PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 12/2003 -  5 February 2003
--------------------------------


"NASA should be assigned to lead a new research program to better
determine the population and physical diversity of near-Earth objects
that may collide with our planet, down to a size of 200 meters,
according to the final report of a workshop on the scientific requirements
for the mitigation of hazardous comets and asteroids. "As our discussions
proceeded, it became clear that the prime impediment to further advances in
this field is the lack of assigned responsibility to any national or
international governmental organization," said planetary scientist
Michael Belton, organizer of the September 2002 workshop."
--National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 4 February 2003



"A group of astronauts, scientists, and technologists want to engage
in celestial shoving match. The winner may well be the Earth. The goal of
an assembly of experts is straightforward: To significantly alter the
orbit of an asteroid "in a controlled manner" by the year 2015. They have
dubbed their effort the B612 Project, brought into being by what the
group feels is a current lack of action to protect the Earth from the impact
of near Earth asteroids (NEAs)." 
--Leonard David, Space.com, 5 February 2003


(1) "NASA SHOULD LEAD ASTEROID DEFENSE"
    National Geographic News, 4 February 2003

(2) NASA SHOULD LEAD MORE FOCUSED PROGRAM TO REDUCE THREAT FROM HAZARDOUS
ASTEROIDS
    Ron Baalke <info@jpl.nasa.gov>

(3) FINAL REPORT: NASA WORKSHOP ON SCIENTIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR MITIGATION OF
HAZARDOUS COMETS AND ASTEROIDS
    National Optical Astronomy Observatory

(4) IN DEFENSE OF EARTH: KEEPING ASTEROIDS AT A DISTANCE
    Space.com, 5 February 2003

(5) MORE FROM INSURANCE DAY
    Michael Paine <mpaine@tpg.com.au>

(6) A SALUTE TO GALILEO AND FRIENDS OF PLANETARY DEFENSE
    Andy Smith <astrosafe22000@yahoo.com>

(7) METEOR STORM IN JUNE 1991?
    Hossein Alizadeh <immgharib@hotmail.com>

(8) BRIAN CARNELL ON THE CHALLENGER O-RING FAILURE
    Ed Grondine <epgrondine@hotmail.com>


==========
(1) "NASA SHOULD LEAD ASTEROID DEFENSE"

>From National Geographic News, 4 February 2003
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/02/0204_030204_asteroids.html
 
Earth has a history of being struck by asteroids, sometimes with devastating
effects such as tsunamis, firestorms, and even large-scale extinction of
life. Yet no one knows for sure how many large asteroids are out there and
if-or when-one might be headed for us. Now a group of experts has
recommended a strategy to prepare a planetary defense.

The biggest obstacle towards creating a plan to defend Earth against
asteroid impacts is that no national or international organization has been
tasked with the job, says an international group of scientists, engineers,
and military experts who gathered to assess the danger. The group recommends
that NASA should get the job.

The Workshop on Scientific Requirements for Mitigation of Hazardous Comets
and Asteroids gathered 77 experts from the United States, Europe, and Japan.
It released its final report this week.

"NASA should be assigned to lead a new research program to better determine
the population and physical diversity of near-Earth objects that may collide
with our planet, down to a size of 200 meters (200 yards)," according to a
statement released by the workshop.

The workshop's report also recommended that the U.S. Department of Defense
(DoD) work to more rapidly communicate surveillance data on natural
airbursts of smaller rocky bodies, and it concludes that governmental policy
makers must "formulate a chain of responsibility" to be better prepared in
the event that a threat to Earth becomes known.

"As our discussions proceeded, it became clear that the prime impediment to
further advances in this field is the lack of assigned responsibility to any
national or international governmental organization," said planetary
scientist Michael Belton, organizer of the September 2002 workshop. "Since
it is part of NASA's newly stated mission to 'understand and protect our
home planet,' it seems obvious that this responsibility should reside in
NASA."

Belton presented the findings of the workshop this week in Washington, D.C.,
to officials at NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of
Management and Budget, and the report was delivered to the U.S. Congress.

About 2,225 near-Earth objects (NEOs) have been detected, primarily by
ground-based optical searches, in the size range between 10 meters (11
yards) and 30 kilometers (19 miles), out of a total of about one million.
But some information about the physical size and composition of these NEOs
is available for only about 300 objects.

The total number of objects a kilometer in diameter or larger, a size that
could cause global catastrophe upon Earth impact, is now estimated to range
between 900 and 1,230, according to the workshop. The NASA-led Spaceguard
Survey has a congressional mandate to detect 90 percent of these
kilometer-sized (thousand-yard) objects by 2008, and it is making "excellent
progress" on this goal, the report said.

However, a full survey of objects that could cause significant damage on
Earth should reach down to NEOs at least as small as 200 meters (220 yards),
the report said, which should be within the capability of proposed
ground-based facilities such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the
PanStarrs telescope system.

Ground-based radar systems will remain a "critical contributor" to obtaining
the most accurate possible data on the orbits of many hazardous objects, the
report said.

The workshop report discusses a preliminary "roadmap" based on five themes:
more complete and accurate surveys of the orbits of potentially hazardous
objects; improved public education about the risk; characterizing the
physical properties of a range of asteroids and comets; more extensive
laboratory research; and initial physical experiments toward a realistic
plan to intercept and divert a future incoming object.

In order to keep maximum annual expenses on the order of a typical
spacecraft mission (approximately U.S. $300 million), the report estimates
that it would take about 25 years to accomplish this roadmap.

Copyright 2003, National Geographic News

=============
(2) NASA SHOULD LEAD MORE FOCUSED PROGRAM TO REDUCE THREAT FROM HAZARDOUS
ASTEROIDS

>From Ron Baalke <info@jpl.nasa.gov>

http://www.noao.edu/outreach/press/pr03/pr0303.html

National Optical Astronomy Observatory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 4, 2003
RELEASE NO: NOAO 03-03

NASA Should Lead More Focused Program to Reduce Threat from Hazardous
Asteroids

For More Information:

Douglas Isbell
Public Information Officer
National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Phone: 520/318-8214
E-mail: disbell@noao.edu

NASA should be assigned to lead a new research program to better determine
the population and physical diversity of near-Earth objects that may collide
with our planet, down to a size of 200 meters, according to the final report
of a workshop on the scientific requirements for the mitigation of hazardous
comets and asteroids.

The workshop's report also recommends that the U.S. Department of Defense
(DoD) work to more rapidly communicate surveillance data on natural
airbursts of smaller rocky bodies, and it concludes that governmental policy
makers must "formulate a chain of responsibility" to be better prepared in
the event that a threat to Earth becomes known.

"As our discussions proceeded, it became clear that the prime impediment to
further advances in this field is the lack of assigned responsibility to any
national or international governmental organization," said planetary
scientist Michael Belton, organizer of the September 2002 workshop. "Since
it is part of NASA's newly stated mission to `understand and protect our
home planet,' it seems obvious that this responsibility should reside in
NASA."

