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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NASA Scientists Theorize Titan Shaped By Weather, Not Ice Volcanoes

Saturn and four of its moons

Many Colors, Many Moons
Four moons huddle near Saturn's multi-hued disk. Giant Titan, with its darker winter hemisphere, dominates the smaller moons in the scene. This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

These two images are computer simulation models of landform evolution that demonstrate how over time rain can carve landscapes into formations that look like aspects of volcanoes  
Volcano Impostors
These two images are computer simulation models of landform evolution that demonstrate how over time rain can carve landscapes into formations that look like aspects of volcanoes. The left image shows an un-eroded rolling cratered surface. The right image shows what those same rolling craters would look like after many millennia of erosion caused by rain.
Image Copyright A. Howard

These images obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show the feature named Tortola Facula on Saturn's moon Titan.

Tortula Facula
These images obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show the feature named Tortola Facula on Saturn's moon Titan. The left image was obtained by the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer data on Oct. 26, 2004. In 2005, scientists interpreted Tortola Facula as an ice volcano. The right image shows the same feature, as seen by Cassini’s radar instrument on May 12, 2008, at a much higher resolution. Scientists now think that this feature is a non-descript obstacle surrounded by obvious wind-blown sand dunes, similar to those commonly found in this region of Titan.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Titan and Callisto

Xanadu and Callisto
These images compare surface features observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft at the Xanadu region on Saturn's moon Titan (left), and features observed by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft on Jupiter's cratered moon Callisto (right). Titan may originally have had a cratered landscape similar to Callisto that has since been eroded by rainfall and runoff. There are many large circular features in Titan's Xanadu region that have some of the characteristics of impact craters – such as central peaks and inward facing circular cliffs – which make scientists think they are, in fact, eroded impact craters. The surface of Callisto also has a substantially eroded cratered landscape. Instead of erosion by weather, scientists theorize the erosion on Callisto was caused by ground ice evaporating away.
Image credit: NASA/JPL
Have the surface and belly of Saturn's smog-shrouded moon, Titan, recently simmered like a chilly, bubbling cauldron with ice volcanoes, or has this distant moon gone dead? In a newly published analysis, a pair of NASA scientists analyzing data collected by the Cassini spacecraft suggest Titan may be much less geologically active than some scientists think.

In the paper, published in the April 2011 edition of the journal Icarus, scientists conclude Titan's interior may be cool and dormant and incapable of causing active ice volcanoes.

"It would be fantastic to find strong evidence that clearly shows Titan has an internal heat source that causes ice volcanoes and lava flows to form," said Jeff Moore, lead author of the paper and a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "But we find that the evidence presented to date is unconvincing, and recent studies of Titan’s interior conducted by geophysicists and gravity experts also weaken the possibility of volcanoes there."

Scientists agree that Titan shows evidence of having lakes of liquid methane and ethane, and valleys carved by these exotic liquids, as well as impact craters. However, a debate continues to brew about how to interpret the Cassini data about Titan. Some scientists theorize ice volcanoes exist and suggest energy from an internal heat source may have caused ice to rise and release methane vapors as it reached Titan’s surface.

But in the new paper, the authors conclude that the only features on Titan’s surface that have been unambiguously identified were created by external forces – such as objects hitting the surface and creating craters, wind and rain pummeling its surface, and the formation of rivers and lakes.

"Titan is a fascinating world," said Robert Pappalardo, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and former Cassini project scientist. "Its uniqueness comes from its atmosphere and organic lakes, but in this study, we find no strong evidence for icy volcanism on Titan."

In December 2010, a group of Cassini scientists presented new topographic data on an area of Titan called Sotra Facula, which they think makes the best case yet for a possible volcanic mountain that once erupted ice on Titan. Although Moore and Pappalardo do not explicitly consider this recent topographic analysis in their paper, they do not find the recent analysis of Sotra Facula to be convincing so far. It remains to be seen whether ongoing analyses of Sotra Facula can change minds.

