A Chapter of the National Space Society

Oklahoma Space Alliance Home 

OUTREACH July 2006

          Oklahoma Space Alliance has a new web site: osa.nss.org/index.html. I (Syd Henderson) am the webmaster. There isn’t much on it yet because I’m still learning html and just got Dreamweaver from Oklahoma University. (I get it free because I’m staff, and can even take classes telling me how to use it.) I managed to get an Oklahoma Space Alliance logo by the simple method of scanning my t-shirt and deleting everything that wasn’t logo.
          My intentions include having a lot of space-related links in a column on the left, a calendar of upcoming events like that below, some permanent articles on space (for instance, what are the Lagrangian points and where are they located), a list of exoplanets, space probes, etc., as well as recent issues of Outreach and Update.

July Meeting

          Oklahoma Space Alliance will have a short meeting at 8:00 p.m. on July 15 at the SoonerCon Science Fiction Convention at the Bricktown Central Plaza in Oklahoma City. This is located at 2001 E. Reno Avenue, the northeast corner of East Reno and South Martin Luther King Avenues, and is only a hundred yards from I-40. We will have a party later in the evening, probably beginning around 9:00 p.m. The meeting and party will both be in Syd Henderson’s room, and we’ll have signs up telling you where that will be. You don’t have to pay admission to the convention to come to the meeting and party, but you do if you wish to attend convention events. Two-day admission to the conference is $25.00. For more information on SoonerCon, visit www.soonercon.com.
          The time I scheduled for the party will conflict with the Masquerade, also scheduled for 9:00 p.m., and something called Sinner Con, which will run for most of the evening. I have a schedule forwarded to me by Leonard Bishop, and it’s far more complete than the one on their web site.


Invitation from Challenger Learning Center

Hello Aerospace enthusiasts!

I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer.  I am really excited about our day camp!
            In fact, so excited that I want to invite all of you to our Star Party, in lieu of a regular meeting this month.  It will be held July 19 from 8:00 pm 'til 10:00 pm (roughly!), at the EOC Tech, 4601 S. Choctaw Road, in Choctaw.  Rose State College has graciously agreed to bring out their inflatable planetarium, and astronomer, Chad Ellington, will be conducting a planetarium show.  Then the students, and attendees will be able to do some star gazing using a variety of telescopes. (If you have a telescope and want to bring, feel free to do so.)  We will have some refreshments available.  We will also have a photo op for the students as they "pilot" Amelia Bearheart's bi-plane.  The students and families will be paying a $5 fee to offset some of our costs.
            I hope you will be able to join us at the party, and talk to some of our campers and their families.
 I leave you with this quote from one of my favorite movies, Disney's "Cinderella":  "A dream is a wish your heart makes", we are making some of those wishes come true!


[Magi is Magi Whitaker with the Challenger Learning Center.—SFH]

Minutes of June Meeting

         Oklahoma Space Alliance met at the Oklahoma City Public Library on June 17. Attending were Tom Koszoru, John Northcutt and Syd Henderson. This was our first meeting at the new Library, which is located on the south side of Park Avenue a little east of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and across from the Courthouse. The new building is spacious, with lots of windows and a quite a few meeting rooms on the north side. What it does not seem to have, as near as we could fine out, was easily accessible free parking on a Saturday afternoon, so we will be considering other meeting places such as the Norman and Moore Libraries.
         As we did not have a quorum, and those did attend had to leave to feed the parking meters, we were not able to conduct formal business.
         The National Conference on Educational Robotics was coming up at the Postal Training Center in Norman in Norman on July 7 – 10. This year’s is run by the KISS institute of Practical Robotics in Norman, Oklahoma, and also featured the National Botball Tournament. Since KIPR did a botball demonstration at our International Space Development Conference, I felt we should do something to help them with their Conference. Tom suggested hosting a reception or buying trophies, but I pointed out that they probably had long since arranged for that and what they probably needed was warm bodies.
         The SoonerCon science fiction convention is July 15 – 16 at the Bricktown Central Plaza. Since this coincides with our regular meeting weekend, we’re going to meet at the convention, and throw a party on Saturday evening.
         John(?) suggested that since the Omniplex has new directors, we should approach them about coordinated activities and meeting spaces. We used to have an agreement with them that we would assist them with mailings and publicity and that they would allow us to meet there for free, but when the directorship changed a couple of years ago, they started charging all groups for meeting spaces. At the time, we were usually meeting at the Koszoru house, anyway, since we were finishing up with our ISDC.
         Would David Miller or Cathryne Stein with KIPR like to come to one of our future meetings to speak on Educational Robotics and/or Botball?
         If we have difficulty getting speakers, we can feature showings of classic space films.