Belton presented the findings of the workshop today in Washington, DC, to
officials at NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of
Management and Budget, and the report was delivered to the U.S. Congress.

About 2,225 near-Earth objects (NEOs) have been detected, primarily by
ground-based optical searches, in the size range between 10 meters and 30
kilometers, out of a total estimated population of about one million; some
information about the physical size and composition of these NEOs is
available for only 300 objects.

The total number of objects a kilometer in diameter or larger, a size that
could cause global catastrophe upon Earth impact, is now estimated to range
between 900 and 1,230. The NASA-led Spaceguard Survey has a congressional
mandate to detect 90% of these kilometer-sized objects by 2008, and it is
making "excellent progress" on this goal, the report says.

However, a full survey of objects that could cause significant damage on
Earth should reach down to NEOs at least as small as 200 meters, the report
says, which should be within the capability of proposed ground-based
facilities such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the PanStarrs
telescope system. Ground-based radar systems will remain a "critical
contributor" to obtaining the most accurate possible data on the orbits of
many hazardous objects, the report says.

The workshop report discusses a preliminary roadmap based on five themes:
more complete and accurate surveys of the orbits of potentially hazardous
objects; improved public education about the risk; characterizing the
physical properties of a range of asteroids and comets; more extensive
laboratory research; and initial physical experiments toward a realistic
plan to intercept and divert a future incoming object.

In order to keep maximum annual expenses on the order of a typical
spacecraft mission (approximately $300 million), the report estimates that
it would take about 25 years to accomplish this roadmap.

The Final Report of the NASA Workshop on Scientific Requirements for
Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids, held in Arlington, VA, from
September 3-6, 2002, is available on the Internet at:

http://www.noao.edu/meetings/mitigation/report.html

The workshop was attended by 77 scientists from the United States, Europe
and Japan. It was co-sponsored by Ball Aerospace, Science Applications
International Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., the National Optical Astronomy
Observatory and the University of Maryland.

==============
(3) FINAL REPORT: NASA WORKSHOP ON SCIENTIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR MITIGATION OF
HAZARDOUS COMETS AND ASTEROIDS

>From National Optical Astronomy Observatory
http://www.noao.edu/meetings/mitigation/workshop_report_final.html

Held in Arlington, VA, September 3-6, 2002
 
1. Executive Summary and Recommendations

Purpose of the workshop and primary conclusions:

The "Workshop on Scientific Requirements for Mitigation of Hazardous Comets
and Asteroids," supported by the NASA's Office of Space Science, was held on
September 3 - 6, 2002, at the Hyatt Hotel in Arlington, VA. Seventy-seven
scientists, engineers and military experts from the United States, Europe,
and Japan participated. Its purpose was to consider the scientific
requirements for avoidance and mitigation of hazards to the Earth due to
asteroids and comets, i.e., what should be done to ensure that an adequate
base of scientific knowledge is created that will allow efficient
development of a reliable, but as yet undefined, collision mitigation system
when needed in the future.

It became clear that the prime impediment to further advances in this field
is the lack of any assigned responsibility to any national or international
governmental organization to prepare for a disruptive collision and the
absence of any authority to act in preparation for some future collision
mitigation attempt.

Eighteen major conclusions (listed below) were formulated that provided the
basis for five recommendations. In brief, these are:

That NASA be assigned the responsibility to advance this field,

That a new and adequately funded program be instituted at NASA to create,
through space missions and allied research, the specialized knowledge base
needed to respond to a future threat of a collision from an asteroid or
comet nucleus,

That the Spaceguard survey be extended to cover the hazardous part of the
population of possible impactors down to 200 m in size,

That the DoD more rapidly communicate surveillance data on natural
airbursts,

That governmental policy makers formulate a chain of responsibility for
action in the event a threat to the Earth becomes known.

A record of some of the workshop presentations can be found in a volume of
extended abstracts on the web at: www.noao.edu/meetings/mitigation/eav.html
. Other invited papers will be published by Cambridge University Press as a
book entitled "Mitigation of Hazardous Impacts due to Asteroids and Comets,"
in the spring of 2003.

What was discussed:

All aspects of near-Earth objects were discussed. These included the
completeness of our knowledge about the population of potential impactors,
their physical and compositional characteristics, the properties of surveys
that need to be done to find hazardous objects smaller than 1 km in size,
our theoretical understanding of impact phenomena, new laboratory results on
the impact process, the need for space missions of specific types, education
of the public, public responsibility for dealing with the threat, and the
possible roles of NASA, the military, and other agencies in mitigating the
threat.

Brief assessment of status and needs:

About 2,225 near-Earth objects are now known in the 10m to 30km size range
out of a total population of about a million. Physical information exists
only for a small number (~300) of these. It is estimated that there are
roughly 25,000 are larger than 150m in size (above which the potential
exists for easy penetration of the Earth's protective atmosphere) but it is
estimated that only ~250 of these are potentially hazardous. The number of
objects larger than 1 km (i.e., objects capable of global scale catastrophe)
is now estimated to lie between 900 and 1230 and about 55% of these have
been found - none on Earth intersecting trajectories. Without continuing
improvements to existing survey equipment it is expected that ~70% will have
been found by 2008. Extension of the Spaceguard survey may be needed to
achieve its goal.

To find a significant fraction of potentially hazardous objects between 100m
and 1km in a reasonable time will require advanced telescopic capabilities
(LSST, PanStarrs). Extensive follow-up astrometric observations including
radar data will also be needed to confidently identify hazardous impactors
with enough lead-time (decades) to allow effective mitigation.

New space and telescopic observations together with modeling indicate high
internal porosity for many near-Earth objects and have resulted in changing
views as to the nature of the surface processes on asteroids. Physical and
compositional knowledge of the surface layers and interiors of near-Earth
objects, given their diversity, is judged inadequate for mitigation
purposes. Extensive observational and experimental studies from spacecraft,
and Earth based telescopic systems, are required. Similarly laboratory and
theoretical work is needed to clarify how porosity at the surface or in the
interior of an object affects the outcome of a rapid application of large
amounts of energy. Modeling suggests that deep layers of porous surface
materials may have a dramatic effect on mitigation using high-energy
explosives so that with previous estimates of requirements may have to be
possibly increased by factors of 100 or more.

Substantial investment and time will be required to accomplish an adequate
level of physical and compositional knowledge.

A roadmap for future advances:

A strawman roadmap suggests that $5-6B over 25yr (to keep total annual
expenditures to <$300M/yr) involving a number of government agencies will be
required. This roadmap also includes resources for in-space interaction
experiments so that the process of learning how to apply possible mitigation
techniques, and the rapid identification of the most effective techniques,
can begin.

Major conclusions:

On the hazardous population -

A future collision of an asteroid or cometary nucleus with the Earth with
catastrophic effects is inevitable unless technology is developed to modify
the orbit of such bodies.