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only known moon to have a dense atmosphere, composed primarily of nitrogen, with two to three percent methane. One goal of the Cassini mission is to find an explanation for what, if anything, might be maintaining this atmosphere.

Titan's dense atmosphere makes its surface very difficult to study with visible-light cameras, but infrared instruments and radar signals can peer through the haze and provide information about both the composition and shape of the surface.

"Titan is most akin to Jupiter's moon Callisto, if Callisto had weather," Moore added. "Every feature we have seen on Titan can be explained by wind, rain, and meteorite impacts, rather than from internal heating."

Callisto is almost the exact same size as Titan. It has a cratered appearance and because of its cool interior, its surface features are not affected by internal forces. Moore and Pappalardo conclude that Titan also may have a cool interior, with only external processes like wind, rain and impacts shaping its surface."

The Cassini spacecraft, currently orbiting Saturn, continues to make fly-bys of Titan. Scientists will continue to explore Titan's mysteries, including investigations of the changes in the landscapes.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and several of its instruments were designed, developed and assembled at JPL.
Rachel Hoover
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

NASA's Jupiter-Bound Spacecraft Arrives in Florida

Juno spacecraft arriving at Cape Canaveral 

In the evening hours of April 8, NASA's Juno spacecraft arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for a launch this summer. The Jupiter-bound spacecraft made the trip from Denver inside the belly of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Juno spacecraft has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for a launch this summer. The spacecraft was shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, to the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Fla., today. The solar-powered Juno spacecraft will orbit Jupiter's poles 33 times to find out more about the gas giant's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere. 

"The Juno spacecraft and the team have come a long way since this project was first conceived in 2003," said Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator, based at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "We're only a few months away from a mission of discovery that could very well rewrite the books on not only how Jupiter was born, but how our solar system came into being." Next Monday, Juno will be removed from its shipping container, the first of the numerous milestones to prepare it for launch. Later that week, the spacecraft will begin functional testing to verify its state of health after the road trip from Colorado. After this, the team will load updated flight software and perform a series of mission readiness tests. These tests involve the entire spacecraft flight system, as well as the associated science instruments and the ground data system. Juno will be carried into space aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifting off from Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 

The launch period opens Aug. 5, 2011, and extends through Aug. 26. For an Aug. 5 liftoff, the launch window opens at 8:39 a.m. PDT (11:39 am EDT) and remains open through 9:39 a.m. PDT (12:39 p.m. EDT). NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute at San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems,

Denver, is building the spacecraft. The Italian Space Agency in Rome is contributing an infrared spectrometer instrument and a portion of the radio science experiment. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA's Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Additional information about Juno is available at http://www.nasa.gov/juno .
DC Agle 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Mars Rover's 'Gagarin' Moment Applauded Exploration

Gagarin Rock Examined by Opportunity in 2005, False Color 

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its rock abrasion tool on a rock informally named "Gagarin" during the 401st and 402nd Martian days, or sols, of the rover's work on Mars (March 10 and 11, 2005). Image credit: Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ASU

Opportunity's Arm and 'Gagarin' Rock, Sol 405 

This image, taken by Opportunity's navigation camera on Sol 405 (March 14, 2005), shows the circular mark left on the rock. The circle is about 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches) in diameter. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
A flat, light-toned rock on Mars visited by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover in 2005 informally bears the name of the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, who rode into orbit in the Soviet Union's Vostok-1 spacecraft on April 12, 1961. 

The team using Opportunity to explore the Meridiani Planum region of Mars since 2004 chose "Gagarin" for what they would call the rock that the rover examined beside "Vostok" crater. A target for close-up examination on Gagarin is called "Yuri." 

