated services
for the preparation and launch of NASA's next generation of
scientific and exploration spacecraft.

The Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support 2 (ELVIS 2) contract
has a potential maximum value of $138.1 million. This new contract
resulted from a competitive, small business set-aside.

The contract has a two-month phase-in period that begins February
2012, followed by a one-and-a-half-year base period extending from
April 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2013. Two option periods are
available that would bring the total period of performance to five years.

The ELVIS 2 contract supports LSP and LSP-sponsored missions,
activities and strategic initiatives for multiple NASA programs, the
Defense Department and other government agencies and commercial
launch activities. The contract will provide LSP with program
management support; vehicle engineering and analysis; launch site
support engineering; communications and telemetry; technical
integration services; LSP programmatic safety, reliability and
quality support; support at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California;
information technology support; and special studies.

For more information about NASA programs and missions, visit:



NASA's Online Radio Station Rocks Smartphones

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA's Third Rock Radio just got mobile.
Updates to the NASA App for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android now
include a feature to listen to the agency's new online alternative
rock radio station.

"Now you can listen to great music in the same app that still provides
all of NASA's amazing content wherever you are," said Jerry Colen,
NASA App project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett
Field, Calif.

Third Rock - America's Space Station launched with a new
rock/indie/alternative format on Dec. 12, 2011. The station is being
developed and operated at no cost to the government through a Space
Act Agreement.

The NASA Apps showcase a wealth of NASA content, including images,
videos on-demand, live streaming video from NASA Television, mission
information, feature stories and breaking news. Users also can find
sighting opportunities for the International Space Station and track
the positions of spacecraft orbiting Earth. App users easily can
share NASA content on Facebook, Twitter or via e-mail.

For more information and to links download the apps, visit:


For more information on and to listen to Third Rock, visit:



NASA's Fermi Space Telescope Explores New Energy Extremes

WASHINGTON -- After more than three years in space, NASA's Fermi
Gamma-ray Space Telescope is extending its view of the high-energy
sky into a largely unexplored electromagnetic range. Today, the Fermi
team announced its first census of energy sources in this new realm.

Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) scans the entire sky every three
hours, continually deepening its portrait of the sky in gamma rays,
the most energetic form of light. While the energy of visible light
falls between about 2 and 3 electron volts, the LAT detects gamma
rays with energies ranging from 20 million to more than 300 billion
electron volts (GeV).

At higher energies, gamma rays are rare. Above 10 GeV, even Fermi's
LAT detects only one gamma ray every four months.

"Before Fermi, we knew of only four discrete sources above 10 GeV, all
of them pulsars," said David Thompson, an astrophysicist at NASA's
Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "With the LAT, we've
found hundreds, and we're showing for the first time just how diverse
the sky is at these high energies."

Any object producing gamma rays at these energies is undergoing
extraordinary astrophysical processes. More than half of the 496
sources in the new census are active galaxies, where matter falling
into a supermassive black hole powers jets that spray out particles
at nearly the speed of light.

Only about 10 percent of the known sources lie within our own galaxy.
They include rapidly rotating neutron stars called pulsars, the
expanding debris from supernova explosions, and in a few cases,
binary systems containing massive stars.

More than a third of the sources are completely unknown, having no
identified counterpart detected in other parts of the spectrum. With
the new catalog, astronomers will be able to compare the behavior of
different sources across a wider span of gamma-ray energies for the
first time.

Just as bright infrared sources may fade to invisibility in the
ultraviolet, some of the gamma-ray sources above 1 GeV vanish
completely when viewed at higher, or "harder," energies.

One example is the well-known radio galaxy NGC 1275, which is a
bright, isolated source below 10 GeV. At higher energies it fades
appreciably and another nearby source begins to appear. Above 100
GeV, NGC 1275 becomes undetectable by Fermi, while the new source,
the radio galaxy IC 310, shines brightly.

The Fermi hard-source list is the product of an international team led
by Pascal Fortin at the Ecole Polytechnique's Laboratoire
Leprince-Ringuet in Palaiseau, France, and David Paneque at the Max
Planck Institute for Physics in Munich.

The catalog serves as an important roadmap for ground-based facilities
called Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes, which have amassed about 130
gamma-ray sources with energies above 100 GeV. They include the Major
Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov telescope (MAGIC) on La Palma in
the Canary Islands, the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope
Array System (VERITAS) in Arizona, and the High Energy Stereoscopic
System (H.E.S.S.) in Namibia.