Between-Meeting Activities

         Tom Koszoru and Syd Henderson went to the National Conference on Educational Robotics, which was hosted by the KISS Institute of Practical Robotics, to help them judging the special prizes for Beyond Botball, which is the Botball tournament for adults
         Botball is a game where you have to build a small robot to perform a certain task. What that task may be, you don’t find out until six weeks or so before the contest.
         This year, the contestants had a table which was divided into rectangles as follows: at each end, there were three rectangles. The one on the left contained two green foam balls, the one on the right two yellow foam balls, and the middle a plush “robot” doll. The rectangles were bounded by pipes. The main part of the table was divided into three large rectangles by pipes extending the width of the table and along the edges of the table. The large rectangle at each end contained a marked area where the robots were to be placed. Most of the contestants brought one robot, but one had two, and one brought three. The center rectangle was the Nobot Zone, which the robots had to stay out of for the first twenty seconds. There is a light bulb at each end. When they turn on, the bots start moving. Apparently they must have some sort of photosensitive cell to tell them when the light goes on, since no robot jumped the gun. Spectators were cautioned not to use flash bulbs because that could make a robot start prematurely.
         The idea is that the yellow and green balls represent radioactive materials threatening the “lives” of the two stuffed “bots.” Thus the contestants are to dispose of the waste and reunite the robots. Ideally, the waste should be placed in containers about a foot above the center of each side of the table.
         I was there for the Saturday seeding rounds. Most of the robots had claws to grab the balls. Some had tubes to place the balls in. One of the contestants had a sort of ball trap which it dropped over the balls. It had an elastic device that would open to allow the balls into the trap, then close to catch them. This worked quite well for grabbing the balls, but not for grabbing the stuffed bots.
         The maximum possible score would be getting all eight balls in the two containers while reuniting the stuffed bots. Nobody did this, although the contestants with the three robots did far better than anyone else. One of the bots carried a square piece of plastic which was embedded with thirty or so pins. It used this to spear two balls and carry them the length of the table. The second bot went the length of the table, grabbed the stuffed bot with a rectangular square across which a rubber band was strung. It grabbed the bot by sliding the rubber band guillotine-like around the robot’s body. It then carried the robot the length of the table and held it upside down over the other bot. The third robot succeeded in grabbing two yellow balls, pulling them in a tube, and emptying them in the container.
         The best single robot had a unique approach: It had a couple of wire scoops like you use to catch fish in an aquarium. (The robot was called Fishtank Avenger.) It used these like tongs to grab the foam balls and throw them the length of the table. This worked pretty well, with some of the balls winding up with their companions at the other end of the table, and others flying off the table. I nominated it for Most Athletic.
         Since you could get partial scores for getting balls out of their compartments, some of the robots just knocked the balls off the table. One of them had a persistent strategy of grabbing the female stuffed bot and throwing her off the table, which certainly got her away from the toxic waste.
         I only saw the solo seeding rounds for Beyond Botball. There was a second round on Sunday, as well as a separate contest for high and middle school students.
         I only saw the robots, but this was actually a much wider conference, with panels and speakers. This conference rotates locations each year. This year they also had workshops and competitions at thirteen different locations in the United States, and one in the nation of Qatar. They have hundreds of photographs from the conference at www.botball.org.

