CCNet 45/2001 - 22 March 2001: THE END IS MIR SPECIAL

"The detection program recommended by Spaceguard is not designed to
find objects of the size that Arthur C. Clarke introduced in "Rendevouz
With Rama" - the very incident that gave Spaceguard its name! A rebuttal
that the process should start with the large and then work towards the
small is obvious; the criticism is that a method to identify the small has
yet to be defined. I find it hard to believe that we can detect planets in
other solar systems but do not have the technical ability to locate all
asteroids orbiting in near Earth spaces of a size that could destroy
--Leon Neihouse, 21 March 2001  

"Fishermen in the South Pacific say they will risk being hit by the
Mir space station because the fishing is good. Boat crews know all
about Russia's plans to dump the craft in the sea but are refusing to
move. They say they have had a bad year and are willing to take
their chances while the tuna are biting."
--Ananova, 22 March 2001

"A TV auction is offering one lucky bidder the chance to send their
mother-in-law into the stratosphere. The Star City Cosmonaut Training Camp,
just outside Moscow, will send her up in a converted aircraft to
experience the effects of space travel. G-forces on board the flight will
double her weight on the way-up, but make her weightless on the way down."
--Ananova, 21 March 2001

    Exite News, 22 March 2001

    Yahoo! News, 21 March 2001

    The Age, 22 March 2001

    Dawn Online, 22 March 2001

    SpaceDaily, 22 March 2001

    Ananova, 22 March 2001

    SpaceDaily, 21 March 2001

    Andrew Yee <>


     Dave Wright <>
     ESA News <>

     James Perry <>

     Leon Neihouse <

     SPACE :-)
     Ananova, 21 March 2001


From Exite News, 22 March 2001

By Andrei Shukshin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Mir space station entered its last day of life
on Thursday, absorbing the precious solar energy it needs to ensure a guided
plunge into fiery oblivion in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean.

Mir is scheduled to fireball into the earth's atmosphere shortly after 1
a.m. EST Friday. Tonnes of debris will hit the ocean minutes later at speeds
fast enough to crash through six feet six inches of reinforced concrete.

A spokeswoman for ground control outside Moscow said the 136-toncraft was
cruising around the earth with its solar panels turned to the sun to give
the veteran station's batteries much-needed power to keep it in place for
the final push-down.

"It is positioned to feed its batteries and it is the most important thing
at the moment," she said by telephone.

The station's power supply has been one of the main concerns for Russian
space officials. Last December the batteries went dead, leaving the
15-year-old station spinning aimlessly out of control for more than a day.

The batteries provide electricity for Mir's main computer, which is due to
maneuver the craft into its final position and allow technicians to send it
crashing down in a specific area between Chile and New Zealand, well away
from populated regions.

If the system fails, ground control is planning to use a cargo craft docked
to the station as a guiding vehicle.

Ground control engineers will fire one of Mir's jets to push it out of orbit
but will be unable to monitor its descent. A group of Russian and U.S.
scientists, cosmonauts and tourists are planning to witness the crash from a



From Yahoo! News, 21 March 2001

By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press Writer

TOKYO (AP) - The Japanese are used to disasters. At any given time, there is
likely to be a volcano erupting somewhere. Earthquakes are a common
occurrence. In late summer, their islands are whipped by typhoons.

But here's a danger almost nobody expected - a space station falling from
the sky. And despite the astronomically high odds against it hitting
anything but saltwater, Japan has gotten a serious case of the jitters ahead
of the planned re-entry Friday of the Russian space station Mir.

The countdown to Mir's fiery end is on virtually every network newscast.
Experts have been dispatched to Russia. The coast guard has issued warnings
to shipowners. Local officials in cities and towns that might be under the
spacecraft's final trajectory have been put on call.

On the streets in Tokyo, opinion is mixed.

"I'm not taking it seriously because they talk about possible earthquakes
all the time and they never happen," said Rika Matsuishi, 29, a

But Yoshie Fukushima, a 53-year-old grocery store clerk, said she would heed
a government warning to stay indoors.

