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July 8, 2015

You’re invited to discover the New Horizons mission to Pluto!

July 14, 2015 
2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

NASA’s Ames Research Center invites you to learn about the New Horizons spacecraft as it makes its historic flight by Pluto. Information about the epic journey can be viewed Tuesday, July 14, 2 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. PDT, at the NASA Ames Training and Conference Center Ballroom, Building 3, 500 Severyns Road, Moffett Field, California.

The event will feature presentations by experts about exploration and the New Horizons mission, informational booths staffed by researchers and scientists, hands-on activities and a NASA TV broadcast from New Horizons mission control.

After nine years in flight, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will reach its primary mission destination to flyby the dwarf planet Pluto on July 14. Launched Jan. 19, 2006, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, New Horizons is NASA’s first mission to Pluto, the first study of the Kuiper Belt objects, and the first mission of NASA’s New Frontiers Program. Last month, this piano-size probe awoke from its final hibernation period after a voyage of more than 3 billion miles, and will soon approach Pluto inside the orbits of its five known moons.

Three NASA Ames scientists will play key roles on the New Horizons mission team:

·         Jeff Moore, Geology and Geophysics Investigation Team Lead and co-investigator

·         Dale Cruikshank, Composition Team co-investigator

·         Kim Ennico, Deputy Project Scientist and co-investigator

All three scientists will analyze instrument data collected during the flyby. Cruikshank will share his data analysis with event attendees by remote presentation; mission co-investigators from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute and Stanford University will be present at the event.

Visitors are encouraged to RSVP by contacting the Ames New Horizons Pluto Flyby Event Team. Note: The capacity of the ballroom is limited and early arrival is required for best seating. Please bring a print out, or have an electronic copy of your RSVP for entry. Additional guests may observe the program from monitors throughout Building 3.

The first post-flyby, close-up images of Pluto and moons are scheduled to be released Wednesday, July 15, and will be available on our Ames website, www.nasa.gov/ames, and NASA social media outlets.

For more information about the New Horizons Mission to Pluto, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons  

For any additional questions about this pubic event, please contact the event team at arcevents@mail.nasa.gov.

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Jessica Culler

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Events-pao,

Technology

April 16, 2015

15-063

NASA Selects American Small Business and Research Institution Projects for Further Development

NASA has selected 149 research and technology proposals from American small businesses and research institutions that will enable NASA's future missions into the solar system and beyond while benefiting America's technology-driven economy right here on Earth.

The selected proposals now will enter into negotiations for contract awards as part of Phase II of the agency's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. The selected aerospace technology and innovation projects have a total value of approximately $118.1 million, supporting 117 U.S. firms and research institutions in 26 states.

"Just as small businesses are driving our economy, technology is driving exploration," said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These selected proposals demonstrate the creativity of American entrepreneurs and, along with our other technology investments, will contribute to ensuring the U.S. remains a leader in technology development and space exploration."

Of the 352 proposals received in response to the solicitations, NASA selected 119 SBIR proposals with a total value of approximately $88.8 million; nine SBIR select proposals valued at approximately $13.5 million and 21 STTR proposals with a value of approximately $15.8M.

Selected proposals from these small businesses and research institutions will develop efficient energy and power systems for human and robotic spacecraft, new concepts for in-space propulsion, advanced telescope technologies to enable a new class of critical observatories, next-generation sensors to study Earth and robotic technologies to explore other planets.

A sampling of proposals demonstrates the breadth of research these awards will fund. one study will look at ultra-high energy solid-state batteries. These next-generation advanced rechargeable batteries could potentially power spacecraft traveling to distant worlds, rovers exploring alien landscapes and even human habitat systems. They also could allow electric cars to travel greater distances between charges and a cell phone's charge to last months instead of days.

Research into departure scheduling and traffic flow management may assist NASA in enhancing integration procedures within the national airspace system. Closer to home, it could provide valuable information for planning potential delays or new routes and their effect on overall network of flight operations, cutting down on late departures and arrivals at the airport.

NASA's SBIR Program is a competitive awards-based program that encourages American small businesses to engage in federal research, development and commercialization. The program also enables businesses to explore technological potential while providing the incentive to profit from new commercial products and services. Small businesses create about two out of every three jobs in the U.S. each year, and about half the American workforce either own or work for a small business.

NASA's STTR Program uses a highly competitive, three-phase award system that provides collaborative opportunities between qualified small businesses, including women-owned and disadvantaged firms, and research institutions to address specific technology gaps in NASA's programs. Selected projects provide a foundation for future technology developments and are complementary to other NASA research investments.

SBIR and STTR Phase II projects will expand on the results of recently completed Phase I projects. Phase I projects received six-month contracts up to $125,000. SBIR and STTR Phase II projects last no more than two years and receive contracts valued up to $750,000 per award. Awards under the SBIR select solicitation may be up to $1.5 million per award. Phase III, or the commercialization of an innovation, may occur after successful completion of Phase II.

Selection criteria for these awards included technical merit and feasibility, along with experience, qualifications and facilities. Additional criteria included effectiveness of the work plan and commercial potential and feasibility.

NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, manages the SBIR and STTR Programs for STMD. NASA's 10 centers manage individual projects. For more information about NASA's SBIR and STTR Programs and a list of selected companies, visit:

http://sbir.nasa.gov

STMD is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA's future missions. For more information about NASA's investment in space technology, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech

-end-

Joshua Buck
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1130
jbuck@nasa.gov

Maria Alberty
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-1789
maria.alberty@nasa.gov

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Sarah Ramsey

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Technology,

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NASA Ames

April 9, 2015

NASA Ames to Launch Science Experiments to Space Station on SpaceX Mission

NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, will host a live televised launch viewing Monday, April 13, as two of its life science experiments are launched to the International Space Station. The sixth commercial cargo resupply flight of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will carry Microbial Tracking-1B, which seeks to characterize airborne and surface microorganisms aboard the International Space Station and the first part of Rodent Research-2 evaluating muscle atrophy, eye structure and bone density changes in microgravity.

Three hundred registered guests will have the opportunity to watch the launch at building 152 in the NASA Research Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. PDT. In addition, those attending can talk to scientists, engineers and researchers at informational booths and hear guest lectures from the Ames space biosciences team as they discuss the life sciences payloads on the current mission, and the importance of the work and research completed on the space station.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying its Dragon cargo spacecraft will lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 1:33 p.m. NASA Television coverage of the launch begins at 12:30 p.m.

In addition to launch coverage, NASA also will host a series of televised prelaunch news conferences on Sunday, April 12, at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. All briefings, which are subject to a change in time, will air live on NASA TV and the agency's website.

If the launch doesn’t happen on Monday, the next launch opportunity would be at approximately 1:10 p.m. Tuesday, April 14.

Media interested in interviewing Ames researchers or attending the event at Ames must contact Sharon Lozano at 650-604-4789 or sharon.k.lozano@nasa.gov for media credentials by 11 a.m. Friday, April 10.

For more information about space biosciences research at Ames, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ames/research/space-biosciences

For an updated agency schedule of prelaunch briefings, events and NASA TV coverage, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/1CRyAzA

For launch countdown coverage, NASA's launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacex

For more information about the International Space Station, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station


Text issued as Ames news release 15-010AM

Sharon Lozano
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-4789
Sharon.k.lozano@nasa.gov

Stephanie Schierholz
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1100
stephanie.schierholz@nasa.gov

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Sharon Lozano

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Commercial Resupply, Events-pao,

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March 25, 2015

Workshop on Planetary Protection Knowledge Gaps for Human Extraterrestrial Missions

NASA's Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute will co-host a workshop on Planetary Protection Knowledge Gaps for Human Extraterrestrial Missions on March 24-26, 2015, in Moffett Field, California.

While planetary protection requirements are in place for robotic missions, there is presently insufficient scientific and technological knowledge to establish effective quantitative requirements for the development of crewed spacecraft and missions. To prepare for such future missions, NASA created the NASA Policy on Planetary Protection Requirements for Human Extraterrestrial Missions (NPI 8020.7) that outlines the need to increase knowledge in the following study areas while iteratively developing an appropriate set of requirements:

• Study Area 1: Microbial and human health monitoring
• Study Area 2: Technology and operations for contamination control
• Study Area 3: Natural transport of contamination on Mars 

The goal of this workshop is to capture the current state of knowledge in the aforementioned areas and identify additional research to appropriately inform planetary protection requirements development for the human exploration of Mars.

