NASA News: NASA and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Invite Social Media Followers to Welcome Space Shuttle Discovery

WASHINGTON -- NASA and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
will invite 30 of their social media followers to the first "NASA
Social" on April 19 to welcome space shuttle Discovery to the
national collection. Registration opens at noon EDT Thursday, March
15, and closes at noon Friday, March 16. Thirty participants will be
selected randomly from online registrations.

For more information on NASA Social and to register, visit:


A NASA Social is an event for people who use NASA's social media
accounts. For this event, fans and followers on Twitter, Facebook and
Google+ are eligible to register. Each participant may invite one
guest and all registrants must be 13 or older.

The social media group will tour the Smithsonian's Steven F.
Udvar-Hazy Center; speak with museum curators, NASA scientists and
engineers; and have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of viewing and
photographing space shuttles Enterprise and Discovery together.
Participants also will meet fellow space enthusiasts who are active
on social media and members of the Smithsonian and NASA social media teams.

NASA officially will transfer Discovery into the Smithsonian's
collection April 19 in an outdoor ceremony open to the public. The
event will begin with Discovery's arrival from adjacent Dulles
International Airport onto the tow road behind the center. That
evening, specialists from NASA and the museum's collections division
will begin repositioning Enterprise and Discovery. Enterprise has
been on display at the center and is moving to New York's Intrepid
Sea, Air and Space Museum. Discovery will be moved inside the
center's James S. McDonnell Space Hangar to be displayed permanently.

For information and updates about Discovery arrival events, visit:


The National Air and Space Museum operates two buildings in the
Washington area: the flagship building on the National Mall and the
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., near Dulles. Both
facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25).

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



NASA to Hold Media Briefing About Upcoming NuSTAR Mission Launch

WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a media briefing at 12 p.m. EDT on
Tuesday, March 13, to discuss the upcoming launch of the Nuclear
Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). The mission will use advanced
optics and detectors, allowing astronomers to observe the high-energy
X-ray sky with much greater sensitivity and clarity than any mission
flown to-date. The televised briefing will take place in the agency's
television studio at NASA Headquarters, located at 300 E St. S.W. in Washington.

NuSTAR will advance our understanding of how structure in the universe
forms and evolves. It will observe some of the hottest, densest and
most energetic objects in the universe, including black holes, their
high-speed particle jets, ultra-dense neutron stars, supernova
remnants, and our sun.

NuSTAR is targeted for launch no earlier than 11:30 a.m. EDT on March
22. The launch window extends to 3:30 p.m. The spacecraft will
liftoff on an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL launch vehicle, released
from an aircraft originating from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Briefing Participants are:
-- Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in
-- Fiona Harrison, NuSTAR principal investigator at the California
Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.
-- Daniel Stern, NuSTAR project scientist at the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.
-- Yunjin Kim, NuSTAR project manager at JPL

Reporters may ask questions from participating NASA locations or by
telephone. Media planning to attend the briefing or reserve a phone
line must contact trent.j.perrotto@nasa.gov by 9 a.m. on Monday, March 12.

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


For more information about NuSTAR, visit:



Early Career Faculty NASA Space Tech Research Opportunities

WASHINGTON -- NASA is seeking proposals from accredited U.S.
universities on behalf of outstanding early career faculty beginning
their independent careers. This inaugural Space Technology Research
Opportunities for Early Career Faculty solicitation seeks to sponsor
research in specific, high priority technology areas of interest to NASA.

Specific topic areas were selected because they can best benefit from
early stage innovative approaches provided by U.S. academic
institutions. The research will investigate unique, disruptive or
transformational space technologies or concepts.

"NASA is committed to ensuring our nation's intellectual capital
pipeline remains the best in the world, and that we bring the
brightest minds together with the best ideas to meet the challenges
of NASA's future missions," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's
Space Technology Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These
grants offer a means for NASA to capitalize on the tremendous
creativity and innovation that these brilliant individuals have to offer."

NASA expects to award approximately ten grants this fall, funded up to
$200,000 each per year, based on the merit of proposals received.
Notices of intent to submit proposals are due March 30. The deadline
for submitting final proposals is May 3. For information on the
solicitation, including specific technology areas of interest and how
to submit notices of intent and proposals, visit:


The Space Technology Research Opportunities for Early Career Faculty
is a part of NASA's Space Technology Program, managed by the Office
of the Chief Technologist. For more information about the Space
Technology Program and the crosscutting space technology areas of
interest to NASA, visit:



The Epic Stuggle Between Birds and Pigs Moves to Space with a NASA Science Twist

WASHINGTON -- For nearly three years, millions of gamers have used
physics in the battle between birds and pigs in the video game Angry
Birds. In cooperation with NASA, Finland-based Rovio Entertainment,
creator of the Angry Birds franchise, announced its newest game,
"Angry Birds Space," on Thursday, March 8. NASA and Rovio are working
together to teach people about physics and space exploration through
the internationally successful puzzle game.