The most likely objects to collide with the Earth with catastrophic effects
are 100 m or more in size and have a significant probability (20%) of
colliding with the Earth over times of human interest (~100yr).

Excellent progress has been made in satisfying the congressional mandate
charged to NASA to find 90% of near-Earth objects with H<18 (size greater
than 1 km) by 2008. However, models indicate that completion by 2008 will
require that technical improvements to the current discovery systems be
made.

On the organization needed to respond to a threat -

There exists no government agency or international organization with the
assignment or acceptance of responsibility for averting the threat of an
impending collision.

Once an object is verified to be on an Earth-threatening trajectory, There
is no identified organization responsible for the timely reporting of these
events to the public or other nations.

The NASA charter includes the goal of protecting our home planet, which is
relevant to the mitigation problem.

The priorities of the technical and scientific objectives of space missions
designed to acquire a relevant basis of knowledge for mitigation purposes
may be distinct from those in other high priority space exploration programs
which address the same class of targets (small planetary bodies) and that
are already being pursued by NASA and other foreign space agencies.

The costs incurred by the above program of space and associated Earth-based
research will be substantial, but possibly could eventually be offset by
profitable activities in the low-gravity, resource-rich environment of
asteroids and cometary nuclei.

An estimate of the time necessary to acquire this basis of knowledge is
measured in decades.

The threat of catastrophic collisions with the Earth is global and any and
all nations may be affected.

There is strong international interest in understanding the nature of this
threat.

On what is required to respond to a threat -

The development of a relevant and adequate knowledge basis for future
attempts to reliably mitigate an impending collision of an object greater
than 100 m in size will require scientific proof of the efficacy of a wide
range of proposed techniques in the space environment, including ways to
measure relevant physical and compositional properties.

A series of space missions is required in order to acquire a relevant and
adequate basis of knowledge on which to base the future development of a
reliable collision mitigation system.

A multifaceted program of Earth-based theoretical, experimental,
observational, and interpretive research is necessary to support,
complement, guide, and extend a program of space missions for mitigation
purposes.

Relatively low-cost Earth-based surveys for NEOs are now technically
feasible down to a size limit of about 200 m.

Committees of the National Research Council of the National Academy of
Sciences have recommended the construction of a large-aperture synoptic
survey telescope (LSST) that is capable of detecting 90% of near-Earth
objects above the 200 m size limit within approximately a decade.
On concerns with current activities -

Department of Defense space surveillance programs regularly observe upper
atmosphere airbursts with the release of 1 kT of energy and above caused by
objects entering the Earth's atmosphere from space with typical sizes near
10 m.

The public and other nations with nuclear capability outside the U.S. may
not be aware of this continuing flux of extraterrestrial objects and their
effects in the Earth's upper atmosphere.
Recommendations:

Based on the above conclusions, the members of the workshop's scientific and
local organizing committees formulated the following recommendations that,
when implemented, will lead to the acquisition of a relevant body of
scientific knowledge on which a practical and reliable collision mitigation
system could be developed at some time in the future.

Recommendation 1. That the National Aeronautics and Space Administration be
assigned the responsibility to acquire relevant scientific knowledge on the
compositional and physical properties of the diverse population of hazardous
objects that may threaten the Earth and on which the future development of a
reliable collision mitigation system could be based. In undertaking this
responsibility, the interests and cooperative support of the international
community should be welcomed.

Recommendation 2. That a new and appropriately funded program be instituted
at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, consistent with its
mission to "Understand and protect our home planet," to create an adequate
basis of scientific knowledge through space missions and supporting
Earth-based research on which future attempts to reliably mitigate impending
collisions of hazardous objects with the Earth can be founded.

Recommendation 3. That the congressionally mandated survey presently being
pursued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to catalog
near-Earth objects brighter than H~18 (~ 1 km in size), be extended to
include 90% of hazardous near-Earth objects down to a size range of 200 m
over the next decade.

Recommendation 4. That the Department of Defense increase the speed with
which it makes information about natural airburst phenomena available to the
public and other nations to prevent possible misinterpretations of these
small, frequent events.

Recommendation 5. That government and international policy makers act now to
formulate and publish an agreed uponto chain of responsibility for action in
the event that an Earth-threatening object is discovered.

FULL REPORT at
http://www.noao.edu/meetings/mitigation/workshop_report_final.html

=============
(4) IN DEFENSE OF EARTH: KEEPING ASTEROIDS AT A DISTANCE

>From Space.com, 5 February 2003
http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/asteroid_deflection_030205.html

By Leonard David

BOULDER, COLORADO -- A group of astronauts, scientists, and technologists
want to engage in celestial shoving match. The winner may well be the Earth.

The goal of an assembly of experts is straightforward: To significantly
alter the orbit of an asteroid "in a controlled manner" by the year 2015.
They have dubbed their effort the B612 Project, brought into being by what
the group feels is a current lack of action to protect the Earth from the
impact of near Earth asteroids (NEAs). 

For the immediate future, they point out, the changes are slim that our
planet will be at the end of the trail for a space rock - one that would
cause a highly destructive impact.

Nevertheless, the upshot from a heavenly slam shot is extreme, say B612
Project officials, so much so that mitigation efforts should start now.

Those involved in the B612 Project believe that by physically deflecting a
representative asteroid -- one not headed toward the Earth -- is a
worthwhile a trial project. Thus, a longer term, more challenging
operational system can become a reality.

Let's get pushy

It's high time to get pushy with Earth menacing asteroids, suggests Apollo 9
astronaut, Russell Schweickart, chairman of the B612 Foundation and a
retired business and government executive. The capability and technological
wherewithal to anticipate and prevent an asteroid impact is now available,
he contends.

If B612 sounds familiar, there is a reason. That's the asteroidal address
for The Little Prince, authored by the French writer Antoine de Saint
Exupery in 1943.

The B612 Foundation is a non-profit private organization with principal
offices in Houston, Texas. It was formed late last year to champion the
development of a space system to protect the Earth from future asteroid
impacts.

"Nothing like being part of the largest environmental project of all time,"
Schweickart explains.

Schweickart recently advocated the need for a United Nations "Asteroid
Deflection Treaty" - an international agreement to help shape a "trustworthy
system" that nudges threatening space rocks out of harm's way.

"Since new Earth approaching asteroids are discovered every day, initiation
of this effort should begin as soon as possible," Schweickart noted during a
special Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) workshop
on "Near Earth Objects: Risks, Policies and Actions", held January 20-22 in
Frascati, Italy.

"When specific knowledge of an impact exists, it will be known by the world
public in real time. It seems highly likely that, when that time comes,
there will be widespread public expectation that these matters will already
have been resolved," Schweickart said.

Action item strategy

One of the action items on the foundation's to do list this year is
developing the first version of a "design reference mission" - laying out
the requirements for a demonstration mission to deflect an asteroid by 2015.


"Our strategy calls for the use of a long duration, low thrust system design
to rendezvous and directly dock with the asteroid," Schweickart told
SPACE.com from his office in the Netherlands. "We would then utilize the
system to first de-rotate the asteroid and then push it tugboat fashion. We
call it a NEA-Tug...changing its velocity...over many months," he said.