To commemorate Gagarin's flight, a color image of the rock on Mars has been posted, here. The image combines frames taken through three different filters by Opportunity's panoramic camera.
Early accomplishments in the Space Age inspired many of the researchers exploring other planets robotically today, who hope their work can, in turn, help inspire the next generation.
"The 50th anniversary of mankind's first fledgling foray into the cosmos should serve as an important reminder of the spirit of adventure and exploration that has propelled mankind throughout history," said Mars rover science team member James Rice of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We are a species of explorers; it is encoded into our very DNA." 

Rice continued, "Half a century ago Yuri Gagarin was lofted into a totally unknown, remote and hostile environment and in doing so opened up a new limitless frontier of possibilities for mankind. A mere 23 days later another brave human, Alan Shepard, climbed aboard a rocket and ventured into the starry abyss. Their courage and vision continue to inspire and lead us into the unknown. Hopefully, one day in the not too distant future it will lead humanity on a voyage to Mars." 

Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004. Both rovers continued in years of bonus, extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit has not communicated with Earth since March 2010. Opportunity remains active. This month, it has passed both the 27-kilometer and 17-mile marks in its total driving distance on Mars. 

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about the rovers, see http://www.nasa.gov/rovers.
Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

NASA Announces New Homes for Space Shuttle Orbiters After Retirement

Image of Enterprise at the National Air and Space Museum 

Enterprise, first Space Shuttle Orbiter, is pictured at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Credit: NASA/Renee Bouchard

Map of the Locations of the Orbiters New Homes 

Find a Permanent Display Location Near You After 30 years of spaceflight, more than 130 missions, and numerous science and technology firsts, NASA's space shuttle fleet will retire and be on display at institutions across the country to inspire the next generation of explorers and engineers.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday announced the facilities where four shuttle orbiters will be displayed permanently at the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program.
  • Shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter built, will move from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.
  • The Udvar-Hazy Center will become the new home for shuttle Discovery, which retired after completing its 39th mission in March.
  • Shuttle Endeavour, which is preparing for its final flight at the end of the month will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
  • Shuttle Atlantis, which will fly the last planned shuttle mission in June, will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida.

"We want to thank all of the locations that expressed an interest in one of these national treasures," Bolden said. "This was a very difficult decision, but one that was made with the American public in mind. In the end, these choices provide the greatest number of people with the best opportunity to share in the history and accomplishments of NASA's remarkable Space Shuttle Program. These facilities we've chosen have a noteworthy legacy of preserving space artifacts and providing outstanding access to U.S. and international visitors."

NASA also announced that hundreds of shuttle artifacts have been allocated to museums and education institutions.
  • Various shuttle simulators for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum of McMinnville, Ore., and Texas A&M's Aerospace Engineering Department
  • Full fuselage trainer for the Museum of Flight in Seattle
  • Nose cap assembly and crew compartment trainer for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio
  • Flight deck pilot and commander seats for NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston
  • Orbital maneuvering system engines for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center of Huntsville, Ala., National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

STS-1: A Monumental Spaceflight Milestone Recalled

STS-1 landing Space Shuttle Columbia touches down on lakebed runway 23 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to conclude STS-1, the first orbital shuttle mission on April 14, 1981. (NASA Photo)

It was 30 years ago this week that NASA ushered in a new era of spaceflight with the inaugural launch of space shuttle Columbia on April 12, 1981, setting the pace for three decades of monumental leaps in environmental and space science achievements.

Thirty years and 133 missions later, NASA is winding down the space shuttle program, with the three remaining shuttle orbiters and the prototype shuttle Enterprise slated to be enshrined at several museums around the country after the last two missions, STS-134 and STS-135, are flown.

STS-1 shuttle launch 

Often called 'the boldest test flight in history,' Space Shuttle Columbia launches on mission STS-1 on April 12, 1981. (NASA/KSC) At a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 2011, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden announced that the shuttle Atlantis would be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center's Visitors Complex, Discovery would be exhibited at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C., Endeavour would go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, and the Enterprise prototype would be transferred from the Udvar-Hazy Center to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

With triumph came tragedy, however, with the loss of two shuttles and their crews, Challenger upon launch in 1986, and Columbia upon return in 2003.