"Our catalog will have a significant impact on ground-based
facilities' work by pointing them to the most likely places to find
gamma-ray sources emitting above 100 GeV," Paneque said.

Compared to Fermi's LAT, these ground-based observatories have much
smaller fields of view. They also make fewer observations because
they cannot operate during daytime, bad weather or a full moon.

"As Fermi's exposure constantly improves our view of hard sources,
ground-based telescopes are becoming more sensitive to lower-energy
gamma rays, allowing us to bridge these two energy regimes," Fortin added.

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle
physics partnership. Fermi is managed by Goddard. It was developed in
collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, with important
contributions from academic institutions and partners in France,
Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

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NASA's RXTE Helps Pinpoint Launch of 'Bullets' in a Black Hole's Jet

WASHINGTON -- Using observations from NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing
Explorer (RXTE) satellite and the National Science Foundation's (NSF)
Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescope, an international
team of astronomers has identified the moment when a black hole in
our galaxy launched superfast knots of gas into space.

Racing outward at about one-quarter the speed of light, these
"bullets" of ionized gas are thought to arise from a region located
just outside the black hole's event horizon, the point beyond which
nothing can escape.

"Like a referee at a sports game, we essentially rewound the footage
on the bullets' progress, pinpointing when they were launched," said
Gregory Sivakoff of the University of Alberta in Canada. He presented
the findings today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in
Austin, Texas. "With the unique capabilities of RXTE and the VLBA, we
can associate their ejection with changes that likely signaled the
start of the process."

The research centered on the mid-2009 outburst of a binary system
known as H1743-322, located about 28,000 light-years away toward the
constellation Scorpius. Discovered by NASA's HEAO-1 satellite in
1977, the system is composed of a normal star and a black hole of
modest but unknown masses. Their orbit around each other is measured
in days, which puts them so close together that the black hole pulls
a continuous stream of matter from its stellar companion. The flowing
gas forms a flattened accretion disk millions of miles across,
several times wider than our sun, centered on the black hole. As
matter swirls inward, it is compressed and heated to tens of millions
of degrees, so hot that it emits X-rays.

Some of the infalling matter becomes re-directed out of the accretion
disk as dual, oppositely directed jets. Most of the time, the jets
consist of a steady flow of particles. Occasionally, though, they
morph into more powerful outflows that hurl massive gas blobs at
significant fractions of the speed of light.

In early June 2009, H1743-322 underwent this transition as astronomers
watched with RXTE, the VLBA, the Very Large Array near Socorro, N.M.,
and the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) near Narrabri in New
South Wales. The observatories captured changes in the system's X-ray
and radio emissions as the transformation occurred.

From May 28 to June 2, the system's X-ray and radio emissions were
fairly steady, although RXTE data show that cyclic X-ray variations,
known as quasi-periodic oscillations or QPOs, gradually increased in
frequency over the same period. On June 4, ATCA measurements showed
that the radio emission had faded significantly.

Astronomers interpret QPOs as signals produced by the interaction of
clumps of ionized gas in the accretion disk near the black hole. When
RXTE next looked at the system on June 5, the QPOs were gone.

The same day, the radio emission increased. An extremely detailed VLBA
image revealed a bright, radio-emitting bullet of gas moving outward
from the system in the direction of one of the jets. On June 6, a
second blob, moving away in the opposite direction, was seen.

Until now, astronomers had associated the onset of the radio outburst
with the bullet ejection event. However, based on the VLBA data, the
team calculated that the bullets were launched on June 3, about two
days before the main radio flare. A paper on the findings will be
published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

"This research provides new clues about the conditions needed to
initiate a jet and can guide our thinking about how it happens," said
Chris Done, an astrophysicist at the University of Durham, England,
who was not involved in the study.

A super-sized version of the same phenomenon occurs at the center of
an active galaxy, where a black hole weighing millions to billions of
times our sun's mass can drive outflows extending millions of light-years.

"Black hole jets in binary star systems act as fast-forwarded versions
of their galactic-scale cousins, giving us insights into how they
work and how their enormous energy output can influence the growth of
galaxies and clusters of galaxies," said lead researcher James
Miller-Jones at the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research
at Curtin University in Perth, Australia.

The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, which operated from Dec. 1995 to Jan.
2012, was managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,
Md. The VLBA, the world's largest and highest-resolution astronomical
instrument, is controlled from the National Radio Astronomy
Observatory's Domenici Science Operations Center.

For images and animations related to this story, please visit:



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