The attachment of a NEA-Tug to a tumbling asteroid's surface -- along with
control issues during de-rotation and acceleration -- "raise substantial
questions that must be answered," Schweickart added. Due to the NEA-Tug's
low thrust level, he said, many of the issues related to an asteroid's
structural integrity and surface characteristics are not likely to be an
issue.

Assurance policy

Honing the hardware for asteroid deflection means putting dollars into space
power and propulsion. Doing so would also yield a scientific bonanza too.

"From an institutional perspective the biggest challenge I see is making the
decision to spend money on the effort and to assigning responsibility for
getting the job done," Schweickart said. "We are not proposing an
operational system. We are proposing that a demonstration mission be
performed to meet several goals," he said.

Among those goals is stimulating the development of the enabling
technologies. Chiefly, those involve nuclear/electric power generation and
plasma or ion propulsion. Furthermore, there's need to clearly assure the
public that should a pending asteroid impact be discovered in the next
decade or so, the necessary technologies and techniques to protect the Earth
are available.

"Since the basic technologies we propose to use for asteroid deflection will
also enable cost effective missions beyond low Earth orbit for both
scientific research and, potentially, resource exploitation, the incremental
funding required for this purpose is small. Yet great public benefit is
gained by utilizing this mission to demonstrate the new power and propulsion
technologies," Schweickart noted.

Practice before proceeding

Joining Schweickart in B612 Foundation work is noted asteroid expert, Clark
Chapman, a scientist here at the Southwest Research Institute's Department
of Space Studies in Boulder. He serves on the foundation's board of
directors.

At first blush, Chapman advises, it might seem easy to move a small
asteroid. "An elementary physics equation -- force equals mass times
acceleration -- would seem to guarantee that if you pushed on the 'space
rock,' it would move. But asteroids are much more complex than that," he
told SPACE.com.

There's need for practice, Chapman said. Learning how to despin an asteroid
before pushing is a likely priority. Coming up with ways to anchor a
low-thrust device firmly to a small, nearly gravitationless body is another
factor. No telling what kind of surface an asteroid might have, be it sandy
or fluffy, maybe rocky or metallic.

"Solving such problems will involve both improved scientific understanding
of asteroids as well as technology development," Chapman said. "It is too
early in developing the concepts for Project B612 to know just how much more
science is needed, and how it must be phased as the project proceeds. But I
expect that the science and technology will proceed in tandem," he said.

Surprises in store

Similar in view is Dan Durda, also a Southwest Research Institute space
scientist. "The best way to learn how to work around and on a small asteroid
is to actually try to do it," he said.

Durda said anticipating what might occur on an asteroid by extrapolating
from past space experiences is somewhat limited. "Until you actually press
onto the real thing you have no way to know what environmental and
operational surprises may be in store," he said.

Chapman said that on-going ground-based, Earth-orbit based, theoretical, and
up-close spacecraft studies of comets and asteroids will help those involved
in the B612 work to better recognize challenges as they progress toward
their central goal.

Such complexities as 'rubble pile' compound of Near Earth Objects, asteroids
orbited by natural satellites, 'tumbling' rotations, and questions about
presence or lack of top surface materials on small bodies - all make the
task of moving such objects "a fascinating challenge," Chapman said.

Face the public

Also on the B612 Foundation board of directors is NASA astronaut, Edward
Tsang Lu. He is assigned to the Expedition 7 crew that was to occupy the
International Space Station in March.

Another board member is Geoffrey Baehr of the venture capital firm, U.S.
Venture Partners in Menlo Park, California, as is Piet Hut, Professor of
Interdisciplinary Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton,
New Jersey.

Astrophysicist Hut underscored his keen interest in asteroid deflection work
in a letter to U.S. President Bush last December.

"Would you be willing to face the public if an asteroid would be discovered
heading our way? You would have to tell them that NASA has been discovering
and tracking asteroids, but that funding had not been sufficient to
catalogue most of them, and that there had not been any funding so far to
study the question of how to deflect an asteroid, once found, even though
the technology has in principle been available. Not a nice speech to give, I
bet," he advised the U.S. President.

White House legacy?

Hut said the technological ingredients to prod a 328-feet (100-meter)
diameter asteroid so it will miss Earth are at hand. A test mission, he
said, could demonstrate the ability to do so.

"That way, when we discover an asteroid with our name on it, so to speak, we
will be prepared. We could be in a position to save millions of lives, and
at the very least we could not be accused of knowing about a danger and
ignoring it," Hut wrote.

"Even if we are lucky, and no life-threatening asteroid crosses our path in
the foreseeable future, developing the technology to gently nudge asteroids
is likely to help us to explore the solar system," Hut counseled the
President.

"This could be a major legacy of your administration," Hut's letter to the
White House concluded, "to open the door to populating other worlds while at
the same time making our own world a safer place."

Copyright 2003, Space.com

============================
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
============================

(5) MORE FROM INSURANCE DAY

>From Michael Paine <mpaine@tpg.com.au>

Dear Benny,

Following your posting on CCNet today I went searching the Insurance Day
website for more on asteroids. Here is an intersting one.

regards
Michael Paine
-------------
Super-cat [catastrophe] that will threaten life on Earth: it is only a
matter of when

Insurance Day 23 April 2002

BILL MCGUIRE, professor of geophysical hazards and director at the Benfield
Greig Hazard Research Centre, University College London, warns of some of
the catastrophic risks facing Earth

CATASTROPHE insurance is, or certainly should be, underpinned by the
capability to make adequately accurate predictions about future floods,
storms, and earthquakes, so as to ensure that portfolios are not
unreasonably exposed to large, unforeseen losses.

The over-riding lesson to be learnt from the events of September 11,
however, must be expect the unexpected.

As ever, changing circumstances continue to lead the insurance industry by
the nose. Following the Northridge quake in 1994, better seismic risk
assessment was the sought-after grail, while following Hurricane Andrew's
concerted attempt to obliterate Miami, tropical cyclone forecasting was all
the rage.

Inevitably, for the last six months, terrorism has taken centre stage, with
industry researchers attempting to quantify future terrorist threat using
game theory and other esoteric mathematical jiggery-pokery.

If insurers are not to be caught out again, it is clear that they must
become proactive rather than reactive, adopting a 'clear horizon' approach
that seeks to identify and quantify future threats before they happen.

Inevitably, any such policy will find itself uncovering rare events
characterised by low frequency but high impact. Squarely into this category
fall those phenomena labelled by hazard scientists as global geophysical
events and defined as natural catastrophes with the potential to have a
detrimental physical effect on the entire planet or at least a substantial
fraction of it.

The last few years have seen a growing awareness of such shadowy phenomena
as asteroid and comet impacts, volcanic super-eruptions, and giant tsunami,
which have now become, as it were, respectable passing from the rather
airy-fairy realm of science fiction to the cold, hard world of hazard
science.