Game developers have incorporated concepts of human space exploration
into the new game. From the weightlessness of space to the gravity
wells of nearby planets, players use physics as they explore the
various levels of the game set both on planets and in microgravity.

"This collaboration began with a simple Twitter exchange about birds
and pigs in space, and it has grown into a tremendous outreach and
education opportunity," said David Weaver, associate administrator
for communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Games are fun
and entertaining, but they also can be inspirational and informative.
This ongoing collaboration with Rovio and Angry Birds is an exciting
way to get people engaged with NASA's missions of exploration and
discovery, and get students energized about future careers in science
and technology."

Aboard the International Space Station, Flight Engineer Don Pettit of
NASA created a video using Angry Birds Space to explain how physics
works in space, including demonstrating trajectories in microgravity
by catapulting an Angry Bird through the space station. The video was
shown this week to an audience at the South by Southwest Conferences
and Festivals, an annual convention of original music, independent
films, and emerging technologies in Austin, Texas. It is also
available on NASA's website at http://www.nasa.gov.

"We focused on every detail in development of Angry Birds Space to
build a special experience for our fans," said Peter Vesterbacka,
chief marketing officer and mighty eagle of Rovio Entertainment. "I
believe we have succeeded well with the game, and we wanted to create
something as unique around our launch events. NASA has been the
perfect partner for our Angry Birds Space program, and we can't wait
to work with them on creating more compelling educational experiences."

For more information on microgravity, visit:


For more information about the International Space Station, visit:


For more information about Angry Birds Space, visit:



Multi-Agency Satellite Begins Climate and Weather Studies

GREENBELT, Md. -- NASA has completed commissioning of the Suomi
National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (NPP), which is now
making global environmental observations. The satellite will provide
scientists with critical insight into the dynamics of the entire
Earth system, including climate, clouds, oceans, and vegetation. It
will also gather enhanced data for improving our nation's weather
forecasting system.

The mission, launched in October 2011, is the result of a partnership
between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) and the Department of Defense. All five of the satellite's
instruments now have been activated for science data collection.

"By providing cutting-edge measurements of important Earth system
processes, the Suomi NPP mission will increase researchers' knowledge
of our home planet, and provide direct societal benefit through more
accurate predictions," said Michael Freilich, director, Earth Science
Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This satellite mission,
which could only have come to fruition through a close interagency
partnership, is multifaceted and its data will be used by a multitude
of stakeholders in the U.S. and worldwide."

With the completion of commissioning activities, operation of the
Suomi NPP has now been turned over to a Joint Polar Satellite System
(JPSS) team. NOAA's JPSS Program provided three of the five
instruments and the ground segment for Suomi NPP. A government team
from the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md., will
operate the satellite.

"NOAA is thrilled with the performance of Suomi NPP," said Mary Kicza,
assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service
in Silver Spring, Md. "NOAA will be using the advanced data NPP
provides to improve life-saving weather forecasts and track volcanic
eruptions, and to improve our understanding of long-term weather and
climate patterns. Suomi NPP is an important mission for the nation."

The Suomi NPP mission is a bridge between NOAA and NASA legacy Earth
observing missions and NOAA's next-generation JPSS. Suomi NPP flies
for the first time the groundbreaking new Earth observing instruments
that JPSS will use operationally. The first satellite in the JPSS
series, JPSS-1, is targeted for launch in 2016.

NASA scientists have already begun creating consistent, multi-decade
Earth science data sets by combining the new NPP observations with
measurements from many of the legacy NASA and NOAA missions. These
long-term observations are critical to improving our understanding of
the Earth system and quantifying any changes.

"With the successful completion of commissioning, Suomi NPP is now
ready to provide the world with remarkable Earth observations," said
Ken Schwer, NPP project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
in Greenbelt, Md.

