OKLAHOMA SPACE ALLIANCE
A Chapter of the National Space Society

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OUTREACH July 2010

July 2010 Meeting (NOTE EARLIER TIME)

          Oklahoma Space Alliance will meet at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 17 at Tom and Heidi Koszoru’s house in Norman. Prospective members are also welcome. The house is at 514 Fenwick Court in Norman.
          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. The Koszoru house is the last on the left side.

Agenda:

  1. Introductions (if necessary)
  2. Read and approve agenda
  3. Read and approve minutes and reports of activities
  4. Old Business
    1. Start Up Kit for Chapters in Second Life
    2. Research funding
    3. A New OSA Logo
    4. Treasurer’s Report
    5. 50th Anniversary of Manned Space Flight (Yuri's Night 2011)
    6. Space Solar Power
    7. Marketing for Burns Flat
    8. Postmortem on International Space Development Conference 2010.
    9. Space Week
    10. Supporting drivers for Starbase
  5. Read and discuss mail
  6. New Business
  7. Create New Agenda

Minutes of June Meeting

          Oklahoma Space Alliance met at the Koszoru house on June 19. Attending were Tom and Heidi Koszoru, John Northcutt, and Syd Henderson. Since we didn’t have a quorum for much of the meeting, we didn’t much business done.
          Starbase Oklahoma needs a contribution for 5th-graders needing transportation to Spaceport Oklahoma for science & math education. Mostly they need financial assistance for the one school that doesn’t have a budget for the trip. If we wanted to transport them ourselves, we would need a chauffeur’s license.
          Our treasure Tim Scott hasn’t been to a meeting for a while. We had an e-mail claiming that our annual report had not been received by National headquarters. [I called Tim and he’d resubmitted it in early July.]
          Tom has been thinking about getting the Mars Corporation (the candy makers) to doing something space-related for Yuri’s Night 2011.
          Claire and Syd think each other has the clipboard with the signup sheet from the con suite at SoonerCon, which we hosted for two hours on behalf of Oklahoma Space Alliance. I’ve done a fairly thorough search of my place and haven’t found it.
          We mentioned the possibility of doing mailings for Burns Flat.
          Since John didn’t go to the International Space Development Conference this year, Tom and Syd talked about that. Tom has a lot of CDs of the lectures from the ISDC, and Syd and Claire have several. One of Tom’s is that of Buzz Aldrin’s dinner speech, and we played that at Soonercon.
          
--Minutes by Oklahoma Space Alliance Secretary Syd Henderson

Report on 2010 International Space Development Conference

          Note: I did a brief overview on the conference for the June Update. This is the promised expansion of that. There will be a considerable overlap which I apologize for.--Syd

Arrival:
          Claire and Clifford McMurray, Tom Koszoru, Syd Henderson and Tom’s mentee Jason Stubbs all went to the 2010 International Space Development Conference (ISDC) May 27 – 31 in Chicago. This year’s ISDC was held in the Intercontinental Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. Rosemont Village is located near O’Hare International Airport and really blends into Chicago proper. There are a lot of hotels here, as well as the Rosemont Convention Center. We all, however, were staying in the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Schiller Park, less than two miles from the Intercontinental as the crow flies, but at least twice that by road. We found various ways of getting back and forth, including parking at the Rosemont CTA Station (much cheaper than parking at the Intercontinental), or taking one hotel shuttle bus to the airport and another to the second hotel.
          The McMurrays went up the weekend before ISDC, while the rest of us went up on Tuesday, May 25. In both cases this left some time for site seeing. I particularly wanted to visit the Field Museum of Natural History, which is world famous. Indeed it harbors Sue, the famous Tyrannosaur, a replica of which was in Norman a few years ago and I wanted to return the visit. The Field Museum is in the Museum Campus by Lake Michigan. This complex also houses the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium, which are also famous. The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman is pretty good, but it would fit in one wing of one floor of the Field Museum, which has two wings and at least three floors, not to mention a huge lobby featuring Sue and two totem poles at least fifty feet tall.
          I was hoping to visit the Shedd Aquarium as well. As I said to Tom, I wanted to see landmarks that were destroyed in the Harry Dresden novels.

          There was a Space Investment Symposium at the ISDC on Wednesday which Tom, Jason and I missed while we were site seeing. I believe it was a separate expense from the ISDC and I wanted to keep expenses down a little bit anyway.

Overview:
          This year’s ISDC had up to five tracks running simultaneously with a sixth room acting as a hospitality suite and computer lounge. From what I could see, all tracks were well attended. I haven’t seen figures on attendance, but it had to be more than 800, and probably exceeded 1,000.
          Among the usual corporations, the Exhibits Hall featured the results of the NASA Ames Space Settlement Design Contest 2010, which was won by Prateeksha Das of the Ispat English Medium School in Odisha, India. Ms. Das got to present her winning design before one of the main luncheons.
          Perhaps because of this contest, there were an unusually large number of teenage attendees, including several dozen from India. This ensured full rooms for the Space Education track, and gave a pleasant international feel to the SEDS table.
          Most of the lecture rooms were near the south end of the hotel, but the Field Room and the lunches were at the northern end. Several meetings, including the Chapters Assembly and Board of Governors rooms were in the Teylers Room near the Field Room. This meant a considerable trek since the hotel is pretty large. The largest lecture room, Avedon DC, doubled as the room for dinners, which made sense because it could hold something like 500 people.
          I attended six of the eight possible banquets, opting out of the Friday night dinner featuring NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the Saturday night dinner featuring Buzz Aldrin. This gave me a chance to try McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant and an excellent scallop dish. As it happened, I had chicken dishes at all my ISDC meals, partly because I had a choice on Sunday night and decided not to break my streak.
          I attended as many lectures and panels as I could from Thursday through Sunday. There were talks and panels on Monday, July 31, but that day was devoted to the fourteen-hour drive from Chicago to Oklahoma City. Reviewing all the events would fill a very long newsletter, so I’ll hit the heights.

