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Oklahoma Space Alliance NSS Update, October 2007

October Meeting

         Oklahoma Space Alliance will meet at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 20 at the Koszorus' house in Norman. Prospective members are welcome. Their house is at 514 Fenwick Court in Norman.
Agenda: Introductions (if necessary)
1) Read and approve agenda
2) Read and approve minutes and reports of activities
3) Read and discuss mail
4) Old Business
          a) Yuri’s Night is April 12, 2008. The Omniplex is interested in doing something for it, and we need to discuss it by November.
          b) November is also nomination of officers, with elections in December.
          c) Can we do a meeting at the launch of the Rocket Club?
5) New Business
          a) We should try to arrange for a room of Space Programming at next years Soonercon, either one day or all three.
          b) We need to get in touch with David Miller and Cathryn Stine with the KISS Institute for Practical Robotics for the Christmas Party.
6) Create New Agenda
         To get the meeting either: (1) Take the Robinson Street west exit off I-35. Proceed west to 36th Street where you will turn left, and go south until you turn left on Rambling Oaks (about half a mile north of Main Street). Fenwick Court is the third street on the left. Tom's house is the last on the left side, or (2) Take the Main Street west exit off I-35, proceed west past the Sooner Fashion Mall, and turn right at 36th Street, and go north until you turn right on Rambling Oaks (about half a mile north of Main Street). Fenwick Court is the third street on the left. Tom's house is the last on the left side.

Minutes of September Meeting

         Oklahoma Space Alliance met on September 15 at Tom and Heidi Koszoru's. Tom and Heidi and Syd Henderson were the only attendees. Since we didn't have a quorum, we didn't enact any business or have a formal meeting. Tom set Syd up on one of his computers so Syd could orient himself on Second Life.
            We were going to make plans for our table at TrickConTreat, but Tom wanted to wait until Claire McMurray was back in town so we could coordinate. --Syd Henderson

Between-Meetings Activities

         On October 4, 65 years after a V-2 became the first man-made object to leave Earth’s atmosphere, Cliff McMurray successfully launched his 34-inch model V-2 in eastern Norman. With the help of Jim Brazell, this was our inaugural space week event. 
         On October 6, Tom Koszoru, Cliff & Claire McMurray, and Syd Henderson hosted a Space Week table at the G-rated portion of TrickConTreat convention. We displayed: Cliff’s V-2 (which was recovered in good condition) along with a brief explanation, information on the orbital Sputnik flight, also October 4th, NSS flyers, and assorted free NASA stuff. Activity books for children were donated to Children’s Programming and to passing attendees. 
         Unfortunately, and as Syd feared, I (Claire McMurray) have mislaid the list of people who signed up to receive OSA newsletters. However, I have entered in the CC field the people who signed up at Yuri's Night.

Space News

            The following items were  researched by Nancy Peay, and edited to manageable size by Claire Mcmurray.


CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's senior managers cleared space shuttle Discovery for liftoff Tuesday, overruling a safety group that called for further studies possible repairs, before next week's launch.  A new inspection method had uncovered possible cracking just beneath the protective coating on three of the 44 thermal shielding panels that line the wings. Engineers were evenly split on whether Discovery's flight to ISS  should be delayed, but top managers concluded following an all-day meeting that the preponderance of evidence says it’s “an acceptable risk” to go fly.  NASA: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov

MOSCOW - A Soyuz craft carrying astronaut Peggy Whitson, the international space station's first female commander, and orthopedic surgeon Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor,  Malaysia's first space traveler, docked on automatic pilot with ISS on October 12 or 13 (depending on your side of the international date line).
         The mission coincides with the last days of Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims fast from dawn until sundown.  Malaysian clerics decreed that Sheikh Muszaphar will be excused from fasting while in space, but Muszaphar has vowed to continue praying and fasting anyway.
         Interestingly, the NSS Chapter Leaders email list received a message from someone in Malaysia, requesting that we forward to the president of the Mexican chapter in Greater Guadalajara (who has no posted email address). Claire sent a printed version by post.  Our Malaysian activist pointed out that the Malaysian flight has generated great enthusiasm for space tourism in Malaysia, but that the flight was negociated in 2003 along with a $900 million deal for Malaysia to buy 18 Russian fighter jets. He has some ideas for generating Mexican enthusiasm, even though Mexico has no such deal.

