News Article | April 19, 2017
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson installs a storage locker on the International Space Station. The locker is covered with signatures of students who built it as part of the HUNCH - High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware - program. Credit: NASA NASA is making sure the next generation of high school graduates understand the variety of career paths that can lead to missions exploring space. In fact, hundreds of students are already helping NASA's astronauts live and work aboard the International Space Station - the orbiting research platform making discoveries that benefit Earth while developing the technology that will allow humans to live and work in deep space. For more than 50 years, NASA has sponsored programs to get students interested in the aerospace industry. This involves extensive outreach efforts, finding and developing the next generation of scientists and explorers to help humans reach the stars. This also includes students who decide to work in more hands-on technical fields and even the culinary arts. The HUNCH program—High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware—shows high school students the many ways they can put their talents to work for NASA, beyond the role of astronaut. The program provides students a hands-on experience with the space agency—building NASA-designed parts for use by agency personnel. "When we started this program 14 years ago, we had two main goals," said Bob Zeek, HUNCH co-founder and program manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "We needed full-size models of actual space station flight hardware to train ground support personnel. And we wanted to get kids who are good at machining, welding or other technical skills involved with NASA. All the things we do in HUNCH are preparing these students for the future and helping NASA at the same time." The program started with three schools in two states. Now 117 student classrooms in 26 states participate, helping build NASA's future as well as their own. The HUNCH team also joined forces with the SME Education Foundation to help encourage students pursuing engineering and technology degrees. The foundation is a network of manufacturing professionals, researchers, educators and students working to connect and share knowledge and experience through mentoring, internships and job-shadowing. HUNCH and SME's Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) program is a new collaboration to introduce more high school students to career opportunities in the aerospace industry. While students have used machining and welding skills to build exact replicas of hardware used on the space station, the program has expanded beyond manufacturing training fixtures. HUNCH has created programs for students to learn about computer-aided design, welding technology, graphic arts and even sewing. Select schools are building actual flight hardware. A student-built locker was recently delivered by the 10th SpaceX cargo resupply mission and installed on the station. Here are some of the recent projects completed by HUNCH student teams: "This is one of those programs that benefits the agency and the students," said Glenn Johnson, HUNCH design engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "Students gain valuable working skills creating tangible products that meet a real need for NASA." Explore further: NASA sending African-American to space station for the first time
News Article | April 18, 2017
Massive landslides, similar to those found on Earth, are occurring on the asteroid Ceres, according to a new study. The work adds to the growing evidence that Ceres retains a significant amount of water ice. Published in Nature Geoscience, the study uses data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft to identify three different types of landslides, or flow features, on the Texas-sized asteroid. Type I are relatively round, large, and have thick “toes” at their ends. They look similar to rock glaciers and icy landslides in Earth’s arctic. Type I landslides are mostly found at high latitudes, which is also where the most ice is thought to reside near Ceres’ surface. Type II features are the most common of Ceres’ landslides and look similar to deposits left by avalanches on Earth. They are thinner and longer than Type I and found at mid-latitudes. The authors affectionately call one such Type II landslide “Bart” because of its resemblance to the elongated head of Bart Simpson from The Simpsons. Ceres’ Type III features appear to form when some of the ice melts during impact events. These landslides at low latitudes are always found coming from large-impact craters. Britney Schmidt, assistant professor at Georgia Tech and Dawn science team associate, believes it provides more proof that the asteroid’s shallow subsurface is a mixture of rock and ice. “Landslides cover more area in the poles than at the equator, but most surface processes generally don’t care about latitude,” says Schmidt, a faculty member in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “That’s one reason why we think it’s ice affecting the flow processes. There’s no other good way to explain why the poles have huge, thick landslides; mid-latitudes have a mixture of sheeted and thick landslides; and low latitudes have just a few.” The study’s researchers were surprised at just how many landslides Ceres has in general. About 20 percent to 30 percent of craters greater than 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide have some type of landslide associated with them. Such widespread features formed by “ground ice” processes, made possible because of a mixture of rock and ice, have only been observed before on Earth and Mars. Based on the shape and distribution of landslides on Ceres, the authors estimate that the upper layers of Ceres may range from 10 percent to 50 percent ice by volume. “These landslides offer us the opportunity to understand what’s happening in the upper few kilometers of Ceres,” says Georgia Tech PhD student Heather Chilton, a coauthor of the paper. “That’s a sweet spot between information about the upper meter or so provided by the GRaND (Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector) and VIR (Visible and Infrared Spectrometer) instrument data, and the tens of kilometers-deep structure elucidated by crater studies.” “It’s just kind of fun that we see features on this small planet that remind us of those on the big planets, like Earth and Mars,” Schmidt says. “It seems more and more that Ceres is our innermost icy world.” NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC manages the Dawn mission for JPL. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, which NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency, and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.