To view the original online program with abstracts, please visit the Lunar Planetary Institute (LPI) website: http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/ppw2015​ 

The latest agenda is viewable here: Agenda (as of March 20, 2015) (.pdf, 699 kb)

To virtually participate in the meeting, please go to: https://ac.arc.nasa.gov/planetaryprotection/

​Details of the workshop can be found here: Workshop Announcement (.pdf, 134 kb)

The workshop will take place in Building 152 in the NASA Research Park (NRP). A map of the NRP can be viewed here: NRP map (.pdf, 2 Mb)

To reach NASA's Ames Research Center, take U.S Highway 101 to the Moffett Field, NASA Parkway exit and drive east on Moffett Boulevard towards the main gate. No visitor badges are required for entry on to the NASA Research Park, but visitors will be required to show valid government-issued photo identification or passport at main gate to enter.

Important notice:  All visitors must show a valid id (driver license, or other NASA Center badge) to enter the facility. Please follow the appropriate instructions below. Visitors should also be aware that cameras are NOT permitted on the premises.

U.S. Citizens/Naturalized Citizens/Legal Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders) — You will have to produce a valid ID to present at the Center's Front gate. Green card holders MUST bring their “green card.” If you have a specific question pertaining to your proof of identification, don’t hesitate to contact ARC's International Visitor Control Office at 650-604-1500.

Foreign Nationals — There will be no onsite registration for foreign nationals.

Directions to Building 152 from the San Jose airport (south of Ames): 

Take 101 North out of airport (towards San Francisco)
Drive approximately 9 miles
Exit on Moffett Boulevard/NASA Parkway, Exit 398
Turn to right at end of ramp onto Moffett Boulevard
Head straight into NASA Research Park (NRP) gate where you will be asked to show photo ID
Go through the NASA gate and at the split in the road, veer right onto Wescoat Road
Continue on Wescoat Road, then turn right at Dailey Road
Continue on Dailey Road until you see the Building 152 Conference Center on your right hand side.

Directions to Building 152 from the San Francisco Airport (north of Ames):

Take 101 South for approximately 30 miles
Exit on Moffett Boulevard/NASA Parkway, Exit 398
Turn to right at end of ramp onto Moffett Boulevard
Head straight into NASA Research Park (NRP) gate where you will be asked to show photo ID
Go through the NASA gate and at the split in the road, veer right onto Wescoat Road
Continue on Wescoat Road, then turn right at Dailey Road
Continue on Dailey Road until you see the Building 152 Conference Center on your right hand side.

Lodging

The NASA Exchange Lodge offers accommodations in the NASA Research Park at exceptionally reasonable prices. Click here for more information. (Only NASA employees are able to access due to firewall security.)

Other lodging options can be found here.
 

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Jessica Culler

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Events-pao,

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Feb. 19, 2015

Technical Workshop on the Potential for Finding Life in a Europa Plume

DATE: Wednesday, February 18, 2015

TIME: 8:30 a.m.  -  5:30 p.m. PST

LOCATION: NASA's Ames Research Center


On February 18, 2015, the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) will co-host the workshop at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California.

Current Europa missions under study by NASA are focused on answering the question “Is Europa habitable?” However, the potential presence of water plumes on the satellite could present an opportunity to pursue the question “Is there life on Europa?” Answering this question is far more challenging because measurements currently possible may provide only ambiguous results from a mission that either orbits or flies by Europa at relatively high velocity. To that end, NASA’s Planetary Science Division is convening a workshop to consider strategies to investigate Europa’s putative plumes for evidence of life. Invitees will be asked to provide feedback to NASA on the following key questions:

·         What measurements are needed to detect and characterize the presence of life in an acquired sample?

·         What instrumentation is needed to perform these measurements, and what is the current flight readiness of such instruments?

·         What is the amount and nature of the sample needed by these instruments and what sample preparation is necessary?

·         What constraints does the required nature of the sample place on the sample acquisition process?

·         What challenges are present to acquiring the necessary sample and obtaining life-detection measurements from a cubesat(s) deployed by a Europa mission?

The workshop will be followed by a meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group on Feb. 19-20, also held at Ames Research Center.

ABSTRACT SUBMISSION has closed.

For more information, visit: https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/calendar/europa-plume-workshop/

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Jessica Culler

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Events-pao,

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Space Station

Feb. 5, 2015

NASA Astronauts Bring Wonder of International Space Station to the Bay Area

Ever wonder what it’s like to be an astronaut and to live and work in space? Find out directly from NASA astronauts who will be in the Bay Area the week of Feb. 17 as NASA shares the accomplishments, promise and opportunities for research aboard the International Space Station.

Space station veteran astronauts Doug Wheelock and Reid Wiseman and former NASA astronaut and station resident Dan Bursch will share their stories and be available for media during the week. Space station scientists Kirt Costello and Camille Alleyne, spacesuit systems engineer Marlon Cox and Center for Advancement of Science in Space’s (CASIS) director of business development Cynthia Bouthot also will participate.

Wheelock lived and worked off the Earth, for the Earth aboard the station for 163 days in 2010, supporting more than 120 microgravity experiments in human research, biology and biotechnology, physical and materials sciences, technology development and Earth and space sciences. Wheelock was the lead spacewalker for three unplanned spacewalks to fix the station’s cooling system. Wiseman returned from a six-month stay on the station in November, gaining notoriety for sharing his experience through social media, including the first Vine video post from space. Bursch lived and worked on the station for 196 days in 2001, conducting two spacewalks and enhancing the station’s research capabilities.

NASA’s Ames Research Center, at the Bay Area’s Moffett Field, makes local contributions to the International Space Station Program that will be highlighted at several Destination Station events. Ames’ expertise fuels research in molecular, cell and model organism science, and affordable payload development. The center provides unique ground research facilities, advanced research concepts and hardware, and state-of-the-art development of technologies such as the free-flying SPHERES interior satellites.

On Feb. 14 and 15, NASA will participate in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Family Science Days. Bursch will speak at 1 p.m. Feb. 15, and CASIS will participate from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST both days.

On Feb. 18, Wheelock, CASIS, Costello and Stanford University scientists will discuss station research opportunities from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the university’s Oberndorf Event Center.

On Feb. 19, visitors to the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco will have the opportunity to learn about spacesuit design from Cox, who has been developing NASA spacesuits for nearly a decade. Cox will make hourly presentations for all ages and the museum will host space-themed activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Children's Creativity Museum is a hands-on multimedia arts and technology experience for children. Visit www.creativity.org for more details.

Also Feb. 19, Wiseman and Cox will be at the Chabot Space and Science Center from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors will have the opportunity to meet and greet Wiseman before the presentation.

On Feb. 20, International Space Station Day at the California Academy of Sciences will feature hands-on activities exploring the extreme temperatures in space, astronaut cuisine and more from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Driven to Explore exhibit also will be available.

Also Feb. 20, Wiseman attend the 7:30 p.m. Golden State Warriors game at Oracle Arena, sharing a video about human spaceflight and benefits from the space station.

Times (all PST), dates, locations and media contact information for events:

11 a.m. Feb 14-15    AAAS Family Science Days

                                    Linda Hosler (202-326-6656, lhosler@aaas.org)

11 a.m. Feb. 18         Stanford University (Wheelock)

                                    Tom Abate (650-736-2245, tabate@stanford.edu)

                                    Jamie Beckett (650-736-2241, jbeckett@stanford.edu)

10 a.m. Feb. 19         Children’s Creativity Museum

                                    Cathy Barragan (425-820-3356, press@creativity.org)

5 p.m. Feb. 19           Chabot Space and Science Center (Wiseman)

                                    Autumn King (510-336-7306, AKing@ChabotSpace.org)                                  

9:30 a.m. Feb. 20     California Academy of Sciences

                                    Haley Bowling (415-379-5123, hbowling@calacademy.org)

7:30 p.m. Feb. 20     Warriors vs. Spurs at Oracle Arena (Wiseman)

                                    Marco Nicola (510-986-2292)


For more about Destination Station, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/destinationstation

For more about the International Space Station, visit:
 

http://www.nasa.gov/station

For more about CASIS, visit:
 

http://www.iss-casis.org/

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Mark Garcia

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Events-pao, International Space Station,

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Kepler and K2

Jan. 30, 2015

NASA Supercomputer Assists the Hunt for Exomoons

Back to Gallery

Artist's impression of a hypothetical Earth-like moon around a Saturn-like exoplanet.

A team of 21st-century explorers working for the Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler (HEK) project, based at Harvard University, are searching for exomoons using data from NASA’s Kepler mission and the Pleiades supercomputer at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

The discovery of exomoons—moons situated beyond our own solar system—would add to the growing list of celestial objects detected by the Kepler telescope that could potentially harbor life in some form.

In the quest to find the first exomoon, HEK astronomers led by David Kipping at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have devised a unique, systematic computational approach that requires 5.2 million processor hours on Pleiades. Using their in-house LUNA light curve modeling algorithm and a massively parallel sampling algorithm called MultiNest, the project team simulates billions of possible star-planet-moon configurations and compares the results to the actual Kepler data to look for a good match. So far, the team has surveyed 56 of about 400 identified Kepler planet candidates that could have a detectable exomoon.

