NASA News - Shuttle Enterprise Flight over New York City Metro Area Moved to April 27

WASHINGTON -- NASA managers, in coordination with Intrepid Sea, Air
and Space Museum officials, tentatively are targeting Friday, April
27, for the ferry of space shuttle Enterprise from Washington Dulles
International Airport to John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport
in New York.

Managers shifted the flight from Wednesday to Friday because of a
large region of low pressure dominating the East Coast. The weather
is predicted to be more favorable Friday.

NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) with Enterprise mounted atop
will fly at a relatively low altitude over various parts of the New
York City metropolitan area on Friday. The aircraft is expected to
fly near a variety of landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and
Intrepid. After the flyover is complete, the SCA will land at JFK.

The Federal Aviation Administration is coordinating the flight, which
is scheduled to occur between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. EDT, weather
permitting. The exact route and timing depend on weather and
operational constraints.

Enterprise was mated to the SCA Saturday morning and covers were
fitted over the shuttle's vent doors to prevent rain intrusion while
the vehicle awaits its transfer from Dulles. The covers will be
removed before flight.

Media will have access to the public areas at Dulles to view the
departure of Enterprise. Media sending crews to Dulles should contact
the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Office of Public
Affairs at 703-417-8370.

During the weeks following the arrival, Enterprise will be demated
from the 747 and placed on a barge that will move by tugboat up the
Hudson River to Intrepid in June. The shuttle will be lifted by crane
and placed on the flight deck of the Intrepid, where it will be on
exhibit to the public starting this summer in a temporary
climate-controlled pavilion. The Intrepid continues to work on a
permanent exhibit facility to showcase Enterprise that will enhance
the museum's space-related exhibits and education curriculum.

If the flight is postponed for any reason, an additional notice will
be released.

For more information about NASA's transfer of space shuttles to
museums, visit:


For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:



NASA Issues Statement on SpaceX Launch Date

WASHINGTON -- In response to SpaceX's announcement that it has delayed
launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from April 30 to
May 7, NASA issued the following statement from Associate
Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier:

"We appreciate that SpaceX is taking the necessary time to help ensure
the success of this historic flight. We will continue to work with
SpaceX in preparing for the May 7 launch to the International Space Station."

For more information on the flight, visit:


For more information on the International Space Station, visit:


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



NASA Awards Safety And Mission Assurance Services Contract

WASHINGTON -- NASA has awarded a contract to ARES Technical Services
Corporation of Vienna, Va., for Safety and Mission Assurance Services
(SMAS) for the Goddard Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate,
located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

This is a cost-plus fixed-fee indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity
contract with a maximum ordering value of $180 million. The effective
ordering period is from June 1, 2012 through May 31, 2017. This is a
follow-on contract and a small business set-aside acquisition.

ARES will provide on-site and off-site safety and mission assurance
services to support spacecraft and instruments being developed at
Goddard and by industry, universities, other NASA centers and
international partners.

The contract will support flight projects such as Joint Polar
Satellite System, James Webb Space Telescope, Magnetospheric
Multiscale Mission, Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System-K,
Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series and new
projects under formulation.

Additional contract support will include mission assurance
engineering, systems safety services, reliability and risk assessment
services. Included also in the contract are software assurance
services, institutional support services, systems review services,
flight hardware technology assurance and information technology
support services.

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:



NASA's Spitzer Finds Galaxy with Split Personality

WASHINGTON -- While some galaxies are rotund and others are slender
disks like our spiral Milky Way, new observations from NASA's Spitzer
Space Telescope show that the Sombrero galaxy is both. The galaxy,
which is a round, elliptical with a thin disk embedded inside, is one
of the first known to exhibit characteristics of the two different
types. The findings will lead to a better understanding of galaxy
evolution, a topic still poorly understood.

"The Sombrero is more complex than previously thought," said Dimitri
Gadotti of the European Southern Observatory in Chile and lead author
of a new paper on the findings appearing in the Monthly Notices of
the Royal Astronomical Society. "The only way to understand all we
know about this galaxy is to think of it as two galaxies, one inside the other."