News Article | May 8, 2017
DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. (NYSE:JEC) received the 2017 Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for Excellence, given by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for the company’s exemplary work with small businesses. The award recognized Jacobs’ Engineering & Science Services & Skills Augmentation (ESSSA) Group at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). Randy Lycans, Jacobs Vice President and ESSSA Group General Manager, accepted the award in the Services category during the celebration of National Small Business Week held April 30 to May 1, in Washington, D.C. “This award is a testament to our dedication to building mutually beneficial relationships with small business partners to provide innovative solutions to clients while at the same time support local economies,” said Ward Johnson, Jacobs Senior Vice President. “We are honored to accept this award on behalf of all our partners and look forward to continue to bring together our knowledge and experience to service NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.” Jacobs supports NASA at multiple sites across the U.S., including a presence at NASA MSFC for more than 30 years. The ESSSA Group has a staff of more than 1,000 employees, with Jacobs as prime contractor and Aerodyne Industries, All Points Logistics, Bevilacqua Research Corporation, ERC, Geocent, Lee & Associates, Qualis Corporation and Tuskegee University as small business teammate companies, along with 35 other small business subcontractors. Jacobs’ support to NASA MSFC programs encompasses the International Space Station, Space Launch System, advanced space transportation and exploration systems, payload development and operations, space optics fabrication and test, and advanced materials development and test. The Eisenhower Award, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was president the year the SBA was founded, is given to large federal prime contractors that exemplify partnering with small businesses in the areas of research and development, manufacturing, service, construction and utility. Nominees for the Eisenhower Award are selected from contractors nationwide who demonstrate a strong commitment to small businesses through contract utilization and effectiveness, mentoring and outreach, and corporate policies and management support. Jacobs is one of the world’s largest and most diverse providers of full-spectrum technical, professional and construction services for industrial, commercial and government organizations globally. The company employs over 54,000 people and operates in more than 25 countries around the world. For more information, visit www.jacobs.com. Statements made in this release that are not based on historical fact are forward-looking statements. We base these forward-looking statements on management’s current estimates and expectations as well as currently available competitive, financial and economic data. Forward-looking statements, however, are inherently uncertain. There are a variety of factors that could cause business results to differ materially from our forward-looking statements. For a description of some of the factors which may occur that could cause actual results to differ from our forward-looking statements please refer to our Form 10-K for the year ended September 30, 2016, and in particular the discussions contained under Items 1 - Business, 1A - Risk Factors, 3 - Legal Proceedings, and 7 - Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations. We do not undertake to update any forward-looking statements made herein.
