PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 26/2001 - 15 February 2001
--------------------------------

"I was shocked to read the following from Mark Sykes, Chairman of
the Division for Planetary Sciences of the AAS. 'When designing an
exhibition, one needs to understand and take into consideration the
expectations of the viewer. Given an opportunity, the viewer will see
what they expect to see.' Surely, an exhibition that does just that
contributes nothing. If viewers only see what they expect to see they
might as well stay home. [...] Pluto as a planet - is "the view that
visitors to the exhibit learned in school," writes Sykes. This has
eerie parallels with the Church reprimanding Galileo."
--Gerrit Verschuur, University of Memphis, 14 February 2001


"Andrew Glikson raises the question of whether the relationship
between humans and  extraterrestrial microbial life should be governed
by 'ethical considerations', by analogy with the relationship
between different races within the human species. The point about
relations within Homo sapiens is that members of all human races are capable
of moral reason, which may be roughly defined as the capacity for
modification of one's instinctive behaviour through intellectual
reflection and sympathy for others. The recognition of this fact was
therefore a creative development in moral evolution. It is unclear in what
sense Dr Glikson supposes that humans and bacteria are equal moral agents,
and therefore unclear why he teasingly implies that they should have a
moral claim on us."
--Stephen Ashworth, Oxford, 14 February 2001



(1) NEAR SHOEMAKER READY TO GATHER DATA ON SURFACE OF EROS
    NEAR Mission, 14 February 2001

(2) NEAR SHOEMAKER EXCEEDS SCIENCE & ENGINEERING EXPECTATIONS
    Ron Baalke <baalke@jpl.nasa.gov>

(3) NEAR SHOEMAKER PRESS CONFERENCE SLIDES
    NEAR JHUAPL, 14 February 2001

(4) ASTEROID MISSION EXTENDED: NEAR TO COLLECT MORE DATA
    Space.com, 14 February 2001

(5) RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS APPRECIATIVE OF US PROBE LANDING ON EROS
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(6) NEAR LANDING SPARKS CLAIM-JUMPING DISPUTE
    Space.com, 14 February 2001

(7) UK GOVERNMENT POSTPONES RESPONSE TO NEO TASK FORCE REPORT, AGAIN
    Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>

(8) NASA TO HOST 32nd LUNAR AND PLANETARY SCIENCE CONFERENCE AT JOHNSON
SPACE CENTER
    Ron Baalke <baalke@jpl.nasa.gov>

(9) 32nd LUNAR & PLANETARY SCIENCE CONFERENCE
    Michael Paine <mpaine@tpgi.com.au>

(10) NATIONAL ASTRONOMY MEETING 2001 AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
    Jacqueline Mitton <aco01@dial.pipex.com>

(11) CHANCES ARE SMALL THAT MIR COULD CRASH TO EARTH OUT OF CONTROL
     SpaceDaily, 14 February 2001

(12) DPS ON PLUTO: EERIE PARALLELS WITH CHURCH REPRIMANDING GALILEO
     Gerrit Verschurr <GVERSCHR@LATTE.MEMPHIS.EDU>

(13) THE ETHICAL DIMENSION OF SPACE EXPLORATION
     Stephen Ashworth <sa@astronist.demon.co.uk>

(14) P/T BOUNDARY: NO IRIDIUM
     Hermann Burchard <burchar@mail.math.okstate.edu>

(15) AND FINALLY: RUSSIAN WINTER WORST IN 50 YEARS
     http://www.microtech.com.au/daly/index.htm


=============
(1) NEAR SHOEMAKER READY TO GATHER DATA ON SURFACE OF EROS

From NEAR Mission, 14 February 2001
http://near.jhuapl.edu/news/flash/01feb14_2.html

The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft has been commanded to begin collecting data
from the surface of 433 Eros.

NASA announced on Feb. 14 it was extending the NEAR mission for up to 10
days to gather data from the spacecraft's gamma-ray spectrometer, a
scientific instrument that could provide unprecedented information about the
surface and subsurface composition of Eros. Mission controllers at the Johns
Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., have
configured the instrument to begin collecting and recording this
information.

NEAR Mission Operations Manager Robert Nelson said the team is also sending
commands to prevent the rest of the spacecraft from sending data to its
onboard recorder, since the only reliable telemetry link is through NEAR
Shoemaker's low-gain antenna. "Now that we have landed, collection and
recovery of critical gamma-ray data is our primary objective," he said.