Goddard managed the Suomi NPP mission for the Science Mission
Directorate's Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

For more information about the Suomi NPP mission, visit:


Suomi NPP data will be available at:


For more information about the JPSS program, visit:



NASA Signs Agreement With Bermuda For Tracking Station

WASHINGTON -- NASA and the government of Bermuda signed an agreement
today to establish a temporary mobile tracking station on Cooper's
Island to support launches from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility
in Virginia including future commercial missions. Deputy Premier and
Transport Minister Derrick Burgess and NASA Deputy Administrator Lori
Garver signed the agreement.

The mobile tracking station will be provided and operated by Wallops
under NASA's Research Range Services Program. The station can provide
telemetry, meteorological, optical, and command and control services.
It will support the launch of commercial rockets carrying supplies to
the International Space Station or satellites to low-Earth orbit.

"This tracking station will help facilitate NASA's partnership with
commercial companies and support operations aboard the International
Space Station," Garver said. "We're grateful to the government of
Bermuda for its ongoing support to NASA."

Bermuda has been a long-time partner of NASA in supporting space
exploration. The British territory hosted a radar tracking station
from the Mercury Project in the early 1960s through most of the Space
Shuttle Program.

For more information on NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation
Services, visit:



NASA Tweetups Are Evolving. It's Time To Be More Social

WASHINGTON -- NASA is expanding its successful program of Tweetups to
include more social media platforms, broadening the agency's use of
social media to engage audiences about the agency's mission of
exploration and discovery. As part of this effort, the "NASA Tweetup"
will now be known as "NASA Social."

Since 2009, NASA has hosted 34 in-person Tweetups, which are informal
meetings of people who use the social messaging medium Twitter.
Hundreds of participants have shared thousands of tweets, pictures,
videos and blog posts with their followers, detailing
behind-the-scenes views of NASA launches, centers, missions and
speakers. The agency's primary Twitter account, @NASA, has nearly 2
million followers. Multiple NASA missions and centers maintain
Twitter accounts as well. NASA's innovative use of Twitter has been
recognized as one of the best in federal government.

"NASA has been recognized for its efforts in social media and we want
to build on that success, engaging in an online conversation that
seamlessly spans platforms, taking advantage of the diverse online
social experience that each enables," said David Weaver, associate
administrator for communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"A Tweetup is identified with a specific online service and many
participants are members of other Internet communities. We felt it
was time to expand the Tweetup concept to embrace other social media platforms."

The agency also has a significant presence on Flickr, YouTube,
Google+, Facebook, Foursquare and other social media websites. NASA
Socials will allow the agency to better expand online and in-person
programs to connect with audiences following NASA on a growing
variety of social media websites.

For more information on NASA Social, visit:


For a comprehensive list of NASA social media websites, visit:



NASA's Twin Grail Spacecraft Begin Collecting Lunar Science Data

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)
spacecraft orbiting the moon officially have begun their science
collection phase. During the next 84 days, scientists will obtain a
high-resolution map of the lunar gravitational field to learn about
the moon's internal structure and composition in unprecedented
detail. The data also will provide a better understanding of how
Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.

"The initiation of science data collection is a time when the team
lets out a collective sigh of relief because we are finally doing
what we came to do," said Maria Zuber, principal investigator for the
GRAIL mission at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in
Cambridge. "But it is also a time where we have to put the coffee pot
on, roll up our sleeves and get to work."

The GRAIL mission's twin, washing-machine-sized spacecraft, named Ebb
and Flow, entered lunar orbit on New Year's Eve and New Years Day.
GRAIL's science phase began yesterday at 8:15 p.m. EST (5:15 p.m.
PST). During this mission phase, the spacecraft will transmit radio
signals precisely defining the distance between them. As they fly
over areas of greater and lesser gravity caused by visible features
such as mountains, craters and masses hidden beneath the lunar
surface, the distance between the two spacecraft will change
slightly. Science activities are expected to conclude on May 29,
after GRAIL maps the gravity field of the moon three times.

"We are in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an average altitude
of about 34 miles (55 kilometers) right now," said David Lehman,
GRAIL project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in
Pasadena, Calif. "During the science phase, our spacecraft will orbit
the moon as high as 31 miles (51 kilometers) and as low as 10 miles
(16 kilometers). They will get as close to each other as 40 miles (65
kilometers) and as far apart as 140 miles (225 kilometers)."

Previously named GRAIL A and B, the names Ebb and Flow were the result
of a nation-wide student contest to choose new names for the
spacecraft. The winning entry was submitted by fourth graders from
the Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Bozeman, Mont. Nearly 900
classrooms with more than 11,000 students from 45 states, Puerto Rico
and the District of Columbia, participated in the contest.

JPL 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.

For more information about GRAIL, visit:



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