PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet, 29/2003 -  12 March 2003
------------------------------


"Without 1997 XF11 there would have been no Torino or Palermo Scales
(whatever one might think of the utility of these) and no consideration
of reviewing impact calculations under that cloak of secrecy some still
would wish to wear. NASA would have put less money into NEO searches
than it now does (yes, there could yet be more!), and there would have been
little discussion of the "next step" after the decade (originally to end in
2005, not 2008) specified for finding 90 percent of the
kilometer-sized NEOs has passed. There would have been no U.K. NEO
Task Force Report to stress the appropriateness of extending the kilometer
limit down to perhaps 0.3 kilometer. The Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development would not have taken up the NEO cause in
its Global Science Forum, and as a result there would be much less of a
glimmer of hope that the fiscally responsible democracies of the world
might conceivably pursue _any_ next step in addressing the NEO risk in an
economically realistic manner."
--Brian G. Marsden, 11 March 2003


"Throughout history, our most treasured stories have been about
heroes that have extraordinary adventures. We need heroes, for they
personify the drive of people to accomplish the seemingly impossible,
to see beyond the horizons of mundane human limitation. Heroes signify
the very best that we can become -- they are archetypes taken flesh and
their exploits are idolized and mythologized. By sending special people into
space we embody our shared vision of what we humans may one day become --
citizens of the solar system, citizens of the Milky Way, citizens of
the universe."
--Charles Laughlin & Tom Harris, The Hamilton Spectator


(1) 1997 XF11 + FIVE
    Brian G. Marsden <bmarsden@cfa.harvard.edu>

(2) CONTROVERSIAL IAU SECRECY POLICY STILL IN PLACE
    Asteroid/Comet Connection, 12 March 2003

(3) AN ORB BY ANY OTHER NAME: DEBATE OVER WHAT CONSTITUTES A PLANET IS FAR
FROM SETTLED
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(4) UK MAY MISS OPPORTUNITIES IN SPACE BY NARROW FOCUS ON EUROPE
    British National Space Centre, 11 March 2003

(5) HUMAN EXPLORATION OF SPACE INTEGRAL FOR HEALTH AND CIVILISATION
    The Hamilton Spectator, 18 February 2003

(6) SHOEMAKER BY LEVY: THE MAN WHO MADE AN IMPACT
    Princeton University Press

(7) IMPACT VOLCANISM W/O DECOMPRESSION MELTING
    Hermann Burchard <burchar@math.okstate.edu>

(8) ASTEROIDS & SECRECY
    Konrad Ebisch <kebisch@lgc.com>

(9) AND FINALLY: PARIS, TUNGUSKA & US-BASHING
    Oliver Morton <abq72@dial.pipex.com>

=============
(1) 1997 XF11 + FIVE

>From Brian G. Marsden <bmarsden@cfa.harvard.edu>

Dear Benny,

It had not escaped my attention that this is the fifth anniversary of the
1997 XF11 "affair", and the important thing about your reviving today the
original internet announcement is that it allows us all to reflect on the
progress that has been made on the NEO front since that day.

In addition to the very dramatic and obvious increase in the number of NEO
discoveries during the half-decade, the situation with regard to astrometric
follow-up has also greatly improved, for it was the rather dismal state of
affairs involving follow-up observations of 1997 XF11 that prompted me to
try to inspire some action on a rather large object that clearly had the
potential
for an unusually close approach to the earth in 2028. Furthermore, stress on
the desirability of examining photographs and providing at the time a
clickable link to the 1990 ephemeris that very quickly produced positive
results has inspired countless subsequent searches for precovery
observations of other NEOs to the extent that groups of largely amateur
astronomers are now routinely carrying out such work, which is so very
important for deriving orbital information with sufficient accuracy to allow
one almost invariably to be able to eliminate impact possibilities for the
foreseeable future. The calculation of such impact possibilities and the
establishment of the University of Pisa "riskpage" in 1999 and the
corresponding JPL service in 2002 are themselves also very much legacies of
1997 XF11, which at the time was actually more dangerous than any of us
realized. The calculations that were presented for the first time by me in
various CCNet issues some three months later introduced the understanding
that much of the potential NEO hazard comes from what eventually came to be
called "virtual impactors" arising from the increased uncertainty following
an object's close approach to the earth and allowing a "resonant return"
some years later possibly to result in an actual earth impact.