"If they tell us not to go outside, I won't," she said.

Japan is watching Mir particularly closely because this country is likely to
be the last populated area under the aging space station's final path. Mir
is expected to cross over Siberia and North Korea (news - web sites) before
passing over the central or southern part of Japan on its way to the
southern Pacific.

Most of the 15-year-old, 150-ton space station is expected to burn up in the
atmosphere, but Russian officials estimate 1,500 fragments, weighing a total
of up to 27 tons, could reach the Earth's surface.

The target area is a huge swath of ocean between New Zealand and Chile, and
Moscow has repeatedly assured officials here that the re-entry plan poses no
threat to Japanese lives.

If all goes well, they say, Mir's Japan crossing - at an altitude of nearly
100 miles - should all be over in from 10 seconds to about one minute.
That's expected to happen at around 2:30 p.m. local time Friday.

But experts admit that ditching spacecraft is an inexact science.

Officials here stress that exactly what part of Japan the station will pass
over cannot be accurately forecast until less than an hour before it
actually makes the transit.

Small glitches, meanwhile, can mean major trajectory changes.

According to a study released this week by Japan's Education Ministry, a
misfiring of Mir's engines could delay its re-entry enough to put Mir into
an orbit that could conceivably send it raining down on Tokyo and
surrounding areas.

Just to be safe, Japan has set up a crisis management headquarters. Six
experts have already been sent to Russia to monitor the plan, and Defense
Agency Chief Toshitsugu Saito postponed a meeting with U.S. Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington this week in case something goes

The government's unusually cautious position reflects concerns over more
than just the safety of its citizens. Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori took a
beating in the media and in Parliament for continuing to play golf last
month after learning that a U.S. submarine sank a Japanese high school
fishing boat.

If something goes wrong with Mir, Mori won't have to wait long to complain.
He is to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Irkutsk,
Russia, this weekend.

Copyright 2001, AP


From The Age, 22 March 2001

Authorities will have just one hour to react if tomorrow's fiery splashdown
of the Mir space station goes wrong and wreckage hits Australia.

Emergency services will be on alert for debris from the Russian space
craft's controlled descent, which is expected to splash down in the South
Pacific about 5.20pm tomorrow between New Zealand and Chile.

"If we had an indication it was going wrong and they could give us the
information on what the situation was, we would alert whatever state might
be affected," Emergency Management Australia spokesman Brian Flanagan said.

"If something goes wrong with the final burst (to dump the craft), there's
an hours grace before re-entry," he said.

An Australian official will monitor the final moments of Mir from mission
control outside Moscow and relay real time reports to authorities here, Mr
Flanagan said.

But authorities were confident Russian space officials will manage a
controlled re-entry of Mir circulating 220 kilometres above earth, although
dumping the ageing craft harmlessly in the ocean will be a delicate and
complex process.

Mr Flanagan warned if debris did dump on Australia, anyone find ing it
should not touch it but contact police, who would contact emergency

Much of the 135 tonne 15-year-old space craft is expected to burn-up about
70 to 90 kilometres above earth on re-entry but experts believe nearly 25
tonnes of debris will hit the sea in an oblong dump zone centred roughly
around 44 degrees south latitude and 150 degrees west longitude.

Russian officials plan to steer Mir into a new orbit by firing thruster
rockets, once mid-morning Australian time and once in the afternoon, before
plunging the craft to earth.

If Mir's computers fail to stabilise the space station and fire the engines,
its re-entry will be uncontrollable. Experts believe there is only a two to
three per cent chance of this happening, but Russia has taken out a $400
million insurance to cover accidents.

Copyright 2001, The Age


From Dawn Online, 22 March 2001

WELLINGTON, March 21: New Zealand said on Wednesday its maritime safety
officials are trying to contact a fleet of American vessels fishing in the
area where the Russian space station Mir is expected to splash down.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the expected flight path of the 15-year-old
space station has been shifted slightly and is now a little closer to New
Zealand than previously warned.