Some Speakers:
          Peter Diamandis was the luncheon speaker on Thursday. Diamandis was this year’s recipient of the NSS Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award from the National Space Society for his “significant, lifetime contributions to the creation of a free spacefaring civilization.” (This is not to be confused with the Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization, which he received in 2006. If Diamandis wrote science fiction, he could also receive the Robert A. Heinlein Award and complete a triple crown.)
          Diamandis is not only a founder of Space Adventures Ltd., as well as several other companies, he is the founder and Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation, and he spoke about several upcoming or suggested X PRIZEs. X Prizes are not limited to Aerospace, by the way. There is a Progressive Automotive X Prize and an Archon X Prize for Genomics.
          There are 21 teams from around the world for the Google Lunar X Prize, which is a “$30 million competition for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon, travel 500 meters and transmit video,
images and data back to the Earth.” First prize is $10 million.
          One that I think is proposed, though I couldn’t find it on the X Prize web site, is one for a Beamed Power Launch. This would require launching ten kilograms over thirty kilometers exclusively through beamed power, and the feat must be repeated again within 24 hours, with no more than 10% of the drag mass being replaced between flights.\
          A proposed X Prize is for asteroid deflection. This one would require a target asteroid at least fifty meters across in an orbit that doesn’t come close to intersecting Earth (so the winner doesn’t accidentally destroy Miami). The team must accurately predict how they will alter the asteroid’s orbit, and the deflection must at least after a year amount to the width of the Earth.
          There is also a proposed Orbital Debris Removal X Prize.
          There are also X Challenges, which only offer $1 million to the winner. One of these is to develop a life form that can grow and thrive under Martian conditions.

          Cliff was running the Business of Space Track, which went over Thursday and Friday, and on one day was split between two adjoining rooms. He was also running the microphone around the main programming room during the question and answer sessions, including during many talks that were not part of the Business Track.
          Dave Masten of Orion spoke on winning the Grumman Lunar Lander Centennial Challenge. He talked of all the Big Dumb Booster companies (Kistler, AMROC and many more) who struck out over and over again. Space companies need to show some past performance of getting things accomplished. Selling a company patented spin-off, for instance, showing results of their hard work will help investors validate the business case for your product.
          On Thursday, Bruce Pittman from NASA’s Ames Research Center spoke its role as a gateway to business. Ames works with Spaceship 11, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, Space X, Bigelow, Armadillo Aerospace, Masten, Cisco and a couple of companies whose names I couldn’t write fast enough to get. Pittman said that aircraft technology development in the US was at a standstill in 1915 because of a patent dispute by the Wright Brothers (Orville alone after 1912) against Glenn Curtis and other early aviators. NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics was founded in 1915 to help develop airplane technology. NACA lasted until 1958 when it was dissolved into the newly founded NASA.
          NASA has its own version of X Prizes, hence COTS and the space suit competition. The two kinds of competition complement each other.
          Space X needs an escape system to get its Dragon capsule human rated.
          There are still plans to go back to the Moon, first through robots.
          NASA goes through a bidding process for launching space probes and Space X would be free to bid for that.

          On Friday there was a related COTS update by Dennis Stone. The Commercial Crew and Cargo Program office was founded at the Johnson Space Center in 2005. There are several possible levels of capability that private space companies can compete for:

          Space X’s COTS agreement, for example, is for levels A, B and C. Level D is not funded, although they also plan to have the Dragon capsule man-rated in a few years which would potential allow them to perform crew transportation without COTS funding.
          COTS and CCDev (Commercial Crew Development) use funded SAA agreements which have pre-negotiated milestones with objective success criteria.
          COTS partners do not use the NASA logo, so they don’t need NASA’s permission to brand with third parties. This creates a potential advertising market that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

          Since this was the first ISDC since the Obama Administration presented its space plans for the near future, there was a lively debate on that running through the conference. Among the meal speakers were NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, as well as Jeff Greason of the Augustine Committee. In addition, Apollo Astronaut and NSS Governor Buzz Aldrin and NSS Governor Freeman Dyson spoke in favor of the plan and their own visions of the future of manned space flight.
          On Saturday, there were two hours of debate on the Obama space plan and the cancellation of Constellation, the first an impromptu one between Scott Pace and Lori Garver (who crashed the presentation after her lecture, but that may have been pre-arranged), the second between Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart and Mars Society President Robert Zubrin. Shweickart was the pro, while Zubrin was more critical, especially of the cancellation of Ares 1 and Ares 5.
          Ms. Garver was the lunch speaker on Saturday, and she was speaking on potential grand challenges in space. Some of these were: finding life beyond Earth; making access to space more economical; securing the planet for space threats; providing economical energy on demand; and enabling human resources to explore space. Lori and Scott disagreed over what will happen over the next few years. Scott thinks there’s too much risk at this time on turning to the private sector for launch services. He’s still in favor of some version of Constellation, I gather. In the question and answer session, Ed Strickland pointed out that by the time Ares V would have been ready for launch, Space X will have already re-supplied the space station a dozen times.
          NSS has approved Obama’s approach to space. It’s worth noting that Lori Garver is a former Executive Director of NSS and that another former Executive Director, George Whitesides, was Bolden’s Chief of Staff.; he recently resigned to become CEO of Virgin Galactic.
                    
