NASA News: NASA Awards Cooperative Agreement for Earth Science Research

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA has awarded a cooperative agreement to
the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute of Sonoma, Calif., to
support Earth science research at NASA's Ames Research Center at
Moffett Field, Calif.

The Ames Cooperative for Research in Earth Science and Technology
(ARC-CREST) agreement has a total value of approximately $137
million, which will be funded annually up to $14 million. The 10-year
agreement covers the period from March 1, 2012 through Feb. 28, 2022.

The agreement is based on the original solicitation titled "The
Silicon Valley Earth Science Cooperative Agreement." Partners in the
cooperative agreement include California State University, Monterey
Bay; the University of California, Davis; and the University of North
Dakota, Grand Forks.

Through this new agreement, NASA scientists will collaborate with
scientists from other organizations to conduct Earth science
research, and airborne and space-based Earth observations for NASA's
missions. NASA hopes to expand its cooperative relationships among
Ames Earth scientists and other partners in academia, federal, state
and local agencies, non-profits and private industry.

For more information about Ames, visit:



Student Teams to Conduct Microgravity Experiments at Glenn Research Center

CLEVELAND -- NASA-selected student teams will test their science
experiments in the 2.2-second drop tower at NASA's Glenn Research
Center in Cleveland from March 15-20. While in free fall, the
students' experiments will experience microgravity conditions similar
to those on the International Space Station.

The selections are part of two national science competitions: Dropping
In a Microgravity Environment (DIME) for high school student teams
and What If No Gravity? (WING) for student teams in fifth through
eighth grades.

The four winning DIME teams will receive a stipend to support a visit
to Glenn to conduct their experiments, review the results with NASA
personnel and tour Glenn's facilities.

The teams selected for DIME are:
-- Ransom Everglades High School, Miami, Fla.
-- Neighborhood After School Science Association, Ava, N.Y.
-- Licking Heights High School, Pataskala, Ohio
-- St. Ursula Academy, Toledo, Ohio

On March 15 and 16, the Neighborhood After School Science Association
and Licking Heights High School will operate their experiments. St.
Ursula Academy and Ransom Everglades High School will conduct theirs
on March 19 and 20.

Twenty-four WING teams were selected to build their experiments and
ship them to Glenn for testing by NASA. The experiments and resulting
data will be returned to the teams so they can analyze their
performance and prepare reports about their findings.

The teams selected for WING are:
-- Tuba City Boarding School, Tuba City, Ariz. (3 teams)
-- Ellen Ochoa Learning Center, Cudahy, Calif. (2 teams)
-- Warren G. Harding Middle School, Des Moines, Iowa
-- Holy Rosary School, Duluth, Minn.
-- Sleeping Giant Middle School, Livingston, Mont.
-- Neighborhood After School Science Association, Ava, N.Y.
-- Longfellow Middle School, Lorain, Ohio
-- Menlo Park Academy, Cleveland, Ohio
-- Independence Middle School, Bethel Park, Pa. (2 teams)
-- Drums Elementary Middle School, Drums, Pa.
-- Hazleton Area School District - Freeland Elementary Middle School,
Freeland, Pa.
-- Valley Elementary Middle School, Sugarloaf, Pa. (2 teams)
-- St. Nicholas - St. Mary's School, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
-- Webb School of Knoxville, Knoxville, Tenn. (4 teams)
-- Kenmore Middle School, Arlington, Va.
-- Washington Irving Middle School, Springfield, Va.

DIME, WING and other educational programs help NASA attract and retain
students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or
STEM. Having a skilled workforce in these disciplines is critical to
future science, engineering and space exploration programs.

The Teaching From Space Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in
Houston sponsors the DIME and WING competitions. The office manages
educational opportunities that use the human spaceflight program and
the unique environment of microgravity to inspire students.