The 130 tonnes of red-hot space junk were expected to pass about 1,250 km
(780 miles) to the northeast of New Zealand before plunging into the South
Pacific ocean around 3,600 km (2,237 miles) east of the southern tip of
Stewart Island.

Stewart Island is New Zealand's third largest island.

"We are particularly concerned about the need to get this advice to a large
fleet of American fishing vessels which have moved into the area," Clark
said in a statement.

"We are going to some lengths to get messages to the fleet."

An official of the New Zealand Maritime Safety Authority told Reuters the
warning was based on media reports that tuna fishing vessels from American
Samoa may be in the area.

"We've been running a navigational warning...for a little while and I'd be
surprised if any ships in the area were not aware of the Mir descent," the
authority's deputy director, Tony Martin, said.

More targeted warnings would be broadcast as splashdown neared, around 0600
GMT on Friday.

While the final orbit was slightly closer to New Zealand than the government
had expected, Clark said she remained confident the crashing space station
posed no risk to the country.

The changed orbit details meant Mir would no longer pass directly over Fiji
or Tonga, she added.

VAST AREA BRACES FOR SPLASHDOWN: From Conny Martin's standpoint, the vast
empty expanse of the Pacific Ocean where flaming chunks of Russia's Mir
space station may find their watery grave does not feel empty at all.

German-born Martin is one of 2,800 people living on Chile's Easter Island, a
triangle of volcanic rock marooned in the ocean, 3,200 km (2,000 miles) from
the nearest big population centres in South America or Tahiti - and
potentially in Mir's flightpath.

"As we are the most affected ones, we get the least information of all of
you," the tour operator told Reuters on Wednesday in a telephone interview
from the remote outcrop famous for its mysterious, giant stone heads.

"It's business as usual here and we're just hoping that nothing will land on
us. What can we do? We can't move out of the way," she said, uneasy at the
thought of 130 tonnes of red-hot space junk crashing down from above later
this week.

Moscow's latest plan is to bring the 15-year-old space station down on
Friday, somewhere around 3,000 km (1,860 miles) east of New Zealand's
southern tip.

Two-thirds of the accident-prone Mir should burn up on re-entry into the
Earth's atmosphere.-


Copyright 2001, The DAWN Group of Newspapers


From SpaceDaily, 22 March 2001
AUCKLAND (AFP) Mar 22, 2001
At least 27 fishing boats are spread out across the area of the South
Pacific where the remains of the Russian space station Mir are due to crash
into the sea on Friday.

A small number of merchant ships are also travelling through the 6000km x
200km (3750 x 125 miles) area in which an estimated 1,500 pieces of Mir
debris, some of them as big as a car, are projected to splash down, New
Zealand foreign minister Phil Goff revealed on Thursday.

The boats have been warned they are risking disaster but New Zealand
authorities could not say whether they would move out of the line of fire in

Five international flights due to pass over the area at the critical time
have been delayed.

The 137-tonne Mir is expected to burn up after reentering the earth's
atmosphere, but scientists calculate that around 20 tonnes of debris will
make it into the Pacific.

The Mir's reentry is expected between 0620 and 0630 GMT Friday. While
scientists are confident it will not land anywhere near inhabitated land,
nobody can be 100 percent certain.

Richard Templeton, a spokesman for Emergency Management Australia, said the
Canberra govenrment would have just one hour's warning if anything went
wrong. But he voiced confidence everything would be okay. "This is a
controlled event."

Australia has a unique world record -- in 1979 it was the only nation ever
whacked by a falling space station when the US Skylab came down in the

Mirs target zone, known as "Navarea XIV" and under New Zealand monitoring,
is also a prime tuna fishery favoured by boats from American Samoa.

New Zealand's Maritime Safety Authority deputy director Tony Martin told AFP
that the boats' captains knew Mir was on the way.

"They are spread right across the target area, and whether they stay there
or not, it is up to them," he said.

Many of the boats did not want to disclose their exact competition for fear
rival fishing boats found out in the highly competitive fishery.