          Freeman Dyson was the Sunday night speaker and this was the Chapters Awards banquet.  He also received the NSS’s Gerard K. O’Neill Memorial Award which honors individuals noted for their contributions to space science. Previous winners of the award were Harrison Schmitt, John Marburger and Peter Koch.
          Dyson was a friend of Gerard O’Neill, and he took the occasion to remind of one of O’Neill’s final proposals, which Dyson presented to Congress after O’Neill’s death: a system of railways that would travel in evacuated tunnels beneath the Earth at speeds of a thousand miles per hour. Actually the system is more complex than that: people would travel in packets that would be controlled by computers so they wouldn’t collide. Dyson compared this to the Internet. [I reflected: Ted Stevens thought the Internet is a series of tubes? Maybe he had a point.]
          Anyway, that railway system obviously was not approved, but it’s a small proposal compared with others by O’Neill and Dyson. Dyson, after all, thought up the Dyson Sphere, which would surround a star and have a diameter of 186,000,000 miles!
          Dyson’s talk was on the American and Russian attitudes to space. He said that although the American unmanned space program has been very successful, that the manned program (since Apollo 11) at least, has been a failure and that this is because we generally approach it in terms of a decade. This keeps us from building on previous knowledge. Despite the United States being the primary partner in the International Space Station, we act as if it’s almost an embarrassment and are practically ready to hand it off. The Russians, on the other hand, are proud of it, have museums dedicated to it, and take a much longer view toward space travel, building on the systems they already have.

          On Thursday, NASA scientist Narayanan Rachandran spoke on Artificial Gravity. Some bodily systems adapt slowly to microgravity while others (bone) do not adapt at all; in fact, calcium loss from bones is one of the major worries for long-term space stays. In one study, ten minutes a day of vibration promoted near normal bone formation in rats whose hind legs were suspended all day, but it wasn’t clear to me that this would scale up to humans. Red cells change morphology in microgravity. More than one hundred genes in epithelial cells change function in microgravity, while only a few do in a centrifuge. Magnetic levitation offers the opportunity for extended variable g, from low-g to high-g.
          On a related topic, on Friday there was a track, Space 2.0: Rebooting Our Space Vision, which seemed to mostly be James Logan. One of his subjects was “Radiation and Microgravity: the Ultimate Show Stoppers,” in which he tried to deflate some of the more optimistic views of living in outer space. For example osteoblasts form bone and osteoclasts resorb it. In space, osteoblasts keep working while osteoclasts stop. (Isn’t this backward?) Thus bones deteriorate. The Russians dealt with this problem through selection.
          In fifty years of space flight, we have yet to see a single mammal go to term.
          On the bright side, motion sickness lasts 3 – 4 days, then you can’t make the astronaut sick.
          Cosmic rays swim “against” the solar wind, so when the sun is quiescent, the cosmic ray flux to astronauts increases. Radiation in space ages astronauts prematurely.
          At the surface of the Earth, the atmosphere protects us against 1030 rems per cubic centimeter of radiation. To get equivalent shielding on the moon, you would need five meters of shielding. The surface of Mars might be even worse because of spallation: when cosmic rays encounter a matter in the atmosphere, it produces secondary particles, including protons, neutrons, transformed nuclei and more exotic particles. These secondary particles may themselves be energetic enough to repeat the process. The Earth’s atmosphere protects us against both primary and secondary cosmic rays, but secondary rays can still bombard the Martian surface. [Note: a positive effect of this is that spallation also produces lithium, beryllium and boron, which would probably otherwise be much rarer. It also produces such notable radioactive isotopes as tritium and carbon-14.]

Chapters Assembly:
          I attended the Chapters Assembly meeting on Friday Night. Tom was chairing his last meeting and assigned me to take notes, which was a mistake because I found it very difficult to hear a lot of the speakers, so my notes are very incoherent. Vice-Chair Dennis Pearson recorded at least the first half of the meeting, so hopefully he can make more sense of it. I suggest future meetings either be recorded on audio tape, or, preferably on videotape.
          NSS used to provide a list of local members to people forming new chapters, but cannot now because of a change in the bylaws.
          Candace announced five $25 prizes would be given out at the awards ceremony on Sunday (for chapters who got their reports in on time). This year’s award got messed up. Hopefully next year’s won’t be. She took numbers for a drawing.
          Ronnie Lajoie said we stand to lose $300 in deposits if we don’t use our chapters account, and there was a long discussion on what to do with that. $50 was awarded to Candace for expenses she’d run up working for the Assembly. Someone suggested $25 in matching funds for a science award. Bruce Mackenzie suggested $25 to help chapters get started. Tom finally suggested turning the funds (except the award to Candace) over to the Chapters Committee and this motion passed.\
          David Stuart mentioned that fifty copies of Ad Astra had been mailed to each chapter to distribute as they saw fit. Apparently this will be a continuing thing, so Oklahoma Space Alliance needs to come up with a plan for handling them. We should also have received brochures. (We haven’t, but we did get the Ad Astras.)
          There’s an address on the chapter form page for notification of changes in chapter information.
          There was a proposal that NSS provide chapters information on a course on leadership and grant writing. This motion went through a lot of changes, was reworded about five times after initial submission, and was voted down; in my case because there seemed no agreement on the wording of the proposal on which we were voting.
          Bruce Mackenzie is putting together a 3-D Mars model.