Without 1997 XF11 there would have been no Torino or Palermo Scales
(whatever one might think of the utility of these) and no consideration of
reviewing impact calculations under that cloak of secrecy some still would
wish to wear. NASA would have put less money into NEO searches than it now
does (yes, there could yet be more!), and there would have been little
discussion of the "next step" after the decade (originally to end in 2005,
not 2008) specified for finding 90 percent of the kilometer-sized NEOs has
passed. There would have been no U.K. NEO Task Force Report to stress the
appropriateness of extending the kilometer limit down to perhaps 0.3
kilometer. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development would
not have taken up the NEO cause in its Global Science Forum, and as a result
there would be much less of a glimmer of hope that the fiscally responsible
democracies of the world might conceivably pursue _any_ next step in
addressing the NEO risk in an economically realistic manner.

I never made any calculations that indicated an earth impact by 1997 XF11 in
2028, and, indeed, I never considered that one would then be possible. What
is more significant is that, from the information available five years ago
today, one was possible in 2040 and in some of the neighboring years--and
that these possibilities were dispelled following the recognition of the
precovery images. As I have said on several occasions, some of the wording I
used at the time was ill-advised, although I maintain that it was no worse
than what many others, scientists and journalists alike, continue to use
when they talk about NEOs today. Although I endured at the time
condemnations for such remarks, as well as untrue accusations that I made
significant computational errors, it is clear that the outcome of the 1997
XF11 affair in terms of the worldwide continuing study of NEOs has been quite
impressive, not only in terms of science, but also in terms of the sociological effects,
both real and perceived, of assessing the risk of a natural hazard that clearly bears
consideration at some level in comparison with the risks of other kinds of
dangers.
 
As for 1997 XF11 itself, the quality of its orbit determination became
sufficient for the object to receive a permanent number, (35396), already a
year ago. Its approach in 2028 has now receded to fourteenth place on list
of well-established approaches during the next century and a half, although
it is still the largest NEO predicted to come that close. Indeed, its miss
distance of some 400,000 km predicted for 2136 Oct. 28 ranks just fifth on
the list. Let us raise our glasses and be glad that this object entered our
ken.
 
Regards

Brian G. Marsden
2003 March 11

=======
(2) CONTROVERSIAL IAU SECRECY POLICY STILL IN PLACE

>From Asteroid/Comet Connection, 12 March 2003
http://www.hohmanntransfer.com/news.htm

USA Today had an article yesterday about "Much ado about asteroids." It
briefly recaps "The NEO secrecy flap" flap, and quotes David Morrison, chair
of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Near Earth
Objects: "We are all committed to open sharing of our results with the
world." The general fact of that openness has been pretty well documented in
case after case independently reported in these A/CC pages.

The flap has been over the suggestion by a very few that secrecy should be
the policy in the face of an extinction-level event. But something that has
gone unmentioned is that there is an existing IAU official policy
(http://web.mit.edu/rpb/wgneo/TechComm.html) calling for practical, sensible
secrecy until an expedited technical review can be made, and public
statement prepared, in regard to any newly calculated impact prediction
rated at or above Palermo Scale 0.0, which is a very long way from
extinction level.

"Information leading to an impact prediction . . . should be
transmitted for confidential review to the chair of the IAU Working Group
for Near Earth Objects (WGNEO), the President of IAU Division III, the
General Secretary of the IAU, and the members of the NEO Technical
Review Team . . . before any announcement and/or written document on the
subject be made public via any potentially nonprivate communication
medium, including the World Wide Web.

This policy, however, was not followed when 2002 NT7 went PS-positive last
year without an IAU statement. News entities worldwide were left to each
sort out the facts on their own, and found themselves collectively blasted
for their efforts. Dr. Morrison declined to respond when A/CC asked him
later whether a formal or informal technical review even took place. 