"Weve done everything we can to make them aware," he said, adding that a
crewman with a good camera would be in for dramatic photographs.

If any of the bits are left floating they will be potentially worth more
than the fish -- a piece of Skylab sold for 30,000 US dollars.

A group of 50 people, including leading Russian scientists and cosmonauts,
are planning to watch the Mir splashdown from two specially chartered Air
Fiji planes that will get within 300 km of the flaming debris.

The private expedition organised by the American Foundation for the Future
organisation involves both Leonid Gorshkov, one of the chief architects of
the Mir, and Sergey Zaletin, the commander of the final mission to the
doomed space station.

Expedition spokesman Peter May said they went to Fiji as it was the closest
to the point where the spaceship is expected to streak down.

"We will be able to see it as a comet in the sky ... the biggest known man
made object to hit the earth's atmosphere," he said.

As soon as they get confirmation of the time they will fly to Tonga to
re-fuel before moving to a spot about 350 kilometres (150-200) miles from
where the station will descend.

The aircraft will be flying at an altitude of 7,500 metres (25,000 feet) and
the space craft is expected to be about 128 kilometres (80 miles) from earth
as it re-orbits into the atmosphere.

"The observers will film the flaming satellite as it passes at a distance of
about 300 kilometres (186 miles) away while still at an altitude of about 80
kilometres," he said.

Patrick Helm from the Satellite Re-Entry Committee said the area where Mir
would enter was "not too busy" for aircraft or shipping but aircraft flying
between New Zealand, Pacific islands and North America did cross the area.

"In world terms it's not too busy, one of the quietest in the world but
nevertheless there's still aircraft and ships in the area. There are about
five planes that would be passing through the area under normal
circumstances in the hours around the re-entry.

"They have been identified and are being held back just for the duration of
the re-entry time -- for about an hour."

Copyright 2001,  Agence France-Presse
From Ananova, 22 March 2001

Fishermen in the South Pacific say they will risk being hit by the Mir space
station because the fishing is good.

Boat crews know all about Russia's plans to dump the craft in the sea but
are refusing to move.

They say they have had a bad year and are willing to take their chances
while the tuna are biting.

New Zealand maritime authorities warned about 30 American Samoa-based tuna
fishermen about Mir.

But Wayne Heikkila, general manager of the Western Fishboat Owners'
Association, said: "The fish are biting in that area and it has been a tough
year for them so far, so they are staying."

He said they had made an informed choice and added: "I told the guys to have
their video cameras ready."

Debris from Mir is expected to hit on Friday somewhere in the South Pacific
between New Zealand and Chile.

Copyright 2001, Ananova


From SpaceDaily, 21 March 2001

by Mark Perew

Los Angeles - March 21, 2001
Asteroid (107) Camilla has joined the ranks of asteroids boasting a small
moon. Astronomers from Towson University in Maryland found the satellite in
five images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope earlier this month.

While it is too early to have precise mass and orbit data, the images do
show that the new moon, provisionally dubbed S/2001 (107) 1, is probably of
the same type as its primary. The images also imply a size ratio of 1:25.

"These images were taken by a snapshot program filling up available time on
HST," reported Professor Alex Storrs. "This is part of a campaign to study
main belt objects for companions and surface variegations. These
observations are complementary with, not in competition to, ground based

While the ground based observations using the Keck adaptive optics system,
for example, are excellent in the infrared, Hubble uses visible light. Both
systems, Prof. Storrs stressed, reveal useful data about the objects being

Of the asteroids found to have large satellites, all appear to be
"primitive" types. To Prof. Storr, this implies that they are unadulterated
both physically and dynamically.

"They can't have had large impacts or close passes," he explained. "They
are, I'd venture to say, pristine."

"This is an interesting time to be studying asteroids." Professor Storr
stated. For so many years we've struggled with the limits of resolution [of
ground based telescopes]. Now with adaptive optics, HST and Doppler radar
the field has become interesting all over again."

Additional HST images will be taken next week. To date only 10% of the
roughly 50 objects have been imaged in this observing campaign.