The Sombrero galaxy, also known as NGC 4594, is located 28 million
light-years away in the constellation Virgo. From our viewpoint on
Earth, we can see the thin edge of its flat disk and a central bulge
of stars, making it resemble a wide-brimmed hat. Astronomers do not
know whether the Sombrero's disk is shaped like a ring or a spiral,
but agree it belongs to the disk class.

"Spitzer is helping to unravel secrets behind an object that has been
imaged thousands of times," said Sean Carey of NASA's Spitzer Science
Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif..
"It is intriguing Spitzer can read the fossil record of events that
occurred billions of years ago within this beautiful and archetypal galaxy."

Spitzer captures a different view of the galaxy than visible-light
telescopes. In visible views, the galaxy appears to be immersed in a
glowing halo, which scientists had thought was relatively light and
small. With Spitzer's infrared vision, a different view emerges.
Spitzer sees old stars through the dust and reveals the halo has the
right size and mass to be a giant elliptical galaxy.

While it is tempting to think the giant elliptical swallowed a spiral
disk, astronomers say this is highly unlikely because that process
would have destroyed the disk structure. Instead, one scenario they
propose is that a giant elliptical galaxy was inundated with gas more
than nine billion years ago. Early in our universe, networks of gas
clouds were common, and they sometimes fed growing galaxies, causing
them to bulk up. The gas would have been pulled into the galaxy by
gravity, falling into orbit around the center and spinning out into a
flat disk. Stars would have formed from the gas in the disk.

"This poses all sorts of questions," said Rubén Sánchez-Janssen from
the European Southern Observatory, co-author of the study. "How did
such a large disk take shape and survive inside such a massive
elliptical? How unusual is such a formation process?"

Researchers say the answers could help them piece together how other
galaxies evolve. Another galaxy, called Centaurus A, appears also to
be an elliptical galaxy with a disk inside it. But its disk does not
contain many stars. Astronomers speculate that Centaurus A could be
at an earlier stage of evolution than the Sombrero and might
eventually look similar.

The findings also answer a mystery about the number of globular
clusters in the Sombrero galaxy. Globular clusters are spherical
nuggets of old stars. Ellipticals typically have a few thousand,
while spirals contain a few hundred. The Sombrero has almost 2,000, a
number that makes sense now but had puzzled astronomers when they
thought it was only a disk galaxy.

For more information about Spitzer, visit:



NASA Tests GPS Monitoring System for Big U.S. Earthquakes

WASHINGTON -- The space-based technology that lets GPS-equipped
motorists constantly update their precise location will undergo a
major test of its ability to rapidly pinpoint the location and
magnitude of strong earthquakes across the western United States.
Results from the new Real-time Earthquake Analysis for Disaster
(READI) Mitigation Network soon could be used to assist prompt
disaster response and more accurate tsunami warnings.

The new research network builds on decades of technology development
supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of
Defense, NASA, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The network
uses real-time GPS measurements from nearly 500 stations throughout
California, Oregon and Washington. When a large earthquake is
detected, GPS data are used to automatically calculate its vital
characteristics including location, magnitude and details about the
fault rupture.

"With the READI network we are enabling continued development of
real-time GPS technologies to advance national and international
early warning disaster systems," said Craig Dobson, natural hazards
program manager in the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters in
Washington. "This prototype system is a significant step towards
realizing the goal of providing Pacific basin-wide natural hazards
capability around the Pacific 'Ring of Fire.'"

Accurate and rapid identification of earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 and
stronger is critical for disaster response and mitigation efforts,
especially for tsunamis. Calculating the strength of a tsunami
requires detailed knowledge of the size of the earthquake and
associated ground movements. Acquiring this type of data for very
large earthquakes is a challenge for traditional seismological
instruments that measure ground shaking.

High-precision, second-by-second measurements of ground displacements
using GPS have been shown to reduce the time needed to characterize
large earthquakes and to increase the accuracy of subsequent tsunami
predictions. After the capabilities of the network have been fully
demonstrated, it is intended to be used by appropriate natural hazard
monitoring agencies. USGS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration are responsible for detecting and issuing warnings on
earthquakes and tsunamis, respectively.

