Ron Baalke <>

    Peter Bond <>

    Steven N. Koppes <>

    THE TIMES, 3 February 1999

    BBC Online Network



From Ron Baalke <>

January 29, 1999

Ken Atkins, STARDUST Project Manager

Welcome to Launch Week: Just one week to go and the excitement is
building here at the Cape and in the Flight Operations areas at
Lockheed Martin in Denver and at JPL.  As you already know, if you've
been watching the action through the WebCams, spacecraft close out
activities were completed in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility
(PHSF).  The spacecraft was given a final weighing,  mated with the
Star-37 upper stage,  and transported to Pad SLC-17A.  There it was
hoisted to the top of the Delta II's second stage and secured in place
in the "White Room".  The transport canister was removed, the room
stabilized for cleanliness and  the clean-air shroud installed.  Spin
table rotation was checked and Friday the spacecraft was powered-up,
completed "aliveness testing," and flight software updates were loaded
and successfully checked out on both sides of the flight computer.

The launch vehicle team held their Launch Site Readiness Review on
Wednesday.  Progress is ahead of schedule on the Delta rocket. On
Thursday, a Delta II sister rocket launch was attempted at Vandenburg
AFB, CA. The launch was aborted moments before lift-off when one of its
two vernier engines did not ignite.   The rocket detected the problem
and stopped the ignition sequence prior to the ignition of the main
engine. Boeing believes they understand what happened and, at present,
we  don't believe this event will delay the STARDUST launch next

We are one week from Launch!! Our launch is scheduled for Saturday,
Feb. 6, 1999. There is a single instantaneous launch opportunity
available that day at 4:06:42 p.m. EST. The next available window is on
Sunday, Feb. 7 at 4:04:15 p.m. EST. Liftoff will occur from Pad A at
Launch Complex 17 on Cape Canaveral Air Station.

Stardust will fly through the dust cloud that surrounds the nucleus of
a comet-and for the first time ever, bring cometary material back to
earth. The spacecraft will also collect interstellar dust from a
recently discovered flow of particles that passes through our solar
system from interstellar space. Comets may be the oldest, most
primitive bodies in the solar system, a preserved record of the
original nebula that formed the Sun and the planets.

                       PRELAUNCH NEWS CONFERENCE

A prelaunch news conference is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 5 at 2 p.m.
EST in the KSC News Center auditorium. This will be broadcast on NASA
Select cable TV. Participating in the briefing will be:

Dr. Carl Pilcher, Science Director, Solar System Exploration
     NASA Headquarters

Ray Lugo, NASA Launch Manager
     Kennedy Space Center

Rich Murphy, Delta Mission Director/Flight Director
     The Boeing Company

Dr. Kenneth Atkins, Stardust Project Manager/Spacecraft Mission
     Director Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Joseph Vellinga, Stardust Program Manager
     Lockheed Martin Astronautics

Dr. Donald Brownlee, Stardust Principal Investigator
     University of Washington

Joel Tumbiolo, Launch Weather Officer
     Department of the Air Force

A post-launch news conference will also be held on Saturday, Feb. 6 at
6 p.m. in the KSC News Center auditorium. The status of the Stardust
spacecraft will be provided by the spacecraft mission director at that

For more information on the STARDUST mission - the first ever comet
sample return mission - please visit the STARDUST home page:


From Peter Bond <>

Date: 2 February 1999
Ref. PN 99/04

Issued by:
Peter Bond,
RAS Space Science Advisor.
10 Harrier Close,
Surrey, GU6 7BS,
United Kingdom.
Phone: +44 (0)1483-268672
Fax: +44 (0)1483-274047



A UK-built experiment will soon be heading towards Comet Wild 2
(pronounced "Vilt-2") as part of NASA's exciting STARDUST mission.
Professor Tony McDonnell and Dr. Mark Burchell from the University of
Kent will be among the scientists at the Kennedy Spaceflight Centre in
Florida who are eagerly anticipating the forthcoming mission to capture
and return a sample of cometary material.