MODERATOR'S NOTE: Bill Allen is absolutely right to point out that the IAU
secrecy surrounding 2002 NT7 contributed quite significantly to the
communication problems that followed its publication on various impact risk
pages. I am particularly surprised to hear that David Morrison has declined
to clarify the issue of whether or not a formal technical review took place
when 2002NT7 went PS-positive. Here is what David told me, after I had asked
the same question, back in August of 2002:

"Asteroid 2002 NT7 appeared on the Risk Pages of both NEODyS and JPL
starting July 18. On July 22 the Pisa site raised the issue of a possible IAU Technical Review, given the
Palermo Technical Scale value. However, they argued that such a review was
not necessary, since (1) both the Pisa software robots (CLOMON and CLOMON2)
and the JPL one (Sentry) were providing automatic, frequently updated
confirmation, (2) the value of the Palermo Technical Scale was near but not
much over the nominal threshold for such a review, and (3) the asteroid was
easily observable, with new data coming in nearly every day. The same day
(July 22), I, as Chair of the IAU WGNEO, wrote back that "The argument for
not initiating an IAU technical review for 2002 NT7 seems sound to me", and
noting that the Technical Review was voluntary in any case. Thus no IAU
Technical Review was held, and there was no interruption in the steady
refinement of the orbit of 2002 NT7, for which (as I understand it) the risk
of impact in 2019 was reduced to essentially zero on July 26, and the other
possible risks at later dates were eliminated by August 1. Meanwhile the
inaccurate and even fallaceous scare statements concerning 2002 NT7 had
begun appearing in the British Press on July 24, and you know the course of
this story since."

There is no doubt in my mind that the failure by the IAU WGNEO to explain at
the time the context of the 2002 NT7 risk analysis - in contrast to what was
generally expected - only added to the confusion. Benny Peiser

=============
(3) AN ORB BY ANY OTHER NAME: DEBATE OVER WHAT CONSTITUTES A PLANET IS FAR
FROM SETTLED

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

Media Relations
University of California-Berkeley

Media Contacts:
Robert Sanders
(510) 643-6998, (510) 642-3734
rls@pa.urel.berkeley.edu

26 February 2003

An orb by any other name: Debate over what constitutes a planet is far from
settled

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations

BERKELEY -- Ask any kid how many planets are in our solar system, and you'll
get a firm answer: nine.

But knock on a few doors in Berkeley's astronomy department, and you'll
hear, amid the hemming and hawing, a whole range of numbers.

Professor Gibor Basri, who plans soon to propose a formal definition of a
planet to the international body that names astronomical objects, argues
that there are at least 14 planets, and perhaps as many as 20. To the
well-known list of nine he adds several large asteroids
and more distant objects from the rocky swarm called the Kuiper Belt
circling beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Professor Imke de Pater and Assistant Professor Eugene Chiang, on the other
hand, toss out Pluto without a backward glance. It's just a big rock, they
say, a former member of the Kuiper Belt, puppy-dogging Neptune around the
solar system.

Not so fast, says Professor Alex Filippenko. The International Astronomical
Union (IAU), which rules on names for astronomical bodies, has officially
said that Pluto remains a planet, at least for the time being. Thus,
officially, there are nine. He cavils a bit, however, making it clear to his
students that Pluto is "more fundamentally a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO),
though an unusually large one."

Professor Geoffrey Marcy and research astronomer Debra Fischer, both "planet
hunters" within the department, also prefer to keep the number at nine,
noting that the sun, though it probably had 12 or 14 planets in the past,
will in five billion years probably lose Mercury and Pluto, bringing the
count down to seven.

Moons, fusors, brown dwarfs

This difference of opinion within the astronomy department is part of a
larger debate in the astronomical community over what constitutes a planet.
It provides endless hours of beer-hall debate and Friday-afternoon tea-time
chat, with little hope for resolution in the near future.
 
"It's something of an embarrassment that we currently have no definition of
what a planet is," Basri said. "People like to classify things. We live on a
planet; it would be nice to know what that was."

The IAU has sidestepped any formal definition, largely, Basri says, because
a good definition would eject Pluto from the list and relegate it to a
"minor planet" or, even worse, a comet. Basri has come up with a definition
that keeps Pluto in the fold, but necessarily brings in other objects that
until now have not been considered planets -- objects with names such as
Vesta, Pallas and Ceres, now considered asteroids, or KBOs such as Varuna.

He's now preparing a formal definition to put before the IAU Working Group
on Extra-Solar Planets, and has posted an article on his Web site that lays
out his definition and arguments as to why it should be adopted.

"By 10 years from now, I'd be a little surprised if the IAU had not adopted
something along the lines I'm proposing," Basri said. "It's reasonable."

Most astronomers and the IAU agree that planets should be orbiting a star --
or more precisely, an object that is big enough to ignite hydrogen fusion in
its core (what Basri calls a fusor). The IAU Working Group also excludes
anything, like a star, that is big enough to manage core fusion itself. The
consensus thus excludes moons, even those such as Ganymede, which is almost
as large as Mars but which happens to be orbiting the planet Jupiter rather
than a star.

