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*** DECEMBER 2005 ***

NASA will host thousands of local students to learn about the latest from Mars as part of the 2006 JASON Expedition, "Mysteries of Earth and Mars."
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., will become a 'hub' of space exploration for more than 7,200 middle school students, teachers and parents. NASA's guests will interact with famed oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard, student and teacher 'Argonauts' and leading planetary scientists from locations across the country during interactive broadcasts.
"Mars has captured the imagination of students nationwide and around the world," said Laura Shawnee, informal education manager at Ames. "JASON 2006 will fuel that imagination and help inspire future Mars explorers."

G. Scott Hubbard, director of NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley, today announced that he has accepted a new position as the Carl Sagan Chair for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., effective Feb. 15, 2006.
As holder of the Carl Sagan Chair, Hubbard will work to strengthen the SETI Institute's capability, visibility and support for its research into the origin of life, and how it might be found on other worlds, in the planets and moons of our solar system or beyond.
"The people at Ames are among the best in the agency, and it has been both a pleasure and an honor to serve as the Ames center director. I know Ames will continue to play a creative and critically important role in NASA's programs," Hubbard said. "My new position at the SETI Institute allows me to return to the research arena and pursue a lifelong interest in the search for life in the universe and its origins on Earth. I believe this field, which is often called astrobiology, is both the scientific heart of the exploration vision and the most exciting area of research today. We have a chance to learn things that, only a generation ago, would have seemed beyond our capabilities," he added.

A NASA DC-8 aircraft will carry a team of scientists to observe the Stardust sample capsule as it enters Earth's atmosphere and flies to a landing in the Utah desert at 2 a.m. PST on Jan.15, 2006. The capsule is carrying comet dust that the Stardust spacecraft captured near comet Wild-2 (VILT-TWO) in January 2004.
News media are invited to apply to be one of the journalists who will ride on the NASA DC-8 aircraft on the 'Stardust observation rehearsal flights," Wednesday, Jan 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. PST, and Thursday, Jan. 12, from 11:45 p.m. PST to Jan. 13, 3:30 a.m. PST. Journalists may also apply for one of a limited number of seats on the actual mission on Sunday, Jan. 15, 12:01 a.m. to 4 a.m. PST. Media tours of the aircraft will be offered on Wednesday, Jan. 11, from noon to 2 p.m. PST.
WHAT: Opportunity to fly aboard a NASA DC-8 aircraft to observe the Stardust space capsule as it enters Earth's atmosphere. For both flights, the DC-8 will depart from NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and return there.
WHO: Interviews with NASA DC-8 mission project manager Dave Jordan, SETI Institute scientist and principal investigator Peter Jenniskens and other Stardust mission scientists and engineers.
WHERE: NASA Ames Research Center Hangar N-211. News media representatives who wish to attend the DC-8 tour should report to Ames' Visitor Badging Office, located at the Ames main gate. To reach Ames, take the Moffett Field exit off Highway 101 and drive east to the main gate and Visitor Badging Office. Special instructions will be issued to those journalists who are approved to fly on the DC-8. JPL manages the Stardust mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, developed and operates the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology. NASA's Johnson Space Center contributed to Stardust payload development, and the Johnson Space Center will curate the sample and support analysis and sample allocation.

Responding to a recent coral bleaching event in the Caribbean, a NASA-led team is in the region this week assessing the situation as part of a U.S. inter-agency response.
Coral bleaching is associated with a variety of stresses including increased sea surface temperatures. This causes the coral to expel symbiotic micro-algae living in their tissues - algae that provide corals with food. Losing their algae leaves coral tissues devoid of color, thus appearing to be bleached. Prolonged coral bleaching (more than a week) can lead to coral death and the subsequent loss of coral reef habitats for a range of marine life.
"Coral reefs are considered 'canaries of the oceans,' acting as an early warning system for marine ecosystems," said Liane Guild, a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley. Guild is leading the NASA emergency deployment to rapidly assess the damage before other changes take place in the affected reefs.
Warnings of the onset of this event were first reported by the NOAA Coral Reef Watch Satellite Bleaching Alert monitoring system in late August in the Florida Keys. News of these warnings spread throughout much of the eastern Caribbean in September and October. The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force called for the inter-agency response in November. The deployment will continue until Dec. 20.
"I'm very pleased to have NASA step up and bring its expertise and assets to help the scientific community understand and address this devastating event," said Timothy Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. Keeney is the United States Coral Reef Task Force co-chair.