News Article | May 5, 2017
Seven teams working on technology that could someday be used to create habitats from materials on other worlds have completed the first printing segment of NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. NASA has awarded $100,000 to the two top-scoring teams from this stage, the Phase 2: Level 1 Compression Test Competition. Point-based awards were made to Foster + Partners | Branch Technology of Chattanooga, Tennessee, who earned $85,930, and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, earning $14,070. The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is run through a partnership with NASA's Centennial Challenges Program and Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. The goal of the challenge is to foster the development of technologies to manufacture a habitat using local indigenous materials with, or without, recyclable materials. The vision is that autonomous machines will someday be deployed in deep space destinations, including Mars, to construct shelters for human habitation. On Earth, these same capabilities could be used to produce affordable housing wherever it is needed or where access to conventional building materials and skills are limited. "Seeing tangible, 3D-printed objects for this phase makes the goals of this challenge more conceivable than ever," said Monsi Roman, program manager of Centennial Challenges. "This is the first step toward building an entire habitat structure, and the potential to use this technology to aid human exploration to new worlds is thrilling." The Level 1 Compression Test Competition is the first of three sub-competitions within Phase 2. For this stage, teams were tasked with developing 3D-printable materials, using a 3-D printer, and printing two samples: a truncated cone and a cylinder. Judges evaluated results from lab tests performed on the samples to determine a score. "Innovation is a key focus of Bradley University which is one of the many reasons we are so very proud to be a part of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge with NASA," said Bradley University President Gary Roberts. "The winners of Phase 1 and this first stage of Phase 2 are to be commended for their innovation in creating a solution that will fit not only in our world but beyond. I look forward to the next phase and seeing teams work to advance critical systems needed for human space exploration like never before." In addition to the two teams that earned prize money, the other teams participating were: Bubble Base of Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Pennsylvania State University of University Park; CTL Group Mars of Skokie, Illinois; ROBOCON of Singapore; and Moon X Construction of Seoul, South Korea. The teams showcased a variety of approaches, ranging from traditional cement to exotic cellular structures. Teams will now work toward the Level 2 Beam Member Competition, where they must print a beam to be tested. New teams may enter the competition if they can meet minimum requirements. The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge comprises three phases: Phase 1, the Design Competition, was completed in 2015. Phase 2, the Structural Member Competition, which carries a $1.1 million prize purse and focuses on the material technologies needed to create structural components. Phase 3, the On-Site Habitat Competition, and has a $1.4 million prize purse and focuses on fabrication technologies. NASA's Centennial Challenges Program uses competitions to draw citizen inventors from diverse backgrounds and disciplines to push technology forward for the benefit of space exploration. The Centennial Challenges Program, managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is part of the agency's Space Technology Mission Directorate. Bradley University has partnered with sponsors Caterpillar, Bechtel and Brick & Mortar Ventures to run the competition. For more information about the competition, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/3DPHab To register for competition and for official rules and documents, visit: http://bradley.edu/challenge/ Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Astronomers have discovered a cosmic one-two punch unlike any ever seen before. Two of the most powerful phenomena in the Universe, a supermassive black hole, and the collision of giant galaxy clusters, have combined to create a stupendous cosmic particle accelerator. By combining data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India, the NSF's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, and other telescopes, researchers have found out what happens when matter ejected by a giant black hole is swept up in the merger of two enormous galaxy clusters. "We have seen each of these spectacular phenomena separately in many places," said Reinout van Weeren of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., who led the study that appears in the inaugural issue of the journal Nature Astronomy. "This is the first time, however, that we seen them clearly linked together in the same system." This cosmic double whammy is found in a pair of colliding galaxy clusters called Abell 3411 and Abell 3412 located about two billion light years from Earth. The two clusters are both very massive, each weighing about a quadrillion -- or a million billion -- times the mass of the Sun. The comet-shaped appearance of the X-rays detected by Chandra is produced by hot gas from one cluster plowing through the hot gas of the other cluster. Optical data from the Keck Observatory and Japan's Subaru telescope, both on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, detected the galaxies in each cluster. First, at least one spinning, supermassive black hole in one of the galaxy clusters produced a rotating, tightly-wound magnetic funnel. The powerful electromagnetic fields associated with this structure have accelerated some of the inflowing gas away from the vicinity of the black hole in the form of an energetic, high-speed jet. Then, these accelerated particles in the jet were accelerated again when they encountered colossal shock waves -- cosmic versions of sonic booms generated by supersonic aircraft -- produced by the collision of the massive gas clouds associated with the galaxy clusters. "It's almost like launching a rocket into low-Earth orbit and then getting shot out of the Solar System by a second rocket blast," said co-author Felipe Andrade-Santos, also of the CfA. "These particles are among the most energetic particles observed in the Universe, thanks to the double injection of energy." This discovery solves a long-standing mystery in galaxy cluster research about the origin of beautiful swirls of radio emission stretching for millions of light years, detected in Abell 3411 and Abell 3412 with the GMRT. The team determined that as the shock waves travel across the cluster for hundreds of millions of years, the doubly accelerated particles produce giant swirls of radio emission. "This result shows that a remarkable combination of powerful events generate these particle acceleration factories, which are the largest and most powerful in the Universe," said co-author William Dawson of Lawrence Livermore National Lab in Livermore, Calif. "It is a bit poetic that it took a combination of the world's biggest observatories to understand this." These results were presented at the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, TX. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations. A labeled image, a podcast, and a video about the findings are available at: http://chandra.si.edu For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/chandra Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.