For information about NASA's DIME and WING student competitions, visit:


For more information about NASA's education programs, visit:


For information about NASA's Glenn Research Center, visit:



NASA Continues Orion Parachute Testing for Orbital Test Flight

HOUSTON -- On Feb. 29, NASA successfully conducted another drop test
of the Orion crew vehicle's entry, descent and landing parachutes
high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle's
orbital flight test in 2014. Orion will carry astronauts deeper into
space than ever before, provide emergency abort capability, sustain
the crew during space travel and ensure a safe re-entry and landing.

An Air Force C-17 plane dropped a test version of Orion from an
altitude of 25,000 feet above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in
Arizona. Orion's drogue chutes were deployed between 15,000 and
20,000 feet, followed by the pilot parachutes, which deployed the
main landing parachutes. Orion landed on the desert floor at a speed
of almost 17 mph, well below the maximum designed touchdown speed of
the spacecraft.

The test examined how Orion's wake, the disturbance of the air flow
behind the vehicle, would affect the performance of the parachute
system. Parachutes perform optimally in smooth air that allows proper
lift. A wake of choppy air can reduce parachute inflation. The test
was the first to create a wake mimicking the full-size Orion vehicle
and complete system.

Since 2007, the Orion program has conducted a vigorous parachute air
and ground test program and provided the chutes for NASA's successful
pad abort test in 2010. All of the tests build an understanding of
the chutes' technical performance for eventual human-rated certification.

For more information about Orion and photographs of the drop test, visit:



NASA Finds Sea Ice Decline Driving Rise in Arctic Air Pollutants

WASHINGTON -- Drastic reductions in Arctic sea ice in the last decade
may be intensifying the chemical release of bromine into the
atmosphere, resulting in ground-level ozone depletion and the deposit
of toxic mercury in the Arctic, according to a new NASA-led study.

The connection between changes in the Arctic Ocean's ice cover and
bromine chemical processes is determined by the interaction between
the salt in sea ice, frigid temperatures and sunlight. When these
mix, the salty ice releases bromine into the air and starts a cascade
of chemical reactions called a "bromine explosion." These reactions
rapidly create more molecules of bromine monoxide in the atmosphere.
Bromine then reacts with a gaseous form of mercury, turning it into a
pollutant that falls to Earth's surface.

Bromine also can remove ozone from the lowest layer of the atmosphere,
the troposphere. Despite ozone's beneficial role blocking harmful
radiation in the stratosphere, ozone is a pollutant in the
ground-level troposphere.

A team from the United States, Canada, Germany, and the United
Kingdom, led by Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, Calif., produced the study, which has been accepted for
publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research- Atmospheres. The
team combined data from six NASA, European Space Agency and Canadian
Space Agency satellites, field observations and a model of how air
moves in the atmosphere to link Arctic sea ice changes to bromine
explosions over the Beaufort Sea, extending to the Amundsen Gulf in
the Canadian Arctic.

"Shrinking summer sea ice has drawn much attention to exploiting
Arctic resources and improving maritime trading routes," Nghiem said.
"But the change in sea ice composition also has impacts on the
environment. Changing conditions in the Arctic might increase bromine
explosions in the future."

The study was undertaken to better understand the fundamental nature
of bromine explosions, which first were observed in the Canadian
Arctic more than two decades ago. The team of scientists wanted to
find if the explosions occur in the troposphere or higher in the stratosphere.

Nghiem's team used the topography of mountain ranges in Alaska and
Canada as a "ruler" to measure the altitude at which the explosions
took place. In the spring of 2008, satellites detected increased
concentrations of bromine, which were associated with a decrease of
gaseous mercury and ozone. After the researchers verified the
satellite observations with field measurements, they used an
atmospheric model to study how the wind transported the bromine
plumes across the Arctic.

The model, together with satellite observations, showed the Alaskan
Brooks Range and the Canadian Richardson and Mackenzie mountains
stopped bromine from moving into Alaska's interior. Since most of
these mountains are lower than 6,560 feet (2,000 meters), the
researchers determined the bromine explosion was confined to the
lower troposphere.

"If the bromine explosion had been in the stratosphere, 5 miles [8
kilometers] or higher above the ground, the mountains would not have
been able to stop it and the bromine would have been transported
inland," Nghiem said.