After more than two years of checkout of Columbia following its delivery to NASA in 1979 and years of training by astronauts in shuttle simulators, the program kicked off with the successful launch of Columbia on mission STS-1. Columbia was boosted into orbit by seven million pounds of thrust supplied by its solid-propellant rockets and liquid-hydrogen engines. The flight, the first of four orbital flight tests of Columbia, served as a two-day demonstration of the first reusable, piloted spacecraft's ability to go into orbit and return safely to Earth.

The launch coincided with the 20th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, that of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in the Vostok 1 capsule on April 12, 1961.

That first operational test flight from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida carried Commander John Young and Pilot Robert Crippen into orbit.

STS-1 mission patch 

STS-1 mission patch "We were delighted when we got into orbit," Young said at a 25th anniversary commemorative program at Kennedy in 2006. "We learned that we can build a complicated vehicle and make it work very well."

The early flights helped NASA build on its knowledge of the vehicle and its capabilities. On its first mission, Columbia carried as its main payload a Developmental Flight Instrumentation pallet with instruments to record pressures, temperatures, and levels of acceleration at various points on the vehicle during launch, flight, and landing. In flight, Young and Crippen tested the spacecraft's on-board systems, fired the orbital maneuvering system for changing orbits, employed the reaction control system for controlling attitude, and opened and closed the payload doors.

One of many cameras aboard--a remote television camera--revealed some of the thermal protection tiles had disengaged during launch. As Columbia re-entered the atmosphere from space at Mach 24 (24 times the speed of sound) after 36 orbits, aerodynamic heating built up to over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, causing some concern during the time when the shuttle was out of radio communications with ground stations. But at 188,000 feet and Mach 10, Young and Crippen reported that the orbiter was performing as expected. After a series of maneuvers to reduce speed, the mission commander and pilot prepared to land.

astronauts Crippen and Young 

STS-1 Reunion – Astronauts Robert Crippen and John Young recounted their historic STS-1 flight at a 25th anniversary event at the Kennedy Space Center in 2006. (NASA/KSC) While multiplied thousands of onlookers witnessed from public viewing sites established on the east short of the lakebed and other vantage points at Edwards, Young and Crippen flew the orbiter Columbia to a picture-perfect, unpowered landing on Runway 23 on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards AFB, Calif., to conclude it's first orbital flight on April 14, 1981.

"We learned that humans in space are very adaptable and capable. And we also learned that the vehicle required a lot of care and was not forgiving of mistakes," Crippen said.

Postscript – STS-1 astronaut Bob Crippen was the honored guest at a 30th anniversary celebration of that first space shuttle mission at the Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 2011, and is scheduled to speak at a formal dinner program in Lancaster, Calif., the evening of April 15, 2011. For further information, contact the Antelope Valley Board of Trade at 661-942-9581 or e-mail teri@avbot.org.

Alan Brown
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

NASA to Enhance Shuttle Story at Kennedy with Atlantis

Artist concept of shuttle display at Kennedy 

A concept drawing showing space shuttle Atlantis as the centerpiece of a new exhibit showcasing the Space Shuttle Program. The display shows the orbiter in its on-orbit configuration, with the cargo bay doors open and robotic arm extended. Artist concept courtesy Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

NASA Administrator Bolden announces shuttle plans. 

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, standing, announces that Atlantis will remain at KSC on permanent exhibition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. To his left is Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. Astronaut Janet Kavandi, to Bolden's right, USA's Mike Parrish and STS-1 Pilot and former Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Crippen spoke during the ceremony. Photo credit: NASA/BIll Ingalls

Artist concept of shuttle display at Kennedy 

Another view of the space shuttle in its exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Artist concept courtesy Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Atlantis at the International Space Station. 