The definition also excludes failed stars called brown dwarfs, which are too
small to be stars but too big to be planets. These are the subjects of
Basri's research. In 1995, he was the first to obtain a spectrum confirming
that brown dwarfs exist, and he has
concentrated on tests that can distinguish brown dwarfs from low-mass stars.


This work naturally led him to focus on mass as a way to distinguish between
planets and non-planets. He proposes a natural upper limit for a "planetary
mass object" of about 13 times the mass of Jupiter, or about 4,000 Earths.
At this size, gravity will cause an object to give off heat, as happens with
Jupiter, but the pressure at the core is a bit too cool to fuse the element
easiest to fuse, deuterium or heavy hydrogen. Because anything bigger,
including stars and brown dwarfs, is able to fuse deuterium, Basri argues
that it makes sense to define a "planetary mass object" -- or planemo, as he
has dubbed them -- as an object too small to achieve any fusion.

A natural lower limit to the mass of a planemo, Basri says, would be a body
large enough for self-gravity to squash it into a round shape. On average,
that would be about 700 kilometers in diameter, though that number is
squishy -- an iron wrecking ball like Mercury could be smaller and round,
while icy planets like Pluto would need to be larger to achieve roundness.
This limit excludes all but a few asteroids and KBOs, most of which bear a
resemblance to potatoes.

"The upper limit of a planetary mass is the fusion boundary, and the lower
limit is roundness," he said. "This definition does not depend on either
circumstance or origin."

Basri then throws in the other traditional property of planets to reach a
final definition: a planet is a planemo orbiting a fusor.

"If you take this definition," he says, "you don't have any trouble what to
call these objects," including many of the new extrasolar planets that Geoff
Marcy and Debra Fischer are discovering.

Marcy disagrees. In his search for planets around other stars -- he and his
colleagues have found about two-thirds of all known extrasolar planets -- he
has come across planet systems that aren't so neat. Two years ago, his team
discovered two bodies orbiting the star HD168443 -- one with a mass about
7.6 times that of Jupiter, and one 17 times Jupiter. Basri would call this a
planetary system with one large gas planet and one brown dwarf companion --
sort of a failed binary star system, where one "star" wasn't big enough to
make the grade.

Talk show host David Letterman, an astronomy buff, quizzed Marcy about these
two objects when he was a guest in April 2001. Marcy admitted that the
larger of the objects is "so large it doesn't even seem like a planet. We
don't know what to call it. Is it a planet? Is it a star? Is it something in
between? We're befuddled."

"Well, what the hell are we going to do?" asked Letterman.

"We're screwed," Marcy admitted.

"Run for your life, everybody," Letterman quipped.

Marcy and Fischer believe that consideration should be given to how an
object formed, with the name planet reserved for objects forming in
accretion disks around a star. In the early dust and gas cloud from which
stars form, fluffy dust bunnies coalesce into bigger dust bunnies, until
they're big enough for their own gravity to actively sweep in even more
stuff. Anything
that forms this way around a star should be called a planet, they argue.
Stars and brown dwarfs form differently, in the middle of a swirling nebula,
thus providing a way to differentiate planets from the rest.

But, Basri counters, "I don't think we should define what an object is based
on how it formed, because I don't think we know enough about formation
mechanisms, and you can't easily observe how things form."

No one now knows how brown dwarfs form, and to throw a wrench into things,
there's some doubt that Jupiter formed the way the other planets did. Asks
Basri, not entirely rhetorically: "Is Geoff going to stop calling Jupiter a
planet if he discovers it was formed the way a brown dwarf is?"

A taxonomy of planets

Marcy and Fischer believe that assigning a firm definition to planet may
also lock astronomers into a taxonomy that will quickly become obsolete as
we learn more about the varieties of planets in the galaxy.

"I think any time you try to draw sharp lines you get into trouble," said
Fischer. "We should be a lot humbler and say we are calling these things
planets because we have this historical precedent, this historical inertia.
Let's admit that at either end, the high-mass end and
low-mass end, this has been completely arbitrary, and that some things don't
fit with our classification scheme."

"It's way too early to define a planet," Marcy said. "No one would have
predicted 10 years ago that we'd have any extrasolar planets. Even though we
have now found more than 100 of them, these are still the early days in
planet hunting."