NEAR Shoemaker's historic Feb. 12 touchdown on Eros turned out to be a
mission planner's dream - providing NEAR team members with more scientific
and engineering information than they ever expected from their carefully
designed series of descent maneuvers. The spacecraft gently landed at
3:01:52 p.m. EST, ending a journey of more than 2 billion miles (3.2 billion
kilometers) and a full year in orbit around the large space rock.

Mission operators say the touchdown speed of less than 4 miles per hour
(between 1.5 and 1.8 meters per second) may have been one of the slowest
planetary landings in history, and they now have a better picture of what
happened in the moments after the landing. What they originally thought was
a bounce may have been little more than short hop or "jiggle" on the
surface; the thrusters were still firing when the craft hit the surface, but
cut off on impact; and NEAR Shoemaker came down about 650 feet (200 meters)
from the projected landing site.

NEAR Shoemaker snapped 69 detailed pictures during the final three miles of
its descent, the highest resolution images ever obtained of an asteroid. The
camera delivered clear pictures from as close as 394 feet (120 meters),
showing features as small as 1 centimeter across. They also included several
things that piqued the curiosity of NEAR scientists, such as fractured
boulders; a football-field sized crater filled with dust; and a mysterious
area where the surface appears to have collapsed.

=========
(2) NEAR SHOEMAKER EXCEEDS SCIENCE & ENGINEERING EXPECTATIONS

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

http://near.jhuapl.edu/news/flash/01feb14_1.html

February 14, 2001

The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft's historic soft landing on asteroid 433 Eros
Feb. 12 turned out to be a mission planner's dream - providing NEAR team
members with more scientific and engineering information than they ever
expected from the carefully designed series of descent maneuvers.

"We put the first priority on getting high-resolution images of the surface
and the second on putting the spacecraft down safely - and we got both,"
says NEAR Mission Director Dr. Robert Farquhar of the Johns Hopkins
University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which manages the Near
Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission for NASA. "This could not have
worked out better."

Two days after a set of five de-orbit and braking maneuvers brought it to
the surface of Eros, NEAR Shoemaker is still communicating with the NEAR
team at the Applied Physics Lab. The spacecraft gently touched down at
3:01:52 p.m. EST on Monday, ending a journey of more than 2 billion miles
(3.2 billion kilometers) and a full year in orbit around the large space
rock.

Yesterday the NEAR mission operations team disabled a redundant engine
firing that would have been activated had it been necessary to adjust the
spacecraft's orientation in order to receive telemetry from it. But because
NEAR Shoemaker landed with such a favorable orientation, and telemetry has
already been received, it was no longer necessary to move the spacecraft
from its resting place.

Mission operators say the touchdown speed of less than 4 miles per hour
(between 1.5 and 1.8 meters per second) may have been one of the slowest
planetary landings in history. They also have a better picture of what
happened in the moments after the landing: What they originally thought was
the spacecraft bouncing may have been little more than short hop or "jiggle"
on the surface; the thrusters were still firing when the craft hit the
surface, but cut off on impact; and NEAR Shoemaker came down only about 650
feet (200 meters) from the projected landing site.

"It essentially confirmed that all the mathematical models we proposed for a
controlled descent would work," says Dr. Bobby Williams, NEAR navigation
team leader at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "You never know if they'll
work until you test them, and this was like our laboratory. The spacecraft
did what we expected it to do, and everyone's real happy about that."

NEAR Shoemaker snapped 69 detailed pictures during the final three miles
(five kilometers) of its descent, the highest resolution images ever
obtained of an asteroid. The camera delivered clear pictures from as close
as 394 feet (120 meters) showing features as small as one centimeter across.
The images also included several things that piqued the curiosity of NEAR
scientists, such as fractured boulders, a football-field sized crater filled
with dust, and a mysterious area where the surface appears to have
collapsed.

"These spectacular images have started to answer the many questions we had
about Eros," says Dr. Joseph Veverka, NEAR imaging team leader from Cornell
University in Ithaca, N.Y., "but they also revealed new mysteries that we
will explore for years to come."

NEAR Shoemaker launched on Feb. 17, 1996 - the first in NASA's Discovery
Program of low-cost, scientifically focused planetary missions - and became
the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid on Feb. 14, 2000. The car-sized
spacecraft gathered 10 times more data during its orbit than originally
planned, and completed all the mission's science goals before Monday's
controlled descent.