If one could put a finger on just when this transition occurred, it would be
July 16, 1994, when the first of 21 chunks of fragmented comet ploughed into
the giant planet Jupiter, creating impact scars larger than our own world.

Suddenly, the Earth seemed a more fragile and vulnerable place, with the
human race clinging to life only with the consent of Mother Nature. Within
months, scientific programmes were in place to find and map all those
objects that threatened to collide with our planet, while national
governments including those of the US and the UK established task forces
better to assess the threat.

At the same time, popular perception was raised by two Hollywood blockbuster
films, Armageddon and Deep Impact, which detailed, with varying degrees of
scientific plausibility, what will happen when the Earth is next struck by a
large object from space.

Note here that I use the word will rather than is. Gaining acceptance that
global geophysical events such as asteroid or comet impacts are certain
rather than just possible remains difficult, and getting the message across
that such phenomena constitute normal if infrequent
behaviour, in geological terms, is still a struggle. While experts agree on
the size-threshold of an impactor capable of causing global mayhem something
on the order of 1 km to 1.5 km there is
still some discussion over the frequency of collisions with such objects,
with estimates ranging from every 100,000 to 300,000 years.

There is also some debate about how many threatening bodies there are out
there, and the number of large Earth-threatening asteroids may be as low as
500 or as high as 1,200. So far we have spotted less than 400. The effects
of an impact event on the Earth and our society depend upon the energy of
the collision. This is largely size-dependent although comets can travel at
double the speed of asteroids.

A 10 km did for the dinosaurs around 65m years ago and a similar collision
would obliterate our race. An object in the critical 1 km to 1.5 km size
range would be sufficient to obliterate a small country or state and would
kick up enough debris to block out the sun's rays and lead to a world-wide
freeze, sometimes referred to as a Cosmic Winter. Resultant death tolls of
the order of a billion have been estimated, largely due to starvation
related to global crop failure and subsequent famine.

As if the threat from space was not sufficient, future catastrophes are also
brewing beneath our feet. A couple of times every hundred millennia, an
explosive volcanic blast several thousand times greater than that which blew
Mount St. Helens apart in 1980, ejects sufficient gas and debris into the
stratosphere to dramatically reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the
surface.

The last time this happened, at Toba in Sumatra, a global freeze this time a
volcanic rather than a cosmic winter followed, which some anthropologists
believe reduced the human population to just a few thousand individuals.

The Earth does not run like clockwork and natural catastrophes do not
operate to a timetable, but the fact that some 74,000 years have passed
since the Toba eruption should start us thinking.

Add to this the fact that we are currently only monitoring a few hundred of
the world's 3,000 or so active volcanoes and the cogitation rapidly turns to
concern. Yellowstone Park (Wyoming, US) is probably the best-studied
super-eruption source, having produced three gigantic blasts during the past
2m years.

The last, around 650,000 years ago, led to volcanic debris 20 cm deep
accumulating more than 1,500 km away, and ash falling in what is now El Paso
and Los Angeles.

A similar event today would bring the US economy to its knees,
notwithstanding its effects on the planet's climate as a whole. Yellowstone
is closely monitored and likely to provide decades of warning of a new
super-eruption.

What is happening today at unmonitored volcanoes in the southern Andes or
the jungles of south-east Asia is on the other hand anyone's guess.

Both super-eruptions and the aforementioned asteroid or comet impacts depend
upon the atmosphere to spread their effects worldwide, in the case of giant
tsunami regularly incorrectly referred to as 'tidal waves'. However, the
oceans are the transmitting medium.

Unlike the run-of-the-mill, though deadly, tsunami generated by submarine
earthquakes, giant tsunami which may exceed 100 m in height result from the
collapse of volcanic ocean islands.

Evidence exists for such waves pounding the coastline of eastern Australia
following massive landslides on the Hawaiian Islands around 100,000 years
ago. Much more recently, attention has focused on the Canary Island of La
Palma, where a mass of rock the size of the UK's Isle of Man, started to
slide seawards in 1949.

A recent model of the future collapse which could occur in hundreds or
thousands of years' time predicts waves up to 50 m high crashing into the
east coast of the US and Caribbean some eight to12 hours after collapse,
with the UK, southern Europe, South America and North Africa also affected.

The depressing lesson, then, is that natural catastrophes on a planetary
scale are waiting in the wings ready to exact an enormous toll on the global
economy, and by default on the insurance industry. But can anything be done?
As is often the case, the answer is yes, but only if we have sufficient
warning.

Although the physical damage arising during the aforementioned scenarios
will inevitably be beyond experience and economic and insured losses
unprecedented, complete collapse of the global economy and social fabric can
be avoided by taking appropriate mitigatory measures, including evacuation,
emergency powers and rationing.

Whether the insurance industry in its present form could survive a global
natural catastrophe is questionable, and it is clearly too much to expect
for companies to build contingency funds to cushion its effects.

There is no such thing as too much knowledge, however, and in the aftermath
of September 11 it can do the industry no harm at all to begin to
familiarise itself with the far greater natural threats that it faces going
forward.

Copyright 2002, Insurance Day

===========
(6) A SALUTE TO GALILEO AND FRIENDS OF PLANETARY DEFENSE

>From Andy Smith <astrosafe22000@yahoo.com>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

Galileo's birthday (15 Feb.) is an excellent time to salute the great
pioneer and the many friends of planetary defense (PD) who live and work in
Italy. All of us, in the global family of advocates, appreciate what you
have done and continue to do, in the interest of the safety of the human
race and planet Earth.

We share a common bond, which is our awareness of the great danger we face.
We also share the great responsibility of being members of the first
generation, in the history of life on this planet, with the capability to
fully understand the dangers and to prepare a defense. We stand on the
shoulders of more than 400,000 generations (a very tall pyramid) and we
"have the ball".
 
Thanks to Galilei Galileo, Max Wolf, Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker, Tom
Gehrels, Ted Bowell, Brian Marsden, Arthur Clarke, Karri Muinonen, Anatoly
Zaitsev, Michael Paine, Andrea Carusi, Vadim Simonenko, Don Yeomans, Steve
Ostro, Syuzo Isobe, Duncan Steel, Jay Tate, Andrea Milani, Jin Zhu, Fred
Whipple, Chris Aikman, Richard Binzel, Mario Carpino, Pete Worden, Eleanor
Helin and many, many others...from all over the Globe...we are making
progress and moving toward the day when we can truly feel secure about NEO
impact safety.

We, the people of this Planet, welcome this opportunity to thank you all for
your many contributions. We expecially want to thank the NEODyS team, the
SPACEGUARD team and everyone at the University of Pisa for the support they
have given to PD. Since the founding of the U.P., in 1472, there has been a
proud and growing tradition of excellence....and the leadership you have
shown, in this vital effort, brings credit to your country and to the human
race.