He anticipates that 70-80 percent of all stars will be found to have
planets, most of these in multiple planet systems. And even though no
Earth-sized planets have yet been discovered, the Milky Way galaxy could
well harbor hundreds of millions of Earths.

"It's a little arrogant, I think, for us to imagine that we understand what
the full spectrum is going to shake out to be. Are we really in the ultimate
position right now where we should redefine things, because it freezes it in
again? In a decade or two it may look incomplete
again," Fischer said.

Basri scoffs at these objections. "It's like saying we shouldn't define what
a star is until we understand all about star formation and weird binary
stars, and so on. If we define a planet based on the basic observable
properties of these objects, people can later apply all sorts of adjectives
to them as they are understood better, without changing what they are
basically talking about."

When Neptune dominates

Imke de Pater, who uses both radio telescopes and optical telescopes to
study planets such as Jupiter and Neptune and volcanic activity on Jupiter's
moon Io, also thinks that how a body forms should not make a difference in
deciding whether a body is a planet.

"I would say a planet is a body in orbit about a star, but not forming part
of a larger swarm, like the asteroids in the asteroid belt or the Kuiper
Belt Objects," she proposes. "A planet also would have to be in a stable
orbit for a few billion years -- it shouldn't be a KBO in transit to
becoming a comet."

Eugene Chiang, a new member of Marcy's Center for Integrative Planetary
Studies, knows these swarms well. He's part of a national team called the
Deep Ecliptic Survey that is scanning the plane of the solar system in
search of as many Kuiper Belt Objects as it can find. They've discovered
some 250 since 1998, bringing the total known KBOs to about 600, all
swarming beyond Neptune's orbit, 30 times farther from the sun than Earth.

Pluto, Chiang notes, is the largest of the Kuiper Belt Objects, and its
orbit, like that of all the KBOs, is dominated by Neptune. In fact, it
orbits in lock-step with Neptune: Pluto goes around the sun twice for every
three Neptune orbits. A large class of such objects in
the Kuiper Belt has been dubbed Plutinos because they also inhabit this
so-called 3:2 resonance. Of the 100 KBOs that Chiang has tracked well, 25
percent are in resonant orbits with Neptune.

"The asteroid belt is dominated by Jupiter, and the Kuiper Belt is dominated
by Neptune," he says, and objects in neither of these belts should be called
planets. In fact, because the Kuiper Belt is the source of many short-period
comets that plunge through the interior solar system, Pluto could even be
called a comet.

Chiang's interest in the KBOs with resonant orbits comes from his theory
that planets migrate inward or outward after their initial formation. The
many objects in resonant orbits with Neptune argue that it has migrated
outward, he says, shepherding the KBOs with it and locking many into
resonances. The theory could explain some of the bizarre planetary systems
that Marcy, Fischer, Paul Butler and others have found, in which large gas
planets seem to be sitting awfully close to their star, in contrast to our
own solar system, where the gas giants are far out. Early in a system's
history, gravitational interactions between large gas planets and the
gaseous disk or small objects called planetesimals can drive planets in or
out, he said.

The case for Pluto

None the less, Basri feels that Pluto needs to remain a planet, partly for
historical reasons, but primarily because it fits a consistent and
reasonable definition of a planetary mass object orbiting a fusor. And if we
include Pluto, how can we exclude other Kuiper Belt
Objects and asteroids that look almost identical? There's really no
difference between Mercury and Ceres, he says, so any consistent definition
of a planet would have to include both. He suggests calling the eight
undisputed planets "major planets" and the others, including Pluto, "minor
planets" -- a usage once applied to the asteroids before their numbers
skyrocketed. But they'd all still be planets.

"I've thought about this for two years now, and I think I've seen all the
arguments, I've chewed on them for a long time, I've played with them. So
I'm ready," he said. "That doesn't mean anyone else is."

Basri's proposed definition means that the number of planets in the solar
system will continue to grow as more large objects are discovered in the
Kuiper Belt. The Caltech team that discovered the largest known KBO last
year -- a body half the diameter of Pluto that they named Quaoar
(kwah-o-wahr), after a creation force in California Indian mythology --
estimates that they "should be able to find 5 to 10 more of these really big
Kuiper Belt Objects over the next couple of years, including perhaps a
couple [of] 'super-Plutos,'" according to their Web site. That means an
eventual 25 planets.