"By using GPS to measure ground deformation from large earthquakes, we
can reduce the time needed to locate and characterize the damage from
large seismic events to several minutes," said Yehuda Bock, director
of Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Orbit and Permanent Array
Center in La Jolla, Calif. "We now are poised to fully test the
prototype system this year."

The READI network is a collaboration of many institutions including
Scripps at the University of California in San Diego; Central
Washington University in Ellensburg; the University of Nevada in
Reno; California Institute of Technology/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL) in Pasadena; UNAVCO in Boulder, Colo.; and the University of
California at Berkeley.

NASA, NSF, USGS, and other federal, state, and local partners support
the GPS stations in the network, including the EarthScope Plate
Boundary Observatory, the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array, the Bay
Area Regional Deformation Array and the California Real-Time Network.

"The relatively small investments in GPS-based natural hazards systems
have revolutionized the way we view the Earth and allowed us to
develop this prototype system with great potential benefits for the
infrastructure and population in earthquake-prone states in the
western United States," said Frank Webb, Earth Science Advanced
Mission Concepts program manager at JPL.

The READI network is the outgrowth of nearly 25 years of U.S.
government research efforts to develop the capabilities and
applications of GPS technology. The GPS satellite system was created
by the Department of Defense for military and ultimately civil
positioning needs. NASA leveraged this investment by supporting
development of a global GPS signal receiving network to improve the
accuracy and utility of GPS positioning information. Today that
capability provides real-time, pinpoint positioning and timing for a
wide variety of uses from agriculture to Earth exploration.

"Conventional seismic networks have consistently struggled to rapidly
identify the true size of great earthquakes during the last decade,"
said Timothy Melbourne, director of the Central Washington
University's Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array. "This GPS system is
more likely to provide accurate and rapid estimates of the location
and amount of fault slip to fire, utility, medical and other
first-response teams."
The GPS earthquake detection capability was first demonstrated by
NASA-supported research on a major 2004 Sumatra quake conducted by
Geoffrey Blewitt and colleagues at the University of Nevada in Reno.

For more information about NASA programs, visit:



NASA'S Webb Telescope Flight Backplane Section Completed

WASHINGTON -- The center section of the backplane structure that will
fly on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has been completed, marking
an important milestone in the telescope's hardware development. The
backplane will support the telescope's beryllium mirrors,
instruments, thermal control systems and other hardware throughout
its mission.

"Completing the center section of the backplane is an important step
in completing the sophisticated telescope structure," said Lee
Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for the Webb telescope at
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "This
fabrication success is the result of innovative engineering dating
back to the technology demonstration phase of the program."

The center section, or primary mirror backplane support structure,
will hold Webb's 18-segment, 21-foot-diameter primary mirror nearly
motionless while the telescope peers into deep space. The center
section is the first of the three sections of the backplane to be completed.

Measuring approximately 24 by 12 feet yet weighing only 500 pounds,
the center section of the backplane meets unprecedented thermal
stability requirements. The backplane holds the alignment of the
telescope's optics through the rigors of launch and over a wide range
of operating temperatures, which reach as cold as - 406 degrees
Fahrenheit. During science operations, the backplane precisely keeps
the 18 primary mirror segments in place, permitting the mirrors to
form a single, pristine shape needed to take sharp images.

The Northrop Grumman Corporation in Redondo Beach, Calif., and its
teammate ATK in Magna, Utah, completed construction of the center
section. Northrop Grumman is under contract to Goddard for the design
and development of Webb's sunshield, telescope and spacecraft. ATK
manufactured 1,781 composite parts of the center section using
lightweight graphite materials and advanced manufacturing techniques.

Successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the Webb telescope is the
world's next-generation space observatory and will be the most
powerful space telescope ever built. It will observe the most distant
objects in the universe, provide images of the very first galaxies
ever formed and study planets around distant stars. The Webb
telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and
the Canadian Space Agency.

For related images of the Webb telescope backplane, visit:


For a "Behind the Webb" series video about the backplane, visit:


For more information about the Webb telescope, visit:



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