CCNet DIGEST, 15 September 1998

    Ed Grondine <>

(2) BOLIDE EMO980813
    Ed Majden <>

    MSNBC Space News


From Ed Grondine <>

Benny -

This morning I watched John McLaughlin's television program "One on
One", which featured an interview with NASA Administrator Daniel
Goldin. McLaughlin's other guest was space policy historian John
Logsdon of George Washington University; Senator John Glenn had been
scheduled but he had had to cancel, undoubtedly due to his training
for his upcoming space flight.  As a result of Glenn's cancellation,
McLaughlin pursued more general questions on space topics; since
some of the questions were on the problem of impactors, I think that
the interview will be of interest to Conference members.
(McLaughlin's internet server at is out of
service this morning, so I do not know if a more detailed transcript
of the interview will become available there.)

McLaughlin first brought up the death of Astronaut Alan Shepard, and
asked for Goldin's remembrances. Goldin briefly set out Shepard's
accomplishments and virtues, but it became clear that this question
had been a set up by McLaughlin for the next part of his interview,
which focused on claims that Senator Glenn's flight is simply a
publicity stunt. Goldin emphasized first, that valid science will be
done, and second, that since Kennedy had grounded Glenn, as he had
not wanted him to die in an accident, Glenn deserved a second
flight. Goldin's response was undoubtedly reflective of the
questions that he has recently been asked by other active and
retired astronauts who would like a flight opportunity.

Since Glenn had had to cancel, McLaughlin moved on to the charges
made by some Republicans that Clinton is selling out the United
States by bringing the Russians into the International Space Station
program. Goldin emphasized that the Cold War was over and that he
did not want to go back to it; that while the world had changed, the
United States was still playing the leading role and would continue
to do so; and that the United States had acquired useful experience
and technology from the Russians in exchange for our financial
support.  The segment ended when Goldin pointed out to McLaughlin
that the decision to bring Russia into the International Space
Station had been made by President Bush, not by President Clinton.  

McLaughlin followed with questions on the Origins Program and Mars. 
After discussion of the 3.5 billion year old life form recently
found and the possibility that ALH84001 has a fossil, McLaughlin
directly asked Goldin whether a manned flight to Mars was
possible in 2018. Goldin replied that NASA thought it could be done
before that, and that NASA was launching 10 "robots" to Mars.
Several things are significant about this statement. First, it is
clear that Goldin meant to say 10 "probes" instead or "robots".  The
reason for this slip is most likely that robots have been on
Goldin's mind recently: biologists here have been telling him that
NASA will not be allowed to send men to Mars until they know that
there is no danger from back-contamination by Martian organisms, and
the use of robots is the only way that this will be done.  Second,
plans for only about 5 probes, both orbiters and landers, have been
announced, so it may be that NASA management is currently at work on
the design of the out year probes, with an emphasis on surface

McLaughlin then asked Goldin and Logsdon about NEOs and about using
large explosions to divert them, stating that it was his impression
that they could be hit by large charges and would just keep on
coming. Logsdon pointed out that in order to stop them you have to
know where they are, and that NASA had just set up a new program
office to do that. Logsdon claimed that as a result of this there
would be plenty of time to develop defensive measures to stop one
once it was found. If you listen closely, you can hear an echo of
Don Yeoman's approach in Logsdon's statement; I think that most of
the Conference members are fully cognizant that the NASA program
does nothing as far as detecting the most common class of impactors,
the "nation enders" of 100 meters diameter or so, and secondly, that
given the long period of time necessary simply to put a charge into
deep space, it will likely be 10 to 20 years before the current
detection program will provide sufficient warning time for large
"dinosaur killer" impactors, while still providing no warning at all
for smaller impactors and some classes of comets.

Goldin pointed out that you do not want to blow them up into smaller
pieces which then impact the Earth, and explained that NASA was
sending 6 probes to find out what they are made up of. He went on to
describe an effort which he first identified as "ComDev", headed by
Jim Benson, which Logsdon reminded him was "SpaceDev".  Goldin
claimed that they were putting up $50 million in private funds to
investigate asteroids, with the intention of mining them for
valuable minerals. McLaughlin expressed scepticism, and Goldin
re-iterated that Jim Benson thought so, but time for the interview
ran out before Goldin could give a more detailed answer.