Surveying the remaining 340 planet candidates would require about 50,000 hours of processing time per object and would take nearly a decade to complete on smaller computers. Utilizing NASA’s powerful Pleiades system—which performs over 3 quadrillion calculations per second—will speed up this computationally expensive process, reducing the processing time to 30,000 hours per object. Over the next two years, the team will survey the remaining candidates for exomoons by performing photo-dynamical analysis of the public data from Kepler, consuming about 10 million processor hours on Pleiades. Their results will be used to determine the occurrence rate of Earth-like moons.

For more information about the HEK Project, visit: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/HEK/index.html

For more information about NASA’s Kepler Mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Sharon Lozano

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Distant Planets, High-Tech Computing, Kepler and K2, Technology, Universe,

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Jan. 27, 2015

F-86 Lowered into Full Scale Tunnel at Ames

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An F-86 aircraft is lowered into the 40 x 80 Foot Full Scale Wind Tunnel at the NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, Moffett Field California. Behind the aircraft and out of view, a crane operator lowers the jet as a mechanic holds a guide rope aligning the F-86 with supporting struts located down in the tunnel. once the jet is mounted on the struts, tunnel doors visible on either side of the aircraft's wings will close to form an air tight seal.

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Yvette Smith

Tags:  Ames Research Center, NACA,

NASA Ames

Dec. 16, 2014

NASA Ames Celebrates Its History: Establishing Astrobiology Science

After the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ Ames Research Laboratory was transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958, new areas of space-related research started to appear at NASA’s Ames Research Center. one of the most important organizational changes at Ames was starting a life sciences activity in 1961.

NASA had begun to fund this new space science research with the establishment of the Office of Life Sciences Programs at Headquarters in 1960. A year later, it became the Exobiology Division, led by Harold P. Klein, the former chair of the Biology Department at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. NASA knew that to perform biological experiments in space, a laboratory was needed to conduct ground experimentation prior to flight. To support the necessary research, a new laboratory was built at Ames. By 1963, the agency had expanded the program and established the Life Sciences Directorate at Ames. Klein was selected to lead this extraordinary challenge.

Richard S. Young replaced Klein as the chief of the Exobiology Division. By then, the division consisted of the Chemical Evolution Branch, the Life-Detection Systems Branch, and the Biological Adaptation Branch. The work of the division was of a very basic nature; research was conducted in-house, none with human subjects, and little with animal subjects other than micro-organisms, eggs and frogs.

The possibility that life may exist somewhere other than on Earth is an exciting prospect of space research. Scientists hypothesized that a possible discovery could be of some basic life form in an phase through which life on Earth passed several billions of years ago, or somewhere in the transition from inanimate to animate chemistry.

During the early years of the division, NASA scientists faced a number of problems. In their search for extraterrestrial life, they had to know what kind of evidence to look for, how to detect it in a foreign environment, how to recover it by means of a remote-controlled vehicle, how to nurture any life forms discovered to facilitate later studies and, if such discoveries are returned to Earth, how to protect the foreign and the domestic life forms from each other.

If extraterrestrial life does exist, many scientists assumed that it would have developed through a general evolutionary process which began with a primordial, hydrogen-rich environment and proceeded first through numerous organic chemical phases, then through biological stages of increasing sophistication The crux of the process is the step, or steps, from the chemical to the biological stage, and it is assumed that this step would not take place unless the chemical environment was favorable. The nominal purpose of the Chemical Evolution Branch was to investigate some of the chemical steps in the evolutionary process.

Much work has been done in this field by scientists at Ames. In 2009, when studying the origin of life, researchers reproduced uracil, a key component of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces this essential ingredient of life.

Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the basic structure for uracil, part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic acid (RNA). RNA is central to protein synthesis, but has many other roles.

These scientists demonstrated for the first time that they could make uracil non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space. They showed that these laboratory processes, which simulate occurrences in outer space, can make a fundamental building block used by living organisms on Earth.

Understanding the chemical evolution of life is an important step toward understanding the origin of life. But how would the existence of life, extraterrestrial or otherwise, be judged? To determine the existence of life, scientists in the Life Detection Systems Branch decided it was first necessary to establish the criteria to evaluate such an existence. Although the boundary between the animate and inanimate is uncertain, scientists generally agree that living matter is of organic composition, metabolizes (uses up energy and rejects a byproduct substance), grows and reproduces. The first criterion is not conclusive in itself and, while the addition of the second is very encouraging, the matter is more confidently approached when the third one is also present.

In view of the uncertainties of extraterrestrial life forms, Ames scientists started to investigate the tolerance of Earth life forms to extreme conditions of temperature, pressure, atmosphere, moisture, radiation, salts and gravity.

Credits: U.S. Geological Service

In view of the uncertainties of extraterrestrial life forms, the Exobiology Division assumed that useful related knowledge might be obtained from an investigation of the tolerance of Earth life forms to extreme conditions of temperature, pressure, atmosphere, moisture, radiation, salts and gravity such as may be found naturally, or produced artificially, on Earth. This work, which came under the surveillance of the Biological Adaptation Branch, was still, in 1964, in early development.

The division started developing life-detection procedures for such extreme environments in Death Valley in 1964. This effort later was led by Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at Ames, who continues to study life in extreme environments to better understand how to search for life on other planets, such as Mars. McKay’s scientific contributions in planning for future Mars missions includes research in Mars-like environments on Earth, traveling to the Antarctic dry valleys, the Canadian Arctic, Siberia and the Atacama Desert in Chile. These investigations to advance our understanding of the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life on Earth have given rise to a new interdisciplinary science called astrobiology.

Many feel Klein was the primary force that established Ames’ reputation as the key NASA institution for the study of astrobiology in all its various facets, including exobiology, gravitational biology and biomedicine, and recruited a brilliant staff of scientists for the Life Sciences Directorate. More than any other individual, Harold Klein is the man who built the foundation upon which rests Ames’ current leadership in astrobiology.

Today, Ames is home to the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), a virtual institute designed to catalyze interdisciplinary research among competitively selected teams. Research encompasses the search for habitable environments in our solar system, as well as habitable planets outside our solar system, the search for evidence of prebiotic chemistry and life on Mars and other bodies in our solar system, laboratory and field research into the origins and early evolution of life on Earth, and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in space. Ames continues to play a leading NASA role in research expeditions to “Mars analog” sites on Earth, where microbial life is found in very inhospitable environments, ranging from Antarctica to the heights of the Atacama Desert and to deep-sea geothermal events.


Source: Hartman, Edwin. “Adventures in Research: A History of Ames Research Center, 1940-1965,” (NASA SP-4302) 1970.

Ruth Marlaire
NASA's Ames Research Center

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Ruth Marlaire

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Astrobiology,

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Aeronautics

Nov. 21, 2014

Hover Simulation of a Rotor in a Wind Tunnel

To help develop more efficient rotorcraft designs, engineers need to better understand the complex airflow interactions caused by the spinning rotor. one of the goals of NASA's Rotary Wing Project is to develop accurate multidisciplinary design analysis and optimization tools for new civil rotorcraft concepts using high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics (CFD) codes. CFD simulations of experimental rotor hover tests help researchers improve and validate the accuracy of the computational models and help engineers design better wind tunnel experiments.

This visualization shows a pre-test hover simulation of a rotor within the 80x120-foot test section of the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. The vortex wake is colored by vorticity, the wind tunnel floor is colored by pressure (with red as high and blue as low), and flow streamlines on the floor are shown in white. The simulation was run on the Pleiades supercomputer at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility at Ames. 

Image Credit: Neal Chaderjian, Timothy Sandstrom, NASA/Ames

Related: NASA is showcasing more than 35 of the agency’s exciting computational achievements at SC14, the international supercomputing conference, Nov. 16-21, 2014 in New Orleans.

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Jessica Culler

Tags:  Aeronautics, Ames Research Center,

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Oct. 28, 2014

NASA's Planet-hunting Kepler and K2 Missions Take Your Questions on Reddit

Scientists and engineers from NASA's planet-hunting Kepler and K2 missions will answer questions about the missions on Reddit.com on Monday, Oct. 27 at 10 a.m. PDT.

Reddit, a popular online community where users vote on content they find interesting, has a sub-forum for interviews with volunteers who answer questions about their specific experiences. This “I Am A ______, Ask Me Anything,” template attracts people from all walks of life, including high profile ones, like the president of the United States, and the Mars Curiosity team.

Launched in 2009, Kepler is NASA's first mission to find and confirm small Earth-size planets around other stars in the habitable zone, the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. To date Kepler has identified more than 4,200 exoplanet candidates and verified nearly 1,000 as bonafide planets. Through Kepler discoveries, planets are now known to be common and diverse, showing the universe hosts a vast range of environments.