Calendar of Events

            July 14: Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority’s licensing celebration has been postponed. They will be posting the new date at www.state.ok.us/~okspaceport/osidanews.html when available.
            July 14: Oklahoma City Astronomy Club meets at Omniplex at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.okcastroclub.com.
            July 15: Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 7:00 p.m. at SoonerCon, followed by a party at 8:00 p.m.
            July 15-16: SoonerCon 2006 at the Bricktown Central Plaza, 2001 E. Reno in Oklahoma City. This is a new science fiction convention, although some of the same people are involved from the SoonerCon which ran in the 1980s and 1990s. Although this seems to be partly comic-oriented, they also have science fiction writers.
            July 19: Challenger Learning Center Star Party in Choctaw. See invitation from Magi Whitaker earlier in the newsletter.
            July 22: Oklahoma City Astronomy Club Dark Sky Party at the Cheddar Ranch Observatory. For directions, visit www.okcastroclub.com.
            July 28-30: Conestoga Science Fiction Convention at the Radisson Tulsa, 10918 E. 41st Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma. (This is the same hotel as usual. It just has new owners.) Guest of Honor is David Drake and Toastmaster is Robin Wayne Bailey. Artist Guest of Honor is Don Maitz. We will be discussing at our meetings whether to have a party there this year.
            August 7: Mercury is at greatest elongation this morning and is 19.2° from the Sun.
            August 9: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Industry Authority Meeting, 1:30 p.m., Commission Room at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Building, 200 NE 21st St in Oklahoma City. Check their website, www.state.ok.us/~okspaceport/ or call 580-562-3500 to make sure the meeting is still on and hasn’t been moved.
            August 11: Neptune is at opposition, reaching a sparkling magnitude 7.8.
            August 11: Oklahoma City Astronomy Club meets at Omniplex at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.okcastroclub.com.
            August 12: The asteroid Ceres is at opposition at magnitude 7.6.
            August 13 (Morning): Perseid meteor shower peaks at an anticipated rate of 60 meteors/hour.
            August 19: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 2:30 p.m. Location to be announced.
            August 19: Oklahoma City Astronomy Club Dark Sky Party at the Cheddar Ranch Observatory. For directions, visit www.okcastroclub.com.
            September 5: Uranus is at opposition, and reaches magnitude 5.7
            September 8: Oklahoma City Astronomy Club meets at Omniplex at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.okcastroclub.com.
            September 13: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Industry Authority Meeting, 1:30 p.m., location to be announced. Check their website, www.state.ok.us/~okspaceport/ or call 580-562-3500.
            September 16: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 2:30 p.m. Location to be announced.
            September 16 - 23: Okie-Tex Star Party at Camp Billy Joe. For directions, visit www.okcastroclub.com.
            September 22: Annular eclipse of the Sun in the South Atlantic.  It will also be visible shortly after sunrise in Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.  From a look at the map, it should come close to being annular at Ascension Island and Saint Helena.
            October 11: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Industry Authority Meeting, 1:30 p.m., location to be announced. Check their website, www.state.ok.us/~okspaceport/ or call 580-562-3500.
            October 17.Mercury is at greatest elongation this evening and is 24.8° from the Sun.
            October 21: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 2:30 p.m. Location to be announced.
            October 24: Messenger Mercury Probe's first flyby of Venus
            November 8: Mercury transits the sun’s disk.  Part of this is visible from the United States, but the best view will be from the central and southern Pacific.
            November 18: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 2:30 p.m. Location to be announced.
            November 25: Mercury is at greatest elongation this evening and is 24.9° from the Sun.
            December 14 (Morning): Geminid meteor shower peaks at an anticipated rate of 75 meteors/hour.
            December 16: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance Christmas Party. Location and time to be announced.
            January – February 2007: Rocketplane Limited expects to begin passenger flights.
            January-March 2007:  Approximate time takeoffs to space begin from Oklahoma Space Port.  [Very tentative.]
            February 2007 (maybe): Hayabusa begins its return to Earth.
            February 10, 2007: Saturn is at opposition.
            February 25 – March 2, 2007: New Horizons passes Jupiter on its way to Pluto.
            February 26, 2007: Rosetta asteroid probe flies by Mars.
            April 17 – 19, 2007: Launch of Chinese Chang’e 1 lunar probe.
            May 24 – 28, 2007: the 26th International Space Development Conference in Dallas, Texas, hosted by the National Space Society of North Texas. For more information, visit http://isdc.nss.org/2007. Contact e‑mail addresses are Ken Murphy at [email protected] and Carol Johnson at [email protected].
            May 31, 2007: The asteroid Vesta is at opposition, 102 million miles from Earth, and is magnitude 5.4, which means it’s visible to the naked eye. It’s also brighter than the Uranus, which never gets above magnitude 5.7.
            June 5, 2007: Jupiter is at opposition.
            June 6, 2007: Messenger's second flyby of Venus.
            June 9, 2007: Venus is at maximum eastern elongation, 45.4° east of the Sun.
            June 19, 2007: Pluto is at opposition at magnitude 13.8.
            August 13 2007 Neptune is at opposition.
            September 2007: India will launch its lunar probe Chandrayaan 1. This craft will orbit the moon at an altitude of 60 miles for two years.
            September 9 2007: Uranus is at opposition.
            October 28, 2007: Venus is at maximum western elongation, 46.5° west of the Sun.
            November 9, 2007: Ceres is at opposition.
            December 24, 2007: Mars is at opposition with magnitude -1.6.
            January 15, 2008: Messenger's first flyby of Mercury.
            February 24, 2008: Saturn is at opposition.
            May 23 – 26, 2008: 27th International Space Development Conference. Location to be announced.
            July 9, 2008: Jupiter is at opposition.
            September 5, 2008 The ESA's Rosetta asteroid & comet probe passes by asteroid 2867 Steins.
            October 6, 2008: Messenger's second flyby of Mercury.
            October 2008: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is launched.
            Sometime in 2009: Russia sends sample return flight to Phobos.
            January 14, 2009: Venus is at maximum eastern elongation, 47.1° east of the Sun.
            March 8, 2009: Saturn is at opposition.
            August 14, 2009: Jupiter is at opposition.
            September 30, 2009: Messenger's third flyby of Mercury.
            January 29, 2010: Mars is at opposition with magnitude -1.3.
            June 2010: Hayabusa returns to Earth with a sample of asteroid Itokawa.  This will be the first asteroid sample returned to Earth.
            June 2010: Japan launches the Venus Climate Orbiter to Venus.
            July 10, 2010: The Rosetta comet probe passes asteroid 21 Lutetia.
            September 21, 2010: Jupiter is at opposition. This is the closest Jupiter will come to Earth in the next 20 years, about 370 million miles.
            December 2010: Japan’s Venus Climate Orbiter arrives at Venus.
            Sometime in 2011: ESA launches the ExoMars Mars Rover.
            March 18, 2011: Messenger goes into orbit around Mercury.
            Sometime in 2012: Launch of the Space Interferometry Mission.
            Sometime in 2012: Russia launches the “Luna-Glob” mission which will deploy 13 miniprobes upon the lunar surface.
            March 3, 2012: Mars is at opposition at magnitude -1.2. This is the worst opposition for the next twenty years.
            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.
            June 2013: Earliest date for the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.
            August 2013 (approximate): The European Space Agency/JAXA BepiColombo Mercury Orbiter is launched.
            August 2014 - December 2015: The Rosetta space probe orbits comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Early in this mission, it will release the Philae lander. The Rosetta probe web site is The Rosetta probe web site is www.esa.int/export/SPECIALS/Rosetta
            July 14. 2015: Projected date for the arrival of the New Horizons probe at the Pluto-Charon system.
            July 2016-2020:  The New Horizon 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.
            August 2019 (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.