PLUTO-BOUND NEW HORIZONS FINDINGS AT  JUPITER ((Southwest Research Institute, Oct. 9, 2007)
         During the first traversal nearly straight down any planet's magnetotail, the Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument aboard New Horizons gathered remarkable new data on the magnetospheric bubble that surrounds Jupiter. The encounter, a bonus science mission for the Pluto-bound spacecraft, occurred as it rounded the planet in February 2007 for a gravity assist to help speed its journey to the edge of the solar system.
         During the flyby, SWAP measured plasma populations inside the planet's magnetosphere on an orbit that has never been traveled before,  a hundred million miles deep into the magnetotail (the portion of the magnetosphere dragged away from the Sun by the flow of the million mile-per-hour solar wind).
"This was an absolutely fabulous trajectory for doing new science; the spacecraft went almost straight down the middle of the largest cohesive structure in the solar system," says Dr. David J. McComas, SWAP principal investigator and senior executive director of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute. "We could actually see the structure of the magnetotail and watch its evolution with distance for the first time."
         Observations, to be published in the Oct. 12 issue of Science, revealed an extremely complicated structure in the magnetotail with large blobs, or plasmoids, of magnetically influenced plasma drifting down the tail at a relatively slow rate of speed. As the distance from the planet increased, the magnetotail became more highly structured with gradual variations in the plasma and sharp boundaries (discontinuities) between plasma regimes.
         Data shows that the inner magnetotail contains very hot ions -- hotter than the top of SWAP's 7.5-kilovolt energy per charge range -- that evolved to cooler and slower flows down the tail, beginning at about 100 Jovian radii; these flows were highly variable in flux and energy.
         SWAP observations also revealed an unexpected component in the material flowing away from Jupiter. In addition to the volcanic material released from Io and material entering the magnetotail from the solar wind, the team found intense bursts of ionospheric hydrogen and H3+, which could only be coming from Jupiter's atmosphere because the brightest burst turns out to be material that's largely from Jupiter, not from the solar wind or Io.
         New Horizons' encounter with Jupiter also raised some new questions: in addition to flows moveing down the magnetotail, they sometimes move across it.  Additional questions center on the unexpected variability of the energy and speed of the plasma flows, as well as the multi-day periodicities that were consistent with plasmoids expanding as they move down the tail.
         Following New Horizons' arrival at Pluto in 2015, SWAP's primary mission will be to measure particles from the solar wind near the planet to determine whether it has an atmosphere and how fast that atmosphere might be escaping.
         New Horizons is the first mission in NASA's New Frontiers program, and this time it’s not managed by JPL. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory manages the mission and operates the spacecraft for the NASA Science Mission Directorate. Southwest Research Institute leads the SWAP instrument and hosts the Tombaugh Science Operations Center.
         A paper, "Diverse Plasma Populations and Structures in Jupiter's Magnetotail," by D.J. McComas, F. Allegrini, F. Bagenal, F.J. Crary, R.W. Ebert, H.A. Elliott, S.A. Stern and P.W. Valek, will be published in the Oct. 12 issue of Science.  An image of some plasma observations is available at http://www.swri.org/press/2007/swJup.htm.


         Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have spotted a huge belt of warm dust swirling around a young star called HD 113766 that is just slightly larger than our sun and  424 light-years away. The dust belt, which scientists suspect is clumping together to form planets, is
located in the middle of the star system's terrestrial habitable zone where temperatures are moderate enough to sustain liquid water. Scientists estimate there is enough material in the belt to form a Mars-sized world or larger. At approximately 10 million years old, the star is just the right age for forming rocky planets, the researchers say. The material mix in this belt is most reminiscent of the stuff found in lava flows on Earth. To date, planet hunters have discovered more than 250 extrasolar planets, or "exoplanets." Most however, are giant gas planets several times the size of Jupiter.


         The mission involves positioning the main satellite at an altitude of about 60 miles and deploying two smaller satellites in polar orbits, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.  China is planning to launch its own lunar probe, reportedly by year's end.
         According to Reuters, Japan plans to launch its first mission to land a spacecraft on the moon in the next decade, joining China and India in a race among Asian nations to explore the lunar surface.


         An asteroid between Mars and Jupiter has been renamed 7307 Takei in honor of the actor, best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu in the original "Star Trek. "I am now a heavenly body," Takei, 70, said Tuesday, laughing. "I found out about it yesterday. ... I was blown away. It came out of the clear, blue sky – just like an asteroid." The celestial rock, discovered by two Japanese astronomers in 1994, was formerly known as 1994 GT9. The renaming of 7307 Takei was approved by the International Astronomical Union's Committee on Small Body Nomenclature. About 14,000 asteroid names have been approved by the panel, while about 165,000 asteroids have been identified and numbered.
         Unlike the myriad Web sites that offer to sell naming rights to stars, International Astronomical Union committee-approved names like this one are actually used by astronomers.
On the Net: NASA asteroid database browser: http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi(pound)top


FORMER ASTRONAUT'S SON BUYS SPACE TOURIST TICKET, to be first astronaut child to fly in orbit (MARCIA DUNN, AP), September 28, 2007

         Astronaut Owen Garriott’s son Richard Garriott, who made his fortune in computer games, is scheduled to blast off aboard a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan in October 2008 on a one-week trip to the international space station. "Journeying to space has been a dream of mine since I was young. This is hardly surprising since my father, Owen Garriott, is a former NASA astronaut," Richard Garriott says on a Web site he set up to chronicle his training and mission. He plans to dedicate much of his time in space to science, engineering and educational projects. A biotechnology company co-founded by his father, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, will send up protein experiments for him to work on.
         On the Net: Richard Garriott: http://www.richardinspace.com
         Space Adventures Limited (which arranged the flight): http://www.spaceadventures.com