Someday kids may be stumping their parents with planet names such as Vesta,
Quaoar and Varuna, if not Ixion or Radamanthus. They'll be around for a
while -- at least a few billion years -- so you might as well get used to
them.

What's in a name? Help us remember

For ages, teachers have been creating mnemonics to help students remember
the order of the planets. One well-known version is "My Very Educated Mother
Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas." Another variant, mentioned in Robert Heinlein's
book "Have Space Suit, Will Travel," goes: "Mother very thoughtfully made a
jam sandwich under no protest." (Thoughtfully stands for Terra, Earth's
other name.) But with another five (or more) potential planets, it's back to
the drawing board. Please send us your mnemonics (rls@pa.urel.berkeley.edu)
for the latest solar system lineup: Mercury, Venus, Earth (or Terra), Mars,
Vesta, Ceres, Pallas, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Quaoar and
Varuna. The best submissions will be featured in a future issue of the
NewsCenter,
     http://newscenter.berkeley.edu

Related links:

* Gibor Basri's thoughts on defining planets
  http://astron.berkeley.edu/%7Ebasri/defineplanet/index.html
* Geoff Marcy's Web site for extrasolar planets
  http://exoplanets.org/

[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at
http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/02/26_planet.shtml ]

===========
(4) UK MAY MISS OPPORTUNITIES IN SPACE BY NARROW FOCUS ON EUROPE

>From British National Space Centre, 11 March 2003
http://www.bnsc.gov.uk

Lord Sainsbury says UK must seize opportuniries in space

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury today said the UK needed to make hard
choices to achieve objectives set out in the Government's next Space
Strategy.

The draft strategy, unveiled in January, sets out three key priorities for
the next three years to enable space to serve people as a tool for science,
enterprise and the environment. They are:

* Enhancing the UK's standing in astronomy, planetary and earth sciences;

* Stimulating increased productivity by promoting the use of space in
government, science and commerce; and,

* Developing innovative space systems, to deliver sustainable improvement in
quality of life.

The Minister, speaking at an all-day public consultation at Queen Mary,
University of London, told leaders from commerce and science:

"I believe there are many exciting developments in space today and many
opportunities to provide benefits for our scientists, for industry
generally, the space industry itself and for our citizens. We need to seize
these opportunities, but we will only be able to do so if we are clear about
our objectives, are creative in our strategies, and focus our resources."

He added:

"We are forced to look sharply at whether our activities fit our priorities.
Making a strategy involves making choices, deciding what we want to foster
and what, with the limited resources available to us, we have to leave to
others. This can be hard."

Lord Sainsbury praised the UK space community for its strengths in
telecommunications, global positioning and Earth Observation. He also lauded
the achievements of scientists for their involvement in the development of
the UK-led Beagle 2 Mars lander, which blasts off this summer.

But he said there was still a gap in delivering "down to earth" benefits
from space by exploiting and delivering services based on space
infrastructure and space derived data. He added:

"One of the core messages of the new strategy is that we need to see people
building successful commercial enterprises, serving the public and private
sectors, which are enabled by our investment in space. The role of space is
to serve the citizen in many ways. The new strategy seeks to provide the
best conditions for this to happen."

Lord Sainsbury also emphasised the importance of the UK's role in the
international space community.

"More than almost any other activity, space is truly international. This is
a critical moment in the development of the world's space endeavour. We work
closely with our friends in Europe, the United States and elsewhere to
achieve things that could not possibly be achieved alone.

"Central to the achievement of the UK's objectives in space is the European
Space Agency. ESA needs to make important decisions on its role and
priorities and how it will work with the European Union. The UK will play a
very active part in discussions on the Green Paper, the Convention on Europe
and other debates."

===========
(5) HUMAN EXPLORATION OF SPACE INTEGRAL FOR HEALTH AND CIVILISATION

>From The Hamilton Spectator, 18 February 2003
http://www.hamiltonspectator.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=hamilton/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=1014656316146&c=Article&cid=1045522990188

By Tom Harris, Charles D. Laughlin
 
The deaths of the Columbia seven, from left, astronauts David Brown, Ilan
Ramon, Rick Husband, Kalpana Chawla, William McCool, Michael Anderson and
Laurel Clark, have a transcendental meaning to all humanity.
 
As the shock of the Columbia disaster subsides we are beginning to hear the
rumblings of an old debate -- why send people into space when robots can do
the job far less expensively and without risking human lives?

