Monthly Archives: December 2011

NASA Announces New Head of Science Directorate

Physicist and Former Astronaut John Grunsfeld To Head NASA Science Directorate

WASHINGTON — NASA has named physicist and former astronaut John Grunsfeld as the new associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. Grunsfeld will take the reins of the office effective Jan. 4, 2012. He succeeds Ed Weiler, who retired from NASA on Sept. 30.

Grunsfeld currently serves as the deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which manages the science program for the Hubble Space Telescope and is a partner in the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope. His background includes research in high energy astrophysics, cosmic ray physics and in the emerging field of exoplanet studies with specific interest in future astronomical instrumentation.

A veteran of five space shuttle flights, Grunsfeld visited Hubble three times as an astronaut, performing a total of eight spacewalks to service and upgrade the observatory.

“John’s understanding of the critical connection between scientific research and the human exploration of space makes him an ideal choice for this job,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “I look forward to working with him to take the agency’s science programs to even greater heights and make more of the ground-breaking discoveries about Earth and our universe for which NASA is known.”

Grunsfeld graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in physics. Returning to his native Chicago, he earned a master’s degree and, in 1988, a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago using a cosmic ray experiment on space shuttle Challenger for his doctoral thesis. From Chicago, he joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology as a Senior Research Fellow in Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy.

Grunsfeld joined NASA’s Astronaut Office in 1992. He logged over 58 days in space on five shuttle missions, including 58 hours and 30 minutes of spacewalk time. He first flew to space aboard Endeavour in March 1995 on a mission that studied the far ultraviolet spectra of faint astronomical objects using the Astro Observatory. His second flight was aboard Atlantis in January 1997. The mission docked with the Russian space station Mir and exchanged U.S. astronauts living aboard the outpost. Grunsfeld then flew three shuttle missions – aboard Discovery in December 1999, Columbia in March 2002 and Atlantis in May 2009 — that successfully serviced and upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope. He served as the payload commander on the 2002 mission and lead spacewalker in charge of Hubble activities on the 2009 flight. In 2004 and 2005, he served as the commander and science officer on the backup crew for Expedition 13 to the International Space Station.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be offered the opportunity to lead NASA’s Science Mission Directorate during this exciting time in the agency’s history,” Grunsfeld said. “Science at NASA is all about exploring the endless frontier of the Earth and space. I look forward to working with the NASA team to help enable new discoveries in our quest to understand our home planet and unravel the mysteries of the universe.”

For Grunsfeld’s NASA astronaut biography, visit:

For more information about NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, visit:


Proposal due date extension: NASA Research Announcement NNH11ZTT002N “Research Opportunities in Space Biology”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has extended the proposal due date for NASA Research Announcement (NRA) NNH11ZTT002N, entitled “Research Opportunities in Space Biology.” The deadline for receipt of proposals has changed from Friday, January 6, 2012 to Monday, January 23, 2012, 5 PM ET. Selections of proposals are expected to be announced by April 30, 2012.

The full text of the solicitation is available on the NASA Research Opportunities homepage at under menu listing “Open Solicitations.” Potential applicants are urged to access this site well in advance of the proposal due date to familiarize themselves with its structure and to register in the NSPIRES system. Proposals must be submitted electronically.

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NASA Langley Research Center Internship Program Accepting Applications – Deadline February 1, 2012

The NASA Langley Research Center is now accepting applications for the 2012 summer session at the Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholars (LARSS) Program. This program is intended for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The summer program is a 10-week session beginning June 4 and ending August 10, 2012. Students will participate in tours, lectures, and social events designed to build broad aerospace and STEM skills and prepare participants for aerospace careers.

Student participant must be a US Citizen.
Student must be enrolled full time at an accredited US college or university.
Student must be working towards a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math.
Student must have a grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

Applications are due no later than February 1, 2012 for summer internships.
Interested students should visit the LARSS program website for details:

Look up! Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks December 14-15, 2011

photo of a meteor shower

Watch the Geminid Meteor Shower in December!

The Geminid meteor shower peaks on December 13 and 14, 2011 with the light show usually visible after 9-10 pm. The best viewing this year will be after midnight on Dec 14 and 15 due to the brightness of the moon. Due to the moon’s interference, viewers may not see the average 50 or more meteors an hour that are reported in many years.

