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Communications Specialist

Laura Faye Tenenbaum is a science communicator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and teaches oceanography at Glendale Community College.

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February 26, 2014
15:53 PST

Engineers working on GPM
GPM in clean room
GPM nearly ready to go

Last chance to feast your eyes on NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite before it leaves our planet. After today's launch we'll have no more photos like these. Instead, we'll be looking forward to abundant information about clouds and rain that we can share with you.

Happy launch day,


GPM is part of NASA's Earth Right Now campaign, a series of five Earth science missions that will be launched into space in the same year, opening new and improved remote eyes to monitor our changing planet.

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February 20, 2014
13:55 PST
Jazzed about GPM

Dalia Kirschbaum wears a bunny suit in front of NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite, scheduled for launch Thursday, Feb. 27.

NASA’s Earth Science satellite Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) is about to launch next week and, believe me, all of us at NASA are totally psyched. I paid tribute to the event last week by making and eating a health-food model of the GPM satellite.

Dalia Kirschbaum, application scientist for the mission, is way cooler than I am, though. She actually busted out a NASA bunny suit and went inside the clean room at Goddard Space Flight Center as the instrument was being built.

“It was pretty awesome to be next to such a big satellite,” she told me as we were chatting the other day. “With its solar array unfolded, it’s the size of a small corporate jet and is the largest satellite ever built and assembled at Goddard.”

Clean room and bunny suit aside, what Dalia is most excited about is getting her hands on the data. “I need this data; we all need this data,” she said. For the past 16 years, she and many other NASA scientists have relied on amazing tropical rainfall data from NASA’s TRMM satellite. GPM goes a step further, though, by expanding rainfall measurements beyond the tropics.

“GPM is so cool,” Dalia went on. “It sees precipitation in 3D through the clouds from the ground all the way to the top of the atmosphere.”

Dalia’s area of expertise is in landslides, which occur on saturated hills. They are frequent, damaging, and a “really big deal,” causing lots of damage and blocking roads for days. A landslide can be as small as a retaining wall in your backyard or a large one that kills thousands of people at once.

As an application scientist for GPM, part of Dalia’s job will be to help take GPM satellite data and make sure weather forecasters, agricultural communities and disaster response teams know how to access it. She’s been talking up GPM to a variety of audiences, from elementary students to the general public, explaining with enthusiasm all the reasons why NASA does what it does and how people all around the world are impacted by a seemingly random satellite.

Dalia Kirschbaum will be co-hosting live coverage of the launch on NASA TV. Join her at on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 1:07 EST. Live coverage starts one hour before launch.


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February 11, 2014
16:31 PST
Food for scientific thought

A nutritionally correct GPM model. 

NASA’s new Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory is slated to launch later this month, so when I first got wind of instructions for making an edible model of the GPM satellite, my interest was piqued. This blog is supposed to be about connecting to regular people, I thought, so I’ll make an edible model, take a photo of it, eat it and then write about it. Sounds awesome, right? I went about hunting down the instructions and found them here.

GPM with marshmallows, pretzels, frosting, and graham crackers
As you can see from the photo, the example in the instructions is made of marshmallows, pretzels, frosting and graham crackers. At the risk of sounding like a sanctimonious health snob from California, I don’t buy or eat foods containing artificial ingredients or empty calories. To me, junk food is cloyingly sweet, nasty and yuck! I wondered whether parents would endorse this type of food. If we are to appreciate the role of NASA satellites in understanding Earth’s climate, we also have to appreciate our role in responding to scientific information. Our choices about what we buy, what we put in our mouths and what we teach our children have global consequences.

The instructions for making the model said that they were suggestions, which to me meant that I could make an edible model of NASA’s new GPM satellite with whatever ingredients I wanted. So I decided to make a model that I would actually be willing to eat without wasting any food. You can decide for yourselves if it looks nasty, scary or yummy. My family and I ended up eating all of it, and I was surprised by how much I learned about the instrument by having to look at it so carefully.

I encourage you to get creative and make your own edible model of NASA’s new GPM satellite with whatever foods you see fit and to voice your fair and honest opinions in the comments.


P.S. Here are my GPM model ingredients: The dual-frequency precipitation radar is mashed potato; the avionics and propulsion module is turkey walnut meatloaf decorated with kale; the microwave imager is yam, cucumber and orange; the high gain antenna is cherry tomato; and the solar array is made of seaweed. Some of the vegetables were harvested from my own organic garden.

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You probably already knew that NASA scientists spend a lot of their time analyzing data and mulling over results. But there’s a lot more to being a NASA scientist than that. One of the coolest things about the job is getting a chance to go on camera to talk to the public, share the latest research, and get people excited and involved. This year is especially exciting because of NASA’s five new Earth missions.

So, just like you would, we pose, primp, preen, prep and PRACTICE so that we’ll be ready for our moment in the spotlight. TV stations access live feeds directly from NASA, which means that we have to learn how to connect to an audience we can’t see.

 Alone on the set, Michelle Thaller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center communicates through the camera lens to a TV station audience she can’t see.
Alone on the set, Michelle Thaller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center communicates through the camera lens to a TV station audience she can’t see.

For broadcasts using a computer camera, we get together and give each other feedback, such as making sure that our faces are centered in the frame.

Clockwise: Andrew Miller, Travis Kidd, Jennifer Shoemaker and Lauren Ward.
Clockwise: Andrew Miller, Travis Kidd, Jennifer Shoemaker and Lauren Ward.

And when the lights come up and the camera goes on, we stare straight into that lens and smile.

Oceanographer Josh Willis in a video about the ocean&#39;s heat capacity.&nbsp;Source: <a href="" target="_blank">NASA-JPL</a>
Oceanographer Josh Willis in a video about the ocean's heat capacity. Source: NASA-JPL

So be sure to keep an eye out for one of our NASA scientists coming to a screen near you in 2014.

I look forward to reading your comments.


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