NASA News: NASA Renames Earth-Observing Mission in Honor of Satellite Pioneer

WASHINGTON -- NASA has renamed its newest Earth-observing satellite in
honor of the late Verner E. Suomi, a meteorologist at the University
of Wisconsin who is recognized widely as "the father of satellite
meteorology." The announcement was made Jan. 24 at the annual meeting
of the American Meteorological Society in New Orleans.

NASA launched the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental
Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP, on Oct. 28, 2011, from
Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NPP was renamed Suomi
National Polar-orbiting Partnership, or Suomi NPP. The satellite is
the first designed to collect critical data to improve short-term
weather forecasts and increase understanding of long-term climate change.

"Verner Suomi's many scientific and engineering contributions were
fundamental to our current ability to learn about Earth's weather and
climate from space," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of
NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington." Suomi NPP not only
will extend more than four decades of NASA satellite observations of
our planet, it also will usher in a new era of climate change
discovery and weather forecasting."

The Suomi NPP mission is a bridge between NASA's Earth Observing
System satellites to the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite
System, or JPSS, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) program. JPSS is the civilian component of the former National
Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS),
which was reorganized by the Obama Administration in 2010.

"The new name now accurately describes the mission," said Michael
Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division in NASA's Science
Mission Directorate. "Suomi NPP will advance our scientific knowledge
of Earth and improve the lives of Americans by enabling more accurate
forecasts of weather, ocean conditions and the terrestrial biosphere.
The mission is the product of a partnership between NASA, NOAA, the
Department of Defense, the private sector and academic researchers."

Verner Suomi pioneered remote sensing of Earth from satellites in
polar orbits a few hundred miles above the surface with Explorer 7 in
1959, and geostationary orbits thousands of miles high with ATS-1 in
1966. He was best known for his invention of the "spin-scan" camera
which enabled geostationary weather satellites to continuously image
Earth, yielding the satellite pictures commonly used on television
weather broadcasts. He also was involved in planning interplanetary
spacecraft missions to Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Suomi spent nearly his entire career at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, where in 1965 he founded the university's Space
Science and Engineering Center with funding from NASA. The center is
known for Earth-observing satellite research and development. In
1964, Suomi served as chief scientist of the U.S. Weather Bureau for
one year. He received the National Medal of Science in 1977. He died
in 1995 at the age of 79.

"It is fitting that such an important and innovative partnership pays
tribute to a pioneer like Verner Suomi," said Mary Kicza, assistant
administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service. "Suomi
NPP is an extremely important mission for NOAA. Its advanced
instruments will improve our weather forecasts and understanding of
the climate and pave the way for JPSS, our next generation of weather satellites."

Suomi NPP currently is in its initial checkout phase before starting
regular observations with all of its five instruments. Commissioning
activities are expected to be completed by March. NASA's Goddard
Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the Suomi NPP mission
for the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at
NASA Headquarters in Washington. The JPSS program provides the
satellite ground system and NOAA provides operational support.

For more information about Verner Suomi's career, visit:


For more information about the Suomi NPP mission, visit:



Zero Robotics Challenge Winners Decided in High-Tech Competition

WASHINGTON -- Two hundred high school students packed an auditorium at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Monday, Jan. 23,
for a competition to program miniature satellites aboard the
International Space Station. Alliance Rocket from the United States
and virtual participants Alliance CyberAvo from Europe were named the
winners in the third annual NASA-sponsored Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge.

Student teams wrote programming code for two small NASA robotic
satellites aboard the station. Astronauts Don Pettit and Andre
Kuipers, who currently live aboard the International Space Station,
presided over the event and gathered data from the student-controlled
SPHERES flight programs after each phase of the competition. Current
and former astronauts were on hand at MIT to share their experiences
in space with the student audience, including Greg Chamitoff, Leland
Melvin, John Grunsfeld and Jeff Hoffman. Spaceflight participant
Richard Garriott, who traveled to the space station about a Soyuz,
also attended.

Both winning efforts consisted of three teams. The teams that made up
Alliance Rocket were Team Rocket, River Hill High School,
Clarksville, Md.; Defending Champions, Storming Robots, Branchburg,
N.J.; and SPHEREZ of Influence, Rockledge High School/Brevard County,
Fla. Alliance CyberAvo consisted of CyberAvo, I.T.I.S. Amedeo
Avogrado, Turin, Italy; Ultima, Kaethe Kollwitz Oberschule, Berlin,
Germany; and Lazy, Heinrich Hertz Gymnasium, Berlin, Germany. A total
of 36 teams participated in the SPHERES event.

"It is just amazing to me what these high school students have
accomplished," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "To program a
robotic spacecraft with the precision of a NASA flight controller is
quite a feat, but to have that ability, talent and discipline at such
a young age is remarkable. Our future is in good hands."

NASA sponsors the Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge in partnership with
the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and MIT. The
competition aligns with the agency's goal of encouraging students to
study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and
mathematics, or STEM.

The SPHERES National Laboratory is operated by NASA's Ames Research
Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

For more about the Zero Robotics program, visit:


For more information about SPHERES, visit:


For more information about the space station, visit:



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