Viewing Opportunities for Satellites (July 15 – August 19)

         NASA has dropped the International Space Station from the list of satellites covered by J-Pass, although they are still covered on the Orbital Tracking page via spaceflight1.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/. This only seems to give you data for a couple of weeks. J-Pass still covers unmanned satellites at science.nasa.gov/Realtime/JPass/.
         You can get sighting information at http://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. Note that with the addition of the solar panels, the magnitude of the Space Station is now -1.0, making it brighter than all the stars other than the Sun and Sirius, and the planet Saturn as well. The Hubble Space Telescope is roughly 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. This is especially relevant now because the Space Shuttle Discovery is docked to the Space Station. You may want to check one of the sites above to be sure the Station is still on the same trajectory. At the present time, alas, no missions are scheduled to the Hubble Space Telescope.
         Station pass times are from Heavens Above and Hubble pass times are from J-Pass.

HST 7/25/2006
Time           Position    Elevation
9:22 p.m.           223°        21°
9:23                  206          28
9:24                  180          31
9:25                  154          29
9:26                  135          22

HST 7/26/2006
Time           Position    Elevation
9:21 p.m.           225°        23°
9:22                  200          30
9:23                  179          32
9:24                  153          28
9:25                  136          21

Station 7/28/06
Time           Position    Elevation
5:44                  232°        16°
5:45                  236          33
5:46                  279          75
5:47                    38          40
5:49                    44          39

Station 7/30/06
Appears from Earth’s shadow
Time           Position    Elevation
4:56 a.m.           336°        84°
4:57                    43          39
4:58                    46          19

Station 8/14/06
Time           Position    Elevation
5:45 a.m.           332°        17°
5:46                  352          31*
5:47                    48          42
5:48                    93          26
*Passes 1° above Polaris

