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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Discovery's External Fuel Tank Repair Progress

Technicians at NASA Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A in Florida plan to install new quick disconnect hardware Tuesday morning in the recently-installed ground umbilical carrier plate (GUCP) to fix a hydrogen gas leak that scrubbed space shuttle Discovery’s launch Nov. 5. Technicians installed a new flight seal in the GUCP attached to Discovery’s external fuel tank last Friday night and spent the weekend taking precise measurements of the hardware to ensure all components are properly aligned and prevent another hydrogen leak.

Another team of technicians is working on repairing cracks on the tops of two, 21-foot-long support beams, called stringers, on the exterior of the external tank in an area known as the intertank. The team includes personnel from the external tank manufacturing plant in Louisiana, the Michoud Assembly Facility.

Over the weekend, technicians removed a section of one of the stringers that had two, 9-inch cracks in it. Last Friday, during foam removal and inspection of adjacent stringers to the one with the 9-inch cracks, technicians identified a crack about 3-inches long on the left-hand adjacent stringer. Further foam removal revealed one additional corresponding crack on the same left-hand adjacent stringer. Technicians plan to remove that section of the stringer Monday night. They’ll also install a new section of metal, called a doubler because it’s twice as thick as the original stringer metal, on the stringer that had the 9-inch cracks.

Engineers continue evaluating the intertank for any potential issues, but so far no other cracks have been found beyond the ones on the two previously identified stringers. There are a total of 108 stringers on the intertank.

Senior managers plan to meet on Nov. 22 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and via video conference for a launch status briefing to assess and review the repair work and launch preparations. Although managers have not set a new target launch date for Discovery’s STS-133 mission to the International Space Station, the repair work and planning still are aimed at supporting an attempt in the upcoming launch window that opens Nov. 30.

Statement by NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden on the Chilean Miners Rescue

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the rescue effort for the Chilean miners.

“On behalf of the entire NASA family, I want to ask that our heartfelt thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the courageous miners, their families and friends, and the dedicated people who have been working to safely reach those who are still trapped underground.

“There is a lot of hard work ahead for rescuers, but the Chilean government and the people of that great nation should be praised for their steadfast determination. Their unwavering commitment is the reason we are witness to the joyful and emotional reunions today as the miners are returned to the surface one-by-one.

“I also want to express my personal thanks to the Americans who have assisted in this heroic effort, and specifically the NASA team that traveled to Chile in the early days of the crisis. For decades, the people of this agency have learned to live, work, and survive in the hostile environment of space. Our expertise in maintaining physiological and psychological health, and our technical and engineering experience in spacecraft design all proved to be valuable in a situation that is far from our traditional scope of work.

“I am proud of the people of this agency who were able to bring the experience of spaceflight down to Earth when it was needed most. As the drama of this rescue continues to unfold before us, we pray for the safe return of each and every miner.”

Charles Bolden
NASA Administrator

Antarctic Science Mission Media Briefing

About the Teleconference

Logo for the IceBridge Mission
IceBridge Logo NASA will hold a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EST on Monday, Nov. 15, from Punta Arenas, Chile, to discuss the agency's Operation IceBridge. Researchers are using seven instruments aboard NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory to map Antarctic ice surfaces and the features hidden below. The data are critical for understanding the dynamics of ice in West Antarctica and its impact on sea-level rise.

During the briefing, IceBridge scientists will provide an overview of the multi-year mission and an update on flights under way over Antarctica. They also will describe some of the observations made since flights began on Oct. 26.

Briefing Participants

Michael Studinger Michael Studinger
IceBridge project scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Seelye Martin Seelye Martin
Research scientist (sea ice), University of Washington, Seattle

Print-Quality Images
› Link to Images

› Link to Videos/Animations

› Download the Full Presentation

Media Contacts

Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington

Sarah DeWitt / Kathryn Hansen
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
sarah.l.dewitt@nasa.gov / kathryn.h.hansen@nasa.gov

How will the Earth system change in the future?

As the world consumes ever more fossil fuel energy, greenhouse gas concentrations will continue to rise and Earth's average temperature will rise with them. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or IPCC) estimates that Earth's average surface temperature could rise between 2°C and 6°C by the end of the 21st century.

For most places, global warming will result in more hot days and fewer cool days, with the greatest warming happening over land. Longer, more intense heat waves will happen more often. High latitudes and generally wet places will tend to receive more rainfall, while tropical regions and generally dry places will probably receive less rain. Increases in rainfall will come in the form of bigger, wetter storms, rather than in the form of more rainy days. In between those larger storms will be longer periods of light or no rain, so the frequency and severity of drought will increase. Hurricanes will likely increase in intensity due to warmer ocean surface temperatures. So one of the most obvious impacts of global warming will be changes in both average and extreme temperature and precipitation events.

Scientists are also monitoring the great ice sheets on Greenland and West Antarctica, both of which are experiencing increasing melting trends as surface temperatures are rising faster in those parts of the world than anywhere else. Each of those ice sheets contains enough water to raise sea level by 5 meters and if our world continues to warm at the rate it is today then it is a question of when, not if, those ice sheets will collapse. Some scientists warn we could lose either, or both, of them as soon as the year 2100.

Ecosystems will shift as those plants and animals that adapt the quickest will move into new areas to compete with the currently established species. Those species that cannot adapt quickly enough will face extinction. Scientists note with increasing concern the 21st century could see one of the greatest periods of mass extinction of species in Earth's entire history. Ultimately, global warming will impact life on Earth in many ways. But the extent of the change is up to us.

Related missions: http://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/big-questions/how-well-can-we-predict-future-changes-in-the-earth-system/