NASA News: NASA Joins MIT and DARPA for Out-of-This-World Student Robotic Challenge

WASHINGTON -- NASA will join the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and
high school student teams from the U.S. and abroad for the third
annual Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge on Monday, Jan. 23. The event
will take place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass., and be
broadcast live on NASA Television from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST.

For the competition, NASA will upload software developed by high
school students onto Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient,
Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), which are bowling ball-sized
spherical satellites aboard the International Space Station. The top
27 teams from previous competitions will have their code sent Monday
to the space station, where an astronaut will command the satellites
to execute the teams' flight program. During a simulated mission, the
teams will complete a special challenge inspired by future satellite
technologies, such as formation flight and close proximity operations.

Student finalists will be able to see their flight program live in the
televised finals. The team with the highest software performance over
several rounds of the competition will win the challenge. The winning
team will be awarded certificates and a SPHERES flight patch that was
flown to the space station.

News media wishing to cover this event must contact Caroline McCall at
MIT (cmccall5@mit.edu or 617-253-1682 ) by 2 p.m. EST on Friday, Jan
20. NASA officials and members of the astronaut corps will be
available to speak with news media after the competition.

In addition to their use in this competition, the satellites are used
inside the space station to conduct formation flight maneuvers for
spacecraft guidance navigation, control and docking. The three
separate satellites that make up SPHERES fly in formation inside the
space station's cabin. The satellites provide opportunities to test a
wide range of hardware and software at an affordable cost.

The SPHERES National Laboratory Facility on the station is operated
and maintained by NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

For more about the Zero Robotics program, visit:


For more information about SPHERES, visit:


For NASA TV schedule and video streaming information, visit:


For more information about the space station, visit:



NASA Hosts DC Tweetup With Space Station Astronaut Ron Garan

WASHINGTON -- NASA invites its Twitter followers to a special Tweetup
with astronaut Ron Garan at 1:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Feb. 14. The
event will take place in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at
NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW in Washington.

Garan spent 164 days in space during the Expedition 27/28 mission to
the International Space Station. He and his crewmates launched April
4, 2011, and returned to Earth on Sept. 15, 2011. Aboard the station,
the crew worked on a variety of microgravity experiments and hosted
two space shuttle missions, including the last shuttle to visit the
station. Garan also participated in the last space-shuttle-based
spacewalk during the STS-135 mission.

During his time in space, Garan shared his experiences and images he
took of Earth from the station via his Twitter account and Fragile Oasis blog.

A Tweetup is an informal meeting of people who use the social
messaging medium Twitter. This NASA Tweetup is an opportunity to meet
and speak with Garan, the people behind NASA's Twitter account and
other space-exploration-minded participants.

Registration for the event is open to @NASA followers and their guests
from 12 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, until 12 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
NASA will select 150 total participants by lottery from those who
register online. For more NASA Tweetup information and to sign up, visit:


Garan's Twitter account is:


Garan's biography is available at:


To find all the ways to connect and collaborate with NASA, visit:



NASA Clears The Runway For Open Source Software

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- The NASA Open Government Initiative has
launched a new website to expand the agency's open source software

Open source development, which invites the public access to view and
improve software source code, is transforming the way software is
created, improved and used. NASA uses open source code to address
project and mission needs, accelerate software development and
maximize public awareness and impact of research.

In 2009, the White House issued the Open Government Directive, which
requires federal agencies to take specific steps to achieve
milestones that are transparent. NASA's Open Government Plan has been
recognized as one of the best. NASA was among several federal
agencies recognized with two leading practices awards from the White
House for achievement above and beyond the requirements in the
"Participation and Collaboration" and "Flagship Initiatives"
categories of the Open Government Directive.

"The site represents a natural extension of NASA's efforts to inform,
educate and include the public in our mission to pioneer the future
in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research,"
said Deborah Diaz, NASA's Deputy Chief Information Officer. "Citizen
involvement in our work is a critical component of our success."

NASA Open Government launched the new site as part of its Open Source
Software Flagship Initiative with the goal showcasing existing
projects, providing a forum for discussion, and guiding internal and
external groups in open development, release and contribution.

"We released the site on Jan. 4 and since have received an
overwhelming response from people interested in using our code," said
Nick Skytland, Program Manager of NASA's Open Government Initiative.
"Our goal is to provide the public direct and ongoing access to NASA technology."

"We believe tomorrow's space and science systems will be built in the
open, and that code.nasa.gov will play a big part in getting us
there," said William Eshagh, NASA Open Government co-lead on the
project at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

To view the site, visit:


For more information on Open Government, visit:


For more information on NASA's Open Government Initiative, visit:



Montana Students Submit Winning Names for NASA Lunar Spacecraft

WASHINGTON -- Twin NASA spacecraft that achieved orbit around the moon
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day have new names thanks to elementary
students in Bozeman, Montana. Their winning entry, "Ebb and Flow,"
was selected as part of a nation-wide school contest that began in
October 2011.

The names were submitted by fourth graders from the Emily Dickinson
Elementary School. Nearly 900 classrooms with more than 11,000
students from 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia,
participated in the contest. Previously named Gravity Recovery And
Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL A and B, the washing machine-sized
spacecraft begin science operations in March.

"The 28 students of Nina DiMauro's class at the Emily Dickinson
Elementary School have really hit the nail on the head," said Maria
Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology. "We were really impressed that the students drew their
inspiration by researching GRAIL and its goal of measuring gravity.
Ebb and Flow truly capture the spirit and excitement of our mission."

Zuber and Sally Ride, America's first woman in space and CEO of Sally
Ride Science in San Diego, selected the names following the contest,
which attracted 890 proposals via the Internet and mail. The contest
invited ideas from students ages 5 to 18 enrolled in U.S. schools.
Although everything from spelling and grammar to creativity were
considered, Zuber and Ride primarily took into account the quality of
submitted essays.

"With submissions from all over the United States and even some from
abroad, there were a lot of great entries to review," Ride said.
"This contest generated a great deal of excitement in classrooms
across America, and along with it an opportunity to use that
excitement to teach science."

GRAIL is NASA's first planetary mission carrying instruments fully
dedicated to education and public outreach. Each spacecraft carries a
small camera called GRAIL MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle
school students). Thousands of students in grades five through eight
will select target areas on the lunar surface and send requests for
study to the GRAIL MoonKAM Mission Operations Center in San Diego.

The winning prize for the Dickinson students is to choose the first
camera images. Dickinson is one of nearly 2,000 schools registered
for the MoonKAM program, which is led by Ride and her team at Sally
Ride Science in collaboration with undergraduate students at the
University of California in San Diego.

"These spacecraft represent not only great science but great
inspiration for our future," said Jim Green, director of NASA's
Planetary Science Division in Washington. "As they study our lunar
neighbor, Ebb and Flow will undergo nearly the same motion as the
tides we feel here on Earth."

Launched in September 2011, Ebb and Flow will be placed in a
near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles
(55 kilometers). During their science mission, the duo 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.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the
GRAIL mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
The GRAIL mission 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.

To read the winning submission visit:


Information about MoonKAM is available online at:


For more information about GRAIL visit:





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