         After enduring seasonal dust storms much stronger than the rover was designed to survive, Spirit has now been exploring the Red Planet for two Martian years. That is a period of time longer than three years on Earth and more than 10 times the duration of the original 90-day mission. . .. Atmospheric dust levels continue to wane, and Spirit took advantage of additional sunlight by using solar power to transmit data to Earth at night when the Odyssey orbiter passed overhead. These transmissions will free up more of Spirit's on-board computer memory.
         On sol 1339 (Oct. 9, 2007), the rover conducted a communications test with the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. Mars Express will provide backup communications during the entry, descent, and landing of the Phoenix mission, due to arrive near the north pole of Mars on the United States' Memorial Day weekend of 2008.
         The skies continue to clear over the Opportunity site, and the dust is falling from both the sky and the rover.
          The last week was dedicated to evaluating the payload and assessing dust accumulation on the instruments. Fortunately, the solar array energy has improved to over 350 Watt-hours for the last four sols. This has given the vehicle enough power to support two alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integrations and two Mars Express UHF overflights.
         On the Net: Mars rovers: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html


         A new and intense type of radio burst has been discovered in archived views of the cosmos. The single, short-lived blast of radio waves likely occurred some 3 billion light-years from Earth, and it may signal a cosmic car crash of two neutron stars, the death throes of a black hole-or something else. "This is something that's completely unprecedented," said Duncan Lorimer, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University in Morgantown and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. He noted that radio-emitting pulsars send out similar emissions, but repeat them
every few hours. The discovery is detailed in the Sept. 27 issue of the online journal Science Express. …The previously undetected radio burst was found in data from a 2001 radio survey of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a nearby dwarf galaxy. However, Lorimer said the emission's offset location and wide dispersion made it "completely inconsistent" with that of a nearby object, whether in our own galaxy or the Small Magellanic Cloud.
         If the bursts are as frequent as Lorimer's team thinks, and they indicate the death of black holes or two super-dense neutron stars violently smacking together, a step toward closure of the universe's great mystery of gravity may soon come. Such dramatic cosmic events are predicted to let loose gravity waves that Einstein's theory of relativity predicts, but the phenomenon has never been directly observed. Lorimer thinks the singular radio bursts could give gravitational wave researchers some help filtering data from LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory based in both Louisiana and Washington state, which contains noise from Earth-based activities such as logging and highway traffic.


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's Dawn spacecraft rocketed away Thursday 9/27 toward an unprecedented double encounter in the asteroid belt. Scientists hope the mission sheds light on the early solar system by exploring the two largest bodies in the belt between Mars and Jupiter: an asteroid named Vesta and a dwarf planet the size of Texas named Ceres. Dawn's mission is the world's first attempt to journey to a celestial body and orbit it, then travel to another and circle it as well. Ion-propulsion engines, once confined to science fiction, are making it possible.
         Scientists chose the two targets not only because of their size but because they are so different from one another. Vesta, an asteroid about the length of Arizona and not quite spherical, is dry and rocky and appears to have a surface of frozen lava. It's where many of the meteorites found on Earth came from.
          Ceres, upgraded to a dwarf planet just last year,* is nearly spherical, icy and may have frost-covered poles. Both formed around the same time some 4 1/2 billion years ago.
         On the Net: Jet Propulsion Laboratory: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/

*Dr. Kevin Throop, in a talk at the Okie-Tex Star Party Oct. 13, pointed out that the astronomers who demoted Pluto to “dwarf planet” status at a meeting in Prague was a non-representative group of primarily European scientists. Is it possible that they didn’t want to admit that an American (Clyde Tombaugh funded by Percival Lowell) had actually discovered a planet?--Claire

NASA RESURRECTS BLACK HOLE MISSION From Associated Press, September 21, 2007

PASADENA, Calif. - NASA on Friday resurrected a telescope mission that will use high-energy X-rays to conduct a census of black holes in the universe. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or Nustar, was canceled last year because of budget constraints. Nustar, now scheduled for launch in 2011, will fly two years prior to the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. Nustar, made up of an array of three X-ray telescopes, is expected to detect black holes with 500 times more sensitivity than current space-based telescopes. Scientists hope information gathered by Nustar will shed light on how black holes are distributed and help predict the fates of galaxies.
         Nustar is expected to cost $105 million, and will be managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. On the Net: Nustar mission: http://www.nustar.caltech.edu

        Update is edited by Claire McMurray
        E-mail for OSA should be sent to sydh@ou.edu.  OSA members who wish to have their e-mail addresses printed in Outreach, and people wishing space-related materials e-mailed to them should contact Syd.

To contact Oklahoma Space Alliance, e-mail Syd Henderson.
PO Box 1003
Norman, OK 73070
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