After the failure of two of its four reaction wheels following the completion of data collection in its primary mission, the Kepler spacecraft was resuscitated this year and reborn as K2, a mission that extends the Kepler legacy to observations in the ecliptic – the part of the sky that is home to the familiar constellations of the zodiac. The K2 mission will continue exoplanet discovery, and introduces new scientific observation opportunities to study notable star clusters, young and old stars, active galaxies and supernovae.

Those interested in posting questions about the missions will be able to do so starting at approximately 7:00 a.m. Kepler/K2 team members will answer questions for about two hours, beginning at 10 a.m. on the Reddit Science forum:
http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/2kghni/science_ama_series_we_ar...

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Jessica Culler

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Events-pao, Kepler and K2,

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Oct. 19, 2014

NASA's Ames Research Center 75th Anniversary Open House

October 18, 2014
Entry times between 9 a.m and 3 p.m. by ticketed reservation; event ends at 5 p.m. 

2014 will mark the 75th anniversary of Ames.

Credits: NASA

Map of the event areas (JPG). PDF version available at link in text to left.

Submit event comments here!

Event information:

·         Getting to and from NASA Ames

·         What to expect

·         Where to find updates

·         FAQs

·         Allowed and prohibited items


(UPDATED Oct. 17): 

GETTING TO AND FROM NASA AMES:

THIS EVENT IS AT FULL CAPACITY. EXPECT TRAFFIC CONGESTION, WAIT LINES FOR SHUTTLES, ROAD DETOURS AND BIG CROWDS.

To enter the event, attendees may walk, bike, take public transit, or drive and park in a limited number of available spaces. 

Walk or bike: Enter through the Moffett Blvd. Gate or Ellis St. Gate.

Bicycle self-locking areas are available at both gates. Please see the event map to identify these locations. For pedestrian safety, riding bicycles anywhere onsite at Ames is prohibited during the event. http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/AmesOpenHouseEventMap2.pdf

Public transit: Shuttle busses will run every 15 minutes between the open house and two public transit locations, starting at 8:15 a.m. and running as long as necessary. The two transit locations are: 

(1) Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Light Rail's "BayShore/NASA" station, and

(2) VTA Light Rail's "Downtown Mountain View" station / CalTrain "Mountain View" station.

For more information about the VTA's Light Rail, special service and easy mobile ticketing app, visit http://bit.ly/vtaames and http://www.vta.org/getting-around/interactive-light-rail-map.

For more information about CalTrain, visit: http://www.caltrain.com

Driving: We're pleased to announce that we can offer some very limited public parking on site, accessible through the Ellis St. Gate. Please note we have approximately 10,500 parking spaces for an estimated 120,000 attendees, so we cannot guarantee parking to any attendee. We still recommend taking alternative forms of transportation such as public transit and biking, and carpooling.

Motor vehicles may only enter through the Ellis St. Gate. We are working with law enforcement to address congestion on local roadways; as a result, California Highway Patrol plans to close the Moffett Blvd. off-ramps on U.S. Highway 101 at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 18. Manila Road will also be closed to vehicles from Enterprise Way to Ellis Street.

For information or questions regarding ADA accommodations, please contact Dana Bolles at dana.bolles@nasa.gov.

WHAT TO EXPECT

THIS EVENT IS AT FULL CAPACITY. EXPECT TRAFFIC CONGESTION, WAIT LINES FOR SHUTTLES, ROAD DETOURS AND HEAVY CROWDS. 

This will be a crowded event, and getting in and out will take time. Allow yourself extra time to wait for shuttles, and for the traffic backups expected for the limited onsite parking. We will post status updates as available to the Ames home page: www.nasa.gov/ames.  

Please plan to arrive any time after the entry time printed on your general admission ticket. Backstage passes will allow general admission entry to the event at any time. More information about backstage passes was sent in an email to backstage pass holders. When you enter the event area, your ticket may be exchanged for an event program at event information booths. Show backstage passes for a program, but keep your pass to show at your scheduled tour.

Please understand that this is a walking event. We estimate visitors will walk a minimum of five miles to see the full unique content offered for the Open House.

There are three main areas packed with different activity and exhibits – the self-guided walking tour, Shenandoah Plaza, and Chase Park. Drink and snack stands are available throughout the main activity areas, as are restrooms and first aid booths.

All visitors should stay within the delineated public spaces of the event.

Walking Tour

On the two-mile, self-guided walking tour (starting at Arnold Ave.), visitors will through a delineated pedestrian path past unique NASA facilities, interact with NASA scientists and engineers, and have opportunities to learn about new technologies and developing projects at Ames. The following are a few of the areas along the way:

Technology Way – NASA CubeSats and small spacecraft missions, NASA's technology portfolio, Ames' SpaceShop advanced manufacturing and Ames’ rotorcraft research

Science Showcase – space biology on the International Space Station, astrochemistry and microbes

Arc Jet Alley – entry, descent and landing technologies, heat shields and thermal protection systems

Education area, aeronautics displays, supercomputing, intelligent systems and robotics, fluid mechanics and much more.

Note: walking tour does not include access inside facilities. Only those with backstage passes will be able to tour inside a facility, and only at the ticketed time – no exceptions.

Shenandoah Plaza

The heart of the Shenandoah Plaza area is a large grassy area where Ames’ public events are often held. At the east end of Shenandoah Plaza area, visitors are invited to walk through Hangar one to see aircraft displayed on the airfield flight line, Shenandoah Plaza area exhibits include:

·         NASA missions: K2, which uses the Kepler space telescope, Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)

·         Children’s activity area, featuring Traveling Space Museum simulators

·         Earth science unmanned air vehicles (UAVs)

·         NASA Research Park partners

·         Static aircraft displays on the airfield in front of Hangar one:

- NASA Quiet Short-Haul Research Aircraft (QSRA)

- NASA Armstrong's C-20/G-III w/ UAVSAR pod

- California Air National Guard C-130

- California Air National Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk

- Army's Blackhawk

- Flight Research Associates GlaStar

- GaryAir Malibu/Matrix

Chase Park 

In the conference building at the Chase Park area, you can participate in the "Ask a NASA Expert" panel discussions at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and see additional talks throughout the day (see program at the event). Chase Park is the location of the approximately 100 food trucks that will be selling food and drinks throughout the event.

WHERE TO FIND UPDATES

Any further updates to event information will be posted to or linked from the main Ames webpage – www.nasa.gov/ames

Follow @NASAAmes on Twitter for ongoing updates.

Follow the hashtag #Ames75 to see what people are saying about the event.

Event map available here.

See Frequently Asked Questions below


Special Opportunity -- "Backstage Passes":

In addition we will be releasing a limited number of “backstage passes” to tour behind the scenes and see inside certain research facilities. See the Backstage Pass section of Frequently Asked Questions. Watch this web page, Ames' home page and Ames' social media for updates and more information! For email updates about public events at Ames, join our community mailing list.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

PLEASE NOTE: We will be updating this page with frequently asked questions and their answers regularly until our 2014 Open House event. Look for updates mid-day each Tuesday before the event on Oct. 18. We will note the date each question is added or updated in brackets.

TICKETS:

How do I get register to attend the event? [added Sept. 2]

To reserve your free general admission ticket,

1. Visit https://nasaamesopenhouse.eventbrite.com/

2. Select your arrival time from the drop-down menu

3. Submit the requested information

4. Print your ticket(s) and bring them with you on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014

General admission tickets allow you to enter NASA’s Ames Research Center for our 75th anniversary Open House event, with access to exhibits, a two-mile walking tour and concession areas. We anticipate VERY large crowds. To reduce wait times as much as possible, we staggered entry times. Please register for the time you plan to arrive. Entry to the event is restricted to your printed ticket time window. We recommend you plan additional time for transportation to the center. No parking is available onsite. Please plan accordingly.

How can I change or modify my reservation? [added Oct, 1]

You can access your tickets by going to http://www.eventbrite.com/mytickets and logging in with your email and password.

To cancel tickets:

1. Go to http://www.eventbrite.com/mytickets

2. Log in with your email and password

3. Click "View Event" next to the duplicate tickets

Click "Cancel Registration" to cancel the tickets

You can edit your tickets by:

1. Go to http://www.eventbrite.com/mytickets

2. Log in with your email and password

3. Click "View Event" next to the event

Click "Edit" next to the ticket you wish to correct

What is a "backstage pass" and how do I get one? [added Sept. 2, updated Oct. 7]

Backstage passes allow a limited number of Open House attendees to tour "behind the scenes" and see inside certain research facilities, guided by Ames scientists and engineers. Though most research groups at the center will have explanatory booths set up along the walking tour in front of their buildings, most labs inside the buildings are very small, so capacities are extremely limited and these passes will be the only opportunity to see the interior facilities.