          --Submitted by OSA Secretary Syd Henderson

Viewing Opportunities for Satellites (July 16 – August 21, 2010)

          You can get sighting information at www.heavens-above.com/. Heavens Above allows you to get Station data for 10 day periods, and gives you a constellation map showing the trajectory of the satellite. If you go to the bottom of the map page, it will give you a really detailed map with the location at 10 or 15-second intervals, depending on detail. In fact, the detailed charts will even show you the tracks against maps of the constellations, which should help you if you are familiar with the night sky.
          Sky Online (the Sky & Telescope web site) carries station observation times for the next few nights at skyandtelescope.com/observing/almanac. With the addition of the solar panels, the Space Station can be as bright as magnitude -3.5, making it brighter than all the stars other than the Sun, although magnitude -1 to -2 is more likely. The Hubble Space Telescope can get up to magnitude 1.5, which is brighter than the stars in the Big Dipper, although, since it is lower in the sky, it is a bit more difficult to see. 
          Missions to the Space Station may change its orbit. The Progress 38 cargo carrier was launched on June 30 and should have arrived. I don’t know of any other missions during the viewing period. Be sure to check Heavens Above or www.jsc.nasa.gov/sightings/ before going out to watch.  The last mission to the Hubble Telescope has already occurred so its information should be reliable.

Station  July 16, 2010
Time           Position           Elevation
8:50 p.m.         307°                  18°
8:51              300                    36
8:52              224                    73
8:53              147                    37
8:54              140                    48

Station  August 3, 2010
Time           Position           Elevation
6:21 a.m.         240°                17°
6:22              250                 35
6:23              315                 64
6:24               28                 36
6:25               38                 16

Station  August 5, 2010
Time           Position           Elevation
Appears from Earth’s shadow
5:39 a.m.         250°                32°
5:40              311                 55
5:41               19                 36
5:42               34                 19

HST  August 18, 2010
Time           Position           Elevation
9:16 p.m.         216°                19°
9:17              198                 26*
9:18              172                 29
9:19              147                 25
9:20              130                 20
Vanishes into Earth’s shadow
* Passes 1° below Moon

HST  August 19, 2010
Time           Position           Elevation
9:14 p.m.         222°                20°
9:15              203                 27
9:16              176                 31*
9:17              149                 27
9:18              131                 20

HST  August 20, 2010
Time           Position           Elevation
9:12 p.m.         225°                21°
9:13              207                 28
9:14              180                 32
9:15              152                 28*
9:16              133                 21
* Passes across face of Moon

Station  August 21, 2010
Time           Position           Elevation
6:14 a.m.         315°                18°
6:15              319                 36
6:16               31                 81
6:17              125                 38
6:18              128                 18

HST  August 21, 2010
Time           Position           Elevation
9:09 p.m.         229°                21°
9:10              210                 28
9:11              183                 31
9:12              156                 28
9:13              137                 21
          
          Pass times are from Heavens Above
          Key: Position is measured in degrees clockwise from north. That is, 0° is due north, 90° is due east, 180° is due south, and 270° is due west.  Your fist held at arm's length is about ten degrees wide. "Elevation" is elevation above the horizon in degrees. Thus, to find the Hubble Space Telescope at 9:10 p.m. on August 21, measure three fist-widths west from due south, then a little under three fist-widths above the horizon.
          All times are rounded off to the nearest minute except for times when the satellite enters or leaves the shadow of the Earth. The highest elevation shown for each viewing opportunity is the actual maximum elevation for that appearance.
          J-Pass provides a service called J-Pass Generator, which will e‑mail you sighting information for the next three days for up to ten satellites. For more information, go to science.nasa.gov/Realtime/JPass/PassGenerator/.

Space News

          “Rocketplane, which received $18 million in Oklahoma tax credits, filed for bankruptcy last month,” by Scott Cooper and Ben Fenwick, Oklahoma Gazette, July 7, 2010. (If you don’t have a copy of the newspaper, the article is also at www.okgazette.com in the news section.)
          “George French, Jr., the owner of Rocketplane Global…filed the Chapter 7 bankruptcy papers in his home state of Wisconsin, but Oklahomans are suffering the loss.” The bankruptcy actually affects three companies, Rocketplane Global, Rocketplane, Inc.  the parent and Rocketplane Kistler the other child company, as well as French himself.
          Rocketplane Kistler was, along with Space X, one of the initial companies with COTS agreements. However, it never made the financial milestones required by the agreement, and after an extension in February 2007, NASA terminated the agreement in October, 2007. Eventually Orbital Sciences Corporation won a bid for the remaining funds and looks like it fulfill its part of the bargain.
          Rocketplane Limited, as it was called then, received $18 million in tax credits in 2003 to build a rocket for suborbital space tourism. In February 2006, French purchased Kistler Aerospace and changed the name to Rocketplane Kistler, with Rocketplane Limited being renamed Rocketplane Global. By 2009, all the Rocketplanes had quietly left Oklahoma and had laid off most of their employees. There was a sort of last hurrah at the ISDC with Charles Lauer speaking on behalf of Rocketplane Global, but it had become obvious over the years they were never going to launch anything. The “Global” label was added in hopes to find money in other states since no more was forthcoming from Oklahoma.
          Despite the declaration of bankruptcy, Rocketplane still owes a business tax in Oklahoma. There are other millions of dollars in lawsuits pending against the company as well.

          The Japanese Ikaros Venus probe has unfurled its solar sail and is indeed being accelerated by solar light. The thrust is only 0.0002 pounds of force, but it is continuous and will add up, and requires no fuel at all. The entire spacecraft weighs nearly 700 pounds and the sail is a square forty-six feet to a side. Ikaros is the first spacecraft to use a solar sail as the main means of propulsion. The Japanese space agency JAXA intends to follow it up with a solar sail mission to Jupiter.