Space shuttle Atlantis at the International Space Station during STS-132. Photo credit: NASA

For decades, NASA has shared the excitement, emotions, dreams and remarkable feat of voyaging out beyond the reaches of Earth's gravity in the world's first reusable spacecraft. In retirement, space shuttle Atlantis will help the agency bring that story to life for generations to come from its launch site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"Not only will the workers who sent it into space so many times have a chance to still see it," NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said to cheers and applause while standing in front of Atlantis outside Kennedy's Orbiter Processing Facility-1, "the millions of visitors who come here every year to learn more about space and to be a part of the excitement of exploration will be able to see what is still a great rarity -- an actual flown space vehicle."

After hearing the news, Kennedy's Center Director Bob Cabana said to Bolden, "Thank you so much for trusting us with the care of Atlantis. I promise you, we'll take good care of her."

On the day that NASA celebrated the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch -- Columbia's STS-1 mission on April 12, 1981 -- the space agency and its design partners received the "go" they've been hoping for with the announcement that a shuttle will join rockets, capsules and artifacts from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo eras at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

"This is a really, really big artifact that will really bring the legacy of what Kennedy has meant to people locally and around the world," said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of the visitor complex. "I think it ties in just absolutely perfectly to what the history of the visitor complex means."

Inside a new 65,000-square-foot facility in the heart of the complex's Space Shuttle Plaza, the 100-ton shuttle is expected to look like its soaring through space, with its landing gear raised and payload bay opened. Anchored at an angle, guests would get an up-close view of Atlantis' belly and the thousands of black heat shield tiles that allowed the shuttle to travel more than 115 million miles and through Earth's harsh atmosphere. The shuttle's robot arm also could be deployed, as if reaching out to a satellite.

"We plan on adding to the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction and enhancing the storytelling with what will become a very, very large addition to this complex," said Luis Berrios, a NASA design specialist working with the visitor complex's development team.

Berrios and his teammates envision the facility as a super-charged, space shuttle-themed science center with interactive exhibits to engage, entertain and inspire even the world's most tech-savvy audience. And while these new exhibits will shimmer, Atlantis is expected to keep every bit of wear-and-tear it encountered on its 32 -- or 33 at the time of retirement -- journeys into space.

The display could reveal the way shuttle crews performed science and research experiments in the weightlessness of space and how the shuttle was the go-to vehicle for transporting International Space Station laboratories, modules and solar panels to low Earth orbit.

During the announcement ceremony, the station's Expedition 27 crew thanked the NASA team for its hard work and dedication to the shuttle program.

"We will miss the capabilities and the beauty of the space shuttle. It has been a national icon for innovation and exploration for 30 years, but its legacy and yours lives on in the work that we do here on the ISS," said NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman. Designers also are looking to convey how the shuttle and its crew members deployed, retrieved and serviced satellites -- much like Atlantis did two years ago on the shuttle's final servicing mission to NASA's treasured Hubble Space Telescope.

Berrios described one of his favorite milestones in shuttle history -- Bruce McCandless flying untethered for the first time with the manned maneuvering unit (MMU) to retrieve a pair of communications satellites in 1984 -- and what it would feel like to share that experience with generations to come.

"What must that have felt like for him? It must have been amazing," Berrios said.

Designers also want to paint a picture of just how many working parts it took to launch NASA's space shuttle fleet. There are many features that could be worked into the display to help guests appreciate the shuttle system as a whole, including the solid rocket boosters and giant external fuel tank.

Even structures saved during the deconstruction of Kennedy's Launch Pad 39B could be incorporated, such as the gaseous oxygen vent arm, called the "beanie cap," and the orbiter access arm, which is replete with the memories of astronauts walking through before waving farewell and boarding a shuttle for liftoff.

While the spacecraft and its myriad of components will be the main attraction, designers also dove deep into the human aspect of the program. "We treat our orbiters like our own family members and they're very close to our hearts," Berrios said. "That is probably the most important component of our storytelling -- to let the world know how passionate our Space Shuttle Program has been to our whole NASA family, all of its civil servants and contractors, and all the other sister centers that have played a huge role in making Kennedy Space Center the launch site to deliver the future for over 30 years."