Stardust is currently set for launch on Saturday, February 6. After a
five year voyage to reach its target, Stardust will fly past the comet
in January 2004. Approaching at a speed of 6 km/s (14,000 mph),
Stardust will capture the tiny dust particles that make up the comet's
tail, eventually returning them to Earth in January 2006. In order to
avoid damaging the fragile particles, panels of aerogel - sometimes
called 'solid smoke' because of its extreme lightness - will be exposed
to the dust stream and used to entrap them.

The overall dust environment around the comet will also be studied in
detail. One of the instruments used to measure the characteristics of
this dust is a sensitive dust detection system.

This Large Area Momentum Sensor (LAMS) is mounted on Stardust's front
bumper shield. The circular shield, which consists of three layers, is
used to protect the vulnerable spacecraft from high speed impacts. At
the rear of the shield is a set of microphones, designed by Kent in
collaboration with the University of Chicago. These will listen to the
'sound' of the dust particles as they strike the spacecraft.

The microphone attached to the back of the external aluminium layer
will record impacts from smaller particles. Larger grains which
penetrate the aluminium will be detected by a second microphone fixed
to a layer of Nextel cloth. The number of impacts on the shield will be
counted from the number of electrical pulses picked up by the Kent
sensors, while the voltage of each pulse will enable particle mass to
be calculated.

UKC team member Dr. Mark Burchell said, "Using the special facilities
in our laboratory, we have been able to recreate the high speed impacts
on a mock-up of the Stardust spacecraft.  This allowed us to test the
microphones which will 'listen' to the impacts on the real spacecraft as it
flies past the comet."

Dust particles ejected by comets are thought to have been preserved in
almost pristine condition since our Solar System formed some
4,600,000,000 years ago.  Professor Tony McDonnell, Director of the
Unit for Space Sciences, pointed out that "since comets are probably
the most primitive objects in our Solar System, this is a very
important mission which will greatly extend our understanding of them
and of the conditions out of which our Solar System developed". 

Also involved in the team is postgraduate student Bryan Vaughan, who
will be basing his doctorate thesis on the University of Kent Stardust

The University of Kent involvement with this NASA mission is funded by 
a grant from PPARC, the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research

Stardust is a prelude to an even more ambitious European Space Agency
mission called Rosetta. A number of UK groups are involved in this
mission, including the University of Kent, the Open University, and
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Scheduled for launch in 2003, Rosetta
will actually land a probe on the surface of a comet, but not until the
year 2011!

Stardust will be the first spacecraft ever to bring cometary material
back to Earth for analysis by scientists worldwide. Its main objective
is to collect return particles flying off the nucleus of Comet Wild-2.
It will also bring back samples of interstellar dust, including the
recently discovered dust streaming into the Solar System from other
stars. Ground-based analysis of these samples after their return in
January 2006 should yield important insights into the evolution of the
Sun and planets, and possibly into the origin of life itself.

Other objectives are to take pictures of the comet, count the comet
particles striking the spacecraft, and produce real-time analyses of the
composition of the material ejected by the comet. 

Stardust is the fourth of NASA's low-cost Discovery missions.

In Florida:
Prof. Tony McDonnell: (001) 407-783-2230
Dr. John Zarnecki, +44 (0)1227-823237 Fax (for all) +44 (0)1227-62616
Dr. Simon Green, +44 (0)1227-823780 E-mail:
Dr. Neil McBride, +44 (0)1227-827654 E-mail:
Unit for Space Sciences and Astrophysics Office, +44 (0)1227-459616

Further details can be found on the World Wide Web as follows:
UKC Space Activities:


From Steven N. Koppes <>

Depending on the feedback you're getting from the survey, here's a news
release that may interest the CCNet list.

Cheers, Steve

February 2, 1999
For immediate release

Contact: Steve Koppes
(773) 702-8366

Chicago instrument to get close look at comet during Stardust mission
Launch scheduled for Feb. 6

A University of Chicago instrument will be riding shotgun on the first
spacecraft designed to return a sample of a comet to Earth. NASA plans
to launch the Stardust spacecraft to Comet Wild-2 as early as Feb. 6.

Stardust will be blasted with a hail of dust particles traveling
nearly four miles per second as the spacecraft approaches to within 93
miles of Comet Wild-2 (pronounced "Vilt"-2) in 2004. 8A special shield
called the bumper shield will protect the main body of the spacecraft
as it passes through the glowing gas cloud that surrounds the comet's
solid nucleus. The detectors for Chicago's Dust Flux Monitor Instrument
will be mounted on the front of the bumper shield.