News Article | February 15, 2017
During Earth-Trojan asteroid search operations, the PolyCam imager aboard NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image of Jupiter (center) and three of its moons, Callisto (left), Io, and Ganymede. The image, which shows the bands of Jupiter, was taken at 3:34 a.m. EST, on Feb. 12, when the spacecraft was 76 million miles (122 million kilometers) from Earth and 418 million miles (673 million kilometers) from Jupiter. PolyCam is OSIRIS-REx's longest range camera, capable of capturing images of the asteroid Bennu from a distance of two million kilometers. This image was produced by taking two copies of the same image, adjusting the brightness of Jupiter separately from the significantly dimmer moons, and compositing them back together so that all four objects are visible in the same frame. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission's observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency's New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Like cosmic lighthouses sweeping the universe with bursts of energy, pulsars have fascinated and baffled astronomers since they were first discovered 50 years ago. In two studies, international teams of astronomers suggest that recent images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory of two pulsars -- Geminga and B0355+54 -- may help shine a light on the distinctive emission signatures of pulsars, as well as their often perplexing geometry. Pulsars are a type of neutron star that are born in supernova explosions when massive stars collapse. Discovered initially by lighthouse-like beams of radio emission, more recent research has found that energetic pulsars also produce beams of high energy gamma rays. Interestingly, the beams rarely match up, said Bettina Posselt, senior research associate in astronomy and astrophysics, Penn State. The shapes of observed radio and gamma-ray pulses are often quite different and some of the objects show only one type of pulse or the other. These differences have generated debate about the pulsar model. "It's not fully understood why there are variations between different pulsars," said Posselt. "One of the main ideas here is that pulse differences have a lot to do with geometry -- and it also depends on how the pulsar's spin and magnetic axes are oriented with respect to line of sight whether you see certain pulsars or not, as well as how you see them." Chandra's images are giving the astronomers a closer than ever look at the distinctive geometry of the charged particle winds radiating in X-ray and other wavelengths from the objects, according to Posselt. Pulsars rhythmically rotate as they rocket through space at speeds reaching hundreds of kilometers a second. Pulsar wind nebulae (PWN) are produced when the energetic particles streaming from pulsars shoot along the stars' magnetic fields, form tori -- donut-shaped rings -- around the pulsar's equatorial plane, and jet along the spin axis, often sweeping back into long tails as the pulsars' quickly cut through the interstellar medium. "This is one of the nicest results of our larger study of pulsar wind nebulae," said Roger W. Romani, professor of physics at Stanford University and principal investigator of the Chandra PWN project. "By making the 3-D structure of these winds visible, we have shown how one can trace back to the plasma injected by the pulsar at the center. Chandra's fantastic X-ray acuity was essential for this study, so we are happy that it was possible to get the deep exposures that made these faint structures visible." A spectacular PWN is seen around the Geminga pulsar. Geminga -- one of the closest pulsars at only 800 light-years away from Earth -- has three unusual tails, said Posselt. The streams of particles spewing out of the alleged poles of Geminga -- or lateral tails -- stretch out for more than half a light-year, longer than 1,000 times the distance between the Sun and Pluto. Another shorter tail also emanates from the pulsar. The astronomers said that a much different PWN picture is seen in the X-ray image of another pulsar called B0355+54, which is about 3,300 light-years away from Earth. The tail of this pulsar has a cap of emission, followed by a narrow double tail that extends almost five light-years away from the star. While Geminga shows pulses in the gamma ray spectrum, but is radio quiet, B0355+54 is one of the brightest radio pulsars, but fails to show gamma rays. "The tails seem to tell us why that is," said Posselt, adding that the pulsars' spin axis and magnetic axis orientations influence what emissions