NASA News - NASA Marks Earth Day with Public Events and Online Activities

WASHINGTON -- NASA will celebrate the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day
this week with several live and online activities to engage the
public about the agency's mission to use space to explore and better
understand our planet.

NASA will host three days of displays and presentations open to the
public on the National Mall in Washington from Friday, April 20,
through Earth Day, Sunday, April 22. A live video chat with NASA
Earth scientists about new insights into our complex planet will be
part of these events on April 21.

For details on NASA Earth Day activities and agency programs dedicated
to expanding our knowledge of Earth, visit:


Earth Day in the Nation's Capital
Friday, April 20 (11 a.m.-3 p.m. EDT); Saturday, April 21 (12-5 p.m.
EDT); Sunday, April 22 (11 a.m.-5 p.m. EDT) -- The "NASA Village" on
the National Mall will contain activities and exhibits in three tents
highlighting the use of NASA science and technology to advance
knowledge and awareness of our planet. On April 22, a performance
stage hosted by the Earth Day Network will feature presentations by
NASA with a
wide variety of entertainment. The area is located at 12th Street and
Jefferson Drive SW.


Live Web Broadcast and Chat: A High-Tech Checkup of Earth's Vital
Saturday, April 21 (1-2 p.m. EDT) -- NASA scientists take you on a
world tour from the vantage point of space to show you some of the
new insights into our changing planet made possible by our orbiting
high-tech sensors. This live event in the "NASA Village" on the
National Mall will be streamed online via Ustream. Scientists will
take questions from the live audience and those viewing online.


NASA Earth Day Video Contest 2012
Share your vision of what NASA's exploration of Earth means to you by
creating a short YouTube video. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, Md., announced today a contest for the best video about
discoveries or real-world benefits resulting from NASA's Earth
science program. Producers are encouraged to draw from NASA's
extensive collection of public domain Earth imagery. Submissions are
due by May 31.


NASA Center Activities
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., Saturday-Sunday, April
21-22 (9 a.m. - 5 p.m. PDT) -- An exhibit on JPL's Earth science
research will be part of the Earth Day celebration at the Aquarium of
the Pacific, Long Beach, Calif. Attendees will learn how they can
help our ocean planet. The event includes hands-on learning
demonstrations for all ages.


NASA Mission Wants Amateur Astronomers to Target Asteroids

WASHINGTON -- A new NASA outreach project will enlist the help of
amateur astronomers to discover near-Earth objects (NEOs) and study
their characteristics. NEOs are asteroids with orbits that
occasionally bring them close to the Earth.

Starting today, a new citizen science project called "Target
Asteroids!" will support NASA's Origins Spectral Interpretation
Resource Identification Security - Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx)
mission objectives to improve basic scientific understanding of NEOs.
OSIRIS-Rex is scheduled for launch in 2016 and will study material
from an asteroid.

Amateur astronomers will help better characterize the population of
NEOs, including their position, motion, rotation and changes in the
intensity of light they emit. Professional astronomers will use this
information to refine theoretical models of asteroids, improving
their understanding about asteroids similar to the one OSIRIS-Rex
will encounter in 2019, designated 1999 RQ36.

OSIRIS-Rex will map the asteroid's global properties, measure
non-gravitational forces and provide observations that can be
compared with data obtained by telescope observations from Earth. In
2023, OSIRIS-REx will return back to Earth at least 2.11 ounces (60
grams) of surface material from the asteroid.

Target Asteroids! data will be useful for comparisons with actual
mission data. The project team plans to expand participants in 2014
to students and teachers.

"Although few amateur astronomers have the capability to observe 1999
RQ36 itself, they do have the capability to observe other targets,"
said Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at NASA's Goddard
Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Previous observations indicate 1999 RQ36 is made of primitive
materials. OSIRIS-REx will supply a wealth of information about the
asteroid's composition and structure. Data also will provide new
insights into the nature of the early solar system and its evolution,
orbits of NEOs and their impact risks, and the building blocks that
led to life on Earth.