"There, they will be exposed to the full force of the dust flux to
measure the size of the dust particles the spacecraft encounters and
map their distribution around the comet's nucleus," said Anthony
Tuzzolino, Senior Scientist at Chicago's Laboratory for Astrophysics &
Space Research.

The DFMI was not originally part of the Stardust mission. Noel Hinners,
vice president of spacecraft contractor Lockheed Martin Astronautics,
suggested its addition to provide rapid measurement of the dust density
around the comet to help engineers and flight controllers assess the
health and safety of the spacecraft as it approaches the comet. Ben
Clark, also of Lockheed Martin, led the effort to find a way to
integrate the experiment and the spacecraft, the design for which was
already nearly complete.

"Our instrument performs an important health-hazard function,"
Tuzzolino said. "Conditions may be far more hazardous than we thought
as we approach the comet." If so, DFMI data will warn mission
controllers that it is time to take protective measures for the

Scientists also will correlate DFMI's data with the samples that
Stardust will collect from the comet and return to Earth in 2006.
Stardust will use a material called aerogel to collect the samples
without damaging or altering the speeding particles. Aerogel is a
silica-based solid with a porous, sponge-like structure that consists
mostly of empty space. "It is so light that it has been called 'solid
smoke,'" Tuzzolino said.

The other instruments aboard Stardust include a camera to take detailed
photographs of the comet's surface features, and the Cometary and
Interstellar Dust Analyzer, which will analyze the  composition of the
comet's dust particles.

The DFMI consists of an electronics box, two detectors mounted on the
front of the spacecraft's bumper shield and two acoustic sensors,
measurements from which will be analyzed by a team headed by Professor
J.A.M. McDonnell of the University of Kent in England.

The detectors consist of a polarized plastic material. "The material is
similar to Saran wrap," Tuzzolino said. The material generates an
electrical pulse when hit by small, high-speed particles, even those
many times smaller than a sand grain.

The two acoustic sensors are embedded between layers of the shield that
protects the spacecraft from impacting dust particles. "The acoustic
sensors will be triggered by a large impact particle that hits the
shield anywhere," said LASR Senior Scientist Bruce McKibben.

Stardust will meet Comet Wild-2 at a distance of 242 million miles from
Earth, following a flight trajectory that will loop twice around the
sun. The spacecraft will loop once more around sun after its comet
encounter on the way back to Earth.

The trajectory will take Stardust close to several meteor streams that
the DFMI may be able to detect. The first such opportunity will occur
April 20, 1999 when Stardust comes within 3.5 million miles of the
Orionid meteor stream. The Orionid meteors, left in the wake of Comet
Halley, can be seen from Earth each October.

The DFMI may also be able to detect particles of interstellar dust,
which NASA's Ulysses spacecraft recently discovered streaming into the
solar system.

"There is a chance that we can identify the trajectory of incoming
particles that must have come from interstellar space," said John
Simpson, Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus
in Physics. "This is matter that is involved in the origin of the solar
system itself. It's primordial material."

Stardust will be the 34th space-science mission Simpson and Tuzzolino
have participated in, starting with Pioneer 2 in 1958. Last November,
Tuzzolino received the NASA Public Service Medal for his role in the
development of cosmic ray and dust detectors, including the first to be
sent to Mercury, the moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. All of their
experiments have been aimed at understanding the origin of elements and
matter that formed Earth's galaxy and solar system.

The DFMI is a descendant of Chicago's Dust Counter and Mass Analyzer
instrument that flew on the Soviet Union's Vega 1 and Vega 2 missions
to Halley's Comet in 1986. Simpson invented the instrument concept in
1983, with Tuzzolino playing a key role in its rapid development and

On the Vega missions, Chicago scientists discovered to their surprise
that tiny dust particles streaming from the comet had survived to the
outer bounds of the comet's coma, the spherical cloud of glowing gas
that develops around a comet's solid nucleus as it approaches the sun.