"NEAR has raised the bar," says Dr. Stamatios M. Krimigis, head of the
Applied Physics Laboratory's Space Department. "The Laboratory is very proud
to manage such a successful mission and work with such a strong team of
partners from industry, government and other universities. This team had no
weak links - not only did we deliver a spacecraft in 26 months, we were
ready to launch a month early, and that efficiency continued through five
years of operations. This is what the Discovery Program is designed to do."

============
(3) NEAR SHOEMAKER PRESS CONFERENCE SLIDES

From NEAR JHUAPL, 14 February 2001
http://near.jhuapl.edu/media/010214_pc/

===========
(4) ASTEROID MISSION EXTENDED: NEAR TO COLLECT MORE DATA

From Space.com, 14 February 2001
http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/missions/near_writethru_010214.html

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer

LAUREL, MARYLAND -- NASA gave a Valentine's Day gift to space scientists,
extending the mission of a spacecraft that touched down on an asteroid this
week and maintaining a radio link with the probe.

An extension of 10 days should allow scientists to glean science data
directly from the surface of Asteroid 433 Eros. Healthy telemetry from the
probe has been received ever since the safe, odds-against landing on Monday,
and the spacecraft is being checked out as to its overall health.

"This has been successful beyond our highest expectations," said Jay
Bergstralh, acting director for NASA Solar System Exploration at the
agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. "NASA intends to take advantage of
this success by extending the mission up to 10 days."

NASA gave a green-light to Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) Shoemaker
project officials to continue the mission, announcing the decision at a
press conference here at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics
Laboratory (APL).

APL built the spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA.

During the extended mission, APL will turn on the probe's X-ray/Gamma Ray
Spectrometer to learn more about the surface and subsurface composition of
the asteroid Eros.

The $223 million NEAR Shoemaker mission was slated to officially end on
February 14. Project funds are nearly depleted. No additional radio link
time between Earth and the craft was on tap -- that is, until the chancy
landing proved successful.

The cost of the extension is unclear, Bergstralh said. Tracking NEAR will
require the use of NASA's largest 230-foot (70-meter) radio antennas in its
Deep Space Network.

"I think this is doable on an every-other-day or every-third-day basis," he
said. "The project has some reserve. They haven't presented us with an
estimate yet."

NEAR Shoemaker continued to send signals to the NEAR team two days after the
touchdown.

A daring dive

"People are saying this was a controlled crash. No, it wasn't. This was a
controlled landing," Robert Farquhar, NEAR mission director at told
SPACE.com.

"This was a soft landing...maybe the softest of all time," Farquhar said,
contrasting NEAR Shoemaker's daring dive onto Eros with landers on the Moon,
Venus and Mars. "We landed at an impact speed between 1.5 and 1.8 meters (5
and 6 feet) per second, which is less than 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) per
hour," he said.

NEAR Shoemaker carried no landing gear and was not built for such a
maneuver.

Eros is about the size of New York's Manhattan Island -- looking like a
giant shoe -- slowly turning head over heel through space. On duty since
February 14 of last year, NEAR Shoemaker had been orbiting the huge object,
diving across its dusty terrain at various altitudes.

Before coming to a dead stop on Eros on Monday, the craft apparently made a
short hop or "jiggle" on the asteroid's surface at touchdown. Spacecraft
thrusters were still firing when the craft made contact with the surface,
but cut off on impact.

Plumes from the spacecraft's thrusters likely caused some buffeting of the
probe as it closed in on the surface.

Rest in-piece

NEAR Shoemaker is believed to have come down just 650 feet (200 meters) from
the projected landing site, a saddle-shaped featured named Himeros, at the
boundary of two major geologic provinces of Eros.

That touchdown took place after a journey of 2 billion miles (3.2 billion
kilometers) after launch on February 17, 1996.

During the 10-day extension, the probe's X-ray/Gamma Ray Spectrometer (XGRS)
will measure and map the abundance of elements present on the surface of
Eros.

"These measurements have the potential of improving the precision of our
knowledge about these abundances by a factor of 10," Bergstralh said.

Navigation feat

The probe is now resting on the asteroid in such a position that the camera
and spectrometer are pointed at the surface. But more images would not be of
any worth, Veverka told SPACE.com, as they would be out of focus. The camera
is designed to take pictures from far away, not right on the surface, he
said.

A plan to re-launch the probe from the asteroid was scrapped due to lack of
fuel.

"We have no fuel on the spacecraft, plus or minus 8 kilograms (18 pounds),"
said Robert Farquhar, NEAR mission director at the Applied Physics
Laboratory.