On most Thursdays (see schedule below) at noon PDT from now until the Open House event, specific sets of backstage passes will be released on this Eventbrite site: http://amesbackstage.eventbrite.com

We have restricted capacities for each tour, so the number of backstage passes available are extremely limited, and will be first-come, first-served online according to the schedule below. In order to spread these opportunities among as many attendees as possible, we ask that you select and register for only one pair of tickets for one backstage pass opportunity throughout the day.

The following is the planned release schedule for backstage passes:

Sept. 04: Fluid Mechanics Laboratory (partially ADA accessible) and FutureFlight Central (ADA accessible)

Sept. 11: Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel and Vertical Motion Simulator (partially ADA accessible)

Sept. 18: SPHERES lab (ADA accessible) and 20G centrifuge (partially ADA accessible)

Sept. 25: SpaceShop (advanced manufacturing) (ADA accessible)

Oct. 02: Ames Exploration Encounter (ADA accessible) and NASA Advanced Supercomputing Facility (ADA accessible)

Oct. 16: National Full-scale Aerodynamics Complex (not ADA accessible) and Airspace Operations Lab (ADA accessible)

Please note that not all backstage pass tours are fully accessible, some may be partially accessible.  For questions or concerns regarding ADA access, please contact Dana Bolles at dana.bolles@nasa.gov. There may be additional requirements (no high-heels, closed-toe shoes) that will be communicated to you in the ticketing information of your selected backstage pass tour.

TRANSPORTATION:

How do I get to the event? Where do I park? [added Oct. 10]]

NASA will provide shuttle buses every 15 minutes from two public transit locations:

1.    Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Light Rail's "BayShore/NASA" station, and

2.    VTA Light Rail's "Downtown Mountain View" station / CalTrain "Mountain View" station.

For more information about the VTA's Light Rail, visit: http://www.vta.org/getting-around/interactive-light-rail-map

For more information about CalTrain, visit: http://www.caltrain.com

Pedestrians, bicyclists, and shuttle riders may arrive at either the Moffett Blvd. or Ellis St. gates. Bicycle self-locking areas available at both the Moffett Blvd. or Ellis St. gates.

Please see map for parking locations. Event map available here.

Vehicles may only enter through the Ellis St. gate. We are working with law enforcement to address congestion on local roadways as a result California Highway Patrol plans to close the Moffett Blvd. U.S. Route 101 off-ramps at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 18. Manila Road will also be closed to vehicles from Enterprise Way to Ellis Street. If you have questions regarding ADA accommodations, please contact Dana Bolles at dana.bolles@nasa.gov.

Please understand that this is a “walking event,” we estimate visitors will be walking a minimum of five miles across our center  in order to see the full unique content we're offering for the Open House,. If you’d like to visit and learn more about Ames in a more compact area, we invite you to visit our free public visitor center, open regularly: http://www.nasa.gov/ames/visit

ALLOWED AND PROHIBITED ITEMS AND ACTIVITIES:

What can I bring? [added Sept. 2]

·         Printed tickets for everyone in your party.

·         Cameras and phones! Feel free to take a selfie with everything in sight, unless specifically told not to.

·         Comfortable shoes. This is a pedestrian event.

·         Sunscreen and/or hats. This is primarily an outdoor event.

·         Small bags, purses, backpacks and diaper bags only.

·         Water and snacks, though there will be food and non-alcoholic beverages available for purchase.

·         Strollers, wheelchairs.

·         Small blankets on which you can rest and picnic.

·         Enthusiasm and excitement – and patience. We're expecting BIG crowds for this event!

Your entry into, continued presence on, or exit from, this installation is contingent upon your consent to inspection of person and property. (14 CFR 1204.1003)

What is prohibited? What are the rules of the event? [added Oct. 1]

·         Unauthorized entry upon any NASA real property of this installation is prohibited. (14 CFR 1204.1004)

·         No walkie-talkies or any radio wave-emitting devices. No drones, quadcopters, or other remote-control devices and vehicles.

·         Your entry into, continued presence on, or exit from, this installation is contingent upon your consent to inspection of person and property. (14 CFR 1204.1003)

·         Unauthorized introduction of weapons or dangerous materials is prohibited

·         Unless specifically authorized by NASA, you may not carry, transport, introduce, store, or use firearms or other dangerous weapons, explosives or other incendiary devices or other dangerous instruments or material likely to produce substantial injury or damage to persons or property. (14 CFR 1204.1003)

·         Possession of firearms or dangerous weapons is strictly prohibited.

·         No alcohol permitted.

·         Please follow California regulations regarding tobacco smoking at this event.

·         Awnings, tents, and all other items that require staking are prohibited from the event.

·         Animals, other than certified service animals, are prohibited from the event.

·         Visitor motor vehicles are prohibited from the event.

·         Bicycles, Segways, skateboards, etc. (must be secured at the gates)

·         Glass containers, ice chests

PLEASE NOTE: This is a federal site. All substances restricted by federal law are restricted at this event.

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Jessica Culler

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Events-pao,

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April 2, 2014

14-09

NASA Selects New Suborbital Technology Payloads, Total Tops 130

NASA's Flight Opportunities Program has selected 13 space technology payloads for flights on commercial reusable launch vehicles, and a commercial parabolic aircraft. These flights provide cutting-edge technologies with a valuable platform to conduct tests, before they enter use in the harsh environment of space.

This latest selection represents the eighth cycle of NASA's Announcement of Flight Opportunities, and raises the total number of technologies selected for test flights facilitated by the Flight Opportunities Program of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate to 138.

Eleven of these new payloads will ride on parabolic aircraft flights, which provide brief periods of weightlessness. Two will fly on suborbital reusable launch vehicle test flights. The flights are expected to take place in 2014 and 2015. The selected proposals requested flights on Zero-G Corporation’s Boeing 727 parabolic flight aircraft, UP Aerospace’s Space-Loft rocket and Masten Space Systems’ Xombie vertical takeoff/vertical landing rocket.

The payloads selected for parabolic aircraft flights are:

·         “Reduced Gravity Flight Demo of SPHERES Universal Docking Ports” and “Reduced Gravity Flight Demonstration of SPHERES INSPECT,” Principal Investigator (PI) Alvar Saenz Otero of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

·         “Reinventing the Wheel: Parabolic Flight Validation of Reaction Spheres,” PI Alvin Yew of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

·          “Enhanced Dynamic Load Sensors for ISS Operational Feasibility for Advanced Resistive Exercise Device,” PI Christopher Krebs of Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., in Manassas, Va.

·         “Effects of Microgravity on Intracranial Pressure,” PI Benjamin Levine of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas

·         “Validating Microgravity Mobility Models for Hopping/Tumbling Robots,” PI Issa Nesnas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

·         “Microgravity Rock Coring Drill Using Microspines” and “Gecko Adhesive Grippers in Microgravity,” PI Aaron Parness of JPL

·         “Noninvasive Hemodynamic Monitoring in Microgravity Phase II (Arterial Stiffness),” PI Gregory Kovacs of Stanford University in Stanford, Calif.

·         “Payloads Separation Performance of a 6U CubeSat Canisterized Satellite Dispenser,” PI Hans-Peter Dumm of the United States Air Force Space Vehicles Directorate in Albuquerque, N.M.

·         “Dragon V2 Propellant Management Device Microgravity Testing,” PI Robin Titus of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., (SpaceX) in Hawthorne, Calif.

The payloads selected for flight on a suborbital reusable launch vehicle are:

·         “Zero-gravity Green Propellant Management Technology,” PI Steven Collicott of Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind.

·         “Fuel Optimal and Accurate Landing Systems Test Flights,” PI Andrew Johnson of JPL

NASA manages the Flight Opportunities manifest, matching payloads with flights, and will pay for payload integration and the flight costs for the selected payloads. No funds are provided for the development of these payloads.

The Flight Opportunities Program, part of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, is managed at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif. NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages the solicitation and selection of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial flight vehicles. 

For more information on the Flight Opportunities program, visit:

http://flightopportunities.nasa.gov

Leslie Williams
Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
661-276-3893
leslie.a.williams@nasa.gov

Rachel Hoover
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-4789
rachel.hoover@nasa.gov

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center,

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Kepler and K2

Feb. 7, 2014

National Space Club Honors Kepler's Planet Hunters With Its Highest Award

The Kepler-16 system is home to the first confirmed transiting circumbinary planet-- a planet that orbits two stars. Kepler-16b, is not unlike Luke Skywalker's home planet of 'Tatooine' in the Star Wars universe. However, Kepler-16b is cold, gaseous and not suitable for life.