"We were able to show that the particles coming off the comet's nucleus
had to be a conglomerate, probably bound together by an ice glue,"
Simpson said. "Then, as it carried far out into space, the ice glue
dissolved, releasing the very small stuff that would have otherwise
disappeared if it had come directly from the comet."

Two other instruments related to the DFMI are components on NASA's
current Cassini mission to Saturn and on the Air Force's unclassified
Advanced Research and Global Observation Satellite.

Simpson and Tuzzolino built Cassini's High Rate Detector, part of the
larger Cosmic Dust Analyzer from Germany, which will collect and
analyze dust particles found in interplanetary space and those that form
the major components of Saturn's rings.

The ARGOS Space Dust instrument, devised by Simpson, Tuzzolino and
McKibben, will measure the mass, speed and trajectory of cometary dust
particles and man-made space debris found in low-Earth orbit when launched
later in February.

The $350,000 DFMI was funded by NASA for Stardust, the fourth mission
in the space agency's Discovery Program of smaller, faster, cheaper
missions. The Stardust scientific team is led by University of
Washington astronomy professor Donald Brownlee.

Editor's Note: An image of the researchers with a model of Stardust and
a prototype of their detectors is available upon request.

NASA Stardust home page:

University of Washington Stardust home page:

University of Kent Stardust home page:

Radio stations: The University of Chicago has an ISDN line. Please call for
information. For more news from the University of Chicago, visit our
Web site at


From THE TIMES, 3 February 1999


By Nigel Hawkes, Science Editor

ON SATURDAY the Stardust satellite is due for launch from Cape
Canaveral in Florida, bound for the comet Wild 2. Its aim is to capture
the comet's tail and bring it back to Earth. The tiny dust particles
that make up the tail could help to answer a question once dismissed as
scarcely worth consideration: did life begin in space?

When Sir Fred Hoyle and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, of Cardiff
University, suggested this 20 years ago, they were ignored. But the
discovery of organic chemicals on Halley's Comet, and the claims
made in 1996 of the detection of microfossils in a meteorite from Mars,
changed things. Investigations of panspermia (as the theory is called)
came to be seen as legitimate, says Professor Wickramasinghe, but
unfortunately they were too late to influence the experiments on
Stardust, which do not include any search for living microbes.

He is putting his faith in a cheaper experiment planned by the Indian
Space Research Organisation. With collaboration from scientists at
Cardiff, it intends to launch a series of balloons into the
stratosphere and use them to collect samples of air at different
heights. If the panspermia hypothesis is true, the Earth is bombarded
by micro-organisms from outer space, which we cannot detect because
they are identical to those already present on the Earth's surface.

Previous balloon experiments have detected micro-organisms at heights
of almost 25 miles. There was also a hint that the number of microbes
increased with altitude, which would certainly support the idea of an
extraterrestrial source. But in the 1960s and 1970s, comparatively
primitive techniques made it difficult to eliminate the possibility of
contamination by microbes from the surface of the Earth.

The key, then, is to ensure absolute sterility of the pumps that will
suck in the air, and highly sensitive techniques for detecting any
bacteria or other microbes in the air once it has been brought back to
Earth. Microbes of extraterrestrial origin would be expected to contain
different ratios of isotopes of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen from
terrestrial ones, enabling a clear identification to be made.

How many microbes might be picked up? Professor Wickramasinghe has
attempted a calculation. It is estimated that about 500 tons of
extraterrestrial material reaches the Earth from space every day. Any
microbes contained within it would be starved of nutrients and in a
state of suspended animation, which means they would be very small.
Estimating their mass, and guessing that one particle in every 100
reaching the Earth is a microbe, he concludes that there might be as
many as 1,000 per litre of air at a height of 30km. Since the balloon
can take a sample of 50 to 100 litres of air, it could capture as many
as 100,000 microbes - well above the detection level.

The balloon could be flown by the end of this year, at a cost of
150,000. Most will be provided by the Indian Government, but the UK
end of the project needs to raise 50,000. Grants are to be sought from
the research councils - but other sources would be equally welcome.

Copyright 1999, The Times Newspapers Ltd.


From the BBC Online Network

The new planet is the size of Saturn, making it the smallest yet

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Scientists at the Geneva Observatory have discovered a new planet
circling a star almost identical to our Sun.