Annually, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex reaches more than 1.5 million guests and by adding a flown shuttle to the mix, it's expecting a major boost in attendance. It's not just about the number of people who will flock to see the space-flown shuttle, though, Moore said, it's about touching the lives of NASA's future engineers, scientists and explorers.

"I really like hearing about the rides on the way home when the kids say, 'Mom, did you know?'" Moore said. "Those conversations are priceless and we're setting the stage for these kids' future in a big way."

Atlantis is scheduled to round out the shuttle program this year with its last flight -- STS-135. After its return from space, technicians and engineers will spend a few months prepping the vehicle for public display -- paving the way for a grand opening as early as the summer of 2013.

"This is the home of human spaceflight, it's the home of the space shuttle," Cabana said. "To be able to share that excitement, that story with all our visitors to inspire the next generation of explorers . . . it's huge in being able to tell the story of human spaceflight and of NASA. I think it's outstanding that Atlantis gets to stay here with us and not leave after her last flight."

NASA's remaining shuttles will embark on longer journeys to reach their final destinations and Bolden congratulated the institutions that will have the unique opportunity to share a large piece of space history with the world by saying, "Take good care of our vehicles. They've served the nation well and we at NASA have a deep and abiding relationship and love affair with them that's hard to put into words."

Shuttle Discovery will go to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., for exhibition. Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, and Enterprise will be featured at New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Bolden said many of the applicant institutions will receive significant shuttle hardware and artifacts to share with visitors.

"Even though the space shuttles aren't going to fly anymore, they're still going to launch the dreams of future exploration," Berrios said. "Thousands of years from now, it'll be the same process -- smart, courageous people doing amazing things."

Rebecca Regan
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center

NASA Names Mission Control for Legendary Flight Director Christopher Kraft

jsc2011e036649: Christopher Kraft 

Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr. responds to a large crowd of admirers during a formal celebration of a naming for the facility and the unveiling of a new nameplate on the building. Photo credit: NASA

NASA is recognizing Christopher C. Kraft Jr., America's first human space mission flight director, by naming the Mission Control Center in his honor for his service to the nation and its space programs.

Johnson Space Center Director Michael Coats made it official April 14 at a dedication ceremony and unveiling of a new nameplate on the building, designating the legendary building as the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center.

“Dr. Kraft’s life stands as a testament to his dream of exploring space. A dream he realized here on Earth, in this building and at this center, through his engineering and managerial expertise,” said Coats. “He is a space pioneer without whom we’d never have heard those historic words on the surface of the moon, ‘Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.’ Those words effectively put Houston, and this building behind us, on the intergalactic map forever.”

Hundreds of NASA employees applauded as the nameplate was unveiled.

jsc2011e036650: Building 30

After more than 45 years of service to the nation's space program, the naming for NASA's mission control center became official with the unveiling of a new nameplate on the building, designating the legendary building as the Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., Mission Control Center. Photo credit: NASA

“When we started the Space Task Group in 1958, I don’t think any of us appreciated what we were up to, where we were going, what it was going to result in, the impact on the country, the impact on the world,” Kraft said. “Our experiences, our joys, were something that we were all extremely proud of. We still are today. It’s great to be in this country where we can do that sort of thing. I’m pleased as I can be to have you name this building after me and not because it’s me, but because it is the flight control people and those people here at the Johnson Space Center.”

“Without Dr. Kraft’s leadership, the concept of mission control would not be what it is today,” Coats added. “The dedicated people inside this building have accomplished incredible things over the last five decades based on the foundations laid by Dr. Kraft and his early flight control development team.”

In addition to Coats and Kraft, the ceremony featured additional remarks by John McCullough, current chief of the NASA flight director’s office; Gene Kranz, Kraft’s successor as flight director and former director of Mission Operations, and Glynn Lunney, a former flight director who worked with Kraft, and also a former Space Shuttle Program manager and vice president of United Space Alliance.