Credits: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/R Hurt, T Pyle

NASA's Kepler space telescope mission will be honored with the National Space Club's preeminent award, the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, in March.

The National Space Club is recognizing Kepler for revolutionizing astrophysics and exoplanet science by expanding the census of planets beyond our solar system and fundamentally altering our understanding of our place in the Milky Way galaxy. The award citation acknowledges the Kepler team's significant contribution to U.S. leadership in the field of rocketry and astronautics.

"This is an outstanding achievement for the entire Kepler team," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science in Washington. "Kepler continues to surprise and inspire us on a regular basis and I'm delighted to see the team's pioneering work acknowledged with the Goddard Trophy."

The trophy will be presented at a 57th Annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner March 7 in Washington. Previous winners of the Goddard Trophy include NASA's Curiosity and Mars Science Laboratory team, James A. Van Allen and the Apollo 11 astronaut crew.

Developed jointly by NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., Kepler was launched in 2009. It is the first NASA mission to find Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone, the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the surface of an orbiting planet.

"Kepler's determination that most stars have planets and that Earth-size planets are common provides impetus to future missions that will determine whether many planets have atmospheres compatible with the possibility of life," said William Borucki, Kepler principal investigator at Ames. "The future science enabled by the Kepler results will be one of the mission's greatest legacies."

Borucki and the team continue to analyze four years of collected data. Discoveries include more than 3,600 exoplanet candidates, of which 246 have been confirmed as exoplanets. They expect hundreds, if not thousands, of new discoveries contained within the data. This could include discovering long-awaited Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars.

Ames Center Director S. Pete Worden praised Kepler as "a hallmark of Ames ingenuity and humankind's collective spirit to advance the frontier." Worden said, "We may come up with ideas no one thinks are possible, but the collaboration of hundreds of scientists, engineers and managers from around the world has taken us closer to answering one of the ultimate questions: Are we alone?"

Jim Fanson, Kepler development phase project manager at JPL, commented on the historical implications of the mission. "Kepler has revolutionized our understanding of solar systems around other stars in the galaxy, and in so doing has transformed our view of our own island home," Fanson said.

The National Space Club is a non-profit organization devoted to fostering excellence in space activity through interaction between industry and government and through a continuing program of educational support. A full list of 2014 award winners is online at:

http://www.spaceclub.org/awards.html

Ames is responsible for the Kepler mission concept, ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. JPL managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA's 10th Discovery mission and was funded by the agency's Science Mission Directorate.


Michele Johnson
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-6982
michele.johnson@nasa.gov

Whitney Clavin
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-4673
whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

J.D. Harrington
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-5241
j.d.harrington@nasa.gov

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Michele Johnson

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Distant Planets, Kepler and K2, Universe,

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Space Station Research

Feb. 1, 2014

NASA Rehydration Technology Has “The Right Stuff” For Astronauts And Athletes

John Greenleaf with a bottle of the NASA-developed rehydration beverage in a lab at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Credits: NASA /Dominic Hart

Brian Suh, regional coordinator for the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, Far West Region, presents John Greenleaf with the 2013 FLC Far West Region Outstanding Commercialization Success Award at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Credits: NASA /Dominic Hart

How is living in space like playing in the Super Bowl? Both involve circumstances that cause the body to involuntarily lose water. Astronauts and athletes with low body water can suffer physical performance impairments and can develop symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps, light headedness, disorientation and, in severe cases, loss of consciousness. With crew members living and working now and for years to come aboard the International Space Station, this is a real concern.

A rehydration beverage developed by John Greenleaf, physiologist and former researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., to treat low body water, or hypohydration, in astronauts is now being used to improve human performance under various demanding conditions on Earth.

Astronauts involuntarily lose body water during space missions. Body fluid that is usually pulled towards the feet by Earth’s gravity shifts rapidly during spaceflight, moving from the legs into the upper body. This fluid shift increases pressure in the head and torso, and body water loss soon follows. Unless astronauts take countermeasures to restore their body water levels prior to re-entry, they can experience serious symptoms of dehydration when they return to Earth and gravity once again shifts their body fluid downwards.

“We set out to solve the problem of involuntary dehydration for astronauts,” said Greenleaf. “Our goal was to improve their performance after descent or during the physically demanding work of extravehicular activity during spaceflight.”

For astronauts to rehydrate themselves effectively, they must take in both water and electrolytes—or salts. Both the quality and quantity of electrolytes critically affect how water is absorbed and distributed within the body.

Early in the space program, astronauts were given water and salt tablets—specifically, sodium chloride—with instructions to consume both prior to descent. This approach was unreliable. Some astronauts took only the salt tablets, which worsens dehydration; some only drank the water, which simply is excreted and offers no hydration benefit and an inconveniently full bladder; while others ingested varying proportions of salt and water, which provided less than optimal results.

Water that contains 0.9 percent dissolved sodium chloride—also known as isotonic or normal saline, commonly used for intravenous hydration—contains the right amount of electrolytes for optimal hydration, but is problematic as a consumable rehydration beverage. Not only does isotonic sodium chloride taste bad, ingesting it can cause diarrhea.

To help ensure that astronauts would consume correct proportions of electrolytes and water, Greenleaf developed a pre-mixed beverage that was acceptably palatable. Using bad-tasting isotonic saline as a starting point, Greenleaf replaced half of the sodium chloride with sodium citrate and added a non-caloric sweetener. These modifications eliminated the gastrointestinal side effects associated with drinking isotonic saline, improved the taste, and maintained an optimal amount of electrolytes for rehydration. The NASA rehydration beverage contains no sugar or carbohydrates and is distinctly salty-tasting.

“This is not a recreational beverage for casual drinking,” said Greenleaf. “It is optimized for effective hydration rather than flavor.”

Clinical studies conducted by Greenleaf and collaborators showed that the NASA formula was superior to other rehydration beverages tested for restoring blood plasma volume in dehydrated individuals and for maintaining blood plasma volume during exercise. Their studies demonstrated that use of the rehydration beverage improved regulation of core body temperature during exertion and, importantly, increased exercise endurance.

Although the cause of hypohydration for astronauts is unique, NASA’s rehydration solution is broadly applicable.

Wellness Brands Inc., in Boulder, Colo., licensed the NASA invention in 2009 and is marketing the beverage using the trade name The Right Stuff to professional, collegiate and amateur sports teams, endurance athletes and workers such as firefighters and military personnel who perform strenuous physical tasks in hot conditions.

When David Belaga, president and CEO of Wellness Brands Inc. encountered NASA’s rehydration technology, he immediately knew that he wanted to develop it into a consumer product.

“I had an ‘ah-ha!’ moment,” said Belaga. “The reason we licensed this rehydration technology from NASA is because of the potent science that shaped the development of the product over a decade of research. It was striking that the rehydration beverage increased athletic endurance by more than 20 percent – beyond any other formula NASA tested.”

Although the majority of customers who currently use The Right Stuff are serious athletes or workers who perform particularly strenuous jobs, Wellness Brands is looking into other applications of its product including use by dehydrated, jet-lagged air travelers and those suffering the unpleasant results of over-consuming alcoholic beverages.

In December 2013, Greenleaf was awarded the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, Far West Region’s 2013 award for Outstanding Commercialization Success for the patented water-electrolyte rehydration beverage. In January, Greenleaf’s technology also was recognized as the Runner-Up Commercial Invention of the Year and Exceptional Space Act Agreement by NASA’s Technology Partnerships Division at Ames.

This development is a piece of the whole, like a touchdown in the Super Bowl of human health concerns while living in microgravity. “I am satisfied that we accomplished what we set out to do,” said Greenleaf, now retired. “That is, to develop a solution for the hypohydration problem for astronauts.” Regarding the decades he spent as a scientist in the Life Sciences Division at Ames, Greenleaf added, “Getting someone to pay you to engage in your hobby is the secret to happiness. My hobby happens to be human physiology.”

by Gianine M. Figliozzi
Space Biosciences Division
NASA Ames Research Center

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Kristine Rainey

Tags:  Ames Research Center, International Space Station, Space Station Research and Technology,

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SOFIA

Aug. 14, 2013

SOFIA in New Zealand—Much Attempted, Much Achieved

The SOFIA 747SP prepares for takeoff from Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, on one of nine science missions to collect infrared astronomy data about the skies over the Southern Hemisphere. ED13-0220-450

Credits: NASA / Carla Thomas

(NASA's SOFIA observatory program manager Eddie Zavala reflects on the myriad details of preparing for and then executing the flying observatory's first Southern Hemisphere mission in the summer of 2013.)

SOFIA program manager Eddie Zavala welcomes home the SOFIA team from the program's first deployment to the Southern Hemisphere. ED13-0267-13

Credits: NASA / Tom Tschida

Fly 6,900 miles each way, deploy a cadre of flight and ground crew members along with an international science team for three weeks, and during that time fly three nights per week, 10 hours per flight, all while conducting world-class science. It’s a lot to imagine, and even greater to have accomplished it all.