It is the eighteenth planet known to be orbiting another star but is
important because the mass of the new planet is similar to that of
Saturn in our solar system. Previously discovered extra-solar planets
have been somewhat larger.




Meteor Streaks Across Western Sky

Tuesday, February 2, 1999; 2:13 p.m. EST

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A small meteor streaked across the Western sky
this morning, startling people from San Francisco to Las Vegas, more
than 400 miles away. ``It was bright and blue and really fantastic,''
one caller told San Francisco radio station KCBS.

Radio stations in several other cities, including Santa Barbara and San
Bernardino in Southern California, also had people calling in about the
mysterious light. People reported seeing it for about five seconds, at
about 6 a.m.

The object was probably a fireball, or ``bolide,'' according to Jose
Olivarez, director of the Chabot Observatory and Science Center in
Oakland. ``From the description, I'd say it was simply a small
meteorite that entered the atmosphere,'' he said. ``It's not unusual,
but it was clear last night so lot of people saw it.'' Olivarez said he
didn't see the meteor himself.

Callers said the bright light zipped across the sky, moving from East
to West and vanishing over the horizon. Sometimes missile launches have
been mistaken for meteors, but the Air Force said it had not launched a
missile at Vandenberg Air Force base.

Copyright 1999, AP

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CCNet LETTERS, 3 February 1999

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    Lew Gramer <>

    Simon Mansfield <>

    Jens Kieffer-Olsen <>


From Lew Gramer <>

The following message describes a very worthy-sounding educational
program in the Midwestern U.S., designed to educate students about
Impact Hazards, and in the process, about astronomy and space science.
I first heard of this program through my involvement with Mad Scientist
Network ("").

If anyone on these three lists can offer expert assistance in either of
the areas of physics/orbital dynamics or computer visualization, or if
you'd like to find out more about how to support the program, please
email the educators directly at the email addresses below!

Clear skies,
Lew Gramer <>

------- Forwarded Message

Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 09:27:48 -0600 (CST)
From: Stephanie Wordsworth <>
Subject: AIS project

Dear Mr. Lew Gramer-

Hi, my name is Stephanie Wordsworth, and I am replying for Lee Wright.
We were informed by Mr. O'Donnel(he found out through Mad Scientist)
that you were interested in our project, so I will briefly explain the
project to refresh your memory.  In this program, Deflection of Near
Earth Impact Asteroids, variables and information will be inputed by
the user, (including the mass, velocity, distance from Earth, and other
details about the asteroid) and we will use equations to calculate whether
to deflect or destroy the asteroid.  After this decision is made, the
angle at which to intercept, time span, velocity and force needed to
deflect or destroy, and other details will be calculated.  We also need
to find a way to visualize the information through graphs or Wireman.
Our question for you is, would you still be willing to help us?  If so,
could we fax you the information that we currently have?  An equation
that we need is one that finds the angle at which to intercept the

Thank you very much for your time, we hope to hear from you soon. Our
e-mail addresses are as follows:

Stephanie Wordsworth
Lee Wright
Aaron Bell
Kishore Kilaru

Stephanie Wordsworth
Burlington High School


From Simon Mansfield <>

From Michael Paine


NASA is currently funding NEAR, DeepSpace 1, and StarDust - sounds like
a good spread of on-site NEO exploration.

At the end of the day, NASA should be transfering any technology it
develops relating to the SpaceGuard aspects of NEO to other
organizations, which will essentially be operating a "coastguard"
service watching out for NEOs that might become ground objects.  This
organization should be operated under UN funding. We are all in it
altogether so we should do it from the start as an internationally
funded and co-ordinated effort.

In terms of active SpaceGuard technology - there is a valid arguement
that NASA should be spending some money on sending "Bruce Willis or
Robert Duvall" to save us.

But it's my prediction that the technology that will ever have a chance
of deflecting a NEO from impacting will come from the technology
developed to capture asteroids into Earth, Lunar or Mars orbit for
resource utilization.