          The Hayabusa  space probe returned to Earth on June 13 after a seven year voyage which including a landing on the near-Earth Asteroid 25143 Itokawa. It stood on the asteroid for about 30 minutes. But it was not clear at the time whether that Hayabusa had managed to collect a sample while it was there. Among other problems, the probe had been damaged by a solar flare, and two wheels that governed attitude also failed. During the landing, the probe entered a safe descent mode, so a sample wasn’t taken, but there was hope some dust might have been collected. The MINERVA hopper failed completely to miss the surface.
          Japanese space scientists have been waiting five years to find out whether Hayabusa collected a sample at all.  The verdict appears to be “possibly.” There are dust particles in the collection apparatus, but it’s not clear whether they come from Itokawa or are contaminants from Earth. There’s even a small possibility the particles may be cosmic dust. Investigation will take months before we have an answer.

          The European Space Agency’s Rosetta space probe visited asteroid 21 Lutetia on June 10, marking its second flyby of an asteroid. On September 5, Rosetta flew by 2867 Šteins, which is only four miles long. Lutetia, by contrast, is eighty miles in length, and averages sixty miles across. Lutetia is also of interest because it is M-type asteroid, which means that it appears to be mostly metal, and its density of 5.5 grams per cubic centimeter would appear to bear that out; that’s more than two-thirds the density of iron. However the surface appears to be more rocky, and previous spectral analysis looked more like a carbonaceous chondrite, which would have nothing like the observed density, so Lutetia is something of a mystery.
          Lutetia was discovered on November 15, 1852 by Hermann Goldschmidt from the balcony of his apartment in Paris.  Lutetia was the Latin name for Paris; in 360 the town was renamed for the Parisii. (The chemical element lutetium is also named after this old name for Paris.) As the number indicates, it was the 21st asteroid to be discovered.
          At closest approach, Rosetta was 1900 miles from Lutetia.
          Rosetta is not done with encounters. Indeed, Lutetia was a secondary objective. In mid-2014 Rosetta will achieve orbit with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and later that year it will launch the Philae lander to the comet.

Sky Viewing

          We’re having an unusual lineup in the western sky this week due to the fact that the first-magnitude star Regulus is almost exactly on the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun through the sky. The ecliptic marks the plane of Earth’s orbit, and, all the other planets orbit in planes close to it, except for Pluto and other dwarf planets. This week at sunset four planets and Regulus are strung out along the line of the ecliptic. In order, from top to bottom, they are Saturn, Mars, Venus, Regulus and Mercury. Magnitudes are Saturn at +1.1 (head of Virgo), Mars +1.4 (foot of Leo), Venus -4.1 (also in Leo), Regulus +1.35 (bottom of the Sickle asterism in Leo) and Mercury (-0.6). The Moon is also in the western sky and its orbit is pretty close to the ecliptic, but is a few degrees below the line of planets. (If the Moon’s orbit were exactly on the ecliptic, we’d get solar and lunar eclipses every month.)
          Mercury is low in the western sky about 45 minutes after sunset, and will keep that position with respect to the Sun for the next couple of weeks as Mercury slowly dims. Mercury is at greatest elongation on August 6, but that’s not when it’s brightest; it will be magnitude 0.3 by then. Mercury is actually getting closer to us but less of its disk is being illuminated for us. Unlike Venus, which is brightest when it is a crescent, Mercury is brightest when it is a gibbous phase. This is because Venus is much closer to Earth when it is a crescent and proximity makes up for less of the surface being lit. Since Mercury and Venus show quarter-faces at greatest elongation, this means Mercury is at its brightest sometime between greatest elongation and superior conjunction, and Venus is at its brightest at some time between inferior conjunction and greatest elongation. Mercury will be in inferior conjunction on September 3.
          Venus is currently magnitude -4.1 and is between superior conjunction and its August 20 greatest elongation, which means it’s getting brighter. Venus will actually peak in brightness on September 27, at which point it will be approximately magnitude -4.7. It’s easy to locate: Just look in the western sky at sunset and it’s the first “star” to appear, and does so before the sky is truly dark.
          Mars is gradually pulling away from the Earth and growing dimmer. It is currently about the same brightness as Regulus. It’s currently approaching the boundary of Leo and Virgo, a region with few bright stars, but is moving away from Regulus toward Spica, which it will pass around the beginning of September.
          Saturn is already in Virgo and is closer to Spica than Regulus. Saturn is magnitude 1.1 and will actually brighten a bit in August. It will also get harder to see because it is approaching conjunction with the Sun at the end of September.
          With four planets in the same part of the sky, it’s not surprising that there will be several planetary conjunctions over the next months. On July 27, Mercury will be a half-degree (Moon’s width) below and to the left of Regulus. The best time to look is about 45 minutes after sunlight. Since they are both fairly close to the horizon, it may be possible to pick them out. Mercury is about a magnitude brighter,
          Mars and Saturn will be within two degrees of each other for several days toward the end of the month. On August 8, Mars, Saturn and Venus will form a right triangle with Venus at the right angle, Saturn above it and Mars to the left; the three will be within five degrees of each other. Mars and Venus will get within two degrees of each other from August 17 through 19, and hang around each other for a couple of weeks.
          Jupiter is rising late in the evening and is getting brighter. It is magnitude -2.6 at the moment and will be up to magnitude -2.9 by the end of August. Since Venus is an evening star, Jupiter will reign during the late night whenever the Moon is not in the sky. Jupiter is in the constellation Pisces. The circle of stars to the right and above it is the asterism called the Circlet, and marks the head of one of the fishes. You can’t see the Circlet with city lights, but it’s fairly easy to find in a dark sky.
          Uranus is also in Pisces and is approaching a conjunction with Jupiter in September. The two planets will be within three degrees of each other for the next couple of months. They will actually be within a degree of each other on September 22, only two days after September 20 when the two planets simultaneously reach opposition. Because of retrograde motion (because the Earth orbits faster than outer planets, they appear sometimes to move backward against the stars), there are actually three conjunctions in seven months. The ones last June 6 and next January 2 are even closer than this one. Since Uranus is magnitude 5.8, you’ll have to use Jupiter to help you find it.
          Neptune is still near the border of Aquarius and Capricornus and will be for years. It will be at opposition on August 20, but will still only be magnitude 7.8.
          Finder charts for 2010 for Uranus and Neptune are available at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/highlights/85530917.html.
[Information from skyandtelescope.com and the July and August issues of both Astronomy and Sky & Telescope.]