A more important science goal was the prospect of gathering data with the
spectrometer. Still in question is exactly what Eros is composed of, and
whether or not the asteroid matches a class of meteorite recovered here on
Earth.

Bobby Williams, leader of the NEAR Shoemaker navigation team at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said controlling the
spacecraft onto Eros "was a feat unparalleled in space history."

"We did something untried in the history of deep-space navigation," Williams
said, with the craft gently bumping to a full stop without flipping over.
"The good Lord smiled on us when we were landing."

Bag full of mysteries

NEAR Shoemaker snapped 69 detailed pictures during the final 3 miles (5
kilometers) of its descent, said Joseph Veverka, imaging team leader at
Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Pictures returned show features as
small as 0.4 inch (1 centimeter) across.

Captured within those images, a number of questions pop up, Veverka said.
"NEAR Shoemaker has given us a bag full of mysteries that will keep us
scratching our heads for a long time to come," he said.

In particular, Veverka said that some process is at work on the surface that
is eroding boulders. Also, the craft imaged an area where the surface
appears to be collapsed. "What is going on is a tremendous puzzle,
especially since we're dealing with a body that has no atmosphere and
doesn't have any water," he said.

Thomas Coughlin, NEAR project manager at APL, said the mission shows that
faster, better, cheaper spacecraft can be built and flown, with better being
first. "We've shown it can work and does work and we're proof of that," he
said.

Farquhar said that the solar-powered NEAR Shoemaker is likely to remain
alive on Eros for several more months. "We think the ides of March might be
kind of bad for the spacecraft," as the Sun sets in April in relationship to
where the craft now sits, he told SPACE.com.

Copyright 2001, Space.com

===========
(5) RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS APPRECIATIVE OF US PROBE LANDING ON EROS

From Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

[ http://library.northernlight.com/FB20010214420000051.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#doc ]

Wednesday, February 14, 2001, 8:21 AM EST

MOSCOW (Itar-Tass) -- History's first soft landing of a spacecraft onto the
surface of an asteroid has become an outstanding achievement of U.S.
specialists who directed the flight of the NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid
Rendezvous) interplanetary probe, Professor Vassily Moroz, one of Russia's
major authorities on the exploration of the planets of the solar system and
head of the planetary physics department of the Space Research Institute of
the Russian Academy of Sciences, has told Itar-Tass.

Moroz evaluation is that "the American specialists succeeded in putting the
NEAR spacecraft into an orbit round such a small space body as the asteroid
Eros with a filigree accuracy and ensure a softlanding of the
inter-planetary probe on its surface". This operation, the Russian scientist
believes, has proved in practice the possibility of successful landings on
asteroids.

As for scientific data transmitted by the probe while in orbit around the
Eros and when alighting on it, "the obtained photos will be able to tell a
good deal about the structure and history of this space body", Moroz said.

The scientist pointed out that, possibly, "these data will make it possible
also to determine the structure of the surface layer of the asteroid". At
the same time the Russian expert recalled that it will take years to process
the vast amount of new data gleaned.

Copyright 2001 ITAR-TASS News Agency. All rights reserved.

========
(6) NEAR LANDING SPARKS CLAIM-JUMPING DISPUTE

From Space.com, 14 February 2001
http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/missions/near_claim_010214.html
 
By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer

WASHINGTON -- The soft-landing by NEAR Shoemaker on Asteroid 433 Eros has
caught the attention of a group claiming they own the giant space rock.

Orbital Development of San Diego said they welcome NASA's NEAR spacecraft to
Eros, but also want to inform NASA that the group has owned the property
since March 3 of last year.

"It's the wild frontier up there," said Gregory Nemitz, founder of Orbital
Development. "Since there are no laws governing private property claims in
outer space, the first claimant gets ownership of it," he said in a statement.

Nemitz said his group filed a Class D property claim with the Archimedes
Institute last year. A "Claims Registry" at the institute has been
established to lower the cost of doing business in space by helping to
reduce the legal uncertainties associated with a wide variety of space activities.

According to a Web site, the institute has been established to provide an
objective and public opportunity for individuals, corporations and other
entities to register property claims, liens and judgements regarding space
property rights.

The Archimedes Institute is encouraging the formation of new, efficient and
equitable legal standards for the sensible development of the high frontier,
Nemitz said.

Eros -- mining and tourist haven

Nemitz said the reason for filing his claim was, as a near-Earth asteroid,
Eros "is a potential resource base for construction materials and
propellants," he said. Furthermore, in the future, a recreational tourist
facility will be built into spaces on Eros cleared by mining, he said.