Finally, we want to salute the planners of MACE 2003, the international
Meeting on Asteroids and Comets in Europe, which will be held from 1-4 May,
in Mallorca. We wish you the best and we urge you, if possible, to post the
full agenda, with abstracts and e-mail addresses, and the presentations, if
possible, on the Web. Our 1995 Planetary Defense Workshop, the Russian
SPACE SHIELD (PDE) international conferences and several others have been so
posted and they have proven to be of great value to the world community of specialists. We are
also hoping that the 2004 AIAA Planetary Defense Conference, in California,
will do the same. The Web is such a wonderful tool for the sharing of
information. 

Cheers,

Andy Smith/International Planetary Protection Alliance
(IPPA)/  astrosafe22000@yahoo.com

===========
(7) METEOR STORM IN JUNE 1991?

>From Hossein Alizadeh <immgharib@hotmail.com>

Dear Benny,

I have a vast collection of meteor and meteorite lore which I have
discovered in Persian astronomical and historical manuscripts, including
several events over a period of 500 years which recall me of Tunguska class
events if it could have happened in a more dry climate. I am currently
working to arrange all of these in chronical order to be published in a
scholarly journal.

But what I am going now to report is the accounts of a hitherto unknown
meteor storm which my mother had observed in the  dawn sky of June 28th 1991
while she was along my late father in their pilgrimage to Mecca. (Our elder
generation dreamed about making the once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca,
but our younger generations dream about admission to such prestigious
academic centers like New Mexico Tech, Caltech, UCLA and MIT!)

I have asked my mother to write down her observation in the Vol. 5 of my
hefty notebooks, all devoted to recording similar events of astronomical
interest. A verbatim translation from the original Persian is as this:

"On our way from Mecca to Medina [exactly to direction of the North] on the
highway I observed that a meteor shower began by the midnight, each one [of
the meteors] being 3 cm in length and some of those which rained where
smaller.

And our travel was began by Khordad 17th 1370 [June 7th 1991] and it lasted
for 31 days. We have been in Mecca for 21 days and for the rest of our
travel we have been in Medina. And from Medina we directly returned to
Tehran. [Then the night of the shower was by the dawn of the Friday June
28th 1991] I felt that the meteor shower was like a rain and perhaps lasted
for one hour. And the meteors directly rained toward the earth and no
oblique ones were observed. And I felt very sad and uneasy by seeing this,
because it was like a rain of fire, and I did not knew what the reason for
this rain was."

I have asked my mother about her seat in the bus and she says it was in the
left side seats, then her window in a Northward road should have provided a
view towards the West and since the bus ceiling blocked the upward view, she
probably could have a view up to a height of 75 of the western sky (25
degrees to the Zenith). By then the age of the Moon was 15 days and it was
placed in Sagittarius, low over the SSE horizon ,so moonlight might have
washed away the light of the fainter meteors.

About the Radiant of this meteor storm I just can make the rough guess that
probably it was within an area of the sky bordered by the constellations
Capricorn-Aquarius to the south and Cassiopeia-Cepheus to the north, which
interestingly is an approximate antipode to the general vicinity of the
constellation Taurus which homes the radiant of the now famous Taurid
daylight shower.

Also I have asked her questions to see if she was sure they could not have
been reflections of inside and outside lights, but she says she clearly can
differentiate between these.

My mother says the meteors she observed were colored orange-red ;like fire.

If this observation be genuinely about a meteor storm, then as it lasted for
about 1 hour, and during that period the Earth had been rotated by about 15
to the East, then we may expect that since she could only had a view towards
the West then the meteors might have been visible also in a slice of the
Earth stretching from Western Iran to Israel and Lebanon. I have tried to
locate any hint about a meteor storm by the dawn of June 27th 1991, without
any result up to know.

May anyone else have also observed this meteor storm?

Yours Sincerely 

Hossein Alizadeh Gharib
immgharib@hotmail.com

==============
(8) BRIAN CARNELL ON THE CHALLENGER O-RING FAILURE

>From Ed Grondine <epgrondine@hotmail.com>

Hello Benny -

Contrary to what Brian Carnell wrote (CCNet, 4 Feb 2003), the Challenger
failure mode is no myth.

Shuttle o-ring failures prior to Challenger are are well documented with
fully illustrated cross sections in the Challenger accident report (5
volumes, if I remember, supporting documentation in multiple boxes, current
repository unknown) as is the un-tested use in Challenger of a new asbestos
free sealant to replace the asbestos based one.

In other words, the o-rings had failed before, but the asbestos sealant kept
the blow-bys from progressing. It is almost as though the pre-Challenger
shuttles were held together by a garish toxic chewing gum - (actually a kind
of furnace cement) - that's the kind of margin of safety the NASA was
promoting then.

The extensive pre-flight testing of the new external tank insulation appears
to be a lesson NASA learned from Challenger.

This was 17 years ago. I have one blow by failure illustration somewhere in
my mounds of papers (say about two hours to dig it out), but digging out the
sealant information again would take a tremendous amount of time.

yours in science,
Ed

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without prior permission of the copyright holders. The fully indexed archive
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*

CCNet 11/2003 -  5 February 2003
--------------------------------


"NASA investigators remain unconvinced that the chunk of foam
insulation that struck Columbia's heat-resistant tiles on takeoff led to
its destruction, and also are now considering the possibility the
craft was struck by space debris while in orbit, the agency's chief
flight director said Tuesday. "Did we take some hit?" Milt Heflin, the
flight director, said in an interview Tuesday at Johnson Space Center.
"That's a possibility. Something was breached."
--Los Angeles Times, 5 February 2003


"NASA should perform a thorough risk assessment to determine the
likelihood that the space shuttle could be severely damaged by
meteoroids and orbital debris, says a new report* from a committee of the
National Research Council. In addition, the spacecraft should be re-
examined to identify components that may require additional protection.
Although NASA is taking steps to protect the shuttle from orbital
debris such as spent rocket bodies, satellite fragments, and paint
chips, there still is a real risk that a collision could cripple the
shuttle or threaten the safety of the crew."
--The National Academies, 16 December 1997



(1) NASA: COLUMBIA MAY HAVE BEEN STRUCK BY METEORITE OR SPACE DEBRIS
    The Los Angeles Times, 5 February 2003

(2) ORBITAL DEBRIS MAY POSE SIGNIFICANT RISK TO THE SPACE SHUTTLE
    National Academies, 16 December 1997

(3) PROTECTING THE SPACE SHUTTLE FROM METEOROIDS AND ORIBTAL DEBRIS
    Committee on Space Shuttle Meteoroid/Debris Risk Management, National
Research Council

===========
(1) NASA: COLUMBIA MAY HAVE BEEN STRUCK BY METEORITE OR SPACE DEBRIS
 
>From Los Angeles Times, 5 February 2003
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-nasa5feb05,0,3696741.story?coll=la%2Dhome%2Dheadlines
 
By Scott Gold and Ralph Vartabedian, Times Staff Writers

HOUSTON -- NASA investigators remain unconvinced that the chunk of foam
insulation that struck Columbia's heat-resistant tiles on takeoff led to its
destruction, and also are now considering the possibility the craft was
struck by space debris while in orbit, the agency's chief flight director
said Tuesday.