Station 8/15/06
Time           Position    Elevation
6:07 a.m.           293°        16°
6:08                  276          29
6:09                  224          42
6:10                  174          28

Station 8/16/06
Time           Position    Elevation
9:16 p.m.           204°        17°
9:17                  189          30
9:18                  137          45
9:19                    83          31

Station 8/17/06
Time           Position    Elevation
9:36 p.m.           258°        21°
9:37                  285          37
9:38                  349          40*
9:39                    22          23
*Passes 05° below Polaris

         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 9:22 p.m. on July 26, look two fist-widths west from south, then three fist-widths above the horizon.
         In addition to the J-Pass program which I use to provide this satellite viewing data, 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/.

Sky Viewing

         Mercury was recently at inferior conjunction with the Sun, and currently is too close to the Sun to be visible. That will change rapidly around the end of the month, when Mercury will begin to become visible about an hour before sunrise. On August 6, Mercury will brighten to about magnitude 0.1 and will be at its greatest elongation, 19° from the sun.  On August 10 and 11, Mercury will be two degrees (about a thumb’s width) below Venus and should be easily in the eastern sky an hour before sunrise. It will also be getting brighter. Mercury will by around magnitude -1 on August, 16 at which time it will be about a degree south of the Beehive Cluster in Cancer. Saturn is also in Cancer, and on the morning of August 21, Mercury will be only half a degree north of Saturn. Mercury will once more be lost in twilight at the end of August.
         Venus is easily visible at magnitude -3.8, low in the eastern sky at sunrise. It will join Mercury and Saturn in the constellation Cancer by mid-August, passing just south of the Beehive cluster on August 19.
         Saturn is currently barely visible low in the northwest just after sunset as it approaches its August 7 conjunction. It will begin to become visible in late August, reaching its conjunction with Mercury on August 21 and with Venus on August 26. This conjunction is very close, Venus only being one-fifteenth of a degree north of Saturn. Unfortunately, it also occurs in the evening, when Venus and Saturn are below the horizon. They should still be close together on the mornings of August 26 and 27. Whereas Mercury will be getting harder to see in late August, Saturn will be getting easier.
         Jupiter is currently magnitude -2.2 in the constellation Libra, and during of the evening is the brightest celestial object other than the Moon. It is visible a little west of south at sunset, and should be up all evening. By the end of August, it will be setting around 10 p.m.
         Mars is in the constellation Leo a little below the bright star Regulus. It is low in the western sky at sunset. Regulus is actually about half a magnitude brighter than Mars. Since Mars reaches conjunction with the Sun on October 23, it will be hard to see for the rest of the year.
         Uranus is magnitude 5.8, which is about as bright as it ever gets. It will brighten to magnitude 5.7 by the time it reaches opposition on September 5. It is currently located in the constellation Aquarius, about a degree northeast of the star lambda Aquarii. It will be gradually approaching that star through August and September.
         Neptune will reach opposition on the night of August 10 and 11, at which time it will be magnitude 7.8. It will be located 1.2° above iota Capricorni, which is itself only magnitude 4.3. Unfortunately, Capricornus is a rather inconspicuous constellation, and Neptune will be in it for years to come.
         The asteroid Ceres reaches opposition on August 12, is in the constellation Piscis Austrinis not far from Neptune, and, at magnitude 7.6, will be brighter than Neptune ever gets. This is not especially bright for Ceres, which at closer opposition is barely visible to the naked eye if that naked eye belongs to a hawk. It will be about a degree northwest of eta Piscis Austrini.
         Information on this section and planetary data in the Calendar section is cobbled together from Astronomy, Sky Online (skyandtelescope.com),  Sky & Telescope and various websites devoted to the planets and the Starry Night program. In particular, if you go to Wikipedia and look up “Aspects of Jupiter” or “Aspects of Ceres,” etc, you can find information on oppositions, conjunctions, elongations (for Mercury and Venus) and transits. Note that they don’t give the exact time or the time zone, so it’s possible these might be a day off for your time zone.