In its filing with the Archimedes Institute, Orbital Development claimed all
of Eros and a volume of space 31 miles (50 kilometers) in altitude into
space from every point on the surface of the asteroid.

Lawrence D. Roberts, Archimedes Institute's director, is an academic
specializing in issues of space law and policy. Roberts teaches at Fordham
University Graduate School of Business in New York.

Nemitz said that the concept for claiming Eros may sound foreign to some,
but precedents are well entrenched throughout history.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, of which the U.S. is a signatory, prohibits
national governments from making property claims in space.

"So NASA and the NEAR project cannot make a superseding claim for Eros based
on NEAR's successful landing," Nemitz said.

In the meantime, the welcome mat is out for NEAR Shoemaker, Nemitz said.

Copyright 2001, Space.com

=============
(7) UK GOVERNMENT POSTPONES RESPONSE TO NEO TASK FORCE REPORT, AGAIN

From Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>

For the fourth time in as many months, the UK Government is said to have
postponed its long-awaited response to the NEO Task Force Report. Back in
September, when the NEO Report was published, the Science Minister announced
that HMG would respond to the findings and recommendations by the end of the
year 2000. Since then, the timetable has slipped time and again. I
understand that the latest delay might push the Government's announcement to
the end of this month. In the meantime, the House of Lords have decided to
discuss the Task Force Report and its recommendations on March 7. It would
be rather embarrassing if the Upper House (and indeed the interested public)
would remain in the Dark half a year after the Task Force published its
Report.  

Benny J Peiser

==========
(8) NASA TO HOST 32nd LUNAR AND PLANETARY SCIENCE CONFERENCE AT JOHNSON
SPACE CENTER

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

February 13, 2001
Catherine E. Watson
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(Phone: 281/483-5111)

Release: J01-14

NASA TO HOST 32nd LUNAR AND PLANETARY SCIENCE CONFERENCE AT JOHNSON SPACE
CENTER

Ancient life on Mars, oceans on Europa, a rendezvous with an asteroid -
these are just a few of the many fascinating topics that will be covered at
the 32nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, March 12-16, 2001, at the
NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

More than 450 scientists will present their research at JSC's Gilruth Center
beginning at 8:30 a.m. Monday, March 12. Oral presentations will continue
through Friday morning, March 16. Some scientists will also present their
results on posters from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, in the Bayou
Building at the University of Houston - Clear Lake. The media are invited to
attend both the oral and poster sessions.

One session on Monday morning will be devoted to the Tagish Lake meteorite,
which fell to Earth in northern British Columbia on Jan. 18, 2000. Early
analyses suggest that the Tagish Lake meteorite may contain the most
primitive solar system materials yet found. Researchers have also determined
that the meteroid weighed 200,000 kilograms (441,000 lbs) before it entered
the atmosphere, and was four to six meters (approximately 13 to 20 feet) in
diameter. Several hundred meteorite samples have been recovered from the
site, which is strewn along an area 16 kilometers (10 miles) long and five
kilometers (three miles) wide. The analyses of these unique samples will be
discussed in detail at the conference.

The conference, which is chaired by Carl B. Agee of JSC and David C. Black
of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, will also include presentations on
water, glaciers and volcanoes on Mars; earthquakes on Venus; and the effects
of past asteroid impacts on the Earth.

News media can register for the conference, at no charge, via the Web at:

https://www.lpi.usra.edu/htbin/meetings/lpsc2001.elec.regfrm.pl

Under "registration status" select "Working Press $0.00". News media with
additional questions, or those who wish to schedule interviews with
participants, should contact Pam Thompson at the Lunar and Planetary
Institute. Thompson can be reached by phone at 281/486-2175 or by e-mail at
thompson@lpi.usra.edu.

Additional information about conference events, including the texts of
abstracts, can be found at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
website:

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2001/

===========
(9) 32nd LUNAR & PLANETARY SCIENCE CONFERENCE

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

Dear Benny,

Abstracts for the 32nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (March 12-16,
2001, Houston) are available at
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2001/lpsc2001.download.html

regards
Michael Paine

===========
(10) NATIONAL ASTRONOMY MEETING 2001 AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

From Jacqueline Mitton <aco01@dial.pipex.com>

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY            PRESS NOTICE

Date: 14 February 2001                     Ref. PN 01/06 (NAM1)

Issued by: RAS Press Officers

Dr Jacqueline Mitton
Phone: +44 ((0)1223) 564914
Fax: +44 ((0)1223) 572892
E-mail: jmitton@dial.pipex.com