I even would be prepared to predict that the close flyby NEO in 2028 or
thereabouts will result in Earth capture if technically possible by

So lets give NASA some due for NEAR, DS-one and StarDust, and focus
rather, on the issue of setting up an international funded effort at
the UN level for SpaceGuard activities. Who might also have veto power
over any attempts to capture an asteroid into Earth or Lunar orbit.

Simon Mansfield


From Jens Kieffer-Olsen <>

From Piero Sicoli and Manca Franscesco <>

This report prompts me to ask, if there are any plans whatsoever to map
large asteroids crossing Mars orbit?  Although not of any immediate
concern it is bound to become a safety issue, once a human outpost has
been established.

If Tunguska-type events happen on Earth with a frequency of one a
century, then surely there must a permanent risk of severe impacts on
Mars, impacts which may lead to prior evacuation if predicted years in

Jens Kieffer-Olsen, M.Sc.(Elec.Eng.)



Press Release from the General Secretary of the International
Astronomical Union


IAU Press Release 01/99

For immediate release

February 3, 1999


Recent news reports have given much attention to what was believed to
be an initiative by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to
change the status of Pluto as the ninth planet in the solar system.
Unfortunately, some of these reports have been based on incomplete or
misleading information regarding the subject of the discussion and the
decision making procedures of the Union.

The IAU regrets that inaccurate reports appear to have caused
widespread public concern, and issues the following corrections and

1:   No proposal to change the status of Pluto as the ninth planet in the
     solar system has been made by any Division, Commission or Working Group
     of the IAU responsible for solar system science. Accordingly, no such
     initiative has been considered by the Officers or Executive Committee,
     who set the policy of the IAU itself.

2:   Lately, a substantial number of smaller objects have been discovered in
     the outer solar system, beyond Neptune, with orbits and possibly other
     properties similar to those of Pluto. It has been proposed to assign
     Pluto a number in a technical catalogue or list of such Trans-Neptunian
     Objects (TNOs) so that observations and computations concerning these
     objects can be conveniently collated. This process was explicitly
     designed to not change Pluto's status as a planet.

     A Working Group under the IAU Division of Planetary Systems Sciences is
     conducting a technical debate on a possible numbering system for TNOs.
     Ways to classify planets by physical characteristics are also under
     consideration. These discussions are continuing and will take some time.
     The Small Bodies Names Committee of the Division has, however, decided
     against assigning any Minor Planet number to Pluto.

3:   From time to time, the IAU takes decisions and makes recommendations on
     issues concerning astronomical matters affecting other sciences or the
     public. Such decisions and recommendations are not enforceable by
     national or international law, but are accepted because they are rational
     and effective when applied in practice. It is therefore the policy of the
     IAU that its recommendations should rest on well-established scientific
     facts and be backed by a broad consensus in the community concerned. A
     decision on the status of Pluto that did not conform to this policy would
     have been ineffective and therefore meaningless. Suggestions that this
     was about to happen are based on incomplete understanding of the above.

The mission of the IAU is to promote scientific progress in astronomy. An
important part of this mission is to provide a forum for debate of scientific
issues with an international dimension. This should not be interpreted to
imply that the outcome of such discussions may become official IAU policy
without due verification that the above criteria are met: The policy and
decisions of the IAU are formulated by its responsible bodies after full
deliberation in the international scientific community.

Johannes Andersen
General Secretary, IAU

For more information, contact the IAU Secretariat (URL: and
address below), or the Division President, Prof. Michael A'Hearn, University
of Maryland, USA (Tel: (301) 405 6076; Fax: (301) 314 9067; E-mail:


The International Astronomical Union (IAU), founded in 1919, is the
international non-governmental organization uniting professional astronomers
all over the world. It currently has 61 Member States and over 8,300
Individual Members in 83 countries. Its scientific activities are coordinated
by 11 Divisions and 40 Commissions spanning the entire field of astronomy. The
IAU is integrated in the international scientific community through its
membership of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and represents
astronomy in committees of the UN and other international organizations. The
permanent IAU Secretariat is located in Paris, France.


IAU/UAI Secretariat
Institut d'Astrophysique              Tel:     +33 1 4325 8358
98bis, Bld. Arago                     Fax:     +33 1 4325 2616
F - 75014 Paris                       E-mail:
France                                WWW:

CCCMENU CCC for 1999