Copyright 2001, SpaceDaily


From Andrew Yee <>

ESA Science News

21 Mar 2001

Most of their time is spent frozen in the outer reaches of the solar system.
But when these balls of ice and dust, which we know as comets, decide to
make an appearance, the spectacle is often grandiose. This is mainly caused
by their warming up as they approach the Sun. Astronomers
then have a chance to investigate comets closely, including at X-ray
wavelengths, as XMM-Newton did at the end of January 2001.

The primary objective of the XMM-Newton mission is the study of the
X-ray-hot, violent universe. However since the ROSAT observatory's discovery
in 1996 that "dirty snowballs" also shine quite unexpectedly in X-rays, it
had been envisaged that XMM-Newton would be asked to contribute and help
astronomers trying to understand this X-ray emission.

The comet McNaught-Hartley was revealed in October 1999. During most of last
year it was visible in the Southern hemisphere steadily becoming brighter
and by mid-December, now in view of the Northern hemisphere, it had reached
8th magnitude. The coma diameter was estimated to be between
3 and 4 arcminutes. Brightness is important because for most comets the
X-ray luminosity tends to follow the optical luminosity.

McNaught-Hartley was the opportunity several X-ray astronomers had been
waiting for. At the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in
Garching, Konrad Dennerl -- who had already been involved in the initial
ROSAT discovery -- and XMM-Newton Telescope scientist Bernd Aschenbach
proposed to carry out an observation.

"XMM-Newton's field of view is very small for these type of observations,
only 30 arcminutes and catching a comet is not easy" explains Bernd
Aschenbach. "The satellite's normal operating mode is to have a fixed
attitude. The observatory currently has no scan mode and can not
continuously track a moving object. So once we had Project Scientist Fred
Jansen's green light to make the attempt, as part of my guaranteed time, we
had to find the right strategy."

Early in December, Konrad Dennerl and Pedro Rodriguez, a mission planner
from XMM-Newton's Science Operations Centre at VILSPA, started calculating
whether the speed at which McNaught-Hartley was travelling was slow enough
to get enough exposure as it passed over the telescope's field of view.

They were lucky! In three separate 10 thousand second duration observations
on 29 and 30 January, XMM-Newton was able to catch its first comet.
McNaught-Hartley, which is a dynamically new comet coming perpendicularly to
the ecliptic plane, was then at a distance of some
192 million kilometres (1,29 AU).

Comets may be bright at optical wavelengths, but their X-ray flux is
generally some ten thousand times weaker. With its large collecting area for
soft X-rays, where comets are expected to radiate predominantly, XMM-Newton
is an excellent tool. The data obtained by the EPIC cameras
is still being analysed but already Konrad Dennerl and Bernd Aschenbach are
very excited.

Settling for one of five possible explanations

The study of X-ray emission in comets is still very much virgin territory
and a field where there is intense competition. Five theories, from most to
least probable according to current thinking, have been advanced to explain
the phenomenon:

* interaction of highly ionised elements in the solar wind (such as carbon,
nitrogen and oxygen)  with the gas being released by the comet. This would be a 'charge
exchange' process, where for instance, oxygen atoms with six or seven lost electrons, would be
recharged by the cometary gas.
* a "Bremsstrahlung"effect when fast moving electrons in the solar wind hit,
and are slowed down, by the nuclei of cometary atoms.
* X-rays from the Sun itself may be scattered, and re-emitted by dust
particles of the comet.
* Interaction between the ionised plasma in the solar wind and the plasma in
the vicinity of the comet, with a heating process in both.
* Collision and "sputtering" of solar system dust particles and cometary
dust particles at relative velocities high enough to produce X-rays.

XMM-Newton obtained sufficient X-ray counts with the EPIC-pn camera.
EPIC-MOS camera data will also be examined because of their high spectral
resolution at low energies. In addition, the investigation will benefit from
the image obtained simultaneously in the ultra-violet by the Optical

"The EPIC-pn camera image I have produced, at a very early state of
analysis, is proof that XMM-Newton is able to observe cometary X-ray
emission, which is a challenge in itself" says Konrad Dennerl. "The image
looks quite similar to what ROSAT observations showed, with an X-ray halo
which is elongated perpendicularly to the solar direction."