Peter Bond
Phone: +44 (0)1483 268672
Fax: +44 (0)1483 274047
E-mail: 100604.1111@compuserve.com

NATIONAL ASTRONOMY MEETING 2001
TUESDAY 3 APRIL TO FRIDAY 6 APRIL 2001 AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

A wide variety of up-to-the-minute astronomical topics will be aired at the
UK National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) for 2001, which this year is hosted by
the University of Cambridge. A highlight of the week will be a one-day
symposium on Thursday 5th April, entitled 'The Scientific Case for Human
Spaceflight'. It marks the 40th anniversary of the first human space flight
by Yuri Gagarin on 12 April 1961. NASA astronaut Jeff Hoffman is one of the
speakers.

The National Astronomy Meeting (normally held annually) is one of the most
important gathering of astronomers in the UK. It is sponsored by the Royal
Astronomical Society (RAS) and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research
Council (PPARC). It is expected to attract about 300 professional
astronomers. The UK Solar Physics Meeting will take place in parallel with
the NAM.

Media representatives are cordially invited and press room facilities will
be available from 8.30 a.m. on Tuesday 3rd April through to the end of the
meeting at 12.30 p.m. on Friday 6th April. Scientific sessions are in the
Law Faculty Building. The press room will be the Lyttleton Room, in nearby
Selwyn College. If possible, please tell Jacqueline Mitton or Peter Bond if
you plan to attend in person, though advance registration is not essential.
Media registration is free.

The preliminary programme and more information about the NAM can be found at

http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~nam2001/

Further programme details will appear on this site as they become available.

The programme for the symposium on Thursday 5th April, 'The Scientific Case
for Human Spaceflight', can be found at

http://www.star.ucl.ac.uk/~iac/nam_space_meeting.html

More on the UK Solar Physics Meeting can be found at

http://www.shef.ac.uk/~uksp01

A further press notice about the NAM will be issued in mid-March.

===========
(11) CHANCES ARE SMALL THAT MIR COULD CRASH TO EARTH OUT OF CONTROL

From SpaceDaily, 14 February 2001
http://www.spacedaily.com/news/010213192428.nmhncxxy.html

Small chance Mir could crash to Earth out of control: official
 
KOROLEV, Russia (AFP) Feb 13, 2001

The chance that Russia's decrepit space station Mir could come crashing down
to Earth out of control when it is nudged out of orbit is as high as one in
33, a Russian space control official said Tuesday.

"Any technical equipment can fail at any time," the official, Vladimir
Solovyev said, explaining that when it came to the operation to destroy Mir,
"we put the risk at two and three percent."

However he hastened to add: "Right now, everything is fine on board the
station. We have permanent contact with Mir."

Russia has accepted offers of help from the US and European space agencies,
NASA and the ESA, to compute the decaying orbit of Mir when the time comes
to push it into the atmosphere with "mortal" rocket blasts from the attached
Progress supply ship, Solovyev said.

The total operation -- taking Mir out of orbit, burning up much of its
135-tonne mass as it re-enters the atmosphere, and tracking what it left to
what should be its point of impact in the Pacific Ocean south of Australia
-- will take "two to three days," he said.

The Progress craft is to begin manoeuvring Mir into a lower orbit late this
month and the final impact is expected early March.

The re-entry phase should only take around 15 minutes, Solovyev added.

International space experts have warned that if anything were to go wrong
during the operation, sections that do not burn up in the atmosphere could
land on terra firma. Several nations, notably Japan, have voiced their
concern.

The decision to bring down the 14-year-old Mir follows several accidents in
recent years, including a serious fire and a near-fatal collision with a
cargo ship in 1997.

Russia has also found that its commitment to the international space station
has stretched its funding to breaking point, making it unable to finance
both space projects.

All rights reserved. 2000 Agence France-Presse.

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

(12) DPS ON PLUTO: EERIE PARALLELS WITH CHURCH REPRIMANDING GALILEO

From Gerrit Verschurr <GVERSCHR@LATTE.MEMPHIS.EDU>

I was shocked to read the following from Mark Sykes, Chairman of the
Division for Planetary Sciences of the AAS.

"When designing an exhibition, one needs to understand and take into
consideration the expectations of the viewer. Given an opportunity,
the viewer will see what they expect to see."

Surely an exhibition that does just that contributes nothing. If viewers
only see what they expect to see they might as well stay home.