Space Probes

         Russia is planning its own return to the Moon. The unmanned Luna-Glob mission is currently scheduled for 2012. This would be the first Russian mission to the Moon since 1976. A lunar orbiter will launch 13 small probes to impact the Moon. Ten of these will be High-Speed Penetrators which will impact the Moon at 4800 miles per hour, digging several feet into the surface of the Moon. These probes will land in the Mare Fecunditatis (Sea of Fertility). Two probes, the Penetration Landers will then be launched which will impact the Moon at a velocity between 140 and 440 miles per hour. One will land in the Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility) near the Apollo 11 landing site, and the other in the Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms) near the Apollo 12 landing site. The Apollo missions left seismic detectors which died a few weeks after landing, and the Russian penetrators will be able to compare seismic information with the older readings.
         The thirteenth and final probe is the Lunar Polar Lander which will land in a crater near the Lunar South Pole and search for lunar ice. This probe should land as gently as 11 miles per hour.
         The other 12 probes are specifically design to detect moonquakes to provide details about the interior of the Moon. The most important question is the size of the lunar core, which relates to the origin of the Moon. If the lunar core is small, say 0.5 percent of the mass of the Moon, that would favor the collision theory of the Moon’s origin, because that would indicate that the Moon was made from rock from the Earth’s crust and mantle. On the other hand, if the lunar core is 5 percent of the mass of the Moon, then the Moon probably condensed from the planetary nebula at the same time as the Earth.
         In addition to returning to the Moon, Russia is planning missions to the vicinity of Mars—in particular, a sample return to the moon Phobos in 2009.
         Russia has always had bad luck with its Mars probes, especially compared with the highly successful Venera probes. This is odd, when you think about it, because landing a probe on Venus would seem a lot more difficult. In particular, Russia launched Phobos 1 and Phobos 2 for Phobos in July 1988. They were to drop seismometers, and Phobos 2 was to drop a lander. Phobos 2 was a particularly frustrating loss, because it almost reached Mars before contact was lost. Russia has also launched five missions with Mars landers. One lander crashed, one missed Mars entirely, two landed but only transmitted for a few seconds, and the Mars 96 landers never left Earth orbit. The Russians obviously have a point to prove with the Phobos-Grunt sample return mission.
         There will actually be quite a few nations launching lunar probes in the near future. Here is a sample:
         The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (US) in October 2008. This will carry the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), the upper stage of which will be sent to impact the Shackleton Crater near the lunar south pole. LCROSS will be watching for signs of ice.
         Chandrayaan-1 (India) in September 2007. This includes a lunar orbiter and an impacting probe.
         China will be launching a series of Chang’e probes, beginning with Chang’e 1 orbiter in April 2007. Chang’e is the Chinese Moon goddess. Chang’e 2 will include a lunar lander, and later missions include sample returns and reconnaissance for a manned landing.
         Japan has quite a few missions planned, including the SELENE orbiter in 2007, the LUNAR-A mission with orbiter and penetrators in 2010. (This mission was originally supposed to be launched in 2004, so take that launch date with a grain of salt.)
         I haven’t any word on lunar probes from the European Space Agency, which prefers missions beyond the Earth-Moon system.

Space-Related Articles

         The August issue of Sky & Telescope comes with an 81-minute documentary on the first fifteen years of the Hubble Space Telescope. It incidentally gives you a history of the Universe. It’s pretty interesting, not to mention nice to look at. It’s sometimes hard to tell what is CGI and what is actual photographs.

         “Dissecting the Bursts of Doom,” by Robert Naeye, Sky & Telescope, August 2006, pp 30-37. In case you were worried, it does not appear that we are in danger of being annihilated by a gamma-ray burst. This seemed possible since a gamma-ray burst from within a few hundred light-years could remove the Earth’s atmosphere. Naeye reports that just about all the theories of the causes of long-duration gamma-ray bursts (“long-duration” being more than one second) have been eliminated but one: they are caused by the collapse of the cores of a class of very massive, hot stars called Wolf-Rayet Stars, just prior to a supernova explosion. What happens is that the inner core collapses into a black hole, and the surrounding matter forms a three-or-four solar mass accretion disk as it collapses to the center. The falling matter gets extremely hot and can’t all fall in at once, so the excess is ejected from the north and south poles of the black hole, focused with the assistance of the powerful magnetic field generated by the collapse of the core. The matter is ejected as two narrow jets, one solar mass each, traveling at 99.999% of the speed of light. These punch their way through the outer layers of the star and, if they are focused in our direction, we see a gamma-ray burst. (A similar mechanism on a galactic scale produces quasars.) The burst only lasts for a few seconds. The continuing fall of matter also produces a massive wind of heavy elements at a tenth of the speed of light, and this blows the star apart.
A couple of days after the gamma-ray burst, we see a type 1c supernova.
         Wolf-Rayet stars are very rare—there are only 150 known in the Milky Way, the closest of which, gamma Velorum A2, is 840 light-years away. There are a further 100 in the Large Magellanic Cloud and a dozen in the Small Magellanic Cloud.
         However, not all Wolf-Rayet stars are expected to produce gamma-ray bursts. The larger the mass of the star, the more likely you get a gamma-ray burst, and the largest stars are produced in regions that have a low concentration of elements heavier than helium. This makes it much less likely that one will occur in the Milky Way, and more likely in an irregular galaxy such as the Large Magellanic Cloud. A gamma-ray burst from the LMC, however, would not seriously damage the Earth.