Calendar of Events
          
          July 17: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 3:00 p.m. Location to be announced.
          July 20: 41st anniversary of first manned moon landing
          July 23 – 25: Space Frontier Foundation New SpaceConference at the Domain Hotel in Silicon Valley, California. National Space Society is a co-sponsor. For information, visit newspace2010.spacefrontier.org/index.php
          August 5 – 8: 13th Annual International Mars Society Convention in Dayton, Ohio. For more information, visit www.marssociety.org/portal/c/Conventions/2010-annual-convention/
          August 6: Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation, 27° from the Sun (hence can be seen after sunset).
          August 12-13: Perseid meteor shower peaks. This shower takes place just after new moon and should produce about three meteors per minute.
          August 20: Venus is at greatest eastern elongation, 46° from the Sun (hence can be seen after sunset).
          August 20: Neptune is at opposition.
          August 21: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 3:00 p.m. Location to be announced.
          September 18: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 3:00 p.m. Location to be announced.
          September 19: Mercury is at greatest western elongation, 18° from the Sun (hence can be seen before sunrise).
          September 20: Jupiter and Uranus are both at opposition and less than a degree apart. This will be Jupiter’s closest opposition in eleven years.
          September 21: Jupiter is at opposition. This is the closest Jupiter will come to Earth in the next 20 years, about 370 million miles.
          September 30: Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun.
          October 16: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 3:00 p.m. Location to be announced.
          October 28: Venus in inferior conjunction with the Sun.
          November 1: Launch of Discovery to the Space Station. This is the last scheduled mission for Discovery. Launch time is currently projected for 3:33 p.m. [CDT]. [Moved from September.]
          November 20: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 3:00 p.m. Location to be announced.
          December: Japan’s Akatsuki (aka Venus Climate Orbiter and Planet C) arrives at Venus.
          December 1: Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation, 21° from the Sun (hence can be seen after sunset).
          December 18: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance Christmas Party. Location and time to be announced.
          December 21: Total eclipse of the Moon, visible just after midnight in North and South America.
          December 26: Pluto is in conjunction with the Sun.
          Sometime in 2011: China will launch two missions to the Tiangong 1 space station. The first will be an unmanned mission and the second a manned docking mission.
          January 2. 2011: Jupiter is 0.6° south of Uranus.
          January 8, 2011: Venus is at greatest western elongation, 47° from the Sun (hence can be seen before sunrise).
          January 9, 2010: Mercury is at greatest western elongation, 23° from the Sun (hence can be seen before sunrise).
          February 4,  2011: Mars is in conjunction with the Sun.
          February 16, 2011: Launch of Endeavour to the Space Station. This is the scheduled conclusion of the space shuttle program. Launch time is currently projected for 4:19 p.m. [CDT] [Moved from July 2010.]
          March 18, 2011: MESSENGER goes into orbit around Mercury.
          June 15, 2011: Total eclipse of the Moon, visible in South America and most of Eastern Hemisphere.
          August 5, 2011: Launch of the Juno mission to Jupiter. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juno_(spacecraft) or http://juno.wisc.edu/ for details.
          August 15, 2011: Launch of NuSTAR space probe from Kwajalein via a Pegasus rocket. NuSTAR will search for black holes, supernova remnants and active galaxies. For more details, visit www.nustar.caltech.edu/ or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_Spectroscopic_Telescope_Array.
          September 8, 2011: Launch of GRAIL, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, to orbit the Moon. This is actually a dual probe mission. For more information, visit http://moon.mit.edu/index.html.
          October 2011: Dawn probe orbits Vesta. See dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/  or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawn_Mission for details.
          October 2011 – April 2012: Dawn probe orbits Vesta.
          November 25, 2011: The Mars Science Laboratory (aka Curiosity) is launched. See marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ for details
          December 10, 2011: Total eclipse of the Moon. This one is at its best in Russia, eastern Asia, Australia, Alaska and the Yukon, but the early part of the eclipse will be visible in the rest of North America.
          Late 2011 or early 2012: Launch of the Phobos-Grunt sample return mission to the Martian moon Phobos. For more information, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobos-Grunt. The orbiter will remain to study Mars while the soil sample will arrive on Earth in late 2012 or early in 2013.
          Sometime in 2012: Russia launches the “Luna-Glob” mission which will deploy 13 mini-probes upon the lunar surface. For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luna-Glob.
          March 3, 2012: Mars is at opposition at magnitude -1.2. This is the worst opposition for the next twenty years.
          April 2012: Dawn probe leaves orbit around Vesta for Ceres.
          June 6, 2012: Venus transits the Sun's disk.  The early part of this will be visible from the United States, but the full transit will only be visible from the western Pacific Ocean, eastern Asia, eastern Australia, and eastern Indonesia including New Guinea.
          Fall 2012: The Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover lands on Mars. See marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ for details.
          April 17, 2013: Mars is in conjunction with the Sun.
          December 30, 2013: Earliest launch date for India’s Chandrayaan II. This mission will include a lunar rover. For more information, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrayaan-2.
          Sometime in 2014: The European Space Agency/JAXA BepiColombo Mercury Orbiter is launched. Home page is sci.esa.int/science-e/www/area/index.cfm?fareaid=30.
          June 2014: Earliest date for the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.
          August 2014 - December 2015: The Rosetta space probe orbits comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In November, 2014, it will release the Philae lander. Web page is www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Rosetta or visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_%28spacecraft%29
          Sometime in 2015 or 2016: Launch of SIM PlanetQuest (aka the Space Interferometry Mission). This mission was originally supposed to have been launched in 2005 and has been delayed at least five times. It was recently moved from 2012. For more information, visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Interferometry_Mission.
          February 2015: Dawn space probe arrives at Ceres. Operations are scheduled to continue through July. Dawn may continue on to other asteroids if it is still operational.
          July 14, 2015: The New Horizons probe passes through the Pluto-Charon system. The New Horizons web site is pluto.jhuapl.edu/.
          Sometime in 2016: ESA launches the ExoMars Mars Rover. For more information, visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exomars.
          July 2016-2020:  The New Horizons probe visits the Kuiper Belt.
          August 21, 2017: The next total solar eclipse visible in the United States, on a pretty straight path from Portland, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina.  St. Louis is the biggest city in-between.
          Summer of 2020 (approximate) BepiColombo arrives at Mercury orbit.
          April 8, 2024: A total solar eclipse crosses the US from the middle of the Mexico-Texas border, crosses Arkansas, southern Missouri, Louisville, Cleveland, Buffalo and northern New England.
          August 12, 2045: The next total solar eclipse visible in Oklahoma.  This one is also visible in Salt Lake City, Denver, Little Rock (again), Tampa Bay and New Orleans.