Does the Sykes philosophy mean when designing an exhibit about UFOs in which
one hopes to educate that one must give the viewers what they expect to see,
which is a load of nonsense about aliens flying between the stars? Surely
the point is to offer alternative points of view so that they will have a
new foundation from which to work as they struggle to form their own
interpretation.

Surely the point of an exhibit in science is to inform and educate and not
just to feed prejudices and expectations.

I commend Neil Tyson for causing people to think about this issue. I trust
that in the exhibit he does remind viewers of the usual view of Pluto as a
planet. In this regard, I feel sure most of us who have taught astronomy
have felt troubled when we reach the chapter that shows Pluto
looking at us from the end of chapters on the gas giants, or even worse,
lurking among the terrestrial planets.

Pluto as a planet - is "the view that visitors to the exhibit learned in
school," writes Sykes.  This has eerie parallels with the Church
reprimanding Galileo. Is the problem perhaps that the Pluto controversy has
been stirred up by a planetarium, given that many professional astronomers
are still inherently prejudiced against anyone who deigns to dedicate their
time to the popularization of astronomy?

Gerrit Verschuur
University of Memphis

===========
(13) THE ETHICAL DIMENSION OF SPACE EXPLORATION

From Stephen Ashworth <sa@astronist.demon.co.uk>

Dear Dr Peiser,

Andrew Glikson raises the question of whether the relationship between
humans and extraterrestrial microbial life should be governed by "ethical
considerations", by analogy with the relationship between different races
within the human species (CCNet 26/2001, item 12).

The point about relations within Homo sapiens is that members of all human
races are capable of moral reason, which may be roughly defined as the
capacity for modification of one's instinctive behaviour through
intellectual reflection and sympathy for others. The recognition of this
fact was therefore a creative development in moral evolution. It is unclear
in what sense Dr Glikson supposes that humans and bacteria are equal moral
agents, and therefore unclear why he teasingly implies that they should have
a moral claim on us.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Ashworth
14 February 2001

============
(14) P/T BOUNDARY: NO IRIDIUM

From Hermann Burchard <burchar@mail.math.okstate.edu>

Dear Benny,

in Permian/Triassic boundary strata in South China, the element iridium is
not present or at most only in trace amounts, according to Doug Erwin, who
kindly responded to my e-mail question. This can be understood, as I would
like to suggest, by noting certain connections with the iridium-rich Hawaii
hotspot, which has been moving in a SE direction across the Pacific for >
100Ma, probably 225Ma, starting off from Sibiria.

As mentioned by Victor Clube and Bill Napier in their book "Cosmic Winter",
magmas from the great Hawaii volcanoes are rich in iridium. They discuss
this, because it's an argument against cometary impact as a cause of the
abundance of the element in extinction layers, such as the
famous K/T-boundary.

There is a clear trace on the floor of the Pacific ocean beginning with the
Emperor Seamount chain from the Kamchatka Peninsula to Midway Island, then
angling off in a slight left turn along the Hawaiian island chain. Although
the trace possibly is now partly subducted in the Kamchatka - Aleutian
trench, it seems clear enough that the hotspot was originally positioned in
Eastern Sibiria.

Underlying the hotspot is a mantle plume which presumably was created when a
cosmic body hit Sibiria and created the vast flood basalts of Yakutia
(Sakha).  See the article by Renne et al. in "Science", 1995, 269:1314, for
a map of the conjectured extent of the original lava beds, which may not
have been fully explored.  These cover Yakutia (Sakha), bordering directly
on the Sea of Okhotsk near Magadan, immediately adjacent to the present day
NW-terminus of the Emperor Seamount chain. From my less than adequate maps,
the basalt beds seem to abut on or even include the Kolyma gold and diamond
fields; diamonds have been studied in connection with impact sites e.g. by
Christian Koeberl.)

Therefore, little doubt can exist concerning the essential identity of the
following events:

          1.  Inception of Hawaii hotspot in Sibiria.
          2.  Sibirian flood basalt eruption.
          3.  Cause of P/T mass extinction.

We owe the identity of 2. and 3. to the work of paleobiologists like Doug
Erwin. Here, we wish to explain that event 1. probably was a cosmic body
impacting in Sibiria - more precisely a spot in Gondwana-land which became
present-day Eastern Sibiria.

Much of the meteoritic material from the comet or asteroid, that struck
Earth at the P/T transition, appears to remain still in the hole punched in
the upper mantle by the cosmic impact body, the Hawaii hotspot (I sincerely
doubt that this will seem like a very novel idea in the minds of many
geologists).