are seen on Earth. According to Posselt, Geminga may have magnetic poles quite close to the top and bottom of the object, and nearly aligned spin poles, much like Earth. One of the magnetic poles of B0355+54 could directly face the Earth. Because the radio emission occurs near the site of the magnetic poles, the radio waves may point along the direction of the jets, she said. Gamma-ray emission, on the other hand, is produced at higher altitudes in a larger region, allowing the respective pulses to sweep larger areas of the sky. "For Geminga, we view the bright gamma ray pulses and the edge of the pulsar wind nebula torus, but the radio beams near the jets point off to the sides and remain unseen," Posselt said. The strongly bent lateral tails offer the astronomers clues to the geometry of the pulsar, which could be compared to either jet contrails soaring into space, or to a bow shock similar to the shockwave created by a bullet as it is shot through the air. Oleg Kargaltsev, assistant professor of physics, George Washington University, who worked on the study on B0355+54, said that the orientation of B0355+54 plays a role in how astronomers see the pulsar, as well. The study is available online in arXiv. "For B0355+54, a jet points nearly at us so we detect the bright radio pulses while most of the gamma-ray emission is directed in the plane of the sky and misses the Earth," said Kargaltsev. "This implies that the pulsar's spin axis direction is close to our line-of-sight direction and that the pulsar is moving nearly perpendicularly to its spin axis." Noel Klingler, a graduate research assistant in physics, George Washington University, and lead author of the B0355+54 paper, added that the angles between the three vectors -- the spin axis, the line-of-sight, and the velocity -- are different for different pulsars, thus affecting the appearances of their nebulae. "In particular, it may be tricky to detect a PWN from a pulsar moving close to the line-of-sight and having a small angle between the spin axis and our line-of-sight," said Klingler. In the bow-shock interpretation of the Geminga X-ray data, Geminga's two long tails and their unusual spectrum may suggest that the particles are accelerated to nearly the speed of light through a process called Fermi acceleration. The Fermi acceleration takes place at the intersection of a pulsar wind and the interstellar material, according to the researchers, who report their findings on Geminga online and in the current issue of Astrophysical Journal. Although different interpretations remain on the table for Geminga's geometry, Posselt said that Chandra's images of the pulsar are helping astrophysicists use pulsars as particle physics laboratories. Studying the objects gives astrophysicists a chance to investigate particle physics in conditions that would be impossible to replicate in a particle accelerator on earth. "In both scenarios, Geminga provides exciting new constraints on the acceleration physics in pulsar wind nebulae and their interaction with the surrounding interstellar matter," she said. * "Deep Chandra Observations of the Pulsar Wind Nebula Created by PSR B0355+54," Noel Klingler et al., 2016 Dec. 20, Astrophysical Journal [http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/833/2/253, preprint: https://arxiv.org/abs/1610.06167]. * "Geminga's Puzzling Pulsar Wind Nebula," B. Posselt et al., 2017, to appear in Astrophysical Journal [http://apj.aas.org, preprint: https://arxiv.org/abs/1611.03496]. Other team members include George C. Pavlov, senior scientist in astronomy and astrophysics, Penn State; Pat O. Slane, lecturer and senior astrophysicist, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Roger Romani, professor of physics, Stanford University; Niccolo Bucciantini, permanent researcher, INAF Osservatorio Astorfisico di Arcetri; Andrei M. Bykov, head of the Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics, Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute; Martin C. Weisskopf, project scientist, NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center; Stephen Chi-Yung Ng, assistant professor of physics, University of Hong Kong. Additional team members for the study on B0355+54 include Blagoy Rangelov, postdoctoral researcher, George Washington University; Tea Temim, JWST Support Scientist, Space Telescope Science Institute; Douglas A. Swartz, research scientist, Marshall Space Flight Center and Rolf Buehler, staff scientist, DESY Zeuthen. NASA and the Russian Science Foundation supported this work. Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.