"But the really exciting part is the spectroscopy, as a first glimpse of the
data shows. With possible contamination of the soft X-ray signal by optical
light, it is one of the most challenging tasks of data analysis and this
will certainly take some time."

Konrad Dennerl and Bernd Aschenbach are sure that the scientific clues lie
in the excellent spectra they have obtained from McNaught-Hartley, and that
from the proposed theories, they can probably settle for just one. It could
be the fullest explanation ever of cometary X-ray emission.

Acknowledgements to Konrad Dennerl and Bernd Aschenbach of the Max Planck
Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany.


* Max Planck Institute (MPE): X-ray astronomy home page
* XMM-Newton home page
* About Comets
* Other Comets
* A night to remember: the Giotto flyby of Halley's comet
* Observatori Astrònomici de Mallorca


[Image 1: ]
XMM-Newton EPIC-pn image of comet McNaught-Hartley.

[Image 2: ]
Comet McNaught-Hartley in the ultraviolet passing through XMM-Newton's
Optical Monitor field of view.

[Image 3: ]
Ground-based CCD image of comet McNaught-Hartley. Taken by Juan Rodríguez
at the Observatori Astrònomic de Mallorca.

[Image 4: ]
Picture of the nucleus of Halley's comet taken by ESA's Giotto probe.


From, 21 March 2001

by Vanessa Thomas

The first sample-return mission since the Apollo program will visit Earth on
Monday for a gravity assist toward its encounter with a comet. At
approximately 6:15 a.m. EST (11:15 UT) on January 15, the Stardust
spacecraft will make its closest approach to Earth, flying over a part of
the globe just southeast of the southern tip of Africa.

"It's a mission milestone," said Donald Brownlee, the principal investigator
for Stardust. "We don't have to do anything during the flyby. It's all
celestial mechanics."

During the close approach, Stardust will fly about 3,700 miles (5,950
kilometers) above the planet's surface at a speed of 6 miles (10 kilometers)
per second. Stardust will use Earth's gravity to accelerate and alter its
course toward a January 2004 encounter with Comet Wild 2. While beyond the
orbit of Mars, 242 million miles (390 million kilometers) from Earth,
Stardust will pass through Comet Wild 2's coma and collect samples of dust
flying off the comet's nucleus. Exactly five years after its Earth approach,
Stardust will return and drop its collection of cometary and interstellar
dust particles into the Utah desert on January 15, 2006.

"The science of the mission is basically ahead of us," Brownlee said. "We've
dealt with a number of problems, but they have been fewer than most
spacecraft experience."

One of those problems presented itself about a year ago when the imaging
team used Stardust's navigation camera to take test pictures of a small lamp
inside the spacecraft. The team expected to see the wiggly signature of the
lamp's filament, but instead saw an oval-shaped blur. The camera's lens
seemed to be covered with a layer of light-scattering particles.

The Stardust team speculated that gases had escaped from the spacecraft and
condensed onto the cold parts of the camera lens after launch. Hoping that
heat would evaporate the contaminants, the team warmed the camera's
instruments by pointing Stardust toward the sun, turning on the spacecraft's
electric heaters, and using heat produced by other systems aboard Stardust.
Recent photographs of the lamp after the heating once again revealed the
familiar, though still blurred, zig-zag line. The camera can now image stars
as faint as 9th magnitude, which the imaging team expects will be enough to
guide Stardust during its approach to Comet Wild 2 and its return to Earth.

During the Earth flyby, Stardust may be visible to observers with
CCD-equipped telescopes in the western United States and Pacific regions.
David Dunham, president of the International Occultation Timing Association,
predicts that Stardust may appear at 11th-magnitude or better, possibly
flashing at 4th to 6th magnitude if the spacecraft's solar panels happen to
catch the light of the sun briefly and reflect it our way.

