A New Look at Life on This Week @NASA

Uploaded by NASAtelevision on 03.12.2010

This Week @NASA…
“I’d like to introduce to you today to the bacterium GFAJ-1.”
A team of NASA-funded researchers has discovered a bacterium that can live and grow without
phosphate salt, an essential building block for life as we know it. The bacterium, from
the toxic and briny Mono Lake in California, was also shown to
sustain itself and grow on the toxic chemical, arsenic. This is
the first microorganism known to thrive this way and will change how scientists search
for life in space.
“I’ve led a team that has discovered a microbe that can substitute arsenic for phosphorus
in its major biomolecules, but let me step back for a minute.
All life that we know of requires carbon, hydrogen,
nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur and it uses those six elements in some of the
critical pieces I think we’re all familiar with including:
DNA and RNA or the information technology of the cell, the
proteins which are the molecular machines and the lipids which separates you from everything
else. And so, we‘ve discovered an organism which can
substitute one element for another in these major
“With respect to space exploration, this is a very interesting result again because
the implication is that we still don’t know everything there is
to know about what would make a habitable environment on
another planet, or a satellite of another planet; we have to increasingly broaden our
perspective. So, perhaps arsenic is not an essential component
for habitability or for life, but it may be one that can be
Until now, astronomers and scientists have believed that, without phosphates, life couldn’t
exist anywhere else in the universe. Discovery of
this arsenic-eating bacterium tells scientists they need to re-
examine how and where they look.
“There is really no way we can get there before the December launch window, so what
we’d like to do now is take that off the table and let John and
his team do a little bit of planning over the next several days,
first part of next week, and analyze the overall plan and the workflow between now, as we go
forward, so we’re setting the next launch date tentative
around Feb. 3.
“After reviewing the progress of repairs that have delayed Discovery's launch, program
managers are now targeting the shuttle’s liftoff for
no earlier than Feb.3. Shuttle managers determined that more tests
and analyses are needed before proceeding with the STS-133 mission to the International
Space Station.
“We’ve hit a point where there is no obvious answer as to what occurred. What that means
is that we have to take the next step. And, we have to
look in greater detail, to understand what types of stresses
you can put on these stringers during the assembly process, see how they could line
up, and add stress to that stringer. And, we have to do that
through a demonstration; analysis is not going to get us there.”
At issue: cracks on two 21-foot-long, U-shaped aluminum brackets, called stringers, on the
shuttle's external tank. The cracks have been fixed
and the stringers re-covered with foam.
If Discovery proves ready to go on Feb. 3, liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center would
come at 1:34 a.m. Eastern.
“These tests stand to really move us forward. We’re at that point in the troubleshooting
where we need to do these additional tests. We’ll take the
time to do that, and get ready to go fly when it’s time to go fly.”
“We just finished a very successful first science flight on SOFIA, almost ten hours
in the air. We flew out over the ocean and we spent a large part of
the flight on one of the most famous infrared sources in the
sky, the star formation, the Orion Nebula in the constellation Orion, plus several other
objects and in general things went very well.”
NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, completed its first of six
initial science flights planned over the next few
months. This Short Science series of flights is demonstrating
the airborne platform’s ability to perform first-class astronomical observations not
possible with ground- based telescopes.
“The scientists got some good data. They were kind of excited about that, that’s
always good, that’s why I like to do it. I want to see them get
what they need.”
“It’s an amazing engineering feat. I think that that door back there, as big a hole as
it is, when it opens you don’t even notice it. In fact, most
of us have tried to predict that it’s coming open and the only way
you know its coming open is if someone tells you we’re about to open door in 5-4-3-2-1
SOFIA’s Short Science series begins a 20-year astronomical quest by scientists using the
world’s largest airborne telescope.
“It was a great night; everything worked perfect. The crew did a great job tonight
and with these first science results we are on the move from a
development phase to the operational phase of SOFIA.”
NASA held its 3rd annual Small Business Symposium and Awards Ceremony in Bethesda, Maryland,
just outside Washington. NASA Administrator Charlie
Bolden kicked off the two-day event with NASA’s Associate Administrator for Small Business
Programs, Glenn Delgado.
“NASA must transform itself in the areas of information technology and technology development,
if we are to, more effectively and efficiently,
achieve the missions that we undertake, and how we at NASA are
looking for help from both our large and small industry partners to successfully accomplish
these future missions.”
Attendees learned how to conduct business with NASA and its prime contractors and met
and networked with key agency personnel. Participants also
heard from representatives of the U.S. Small Business
Administration, other federal agencies, and the aerospace industry.
“How we are partnering with organizations such as yours is something that can really
help us provide better value to the tax payer and a more efficient
space program.”
An awards presentation led by Deputy Administrator Lori Garver recognized outstanding support
by employees and industry representatives for
NASA’s small business program.
Though he’s in orbit 220 miles above the Earth, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is showing
a lot of interest in what’s back on the ground. Kelly, who’ll
be living aboard the International Space Station for nearly six
months, is conducting a geography trivia game using the social medium Twitter -- posting
photos of different places on the globe he’s taking
from space. The first Tweep, or person using Twitter to correctly
identify the location, wins a copy of the photo autographed by Kelly. The contest kicked
off during Geography Awareness Week last month and will
continue until Kelly’s return to Earth next March.
To play, follow Kelly’s Twitter account, at www.twitter.com/StationCDRKelly
You can also check out contest rules, and more about the International Space Station,
at www.nasa.gov/station
In the last two years, the Glenn Research Center has gained recognition as home to one
of the top government motor vehicle fleets in the country.
“We are definitely excited that we’re able to be in a place where we can offer this
pilot program to partner with another federal agency such as the EPA.
We’ve received a good handful of other requests from
other agencies, but we thought it would be good to partner here locally.”
Glenn should keep this distinction for years to come after announcing a new, alternative
fuel pilot program with the Cleveland office of the Environmental
Protection Agency.
“Those things are important to us here. So, this partnership with you is very important
to us because it signifies that we’ve made the next step
in our commitment to the environment and to using alternative
The one-year partnership addresses a mandate that federal agencies decrease their greenhouse
gas emissions and air pollution by using 2% less
petroleum each year; they’ve also been ordered to annually
pump 10% more alternative fuels into their government-owned or -leased motor vehicles.
45 years ago, on December 4, 1965, astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell set out from Cape
Canaveral aboard Gemini Titan 7 on a two-week mission
to test flight equipment and rendezvous procedures in Earth
“Engine start. We’re on our way Frank.”
Among its milestones, the mission demonstrated controlled reentry close to the target landing
point. Gemini 7’s 14 days in space doubled the length
of any previous human spaceflight. The mission would retain the
American record as the longest flight until the Skylab missions of the 1970s.The Gemini
program served as a bridge between the Mercury and Apollo programs.
The training astronauts and ground crews received during
Gemini 7 helped lay the groundwork for NASA’s future journeys to the moon.
And that’s This Week @NASA.
For more on these and other stories, log onto www.nasa.gov