To meet our program goals set earlier this year, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) departed the United States on July 12 for the first leg of its deployment to Christchurch, New Zealand. Having stopped for a flight crew change and some Hawaiian hospitality from the good folks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam outside of Honolulu, the observatory arrived the following morning at Christchurch where preparations began for the first of nine science missions.

Water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere is extremely low during the winter months over the southern oceans, thus our decision to base the observatory at Christchurch. Contributing to that decision was the infrastructure provided by the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is operated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) from the Christchurch International Airport. During our deployment, the NSF opened its facilities to us, and they, along with everyone at the Christchurch International Airport, were most gracious hosts.

While we were on New Zealand’s southern island, our team was supported by the U.S. State Department and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa David Huebner and his staff who are based in Wellington, the capital on the northern island. I’d also like to extend a special note of appreciation to all of the New Zealanders who were very interested in our mission and made our team feel most welcome.

For our flights from Christchurch we planned a series of observations using the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT) that were proposed by a combination of guest astronomy investigators plus members of the GREAT consortium. Developed by a team from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Bonn, Germany, the GREAT instrument is a spectrometer that detects the wave aspect rather than the particle aspect of infrared light. Among its many other capabilities, GREAT helps astronomers measure the chemical composition of star-forming regions and supernova remnants. For this deployment we spent the majority of our time observing the Milky Way Galaxy’s central regions and its companion dwarf galaxies known as the Magellanic Clouds.

The German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT) is mounted on the SOFIA telescope for the program's first deployment to investigate the skies over the Southern Hemisphere. ED13-0220-369c

Credits: NASA / Carla Thomas

Measuring the chemical composition of the interstellar medium in the Magellanic Clouds enables astronomers to infer conditions right after the “Big Bang” because the material of the clouds has not been recycled through many generations of stars forming and dying. Even though this material has been floating in space for millions of years, it is considered relatively “fresh” and in an unprocessed state. SOFIA’s access to this material means our observatory can, in effect, do cosmology research without the need to make measurements of galaxies billions of light years away. This capability is very exciting to our science staff and the worldwide astronomical community.

SOFIA’s deployment to New Zealand, completed on Aug. 2, was entirely successful and very important to our program. We demonstrated the capability to operate the world's largest airborne astronomical observatory with high efficiency and reliability, achieving 100 percent of the planned science flights. By all accounts the quality of the scientific data was also outstanding. The international deployment team did an excellent job planning and safely executing every logistical and operational detail, and those of us “left behind” worked hard before and during the deployment to support them. Completing our first scientific deployment is a key accomplishment in our transition to becoming a fully operational observatory.

Congratulations to the entire team for this outstanding achievement. I am very happy to welcome them back home!

Eddie Zavala, NASA SOFIA Program Manager
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

(Editor's Note: Eddie Zavala is program manager of the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, program at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. In this position, he is responsible for overall development and operation of the SOFIA Science Center at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and the airborne observatory, which features a German-built 2.5-meter infrared telescope mounted in a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft based at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.

The program, a cooperative effort between NASA's Dryden and Ames research centers and DLR, the German Aerospace Center, is the agency's next-generation airborne observatory, giving astronomers routine access to the infrared and sub-millimeter portions of the electromagnetic spectrum of the universe.)

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center, SOFIA,

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Sep. 8, 2012

Armstrong at Ames

Ames test pilot Fred Drinkwater, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and Ames project engineer Stu Rolls in front of the Ames Bell X-14 airplane being flown by Armstrong in February of 1964, five years before Armstrong landed on the moon.

Image credit: NASA / Lee Jones

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

Tags:  Ames Research Center,

NASA Ames

Jan. 28, 2012

Cal Poly AMELIA Model

In January 2012, researchers from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif. tested a future aircraft concept model in support of the NASA Fundamental Aeronautics Program. The model, called AMELIA (Advanced Model for Extreme Lift and Improved Aeroacoustics), has a 10-foot wing span and is 1/11th scale. It was tested in the National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex. AMELIA was designed as a 150-passenger regional cruise efficient, short takeoff and landing airliner.

Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Dominic Hart

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

Tags:  Aeronautics, Ames Research Center,

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NASA Ames

Jan. 18, 2012

8 Questions about NextGen, Part 1: How We'll Get Where We're Going Tomorrow

Shon Grabbe and Kapil Sheth discuss the traffic situation in the continental U.S. with the help of Future Air Traffic Management (ATM) Concepts Evaluation Tool (FACET). NASA is using these technologies to begin to understand the processes that affect the national airspace system.

Credits: NASA Ames / Dominic Hart

The United States is undertaking the largest transformation of air traffic control ever attempted. Known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, it is a multi-billion-dollar technology modernization effort that will make air travel safer, more flexible and more efficient. As the system gets better, its capacity will grow and the demand for different types of air transportation – even unmanned aircraft – will increase.

This illustration depicts the major organizational and operational elements of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen)—a transformation of the U.S. air transportation system by the year 2025.

Credits: NASA

NASA is one of several U.S. government agencies that play a crucial role in helping to plan, develop and implement NextGen. NASA's role is research and development of new ideas and technologies that will make NextGen a reality. We're working on software that reduces airport runway and surface congestion, new landing techniques that save fuel and time, computer models that predict more accurately the influence of weather on flight paths, and air traffic control solutions that allow more takeoffs and landings in the same amount of time.

Because NextGen is not just about air traffic management, we're also working on the tools and scientific knowledge needed to advance engine and airframe technology for today's aircraft, and develop unconventional new vehicles that will fly faster, cleaner and quieter, and use less fuel.

We asked NASA researchers to answer some questions about NextGen and the aircraft that will make the system complete.

Below, Leighton Quon, project manager of NextGen Systems Analysis, Integration, and Evaluation at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., answers eight questions about what NASA is doing to help improve air transportation for all of us in the future.

Coming soon: A question-and-answer session with the managers of projects working to develop advanced design ideas for the new and improved aircraft that will be flying in NextGen.

1) What is "NextGen"?
Leighton: NextGen stands for the Next Generation Air Transportation System. The current air transportation system includes all of the air traffic controllers, their equipment and software, the control tower facilities in which they work, the radars and the radio beacons on the ground that help pilots navigate throughout the country. Basically, it's what gets aircraft on their planned paths and what keeps them from flying too close to each other. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) leads the process of implementing updates to that system, with NASA and others as partners. We call the updates "NextGen."

2) What would be the benefits of an updated air transportation system?
Leighton: NextGen will make air travel more dependable and efficient. In this case, “efficient” means to reduce the resources with less fuel burned, less time taken or even more flights in a given time. It will provide improvements to how air traffic is managed, saving fuel and reducing noise, emissions, congestion and delays.

3) How will NextGen affect me?
Leighton: It will allow more planes in the sky, which means more air travel options. It will allow more efficient routes that will get you where you’re going faster with fewer delays. And , it will do it all with fewer emissions. If you live near an airport, NextGen will also help reduce noise near your home. The system will be less prone to major disruptions such as storms, too.

A standard light beacon that replaced bonfires in the early air navigation system.

Credits: Federal Aviation Administration

4) Why NextGen now?
Leighton: Air traffic management has evolved over time, but it hasn’t changed very much since the 1950s. For example, in the early 1920s the U.S. Postal Service had the mail flown across the country mostly during daylight hours. A way to fly the mail at night was needed, so they would place bonfires along the navigational routes and the planes would fly from bonfire to bonfire. The planes weren’t that fast and there weren’t as many aircraft flying, so a method of visual guidance was enough to get everyone where they needed to go. The bonfires were replaced with radio beacons in the 1930s. In the 1950s, radar was introduced. Ever since then, the air traffic management system has relied on post-World War II era technologies of radio-based navigation aids, radar and radios. Today we are using advanced versions of these same technologies.

5) How will NextGen be different?
Leighton: Aircraft generally fly indirect, even zig-zag, paths over a series of ground-based radio beacons. Controllers "watch" the progress of the flights on radar and direct the aircraft individually by radio if they need to alter their paths. The efficiency of a flight route is very limited by the old radio, ground based beacons and radar technology. NextGen will use modern technologies to determine the position of planes much more precisely so they don’t need to follow the ground stations. A satellite-based positioning system using GPS called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B, will be used to accurately determine the position of an aircraft, and this accurate information will be broadcast over a network. Computers, both in the aircraft and on the ground, will help offload some of the work and information processing from humans to support choosing the most efficient paths to fly while still keeping a safe distance from other aircraft. All of these technologies working together will help make air travel more dependable and efficient.