Hence we may conclude:

   [A] Iridium continues to be pumped upward with deep mantle material in
       Hawaii volcanoes to this day.

   [B] Little of the cosmic material was thrown into orbit at impact time,
       because of uniquely deep penetration of the giant P/T impactor.

   [C] Iridium cannot be traced in the layers separating Paleozoic and
       Mesozoic rocks, never having been dispersed to a great extent.

   [D] Rather than refute it, as Clube-Napier feared, abundant ir in the
       magmas from Hawaii confirms the impact theory of mass exinctions.

The relationship between impacts and hotspots is perhaps still somewhat
controversial, so I will attempt to elaborate on this. Hotspot physics and
geology is probably not a perfect science.  If I understand it correctly,
the main mechanism is the same as in spreading or rift zones:

Pressure on the upper mantle is relieved as the minerals rise with reduced
overburden, causing a phase transition which we see as melting. The causes
of pressure release are somewhat different in the two arrangements of a)
impact related hotspot and b) rift zone.

In case b) of a rift zone one possible initial cause of reduced pressure
seems to be thinning of continental crust due to erosion of a stable craton
over many 100Ma. The African rift valley is a case in point. In North
America, at the beginning of the Jurassic era, the Atlantic ocean first
began as a rift, with the margin seen today e.g. in the New York palisades
rock facade. At present, the New Madrid fault along the middle Mississippi
may exemplify the same phenomena at an early stage. However, a rift may
begin with a hotspot, as one other interpretation of the Great African Rift
suggests! One hotspot is in the Afar region.

In case a) of an impact-induced hotspot the initial step is that the impact
events destroy the phase equilibrium of the upper mantle in a narrow region
underlying the crater.  This may be due partly to the shock wave of impact
upsetting crystalline structures, or partly because surface rocks are
excavated and removed by the impact explosion.  A massive melt results in
the form of flood basalts from the suddenly relieved pressure, and/or from
impact shock wave induced phase transition. The effect is a snowballing
phase transition and melting.

Again, to avoid misconceptions, and because this does seem to remain
controversial in some circles, it should be emphasized that:

       The melt in the plume after impact is _NOT_ caused by the initial
       energy yield of impact, but rather by the reduced pressure which
       forces a phase transition to take place that ends up in a phase
       equilibrium at a lower Gibbs energy.

(Other views [as in Renne et al.] present a picture of a spontaneous rise of
mantle, liquifying over a huge area, for which no account of origin can be
given.  This can be considered for basalt floods, but could not explain
narrow-bounded hotspots.)

Once in operation, lower mantle material appears to be resupplied
continually from the sides to the punch hole, which maintains a pore where
the pressure remains lower than in the surrounding mantle.  Thus the plume
can rise indefinitely, as we see happen today in Hawaii.

Any computations of effect of impact on the mantle not modeling phase
equilibria and transitions should be treated with suspicion. Above
description of mantle plumes, to make a disclaimer, is conjectural, not
substantiated by actual computation.  My limited understanding of these
things is based on a study of stable computation of phase equilibria,
working with a petroleum engineer, on computing "flash" crude oil
separation.

Although apparently still controversial, years ago already I have heard
mention made by geologists of the connection of hotspots and impacts, as in
the example of the Yellowstone hotspot, now in Wyoming, that has travelled
East along the Snake river plateau for > 10Ma, and that is implicated in the
flood basalts in Western Idaho and probably Washington State (?).

(Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the February 9 RAS conference on
impacts, where Christian Koeberl was keynote speaker. I missed talks by
Adrian Jones and Simon Kelly on impact, flood basalt, & hotspot related
topics, that might have led me to improve this account).

Best regards,

Hermann G.W. Burchard
burchard@math.okstate.edu

===========
(15) AND FINALLY: RUSSIAN WINTER WORST IN 50 YEARS

From http://www.microtech.com.au/daly/index.htm

'Global Warming' must be the one thing Russians are praying for. All across
Russia, this winter has seen frigid temperatures which have surprised even
the cold hardy Russians. Worst hit is Siberia and the Russian Far East
provinces where temperatures have fallen to below -40C, which, coupled with
fuel shortages and power cuts (a legacy of the crumbling Soviet
infrastructure), has left whole populations in a state of frozen misery. In
their present predicament, Russians would be the last people to cut back on
fossil fuels - if they can find any. The Russian deep freeze has been
mirrored in Mongolia and China where winter temperatures have also been the
worst experienced in decades.


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