After the researchers found that bromine explosions occur in the
lowest level of the atmosphere, they could relate their origin to
sources on the surface. Their model, tracing air rising from the
salty ice, tied the bromine releases to recent changes in Arctic sea
ice that have led to a much saltier sea ice surface.

In March 2008, the extent of year-round perennial sea ice eclipsed the
50-year record low set in March 2007, shrinking by 386,100 square
miles (one million square kilometers) -- an area the size of Texas
and Arizona combined. Seasonal ice, which forms over the winter when
seawater freezes, now occupies the space of the lost perennial ice.
This younger ice is much saltier than its older counterpart because
it has not had time to undergo processes that drain its sea salts. It
also contains more frost flowers -- clumps of ice crystals up to four
times saltier than ocean waters -- providing more salt sources to
fuel bromine releases.

Nghiem said if sea ice continues to be dominated by younger saltier
ice, and Arctic extreme cold spells occur more often, bromine
explosions are likely to increase in the future.

Nghiem is leading an Arctic field campaign this month that will
provide new insights into bromine explosions and their impacts.
NASA's Bromine, Ozone, and Mercury Experiment (BROMEX) involves
international contributions by more than 20 organizations.

For more information about NASA programs, visit:



International Space Station Heads of Agencies Joint Statement

WASHINGTON -- The heads of the International Space Station (ISS)
agencies from Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States met
in Quebec City, Canada, on March 1, 2012, to review the scientific,
technological, and social benefits being produced through their
collaboration, and to discuss plans for further broadening these
benefits by continuing to advance the human exploration of space.

In reviewing the history of ISS development and the recent transition
to a productive research and applications phase, three major areas of
success were discussed: the historic engineering achievements, the
unprecedented international partnership, and the ongoing progress
being made through science. The heads noted that human exploration of
space continues to yield valuable benefits to society and is
strengthening partnerships among space-faring nations.

The heads also recognized the new opportunities for discovery made
possible by maximizing the research capabilities of the ISS, as well
as the growth in commercial endeavors and positive educational impact
brought about by this permanent human presence in space. Biology,
biotechnology, and human physiology research are producing new
insights into human health on Earth with the development of promising
applications supporting future medical therapies.

Also a wide range
of fluids and materials research yields a promising way for better
and smarter materials and production processes on Earth. Observations
captured from the ISS in the fields of x-ray astronomy, high-energy
particle physics, and Earth remote sensing hint at discoveries to
come as the ISS is increasingly used as a platform for the
installation and operation of a wide variety of instruments
supporting Earth and Space Sciences.

Technology demonstrations in
environmental control, robotic servicing, and advanced
telecommunications and teleoperations are making it possible to
eventually further extend human presence in space and continue to
broaden improvements to the quality of life on Earth.

Recognizing the inspirational nature of the ISS as a human-tended
outpost in space, the agency leaders applauded its strong role in
motivating young people around the world to learn about science,
technology, engineering and mathematics. More than 40 million
students have participated in human spaceflight to date through
communications downlinks and interactive experiments with station
crew members.

Highlighting the continued growth in the international user community,
the first biannual "International Space Station Utilization
Statistics" was released. The partnership also published
"International Space Station Benefits for Humanity," illustrating
specific successful humanitarian accomplishments in education, human
health, Earth observation and disaster response that will improve the
lives of many throughout the world.

The ISS partnership began considering long-range opportunities to
further advance human space exploration, so benefits from the ISS
program will continue to grow through future exploration missions. In
the near term, the heads of agencies committed to increase use of the
ISS as a test bed in space for the demonstration of critical
technologies and the mitigation of human health risks for exploration
as a joint effort.

For the long-term, they discussed opportunities to
use the ISS as a foundation for the development of future exploration
capabilities. The ISS partnership has created a global research
facility in space that is unprecedented in capability and unique in
human history. The heads of agency re-confirmed the importance of
using the facility to benefit society today and provide a
technological basis for continued human exploration of space in the future.

To read the "International Space Station Benefits for Humanity," visit:


For more information about the ISS, visit:



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