         If you still feel like being doomed, the August issue of Astronomy magazine is a special meteorite issue.
         “Earth under Fire,” by Mike Reynolds, pp. 40 – 45 is about impact sites in the Solar System, especially on Earth.
         “Blast from the Past,” by David R. Kring, pp. 46 – 51, tells the story of Meteor Crater. This is also known as Barringer Meteorite Crater, after the man who investigated it for many years in an attempt to prove it was an impact crater. (The problem, as Forest Moulton demonstrated in 1928, one year before Barringer’s death, was that the meteorite exploded on impact.) A total of thirty tones of meteorite have been collected over the last century. The crater is about 4000 feet across and 570 feet deep, including the rim of the crater. Animals within two miles of the impact would have been killed, while those within ten would have been seriously injured. An impact of this size occurs about every two thousand years, and if it hit a city would probably destroy it. Meteor Crater is about 50,000 years old and is unusually well preserved partly because it is in an arid region. However, in wetter times it was home to a lake.
         “The Great Interplanetary Rock Swap,” by Bill Cooke, pp. 64 – 67, tells of pieces of planets which make their way to other planets. The most famous of these is ALH84001, the Martian meteorite which initiated a Life on Mars debate in the 1990s. According to calculations, we can expect a 100-gram meteorite from Mars each month. [The Kaidun meteorite may have come from Mars’ moon Phobos.] A few Martian meteorites can make it to Earth in a couple of years, but several million years is far more likely.
         Meteorites from the Moon are much more common. In fact, a meteor knocked off the Moon has a 40% probability of finding its way to Earth, compared to 7% for one from Mars. 39 “lunaites” are now known, and generally are less than 50,000 years old.
         On the other hand, rocks knocked off Mercury have only a 0.1 probability of reaching Earth, but a 10% chance of reaching Venus. 75% of meteorites from Mercury land back on Mercury. None have been found on Earth.
         A meteorite from Venus would have a 30% chance of finding its way to Earth in 12 million years, but since Venus has a stronger gravitational field and a thick atmosphere (which would burn meteors both coming in and going out), they are uncommon. I think one or two have been found, but I can’t verify it.
         Finally, a rock escaping the Earth has a 5% chance of reaching Mars in 150 million years, and a 30% chance of reaching Venus in 15 million years.

Commentary and Acknowledgments

         This issue of Outreach was written by Syd Henderson except where otherwise noted. Outreach is a publication of the Oklahoma Space Alliance and is published in odd months. Update is published in even months.  We would appreciate a greater variety of material for Outreach and Update. We can accept contributions on paper, by disk or on e-mail. To submit material, contact Syd Henderson at 102 W. Linn St. Apt. #1, Norman OK 73069, telephone (405)-32-4027, e-mail [email protected]. Please note that editorial comments reflect my views, and are not necessarily the same as those of other members of Oklahoma Space Alliance or the National Space Society. Material on disk or by e-mail can be in WordPerfect 8 (or earlier), ASCII, or any format which can be converted by WordPerfect 8 or Word 2003.

Oklahoma Space Alliance Officers, 2006 (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, Update Editor                       329-4326 (H)  863-6173 (C)

OSA E-mail Addresses and Web Site:

[email protected] (Claire McMurray, new address)
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[email protected] (Tim Scott)
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[email protected] (Nancy and David Craig).
         E-mail for OSA should be sent to [email protected].  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. 

Other Information

         Air and Space Museum: Omniplex, Oklahoma City, 602‑6664 or 1-800-532-7652.
         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.
         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 space.nss.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].

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