Robots should never completely replace humans as explorers of the universe.
Manned space flight satisfies a basic human drive to engage in geographic
exploration as no other activity does in today's world.

Indeed, the drive to explore is an important characteristic of the way in
which the higher orders of the human nervous system function. University of
Hawaii anthropologist Ben Finney labels humans "the exploring animal" and
maintains that a withdrawal from the exploration and development of space
would put the brakes on our cultural and intellectual advancement. A look at
the history of our species reveals why.

Our ancestors started as only a few hundred thousand individuals in the
tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Around one to two million years ago,
they began to gradually migrate into Europe and Asia, and from there into
Australia, Oceania, the New World and eventually, as modern human beings, to
Antarctica. People have now lived in "colonies" under the sea in submarines
and research stations, even briefly on the moon and in low Earth orbit.

In other words, it is in our very nature to explore and expand outwards into
available spaces. And it is clearly an extension of this drive that
motivates our intense desire for a manned space program. Relying only upon
unmanned probes is unsatisfying to the human spirit and has the effect of
blunting people's interest in space exploration.

The reason is simple. Human consciousness tends to lose awareness of
technologies as long as they work properly. We remain cognizant only of the
effects of the technologies. We marvel at the beautiful images produced by
the Hubble Space Telescope, but lose any awareness of the telescope itself.
Only when some of our kind, our fellow human beings, are out there working
with the technologies do we tend to remain aware of the new environment of
space. People identify with astronauts, not with robots, and in a very real
psychological and spiritual sense, they take us with them when they go.

The awareness of new physical frontiers is essential to the health of
humanity. Exploration tends to balance the often negative mind states
generated by people facing the stresses of daily life in a modern
technocratic society. Sharing adventures vicariously has been a
psychological balancing factor as long as humans have been telling stories
around the fire.

Throughout history, our most treasured stories have been about heroes that
have extraordinary adventures. We need heroes, for they personify the drive
of people to accomplish the seemingly impossible, to see beyond the horizons
of mundane human limitation. Heroes signify the very best that we can become
-- they are archetypes taken flesh and their exploits are idolized and
mythologized. By sending special people into space we embody our shared
vision of what we humans may one day become -- citizens of the solar system,
citizens of the Milky Way, citizens of the universe.

Historians explain that geographic exploration is a highly invigorating
activity for civilizations. Whether one examines the European exploration of
the world, the massive Chinese expeditions along the coasts of Southeast
Asia or the impressive reed boat voyages of the Polynesians in the vast
Pacific, there has always been a strong correlation between geographic
exploration and general cultural vitality. Arizona State University
historian Stephen Pyne asserts: "Choosing to explore the solar system will
not, by itself, assure us continued status as a world civilization. But
choosing not to explore will ensure that we will not retain that stature."

Finally, the exploration and development of space is a catalyst accelerating
the evolution of our species. Each movement outwards to face new and more
difficult permanent living conditions will be accomplished by a very select
group, people who possess the physiological and mental attributes to survive
in ever more challenging conditions.

These pioneers will combine the very best characteristics of humanity --
good health, the ability to work well with other people, advanced
environmental awareness and of course high intelligence -- all
characteristics we urgently need today. Space colonization will have the
effect of greatly advancing the adoption of these characteristics as
successive waves of humanity move out to settle the high frontier. As much
as possible with the enormous distances involved, we will certainly want to
remain in touch with our extraterrestrial cousins for they will become our
teachers in ways we have yet to imagine.

The deaths of the Columbia seven have a transcendent meaning to all
humanity, for their purpose and vision was and is our future in the
universe. They spent much of their adult lives pushing us just that much
further along the path of our greatest destiny. Their work is done. May
their legacy continue forever.

Dr. Charles Laughlin is Emeritus Professor of anthropology and religion at
Carleton University. Tom Harris is an Ottawa-based engineer and science and
technology writer.
  
Copyright 2003, The Hamilton Spectator

==============
(6) SHOEMAKER BY LEVY: THE MAN WHO MADE AN IMPACT

>From Princeton University Press

It was a lucky twist of fate when in the early 1980s David Levy, a writer
and amateur astronomer, joined up with the famous scientist Eugene Shoemaker
and his wife, Carolyn, to search for comets from an observation post on
Palomar Mountain in Southern California. Their collaboration would lead to
the 1993 discovery of the most remarkable comet ever recorded,
Shoemaker-Levy 9, with its several nuclei, five tails, and two sheets of
debris spread out in its orbit plane. As a close friend and colleague of
Shoemaker (who died in 1997 at the age of 69), Levy offers a uniquely
insightful account of his life and the way it has shaped our thinking about
the universe.