"Did we take some hit?" Milt Heflin, the flight director, said in an
interview Tuesday at Johnson Space Center. "That's a possibility. Something
was breached."

NASA investigators have developed what has become known inside Johnson Space
Center as a "fault tree" - a list of potential mishaps and flaws that might
have caused Columbia to break apart Saturday morning over East and central
Texas.

The list, aimed at finding the cause of what NASA terms the "thermal event"
that destroyed the shuttle, includes several theories. Although the current
investigation focuses on several scenarios related to tile damage, some
analysts also have questioned whether faulty wiring or corrosion could have
played a role.

Nonetheless, the prime suspect remains the piece of foam insulation that
fell off the external tank during the Jan. 16 liftoff, possibly damaging the
protective tiles.

Tile vulnerability has been an object of warnings for years. One study
prepared for NASA nearly a decade ago warned that insulation and ice debris
could result in enough damage to doom the orbiter during reentry.

"We estimated that [the loss of a shuttle] was a possibility," said Paul
Fischbeck of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, one of the authors.

Despite warnings that the shuttle could be endangered if debris struck its
underbelly during liftoff, some engineers do not believe that any scenario
would have been destructive enough to cause Columbia to crash.

NASA's computers have calculated the potential damage caused by the foam
insulation. Under two worst-case scenarios, NASA investigators say, the
insulation either would have destroyed a single heat-resistant tile near the
landing gear door or caused damage to a 32-by-7-inch patch of tiles along
the shuttle fuselage.

That means the spacecraft's tiles - 24,000 ceramic pieces that have been
problematic from the beginning of the shuttle program - could have been
damaged some other way, Heflin said, possibly by space junk or a tiny
meteorite. NASA engineers say they are considering the possibility that a
small piece of space debris could have grazed the shuttle, damaging or
loosening tiles just enough to start a chain reaction once the craft started
roaring through the atmosphere.

The ceramic tiles act as a protective armor around the body of the space
shuttle, protecting it against the intense heat of reentry through the
atmosphere. Although many tiles are damaged or knocked off during missions,
missing tiles in a particularly vulnerable portion of the spacecraft, such
as at the leading edge of its wings, could imperil its ability to fly.

The skepticism of some engineers and attempts to broaden the list of
suspects failed to shift attention from insulation debris Tuesday as more
reports documenting past warnings emerged.

"The foam insulation falling off the external tank could certainly damage
tiles," Fischbeck said in a telephone interview.

The 1994 report he co-authored with Elisabeth Pate-Cornell of Stanford
University specifically cited concerns about Columbia, noting that tiles
"were put in place under severe schedule constraints, which may have
affected the quality of the work."

Columbia was the first orbiter built, and the report found problems with
tile adhesion and trapped water. Fischbeck and Pate-Cornell advised that the
tiles be waterproofed. The report did not indicate whether those
recommendations were followed, but Fischbeck said the agency took the
recommendations seriously and made improvements.

NASA officials have said in news briefings that a 20-inch chunk of foam,
weighing about 2.67 pounds, was videotaped falling off the external tank and
striking the underside of Columbia's left wing about 80 seconds after
liftoff. That represented the largest piece of debris ever known to have
fallen off the tank. At 80 seconds into flight, the orbiter was nearing a
speed of 2,000 mph, meaning the foam carried substantial energy into the
impact and could have caused serious tile damage, according to Fischbeck.

The 1994 report warned NASA of several scenarios that could cause
catastrophic safety problems, including the potential for a "zipper effect"
where the loss of a single tile would, in turn, cause adjacent tile losses
until opening a large unprotected gap. Such exposure could make vital areas
of the shuttle - such as critical hydraulic lines, computers or fuel tanks -
vulnerable to destructive heat, the report said.

After the report was issued, Fischbeck said NASA took steps to sharply
reduce foam debris. The experts also urged NASA to find ways to improve tile
safety, despite budget cuts.

"NASA must find ways of being cost-effective, because it simply cannot
afford financially or politically to lose another orbiter," the report
cautioned.

Heflin said his engineers have no hard evidence Columbia was struck by a
piece of space junk or a space pebble, known as a micrometeor. What's more,
NASA takes great care during missions to avoid the man-made objects, from
ejected payload shrouds to tools left behind by astronauts after spacewalks,
that are in constant orbit. By some estimates, there are more than a million
objects within 1,200 miles of the Earth's surface.

Heflin also pointed out that the space debris theory has not supplanted the
foam insulation theory, but has been placed alongside it on the "fault
tree."

Analysts inside and outside the space program are torn over the possibility
that space debris is to blame. There are several problems with the theory.

First, the Air Force and NASA together perform a comprehensive analysis of a
shuttle's projected path before each mission to ensure that it is not struck
by debris, said Howard Sands, a former NASA official who worked as a
contracting officer for space shuttle logistics before he retired in 1986.
The Air Force has the ability to pinpoint the location of space debris that
is just centimeters in diameter, and would have warned NASA about the
dangers of debris large enough to damage it.

Second, there are "clean" and "dirty" levels of orbit above Earth. The space
shuttle typically coasts along at 15,000 mph in one of the relatively clean
levels, close to the atmosphere. At that level, much of the debris left
behind by earlier space flights or defunct satellites falls into the
atmosphere and burns up before it can do damage.

"Up higher, things can stay around for hundreds, maybe thousands of years,"
said a Boeing engineer who works on the international space station, which
orbits in a higher and much "dirtier" path. The engineer spoke on the
condition of anonymity. "Down where the shuttle is, things are kind of
getting sucked into the Earth's orbit like there's a big vacuum cleaner," he
said.

Finally, if something struck the shuttle with enough force to ultimately
bring it down, many analysts say NASA, its crew and the craft's computers
would have known instantly. NASA's test facility in White Sands, N.M.,
recently conducted a study of the potential impact of space debris. The
conclusion: A piece of plastic the size of a walnut could tear a 5-inch-wide
hole through aluminum as thick as the Los Angeles telephone book. In other
words, one analyst said Tuesday, if the shuttle struck something, "everybody
would know. It would be loud."

"That stuff moves so fast relative to the shuttle," said the analyst,
speaking on condition of anonymity.

On the other hand, "there is a lot of debris up there," said William Ailor,
president of Aerospace Corp., a nonprofit group in El Segundo that provides
technical support to the Air Force and studies orbital matter. After all,
Ailor said, "we've been in space for 40 years."

There are enough pieces of debris in space that some scientists have
proposed a variety of remedies. Some hope to install robotic arms on
spacecraft that can grab old satellites and pull them into orbits where they
can't do any damage.