My impression over all was that Logsdon had a better grasp of the
danger presented by Earth impactors than did Goldin, which is not
surprising considering that Logsdon's field is history, and that
Goldin's time is pretty well entirely taken up by the massive task
of the daily management of NASA.  The paradigm shift has not
occurred at NASA, and emphasis remains on the manned exploration of
Mars, rather than on coming up with a solution to the threats
presented by Earth impactors. While I have spoken briefly with
Goldin on other topics, I think that a better way of bringing the
severity of this problem to his attention may be through Logsdon,
who as a historian will be the first to become aware of the
empirical data which is accumulating on the frequency of severe
Earth impact events.  Having myself participated in an earlier
public discussion with Logsdon, in which I emphasized the importance
of President Eisenhower's activities in winning the "space race",
against his contrary views at that time, there are probably other
members of the Conference who may be capable of more easily bringing
these historical materials on Earth impact events to his attention.

Best wishes -

(2) BOLIDE EMO980813

From Ed Majden <>

Dave Balam, from Space Guard Canada, has posted the preliminary
report of the Sandia all-sky camera Bolide secured at my observatory on 14
August 1998 at 06:20:59 UT.  at the following URL:

Ed Majden


From MSNBC Space News

Data from spacecraft doesn’t add up.
If readings are right, it’s back to the drawing board for Einstein

By Alan Boyle

Sept. 9 — Is gravity broke? Or is it just the spacecraft? For
whatever reason, far-flung probes such as Pioneer 10 and 11 are
showing an anomalous slowdown effect. If the observations are
correct, that could force a revision of Einstein’s theories.

THE EFFECT, reported Wednesday by New Scientist magazine, has been
showing up for years in analyses of elemetry from Pioneer 10 and 11,
which were launched in the early 1970s.

“It’s just recently that it became unambiguous, and we have no
explanation for it,” said John Anderson, a planetary scientist at
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a principal investigator on the
Pioneer team.

Pioneer 10 is about 6.5 billion miles away from the sun, and Pioneer
11 is more than 4.5 billion miles away. Anderson explained that
Pioneer 10 should have reached escape velocity — but readings from
the spacecraft show that the probe is decelerating by a tiny,
constant amount.

“If this force continues, then eventually it would just stop and
fall back toward the sun,” he said. “We thought this thing would go
off into interstellar space.”

In fact, the Pioneer probes bear plaques that would serve as a
greeting to extraterrestrials who might happen upon them.

The “drag” also appears to affect the Ulysses spacecraft, which is
in a polar orbit around the sun, at a distance of about 490 million
miles, Anderson said. An analysis of data from the Galileo
spacecraft, currently swinging around Jupiter, was less conclusive,
he said.

Anderson and his colleagues have ruled out fuel problems,
aerodynamic drag from the interstellar medium and the effects of
celestial bodies. Also, the anomaly hasn’t been observed in the
movement of the planets or other objects of substantial mass in the
solar system.

Currently, Anderson said, the prime suspect in the mystery is
“something in the hardware that we haven’t found” — something that
would systematically skew the data coming from the spacecraft. But
the spacecraft’s operators haven’t been able to find such a fault,
even though they’ve looked for years.

If the effect is real rather than a glitch, astronomers and
mathematicians would have to tinker with gravitational theories that
have held up for decades.

“It could have cosmological significance somehow,” Anderson said.
“It could be distorting space and time somehow.”

For now, Anderson sees that as a “low-percentage” possibility. He’s
prepared a formal paper on the anomalies that has been accepted for
publication by the Physical Review Letters. And he’s looking forward
to new deep-space missions, such as the proposed Pluto-Kuiper
Express, which will have a better tracking system and thus could
provide more clues in the mystery. “I think it will be something
that we’ll be working on over the next decade,” he said.

Copyright 1998, MSNBC

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