Author Topic: NASA's Top Exploration and Discovery Stories of 2007  (Read 682 times)

Offline jacqmans

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Dec. 17, 2007

Michael Cabbage
Headquarters, Washington
[email protected]

RELEASE: 07-278


WASHINGTON - NASA moved forward in 2007 to explore the solar system,
expand our knowledge of Earth and its place in the universe, and
build the International Space Station. The space shuttle flew three
highly successful missions to continue the station's assembly and
construction began on projects designed to send astronauts to the
moon, where they will establish a permanent outpost and prepare for
eventual voyages to Mars. Space science missions were launched to
Mars and the asteroid belt. Closer to home, Earth science satellites
made a number of key discoveries, such as how waterways beneath an
Antarctic ice stream affect sea level and the world's largest ice

NASA began laying the foundation for the future of space exploration
in 2007. Construction projects across the agency supported the
Constellation Program, which is developing next-generation spacecraft
and systems to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. All major
contracts for the Ares I rocket were awarded in 2007. Hard hats,
cranes and bulldozers were the equipment of choice at space
facilities across the country. Construction got under way at the U.S.
Army's White Sands Missile Range in Las Cruces, N.M., where NASA will
hold the Constellation Program's first flight tests in 2008.

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, workers are erecting a new
lightning protection system at the Constellation launch pad, 39-B. A
new test stand for rocket engines is being built at NASA's Stennis
Space Center in Mississippi. NASA's lunar architects unveiled more
details of their plans for a lunar outpost, complete with small,
pressurized rovers that would travel in pairs, and possible astronaut
housing that could be moved from one location to another. NASA
engineers also sought opportunities to test lunar equipment ideas at
sites on Earth that are similar to the moon, such as the Arizona
desert and the Antarctic tundra. For more information, visit:

Space Shuttle Commander Pam Melroy and the International Space
Station's Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson made history Oct. 25
when shuttle Discovery and the station docked, and the hatches
between the two ships were opened. As the two women shook hands 200
miles above Earth, they became the first female spacecraft commanders
to lead shuttle and station missions simultaneously. Whitson, who
also holds the distinction of being the first woman to command a
station mission, has accumulated more total time in orbit than any
other female space traveler. For more information, visit:

NASA's Phoenix mission launched Aug. 4 from Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station in Florida on a nine-month trek to Mars. The robotic lander
is scheduled to arrive at the Red Planet May 25, 2008, and begin a
close examination of Mars' northern polar region. Phoenix will be the
first mission to touch the planet's water-ice. Its robotic arm will
dig into an icy layer believed to lie just beneath the Martian
surface. The robot explorer will study the history of the water in
the ice, monitor weather in the polar region, and investigate whether
the subsurface environment in the far-northern plains of Mars has
ever been favorable for sustaining microbial life. For more
information, visit:

NASA launched three successful space shuttle missions in June, August
and October to deliver pieces of the International Space Station,
allowing it to grow in size, volume and power production in 2007. The
electricity generated by the station and used aboard the outpost more
than doubled this year. The station's six solar panels now extend to
more than half an acre of surface area. NASA astronauts and Russian
cosmonauts safely conducted 22 spacewalks devoted to building and
maintaining the station in 2007. A 23rd spacewalk is planned for Dec.
18. That will match a record for the most spacewalks in a single
year. For more information, visit:

Scientists using NASA satellites discovered an extensive network of
waterways beneath a fast-moving Antarctic ice stream. The waterways
provide clues as to how "leaks" in the system affect sea level and
the world's largest ice sheet. Data from the Moderate Resolution
Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite and
data from the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System on NASA's Ice Cloud
and Land Elevation Satellite provided a multi-dimensional view of
changes in the elevation of the icy surface above a large subglacial
lake and surrounding areas during a three-year period. Those changes
suggest the lake drained to the ocean. For more information, visit:

NASA researchers designed and built a new silicon carbide differential
amplifier integrated circuit chip that has exceeded 4,000 hours of
continuous operation at 500 degrees Celsius - a breakthrough that
represents a 100-fold increase in what had been achieved previously.
Prior to this development, such integrated circuit chips had operated
at these high temperatures for only a few hours or less before
degrading or failing. The extremely durable transistors and packaging
technologies will enable highly functional but physically small
integrated circuitry to be used for sensing and to control
electronics within harsh environments, such as hot sections of jet
engines as well as long-duration spacecraft. For more information,

Two new human spaceflight milestones were set by NASA astronauts in
2007. Sunita Williams, the International Space Station's Expedition
14 and Expedition 15 flight engineer, broke the record for the
longest duration single spaceflight by a woman, spending 195
consecutive days in orbit. She also completed the most spacewalks by
a woman, logging 29 hours and 17 minutes during four spacewalks, and
was the first astronaut to run a marathon while in orbit. At the end
of the Expedition 14 mission in April, William's crewmate, Mike
Lopez-Alegria, led all astronauts in the number of spacewalks with 10
and the amount of time spent spacewalking with 67 hours and 40
minutes. The time was accumulated during two shuttle flights and his
stay on the station. Lopez-Alegria's 215-day station mission also
marked the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut. For more
information, visit:

The brightest stellar explosion ever recorded was seen by NASA's
Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based optical telescopes. The
discovery indicates that violent explosions of extremely massive
stars were relatively common in the early universe, and a similar
explosion in our own galaxy could be imminent. This new supernova may
offer a rare glimpse of how the first stars died. It is unprecedented
to find such a massive star and witness its death. The discovery of
the supernova provided evidence that the deaths of such massive stars
are fundamentally different from theoretical predictions.

NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, with the Air Force
Research Lab and Boeing Phantomworks, successfully completed flight
experiments for the X-48B Blended Wing Body advanced aircraft at
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center this year. The aircraft is a
hybrid configuration combining the best attributes of a conventional
tube-and-wing aircraft with a flying wing. It has the potential to
meet expected future Next Generation Air Transportation System
requirements for low noise, low emissions and high performance. With
certain modifications to the design, the Blended Wing Body also has
the potential to land and take off on shorter runways than current
aircraft. The experiments demonstrated the basic flying qualities of
the X-48B and the effectiveness of the on-board flight control
system. For more information, visit:

NASA and 13 space agencies from around the world released the
framework for a global exploration strategy in May 2007. The
document, "The Global Exploration Strategy: The Framework for
Coordination," reflects a shared vision of space exploration focused
on solar system destinations where humans may someday live and work.
It represents an important step in an evolving process toward a
comprehensive global approach. The framework also allows individual
nations to share their strategies and efforts so all can achieve
their exploration goals more effectively. For more information,

For more information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:


Offline simonbp

Oh, come on! Dawn is at least as significant as Phoenix, if not more so...

Simon ;)

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Re: NASA's Top Exploration and Discovery Stories of 2007
« Reply #2 on: 12/17/2007 08:51 PM »
simonbp - 17/12/2007  3:36 PM

Oh, come on! Dawn is at least as significant as Phoenix, if not more so...

Simon ;)

I though the list was pretty weak myself.