Amateur astronomers long have provided NEO tracking observations in
support of NASA's NEO Observation Program. A better understanding of
NEOs is a critically important precursor in the selection and
targeting of future asteroid missions.

"For well over 10 years, amateurs have been important contributors in
the refinement of orbits for newly discovered near-Earth objects,"
said Edward Beshore, deputy principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx
mission at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will provide
overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and
mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission's
principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin
Space Systems in Denver will build the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the
third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages New Frontiers for the
agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about NASA, visit:


For more information on Target Asteroids! and OSIRIS-REx, visit:



NASA Awards Aircraft Maintenance And Operations Support Contract

HOUSTON -- NASA has selected DynCorp International LLC of Ft. Worth,
Texas, to provide aircraft maintenance and operational support
services under a contract potentially worth $176.9 million.

DynCorp will perform the work at Ellington Field at NASA's Johnson
Space Center in Houston; NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton,
Va.; NASA facilities in El Paso, Texas, and Edwards Air Force Base,
Calif.; and other locations worldwide as required.

The services will include support for flight operations, maintenance,
repairs and alterations to aircraft, component parts and support
equipment and engineering services. Additional services include
spaceflight readiness training, airborne research and development and
flight test support. The major sub-contractor is GeoControl Systems of Houston.

The $46.6 million base contract begins June 1 for one year and four
months. It is a fixed-price-award-fee/cost-
plus-award-fee contract.

There are two two-year option periods available. The first, with a
value of $70.1 million, may be exercised to extend through September
2015. The second, with a value of $60.2 million, may be exercised to
extend through May 2017.

For information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:



NASA Awards Loral Contract For Laser Comm Payload Flight

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Space Technology Program has awarded Space
System/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., a $3 million contract to initiate
the process of hosting a space laser communications relay
demonstration terminal payload aboard a Loral commercial satellite,
which launches in 2016. The agreement marks the first time NASA has
contracted to fly a payload on an American-manufactured commercial
communications satellite.

NASA's technology demonstration payload will be stationed high above
the equator aboard the Loral spacecraft. This is a prime location to
conduct communications experiments with other orbiting satellites or
ground stations. Commercial communications satellites offer the
location, size and power systems needed to conduct NASA's space laser
communications trials.

"Using a commercial communications satellite to host a NASA technology
demonstration payload provides an opportunity to partner with
American industry for the agency to gain access to space faster and
at a lower cost than developing and launching dedicated satellites,"
said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program in
Washington. "Once deep space laser communications is operational, it
will be like going from home dial-up Internet service to broadband."

Space laser communications has the potential to provide 100 times
higher data rates than traditional radio frequency with much less
mass and power, which can be constraints when designing satellites.

"We are excited to be a part of this mission, which is particularly
interesting because of the great potential for laser communications
to revolutionize space exploration as well as the commercial
satellite industry," said John Celli, president of Space

Under this contract, Loral will work with NASA to determine the
technical requirements for the space communications laser
demonstration payload planned to be integrated with a Loral satellite platform.

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration mission is one of several
crosscutting flight demonstrations that NASA selected for development
in 2011 because of its potential to provide tangible, near-term
products and infuse high-impact capabilities into NASA's future space
operations missions.

By investing in high-payoff, disruptive technology that industry does
not have today, NASA matures the technology required for its future
missions while proving the capabilities and lowering the cost of
government and commercial space activities.

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration project is part of the
agency's Technology Demonstrations Missions Program, which matures
crosscutting technology to flight readiness status through relevant
environment testing, including testing in space. The primary
objective of the Technology Demonstrations Missions are to "bridge
the technology gap," by maturing system-level space technologies
through flight readiness and mission infusion.

For more information about NASA's Space Technology Program and the
Laser Communications Relay Demonstration project, visit:


For more information about Space Systems/Loral, visit:



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