NASA has had to adjust the flight path of space shuttles at least eight
times to avoid large pieces of debris, Ailor said. Most of the debris is
found at extremely high levels of orbit, where satellites are kept - more
than 250 miles higher than the space shuttle typically flies. Studies show
that all but 9,000 of the pieces are smaller than a tennis ball, including
thousands of tiny particles left behind by solid rocket motors.

In addition, there are countless micrometeorites, some of them smaller than
the diameter of a strand of hair, Ailor said. Most of them are so tiny that
they can do no damage to a spacecraft as large as a commercial airplane. One
study showed that a craft that had been in space for more than five years
was struck by these particles more than 30,000 times, with no ill effect.

Still, NASA has discovered pockmarks on at least two shuttle windshields
after the crafts returned safely, Sands said, possibly because of collisions
with that matter in space. A speck of paint once chipped the windshield of
the space shuttle Challenger during a mission completed before it exploded
in 1986. Some have estimated that the speck was traveling 20 times faster
than a bullet travels on Earth.

That sort of matter could weigh just enough to damage a thermal tile, Ailor
said. And, Sands added, it's possible that a piece of space debris could
have broken off a satellite or a larger piece of space trash during
Columbia's 16-day mission, and didn't show up on engineers' maps until it
was too late. "It could happen," Sands said. "It is a possibility."

Meanwhile, NASA expanded its search Tuesday for Columbia's wreckage by
several states.

After scouring the ground for clues in Texas and Louisiana - and discounting
reports that the shuttle may have begun breaking up farther west - NASA sent
investigators to California and Arizona when credible reports surfaced that
pieces of Columbia may have landed there. If the debris proves to be from
the shuttle, it may offer an early glimpse of what was happening before
Columbia broke up over Texas.

Michael Kostelnik, the high-ranking NASA official responsible for the
shuttle and space station programs, said what may prove to be the wreckage
of the shuttle's main engines has been located in Louisiana. Heavy pieces,
like the engines, would travel farther after the spaceship broke up.

Kostelnik said he did not know the location of the reported debris in
California and Arizona.

"It's not clear what the material is," Kostelnik added. "We have had some
e-mail correspondence that potentially looks like it could be either [tiles]
or potentially wing material. If it is wing material, obviously that would
be very important to the investigation.

"Certainly something that early in the event is most important," Kostelnik
said.

NASA's main priority for now is to recover the remains of the astronauts'
bodies, and thereafter to hunt for the most important pieces of wreckage.
The crew compartment has not been recovered in any identifiable form,
Kostelnik said, though pieces of it may be in official custody.

Times staff writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington and Eric Malnic in
Houston and Nona Yates in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Copyright 2003, Los Angeles Times

=========
(2) ORBITAL DEBRIS MAY POSE SIGNIFICANT RISK TO THE SPACE SHUTTLE

>From the National Academies, 16 December 1997
http://www4.nationalacademies.org/news.nsf/isbn/0309059887?OpenDocument

Date: Dec. 16, 1997
Contacts: Molly Galvin, Media Relations Associate
Sean McLaughlin, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; Internet <news@nas.edu>

Orbital Debris May Pose
Significant Risk to the Space Shuttle

WASHINGTON -- NASA should perform a thorough risk assessment to determine
the likelihood that the space shuttle could be severely damaged by
meteoroids and orbital debris, says a new report* from a committee of the
National Research Council. In addition, the spacecraft should be re-examined
to identify components that may require additional protection.

"Although NASA is taking steps to protect the shuttle from orbital debris
such as spent rocket bodies, satellite fragments, and paint chips, there
still is a real risk that a collision could cripple the shuttle or threaten
the safety of the crew," said committee chair Frederick Hauck, president and
chief executive officer, AXA Space, Bethesda, Md. "NASA needs to obtain a
more precise picture of the potential dangers and assess additional methods
for reducing these threats."

The most recent examination of overall risks posed to the shuttle, conducted
in 1995, did not assess the hazards from orbital debris. For some missions,
the committee said, adding the debris threat to estimates of potential risks
-- such as the risks during launch or re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere --
almost doubles the likelihood that the crew will be harmed or that the
spacecraft will incur major damage. NASA should consider reducing its
allowable level of risk from orbital debris.

Moreover, the space agency should expand efforts to model the sources of
debris that could be in the shuttle's orbit. Predictions of risk for
individual missions may be highly inaccurate -- especially for estimates of
the number of very small objects, the committee said. Because debris can
collide with the shuttle at speeds of six miles per second, even tiny debris
like paint chips can cause considerable damage.

Providing Protection

A complete evaluation of the shuttle's components and subsystems and their
vulnerability to damage should be performed, the committee said. NASA should
explore further modifications to hardware that would protect critical
systems. For example, the agency plans to add shielding to the shuttle's
radiator system. In addition, NASA should examine whether new operational
procedures could minimize damage caused by orbital debris. In-flight
inspections and repairs of the shuttle's exterior should be considered.

NASA's four operating space shuttles, designed in the 1970s, were not built
to repel bombardment by orbital debris because such objects were not
recognized as a substantial threat. New data indicates that the craft often
is exposed to debris that could cause major damage. For example, debris as
small as a quarter-inch in diameter could punch a hole through the wall of
the crew's cabin and cause a loss of air pressure. An object that punctures
the shuttle's wing could cause structural failure when the shuttle re-enters
the atmosphere. Even relatively minor damage can require repairs that add
significant expense and delays.

Avoiding Collisions

NASA routinely moves the shuttle out of the path of debris large enough to
be tracked by ground-based sensors operated by the Department of Defense
(DOD). However, estimates indicate that more than 95 percent of debris that
could critically damage the shuttle is too small to be picked up by current
sensors. NASA and DOD should work together to improve the collision warning
system and identify ways to track smaller debris, the committee said. It
also urged NASA to examine how the shuttle can be protected when it is used
to support the international space station, scheduled for launch in 1998.

The study was funded by NASA. The National Research Council is the principal
operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy
of Engineering. It is a private, non-profit institution that provides
independent advice on science and technology issues under a congressional
charter. A committee roster follows.

==========
(3) PROTECTING THE SPACE SHUTTLE FROM METEOROIDS AND ORIBTAL DEBRIS

>From Committee on Space Shuttle Meteoroid/Debris Risk Management, National
Research Council
http://www.nap.edu/catalog/5958.html

The space shuttle orbiter has already been struck many times by small
meteoroids and orbital debris, but it has not been damaged severely. There
is a real risk, however, that a meteoroid or debris impact could one day
force the crew to abort a mission or might result in loss of life or loss of
the shuttle itself. Protecting the Space Shuttle from Meteoroids and Orbital
Debris assesses the magnitude of the problem and suggests changes that the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration can make to reduce the risk to
the shuttle and its crew.

FULL REPORT at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/5958.html

--------------------------------------------------------------------
CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe, please
contact the moderator Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk >. Information
circulated on this network is for scholarly and educational use only. The
attached information may not be copied or reproduced for any other purposes
without prior permission of the copyright holders. The fully indexed archive
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CCCMENU CCC for 2002

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