News Article | March 1, 2017
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at The University of Alabama is presenting “A Special Night with Doug Phillips.” Dr. Phillips will talk about, and present, a special showing of Discovering Alabama’s latest program entitled, “Alabama’s Private Forests.” Dr. Doug Phillips is creator, host, and executive producer of “Discovering Alabama” an Emmy Award-winning PBS show, The event takes place at the Bryant Conference Center at 6:30 on March 2nd. This will be a free event but to attend please call 205-348-3000 and register in advance. Phillips has spent more than three decades describing the natural wonders and unique diversity of Alabama. He has pioneered many other important Alabama initiatives for education and conservation in Alabama, including an acclaimed school curriculum, and the nationally recognized wild lands conservation model, the Alabama Forever Wild Program. “Discovering Alabama” won two Emmy-Awards in 2011 for episodes highlighting the effects on humans, animals and the state’s ecosystems by the BP Deepwater Horizons Oil Spill. Additionally, the show received another Emmy-Award for an in-depth look at space science at Marshall Space Flight Center. Phillips is the coordinator for Environmental Information and Education with the Alabama Museum of Natural History at The University of Alabama. He has authored numerous publications including award-winning books, “Discovering Alabama Wetlands” and “Discovering Alabama Forests.” Dr. Doug will be available to sign books or answer questions. OLLI offers a unique opportunity for adults 50 and over to select from a wide variety of noncredit classes, discussions, social events, and travel specifically designed to fit their lifestyle and interests. For more information or to register, phone 205-348-3000. Visit www.DiscoveringAlabama.org and sign up to receive news alerts about upcoming shows and more! CONTACT DR. DOUG PHILLIPS AT DRDOUG@DISCOVERINGALABAMA.ORG. LET DOUG KNOW THAT DISCOVERING ALABAMA IS APPRECIATED. THANKS! For more information, please visit http://www.discoveringalabama.org
News Article | February 28, 2017
HOUSTON, TX, February 28, 2017 /24-7PressRelease/ -- For many of us spring cleaning is an annual ritual and it will be here before we know it. Imagine trying to keep everything organized year-round in a five-bedroom house where everything floats. And that house is moving 17,500 miles per hour orbiting the Earth 250 miles above us. That's exactly the job of a small team at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Stowage Team in NASA's Payload Operations Integration Center at Marshall helps astronauts on the International Space Station stay organized. From tools to power cords and even trash, this team performs the choreography needed to track every item used for science experiments. The team manages a database where each piece of equipment is kept and tracked by a barcode system much like in a grocery store. This database stores information such as the date, time and last person to use it. "When an astronaut is looking for a piece of equipment and can't find it, we go to our database," said Allison Quesenbery, a member of the stowage team. "Every item is in there. Every time an item moves, we change it in the database, so we can help them locate it. The database is invaluable." The team plans every move of every piece of payload equipment for the crew, from unpacking cargo to consolidating related items to putting things back in its place, all with the item's next use in mind, including trash disposal. There are 12 members on the stowage team, but they can always use more help. All you need, according to them, is attention to detail. There's even a trash expert. "Trashing is the hardest thing," said Keri Baugher of the stowage team. "You'd be surprised at all the paperwork that goes into throwing something away. We not only have to track when new things arrive, we also have to track when and where they are disposed of." When it comes to misplacing things, astronauts are no different, except that it's even easier to lose things because they can put something down for one minute while performing an experiment and turn around and find it has moved. "We don't fault them for misplacing things," said Quesenbery. "They have a lot going on up there, so we are here on the ground to help. With so many items and so many stowage locations, it's nearly impossible for them to keep track of things all the time." Quesenbery and Baugher agree the job is at times stressful, but it's also a fun challenge, a bit like a scavenger hunt. "Sometimes we'll be watching live video from the station and just see something float by the camera. We then have to quickly get word to them that the item they've been searching for or we've been trying to locate just passed by," said Baugher. Some things can take days or weeks to find. There's even a "lost in space" database, and the occasional "Wanted" poster, asking the crew to keep an eye out for important items that have floated away. Because, while we know the item hasn't left the confines of the orbiting laboratory, it's impossible to pop down to the hardware store to pick up a replacement.
News Article | February 28, 2017
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Officials from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will travel to Montgomery, Alabama, March 2 to spread the word about the importance of the state's role in NASA's Journey to Mars and to inspire the next...