"Levy's book should appeal to a wide range of readers, including not only
scientists but also those seeking the personalities behind astronomy in the
late 20th century."--Jay M. Pasachoff, Astronomy

Paper | 2002 | $16.95 / 11.95 | ISBN: 0-691-11325-4
320 pp. | 6 x 9 | 39 halftones, 2 tables

To read a sample chapter, click here:
http://pup.princeton.edu/titles/6909.html

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

(7) IMPACT VOLCANISM W/O DECOMPRESSION MELTING

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

Dear Benny,

a few points that Kenneth Chang doesn't mention in his article, BARRAGE OF
METEORS MAY HAVE DOOMED THE DINOSAURS (CCNet 3/11/2003):

1. Triple cometary impacts at K/T has been claimed by Gerta Keller,
Princeton University [CCNet 9/19/2002; Keller et al., 2002, GSA Special
Paper, 356, 145-161]:  Chicxulub was NOT the killer impact but was followed
300 Ka later by a larger impact (with a third impact in the
lowest Paleocene). Probably, this relates to Deccan volcanics, mentioned in
the article.

2.a) Chang restates Jay Melosh' familiar objections against impact
volcanism, which are entirely based in theory and do not take into account a
geological reality, the presence of dissolved gases in magmas and in the
mantle. Yellowstone hotspot eruptions have been found to depend upon
explosive degassing, a common phenomenon with many types of volcanic
eruptions.  The same causal analysis may be applied to impact eruptions.
Decompression melting is not important.

2.b)  As Melosh correctly states, there is a rebound into the cavity, that
resulted from the impact explosion. The hole in the ground may be immense
(about 10 miles deep in the case of Chicxulub). This will lead to mantle
rock rising, its pressure dropping below the vapor pressures of dissolved
gases and hence ending in an explosive hotspot "supervolcano" eruption. We
expect some delay due to high viscosity of the mantle. In between eruptions,
plate tectonics will move the crustal plate carrying crater and volcanoes
over the hotspot by many miles, depending on circumstances.

3. As regards the P/Tr extinction, the geological evolution of Siberia
cannot be a well-guarded secret, rather, it may be inferred from facts
published by geologists, hence readily available.  These facts suggest that
a cometary impact occurred in West Siberia 250 Ma ago, causing the
P/Tr extinction (and subsequent hotspot volcanism extending Siberia eastward
due to plate motion).  There would seem to be here more than merely
"..intriguing but ambiguous hints of a meteor impact at the Permian-Triassic
boundary."

Best regards,
  Hermann

=========
(8) ASTEROIDS & SECRECY

>From Konrad Ebisch <kebisch@lgc.com>

Dear Benny,

I have seen discussions lately in CCNet about the value of keeping secret a
newly discovered planet-killer coming our way. 

The thing least talked about is feasibility. When such an object is discovered, astronomers
are notified so that additional observations can be made. Others go to work
on orbit calculations. It is found that the object will come close to us.
Urgent requests are made for more data. By this time the need for
investigation has required that a bunch of people know about it, people in
countries around the globe. Some of them don't see your urgent reason for
secrecy. It may be hard to convince some that possibly dying in a possible
public panic is much worse than dying from the impact. 

Maybe it was in some spy movie. I don't remember where I heard it. But it
does seem to apply to this situation: "Three can keep a secret, if two are dead." 

Konrad

=============
(9) AND FINALLY: PARIS, TUNGUSKA & US-BASHING

>From Oliver Morton <abq72@dial.pipex.com>

Benny

If a Tunguska did hit Paris - or, in fact, anywhere else -- how much of the
world's population would accept America's assurance that it had nothing to
do with it?

o

MODERATOR'S NOTE: Good question, Oliver! Given widespread conspiracy mania
and hysterical anti-Americanism, I am pretty certain that many people in
parts of Europe and the Arab world would not hesitate to blame the US for
another Tunguska blast. After all, the European and Arab streets have been
blaming the US for everything and anything. They even blame the US for the
9/11 attacks. I don't know of any of the world's countless ills that hasn't
been blamed on the US or Israel or both. So, how would they do it? Perhaps
by claming that the impact was caused by MOAB?
Let's wait and see. Benny Peiser

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