To learn more about meteor showers, visit
For more information regarding how to view this year’s Geminid shower, visit
10 Tips for viewing the shower:

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2012 NASA/Johns Hopkins APL Internships Accepting Applications – Deadline January 17, 2012

NASA and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory are now accepting applications for the 2012 NASA/Johns Hopkins APL Internships. Interested students can review the details at the APL website at

Since 2004, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has offered summer projects to students interested in working on NASA missions or space-related research opportunities at APL. Students participating in the NASA/APL Internship Program will work at APL, and will make critical contributions to current and future missions or grants during their assignments in the Space Department. The Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is a not-for-profit center for engineering, research and development. APL is a division of one of the world’s premier research universities, Johns Hopkins. The 399-acre campus, 20 miles north of Washington, DC, is home to 4,100 men and women who work on more than 400 programs that protect our homeland and advance the nation’s vision in research and space science.

Learn more about the program at or

The Deadline for applications is January 17, 2012. 

Eligibility – Students participating in the NASA/APL Internship Program must:
• have a demonstrated interest in the space program
• be a sophomore, junior, senior, or first or second year graduate student in Fall 2012
• be in high academic standing (GPA of 3.0 or greater)
• be a U.S. citizen

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NASA Academies Now Accepting Applications for Summer Internships – Deadline January 23, 2012

Now Available! Applications for the 2012 NASA Academies

To apply for the NASA Academies, please visit the following website:

This application serves the:

  • NASA Academy at Ames Research Center (Mountain View, CA)
  • NASA Academy at Glenn Research Center (Cleveland, OH)
  • NASA Academy at Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, AL)
  • NASA Aeronautics Academy at Ames Research Center (Mountain View, CA)
  • NASA Aeronautics Academy at Dryden Flight Research Center (Edwards AFB, CA)
  • NASA Aeronautics Academy at Glenn Research Center (Cleveland, OH)
  • NASA Aeronautics Academy at Langley Research Center (Hampton, VA)
  • NASA Lunar and Planetary Science Academy at Goddard Space Flight (Greenbelt, MD)
  • NASA Propulsion Academy at Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, AL)
  • NASA Robotics Academy at Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, AL)

Application Deadline January 23, 2012. More than just internships, the NASA Academies offer experiences in hands-on research, project management, leadership, teamwork and multi-disciplinary collaboration. Student Interns participate in mentored research projects, facility tours, social events, team building exercises, and academic colloquiums.

Would You Like to Become an Astronaut? – Applications Accepted Until January 27, 2012

Astronaut Piers Sellers, STS-121 mission specialist

NASA seeks qualified applicants for future space missions

Have you always dreamed of going to space? Don’t miss your chance. NASA is accepting applications for the Astronaut Candidate Program!

Qualified individuals can submit their applications through the federal government’s website. Those selected will be among the first to pioneer a new generation of commercial launch vehicles and travel aboard a new heavy-lift rocket to distant destinations in deep space.

1. At least bachelor’s degree in engineering, science or mathematics (advanced degrees are preferred)
2. At least three years of relevant professional experience
3. Extensive experience flying high-performance jet aircraft is a plus
4. Educators teaching kindergarten through 12th grade with these minimum degree requirements also are encouraged to apply

NASA will accept applications through Jan. 27, 2012. After applicant interviews and evaluations, the agency expects to announce the final selections in 2013. Training will begin that summer.

For more information about astronaut application and selection and to follow the latest news via NASA accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, visit

2011 OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Award Video Contest – Register by January 17, 2012

NASA has opened registration for the 2011 OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Award Contest. Featuring OPTIMUS PRIME, the leader of the popular TRANSFORMERS brand, the contest highlights spinoffs from NASA technologies that are used on Earth. The goal is to help students understand the benefits of NASA technology to their daily lives. Last year’s contest was open to students in grades 3-8 and resulted in 76 video submissions from over 190 students in 31 states.

For 2011, the OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Award Contest has been expanded to include students in grades 3-12. Each student, or group of students, will submit a three- to five-minute video on a selected NASA spinoff technology listed in NASA’s 2010 “Spinoff” publication. Videos must demonstrate an understanding of the NASA spinoff technology and the associated NASA mission, as well as the commercial application and public benefit associated with the spinoff technology.

Participants must register for the contest by Jan. 3, 2012. Video entries are due Jan. 17, 2012.

Video entries will be posted on the NASA YouTube channel, and the public will be responsible for the first round of judging. The top five submissions from each of the three grade groups (Elementary [3rd-5th], Middle [6th-8th] and High School [9th-12th]) will advance for final judging. A NASA panel will select a winning entry from each group. Among other prizes, a crystal OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Award Trophy will be given to winners at a special awards ceremony being held in Florida in April 2012. The innovators associated with the NASA technology highlighted in the winning videos also will receive trophies, as will their commercial partners.

For more information, visit the OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Award website at

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