          Space-Related Articles

          “Glimpses of an Evolving Planet,” by Jeff Hecht, Sky & Telescope, August 2010, pp. 20 – 26. When we look for Earth-like planets around other stars, we need not only to look for planets that look like Earth as it is now, but also how it looked in the past (or the future, which would require guesswork). The author looks at the Earth’s history, which he divides into:
          Hadean Earth (4.56 to 3.8 billion years ago), from its formation thru a major bombardment 3.9 billion years ago when Jupiter and Saturn were in a 2 – 1 resonance; this remelted much of the Earth’s crust. Earth had a nitrogen-carbon dioxide-water vapor atmosphere, sometimes with vaporized rock. Oddly, there were oceans when the Earth wasn’t being beaten to a pulp. Since carbon dioxide and water are greenhouse gases, the Earth would have been warm despite the Sun only being 70% as luminous as today.
          Archean Earth (3.8 – 2.5 billion years ago): Bacterial life (it may have begun during the Hadean Eon), including early photosynthesis involving sulfur rather than oxygen. Many organisms produce methane, which accumulates in the atmosphere (and is a powerful greenhouse gas). Oxygen-generating photosynthesis began 2.7 billion years ago, but this early oxygen reacted with soluble iron compounds in the ocean. [Ferrous compounds are soluble in water, but ferric compounds mostly aren’t. Many of the world’s oldest iron deposits date from this time.] Because the methane would have reacted with ultraviolet light from the Sun an organic haze would have covered the Earth. In other words, Earth would have looked from space like a warm Titan.
          Proterozoic Earth (2.5 billion to 600 million years ago): oxygen continues to precipitate iron, but by 2.45 billion years ago is also accumulating in the atmosphere. A side effect of this was the creation of the ozone layer, which blocked most ultraviolet light from reaching the lower atmosphere and reacting with methane, so the haze would have vanished. Oxygen would still not be more that 1 to 10 percent of modern levels. Oxygen would also reduce the amount of methane in the atmosphere. Indeed the presence of both oxygen and methane in the atmosphere is a sure indication of life, since the two gases react to produce carbon dioxide and water. Alien observers pointing a spectroscope at Earth would know Earth harbored life.
          With photosynthesis consuming carbon dioxide and oxygen consuming methane, two of the greenhouse gases were being removed from the atmosphere. Ozone is also a greenhouse gas, so the formation of the ozone layer would partly compensate for this, as would the gradual warming of the Sun. Still, there were episodes of great cooling during the Proterozoic, including three episodes of “Snowball Earth.” Supposedly the Earth’s surface was completely covered in ice, but I don’t see how photosynthetic organisms could possibly survive that. Perhaps there was still open water near the equator. Carbon dioxide from volcanos eventually warmed the Earth back up.
          Animal life expands (600 to 450 million years ago), and simple plants and fungi move onto the land. Oxygen levels quickly went over 15% of the atmosphere, but apparently there were no more episodes of “Snowball Earth.”
          The Green Earth (450 million years ago to today): Vascular plants spread across the land, producing forests and grasslands, Oxygen levels increased rapidly, sometimes reaching more than thirty percent, with a peak of 35% during the Carboniferous Period. [This is one of the reasons there were giant dragonflies during that period. Modern oxygen levels are 22%.] Carbon dioxide levels fell to the current 0.04% of the atmosphere, and sometimes was well below even that. The plants covering the Earth’s land would produce spectral changes observable from other stars, and the rise in oxygen would be a clincher. Changes in animal life would be largely undetectable, although the sudden rise in trace molecules like chlorofluorocarbons would be suspicious. Detecting these in the atmosphere of other planets would be an indicator of intelligent life (okay, intelligent life messing up), but even on Earth, these will be in the atmosphere for a very short time.
          Future Earths: “Unless we turn to geoengineering on a massive scale—such as covering the planet with a haze layer to reduce incoming sunlight—human activities are unlikely to change Earth’s spectral signatures to a telescope orbiting Alpha Centauri.” In a few billion years, however, the sun will have warmed up enough to produce a runaway greenhouse effect
both from raising the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, and, eventually, carbon dioxide as well. A very ancient Earth-like planet may wind up looking a lot like Venus.