S65-42844: Chris Kraft

Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr. is seen at his flight director console in the Mission Control Center during Gemini-Titan V flight simulation. Photo credit: NASA

As flight director, Kraft managed all of the Mercury and several Gemini missions, and was in that role for America’s first human spaceflight, first human orbital flight, and first spacewalk. He also was one of the designers and implementers of the Mission Control Center, the heart of all NASA crewed space missions.

Kraft joined NASA's predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, in 1945. In 1958, he joined the newly created NASA as one of the original members of the Space Task Group organized to design and manage Project Mercury. He moved from Langley Research Center in Virginia with that group to Houston in 1962, and was assigned to develop the facilities, systems and techniques necessary to support human spaceflights.

As a member of the flight operations division he was assigned the responsibility of putting together a “mission plan” for putting America’s first man into space. Instructions from his boss, Chuck Mathews were, “Chris, you come up with a basic mission plan. You know, the bottom-line stuff on how we fly a man from a launch pad into space and back again. It would be a good idea if you kept him alive.”

S68-18733: Chris Kraft

Dr. Robert R. Gilruth (right), MSC Director, sits with Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr., MSC director of flight operations, at his flight operations director console in the Mission Control Center during the Apollo 5 unmanned space mission. Photo credit: NASA

A vast set of challenges faced Kraft. He immediately recognized that during the fast-paced launch phase an astronaut could only do so much. He envisioned a team of specialists on the ground to monitor spacecraft health in real time. This involved defining/developing a first-of-a-kind operations facility, communications network, spacecraft tracking systems, telemetry, 
flight plans, timelines, constraints and flight rules, standard and contingency procedures as well as plans and techniques to locate and recover the astronaut and spacecraft after splashdown in the ocean. In addition, a group of engineers would need to be brought together and trained as a team to develop command and control protocols to for normal procedures as well as to immediately react to problems in real time.

Through his leadership the Mercury Control Center took shape at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and his concept of “Mission Control” was tested and developed successfully as he served as the Flight Director for seven unmanned and six manned missions during the Mercury Program.

In 1965, the Manned Spacecraft Center’s “Mission Control Center (MCC) in Houston supported its first human spaceflight during the second two-manned Gemini flight, Gemini IV. At the helm again was Kraft as he continued to “invent” the MCC operation during the Gemini Program’s first rendezvous and spacewalk.

During the Apollo program Kraft became the Director of Flight Operations responsible for the overall manned spaceflight planning, training, and execution. His leadership in this arena continued through Apollo 12 in 1969, at which time he became Deputy Director of what is now Johnson Space Center. He served as the Center Director from January of 1972 until his retirement in 1982, playing a vital role in the success of the final Apollo missions, the first manned space station, Skylab, the first international space docking during the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, and the first Space Shuttle flights.

S73-31875: Chris Kraft

Four NASA officials, including Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr., monitor the current status of a problem in the Mission Operations Control Room of the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center. Photo credit: NASA

In retirement he has served as a consultant and board member of various Houston companies, as director-at-large of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, and as a member of the Board of Visitors at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. His book, FLIGHT: My Life in Mission Control, was published in 2001 and was a New York Times bestseller.

Kraft has been recognized in many ways throughout his career. These include awards and honors such as four NASA Distinguished Service Medals and the Goddard Memorial Trophy. He is also the recipient of the National Space Trophy from the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation, which described him as “a driving force in the U.S. human space flight program from its beginnings to the Space Shuttle era, a man whose accomplishments have become legendary.” In 1965, his picture in the Mission Control Center appeared on the cover of “Time Magazine” in which he was profiled as the “Conductor in a Command Post.”

As Kraft’s protégé Flight Director Glynn Lunney, while providing an oral history, commented, “the Control Center today…is a reflection of Chris Kraft.” It seems quite appropriate that the JSC Building 30 Mission Control Center be named after Kraft for his innovative shaping of the initial organization and culture that to this day continues to serve this nation well during human space flight preparation and execution.