Controllers using the Efficient Descent Advisor in a simulation, and a chart of regular and efficient descent profiles.

Credits: NASA

6) What is NASA's role in NextGen?
Leighton: The primary role of NASA in the NextGen partnership is research and development of concepts and technologies. In the Airspace Systems Program where I work at NASA, we divide this into two groups - one that develops new concepts and technologies, and the other – the area I manage – analyzes, integrates and evaluates the new ideas to get them closer to being ready to use. We're all working toward new and innovative ways to manage air traffic, primarily through creating new software tools and new ways of doing things, in the air and on the ground. We have years of successful work on all kinds of aspects of this, but the ground-based technologies that allow controllers in all of their various roles to be more efficient and handle more aircraft traffic is one of our big areas of focus. This includes new computer applications, computer systems, hardware and ways to use all of these together in an integrated way. So NASA develops new ideas, tries them out through simulations and field tests, and reports the results to the FAA. The FAA then uses that background to create new formal air traffic management procedures, tests those out to make sure they’re safe, certifies them and makes them operational.

This visualization of flights on the east coast shows several flights in circling holding patterns awaiting landing approval. With NextGen guidance, flight takeoff can be optimized to reduce in-flight waiting due to weather.

Credits: NASA

7) Specifically, what kinds of things are researchers working on right now?
Leighton: There are a bunch of things researchers are working on. We try and address the major constraints that create inefficiencies, and this generally includes all the phases of flight from your departure gate to your arrival gate, as well as other issues that might relate to weather. From the time you board your flight and are ready to leave the gate, there are already opportunities to make the operations more efficient with new concepts we are developing. Here are some examples:

 

·         Precision Departure Release Capability
Sometimes you hear that there is weather or congestion delaying your flight. When this situation occurs, the FAA may start their “Call For Release" (CFR) program. Imagine trying to get into the busiest restaurant in town. You definitely will want a reservation and once you have your reservation you want to make sure you don’t miss it, right? The Precision Departure Release Capability (PDRC) is reducing the chances of missing your reservation (we call them "slots") by determining when is the ideal time to have your flight begin its journey so that it doesn't miss its slot in all the air traffic. Last January alone, there were about 8,700 missed slots, which translates into hours and hours of cumulative waiting to get into a new slot, which means late flights and delays.

·         Spot and Runway Departure Advisor
To help the flight move from the departure gate to the runway without numerous stops and starts, then more waiting in line for the runway (both of which are very inefficient for fuel use and emissions), the Spot and Runway Departure Advisor (SARDA) will help plan which planes should head for the runway, when and what route to use so that everybody gets to leave at the correct time – and as fast as possible.

·         Trajectory Based Automation System
While your flight is airborne at cruise altitude, the Trajectory Based Automation System (TBAS) will help find the most direct route to fly, saving time and fuel by avoiding all those zig-zags. Even if there's bad weather along the route you want to fly, TBAS will automatically look for the best route available around the weather.

·         Efficient Descent Advisor and 3-Dimensional Path Arrival Management
As you get closer to your destination the Efficient Descent Advisor (EDA) tool will use 3-Dimensional Path Arrival Management (3DPAM) concepts to determine the best time and place to begin your descent so that the plane can make a smooth gliding descent with the engines idling all the way down, saving fuel and making less noise as planes fly over neighborhoods. Imagine being in your car, cruising down your street on your way home and being able to take your foot off the gas at the perfect time to roll to a stop in your driveway without having to use the gas and brake – smooth, efficient and quiet.

This video shows actual aircraft movement around the terminals at a commercial airport. The terminals are the area of activity in the center. Each of seven grey lines represents a runway and the pink, cyan and yellow dots represent aircraft. To get to and from the terminals, aircraft are often waiting to cross runways. As they idle, passengers are waiting and the engines are burning fuel. Video credit: NASA Ames Research Center

·        

Airspace Operations Lab at NASA's Ames Research Center. A simulation of ADS-B is being conducted.

Credits: NASA Ames / Dominic Hart

Air Traffic Management (ATM) Technology Demonstration
One of the challenges once you start your descent is the congestion of all the arriving airplanes for the same airport. They all have to once again get merged into an organized order and slow down for the final approach and landing. This "compresses" the traffic into a tight bunch of aircraft trying to land. The first Air Traffic Management (ATM) Technology Demonstration (ATD-1) will demonstrate the ability to make the best arrival schedule to accommodate everyone. (Yes, sometimes we nest acronyms into acronyms – more confusing to look at, but faster to say and type once you know what they mean!). Three NASA-developed technologies will be integrated into ATD-1:

o    Advanced scheduling based on more accurate position information from aircraft, using ADS-B, will make the best arrival schedule to accommodate everyone.

o    Controller tools will be integrated with the scheduling tools to help keep aircraft spaced properly and on schedule.

o    Advanced cockpit instrumentation and information will allow the pilots to maintain their proper position and safe spacing in the arrival stream of aircraft without occupying unneeded space.

·         Together, these tools will bring your flight to the runway landing on schedule and SARDA will once again help find the best path for your plane to make its way into its arrival gate.

Even some of these new technologies could use additional information from time to time. When the winds at an airport begin to change, the runways used for takeoff and landing may have to be switched. For example, all the airplanes may have to start landing from the north when they were landing from the east. The Runway Configuration Manager (RCM) is a tool that will give information to either the operators or potentially some of the other automated scheduling tools when the airport setup needs to be changed. With enough advance notice, the airplanes can be directed to the new runways without wasting time and fuel turning around on the airport taxiways or changing directions in the air.

Additionally, there are various weather issues that could happen in one small area that can affect the airline operations throughout the country. In San Francisco, stratus is the marine layer or "fog" that the Bay Area sees during the summer months. Because the layer can obscure the pilot’s view of the airport during landing, the aircraft must fly an instrument-guided approach. Currently, when there's fog like this, planes have to land single-file into the San Francisco airport (SFO), as opposed to when it is clear and planes can approach and land in pairs, almost side by side. NASA has developed a computer tool we call SFO Stratus that helps advise the FAA System Command Center, where the nation's "coaches calling the plays" for the whole national system are located. With the tool advisories, they can make more accurate decisions on when to let airplanes around the country leave for San Francisco so that by the time the planes arrive the fog will have lifted and they can use the more efficient side-by-side arrivals. Without the tool, the FAA System Command Center may send too many planes too early or perhaps might hold planes back all over the country, unnecessarily causing delays to you and me during our travels.

8) When will all this affect me?
Leighton: Technologies such as the SFO Stratus tool were actually being tested in the field by the FAA in the 2011 summer season. During this test phase there should be some benefit for the whole system including travelers. Each of the other technologies is in various stages of development. The PDRC is about to make its way into field testing for the first time. EDA, TBAS, SARDA and the components of ATD-1 have seen extensive testing in NASA's own simulation labs. This is typically the step right before trying them in the real world. There are numerous other technologies in early stages of development and experiments by researchers, not to mention the ideas yet to be thought of by our innovative staff.

Permanent implementation of the tools will be the responsibility of our partner agency, the FAA. It operates air transportation every day of the year so that we can fly to the multitude of places we want to or need to go, and will build and implement the actual Next Generation system of the future.

›  Read 8 Questions About NextGen, Part 2

Jessica Culler, 650-604-4789
NASA Ames Research Center

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

Tags:  Aeronautics, Ames Research Center, Reducing Flight Delays,

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Kepler and K2

Sep. 19, 2011

Where the Sun Sets Twice

NASA's Kepler mission has discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon instead of just one. The planet, called Kepler-16b, is the most "Tatooine-like" planet yet found in our galaxy and is depicted here in this artist's concept with its two stars. Tatooine is the name of Luke Skywalker's home world in the science fiction movie Star Wars. In this case, the planet is not thought to be habitable. It is a cold world, with a gaseous surface, but like Tatooine, it circles two stars. The largest of the two stars, a K dwarf, is about 69 percent the mass of our sun, and the smallest, a red dwarf, is about 20 percent the sun's mass.

Most of what we know about the size of stars comes from pairs of stars that are oriented toward Earth in such a way that they are seen to eclipse each other. These star pairs are called eclipsing binaries. In addition, virtually all that we know about the size of planets around other stars comes from their transits across their stars. The Kepler-16 system combines the best of both worlds with planetary transits across an eclipsing binary system. This makes Kepler-16b one of the best-measured planets outside our solar system.

Kepler-16 orbits a slowly rotating K-dwarf that is, nevertheless, very active with numerous star spots. Its other parent star is a small red dwarf. The planetary orbital plane is aligned within half a degree of the stellar binary orbital plane. All these features combine to make Kepler-16 of major interest to studies of planet formation as well as astrophysics.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt

Last Updated: July 8, 2015

Editor: NASA Administrator

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Kepler and K2, Universe,

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