          “Einstein’s Ultimate Laboratory,” by Michael Kramer, Sky & Telescope, August 2010, pp 28 – 34. The star-system J0737-3039 seems perfectly designed by nature to test Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. It consists of two pulsars only 540,000 miles apart, in orbits edge-on to the Earth, so they periodically eclipse each other, no mean feat when you consider they are only about eight miles across. J0737-3039 was the first, and is still the only, known double pulsar, with an orbital period of two hours and twenty-five minutes.
          One of the key pieces of evidence for General Relativity is the precession of Mercury’s orbit by 0.00012° per year. (It wasn’t a prediction because the precession was discovered in 1859 by Urbain Le Verrier, better known as the discoverer of Neptune.) In contrast, the orbits of the two pulsars precesses by 16.9° per year. In other words, a complete precession cycle lasts only 21.3 years. By comparison, the precession cycle of Mercury’s orbit last three million years.
          The first prediction of General Relativity that was born out was the warping of space around the Sun. This forces light to travel a longer path as it passes the Sun, which means there’s also a tiny delay on how long it takes the light to reach us. This is called the Shapiro delay, which was actually first detected in 1964. When the pulsars are lined up with respect to the Earth, we get a Shapiro delay of 100 microseconds for light from the more distant pulsar.
          We also have several different ways to find the masses of the pulsars. For example, the size of the orbits gives the relative masses, while relativistic effects can give the masses directly. All these tests agree, which is a strong indicator that the Theory of Relativity is accurate. The more massive pulsar has a mass of 1.3381 suns, and the less massive 1.2489 suns, both to an accuracy of 0.0007 suns.
          The double pulsar was detected in 2003. The smaller pulsar’s axis precesses, so we unfortunately lost its signal in 2009. It’s uncertain how long it will  be before we get it back, but rotational precession cycle is 71 years. The orbits of the pulsars are decaying, with the emission of gravity waves, and they will collide in 83 million years.
          
Oklahoma Space Alliance Officers, 2010 (Area Code 405)

Tom Koszoru, President                                        366-1797 (H)
John Northcutt, Vice-President                              390-3476 (H)
Syd Henderson, Secretary & Outreach Editor       321-4027 (H)
Tim Scott, Treasurer                                              740-7549 (H)
Claire McMurray, Correspondence Secretary/Update Editor
                    329-4326 (H) 863-6173 (C)

OSA E-mail Addresses and Web Site:

claire.mcmurray at sbcglobal.net                    (Claire McMurray)
T_Koszoru atcox.net                                    (Heidi and Tom Koszoru)
john.d.northcutt1 at tds.net                            (John Northcutt)
sydh at ou.edu                                               (Syd Henderson)
ctscott at mac.com                                        (Tim Scott)
lensman13 at aol.com                                    (Steve Galpin)

          E-mail for OSA should be sent to sydh@ou.edu.  Members who wish their e-mail addresses printed in Outreach, and people wishing space-related materials e-mailed to them should contact Syd.  Oklahoma Space Alliance website is chapters.nss.org/ok/osanss.html. Webmaster is Syd Henderson.

Other Information
          
          Oklahoma Space Industrial Development Authority (OSIDA), 401 Sooner Drive/PO Box 689, Burns Flat, OK 73624, 580-562-3500.  Web site www.state.ok.us/~okspaceport.
          Science Museum Oklahoma (former Omniplex) website is www.sciencemuseumok.org. Main number is 602-6664.
          Tulsa Air and Space Museum, 7130 E. Apache, Tulsa, OK  74115.
Web Site is www.tulsaairandspacemuseum.com.  Phone (918)834-9900.
          The Mars Society address is Mars Society, Box 273, Indian Hills CO 80454. Their web address is www.marsociety.org.
          The National Space Society's Headquarters phone is 202-429-1600.  The Chapters Coordinator is Bennett Rutledge 720-529-8024.  The address is:  National Space Society, 1620 I (Eye) Street NW Ste. 615, Washington, DC 20006.    Web page is www.nss.org.  
          The Planetary Society phone 626-793-5100. The address is 65 North Catalina, Avenue, Pasadena, California, 91106-2301 and the website is www.planetary.org. E-mail is tps@planetary.org.
          NASA Spacelink BBS 205-895-0028.  Or try www.nasa.gov.  .
          Congressional Switchboard 202/224-3121.
           Write to any U. S. Senator or Representative at [name]/ Washington DC, 20510 (Senate) or 20515 [House]
.
 OKLAHOMA SPACE ALLIANCE
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          National Space Society has a special $30 introductory rate for new members ($35 for new international members).  Regular membership rates are $55, international $65.  Student memberships are $25.  Part of the cost is for the magazine, Ad Astra.  Mail to: National Space Society, 1620 I (Eye) Street NW, Washington DC 20006, or join at www.nss.org/membership. (Brochures are at the bottom with the special rate.) Be sure to ask them to credit your membership to Oklahoma Space Alliance.
          To join the Mars Society, visit.  One-year memberships are $50.00; student and senior memberships are $25, and Family memberships are $100.00.    Their address is Mars Society, Box 273, Indian Hills CO 80454.

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