Copyright © 1996-2001 Kalmbach Publishing Co. 

From Dave Wright <>
On April 10, 11 and 12th there will be a conference at Charterhouse School
in Surrey. The theme of the conference is 'Celebrating Britain and Space.'
Of particular interest to readers of CCNet will be the two session on the
final day on Near Earth Objects. Speakers will include the Director General
of the British National Space Centre, Major Jay Tate of Spaceguard, Dr
Duncan Steel of Salford University, Dr Benny Peiser of Liverpool JMU, Dr
Nigel Holloway of Harwell and  Kotska Wallace of DERA. Further details of
the conference can be obtained by visiting British Rockets and Satellite
Launchers at A full
programme can be obtained by e-mailing   


From ESA News <>

20-Mar-2001 Geophysicists attending next week's General Assembly of the
European Geophysical Society in Nice won't just be discussing the latest
scientific research about the Earth. They will also be turning their
attention to other bodies within our solar system and the missions Europe is
sending to explore them.

A full scientific programme for the Assembly, which is being held at the
Nice Acropolis on 26-31 March, can be found at overview.htm.

Here are some of the highlights featuring ESA's space science programme.

At 10.45am on Monday 26 March, Roger Bonnet, Director of the ESA Science
Programme will talk on "Space Science and Exploration in the 21st Century".
Professor Bonnet is to be awarded an EGS Fellowship Medal "for his
authoritative and wide-ranging support of the space sciences putting Europe
at the forefront of Solar System exploration".

At 19.45 on Tuesday 27 March, David Southwood, Director-Designate of the ESA
Science Programme will talk on "The future of the European space science

The latest results from Ulysses, ESA's spacecraft which is exploring the
regions above the Sun's poles, will be presented in a session on "the 3D
heliosphere during the solar magnetic field reversal".

ESA's SOHO spacecraft, which is observing the Sun, will also feature
prominently in at least five sessions where more than 40 relevant papers
will be presented and there will be at least one talk on ESA's plans for the
future Solar Orbiter.

Two whole days of talks will be devoted to Mercury, in particular ESA's
future cornerstone mission to the planet, BepiColombo.

Mars Express, Europe's mission to Mars in 2003, will be the subject of a
whole day of talks. Each Principal Investigator on the orbiter and lander
will talk about the science his or her instrument will perform and how it
will contribute to an increase in knowledge about Mars. Europe's other
involvement in the international Mars exploration programme will also be
discussed, including plans for a Mars micromission and a Marskite. Some of
the latest results from NASA's Mars Global Surveryor will be presented, as
will the latest controversial findings about fossilised life on Mars

Most of the data collected during the recent Jupiter observation campaign by
the Cassini and Galileo spacecraft will be presented for the first time.
Supporting Hubble and ground based observations will also be discussed.
During last autumn and early this year, the two spacecraft have been
simultaneously observing the environment inside and outside the Jovian
magnetosphere. Europe has considerable involvement in the experiments on
board Cassini and the new observations represent the next significant
European participation in exploring the giant planet. Ulysses flew by
Jupiter in February 1992, making ground-breaking observations of the
planet's magnetosphere. Another dedicated session will discuss future
perspectives for Titan exploration, especially from ESA's Huygens probe.

The first results from Cluster, ESA's mission to explore the Earth's
magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind, will be presented.
The two-day Cluster session will include more than 80 papers and posters by
scientists from all over Europe. The programme will include the first
detailed analysis of data from the 42 identical instruments flown on the
Cluster quartet. The session will also include results from the first ever
multi-spacecraft crossings of the polar cusps and the magnetopause, as well
as analysis of coordinated observations involving both Cluster and
ground-based instruments.

ESA's Rosetta mission, one of the Cornerstones of the agency's long-term
science programme, will be discussed during the EGS session on "Comets,
asteroids, meteorites and dust". Rosetta will make history by becoming the
first spacecraft to orbit a comet and deploy a lander on its surface.
Several papers will be presented on the lander and the exciting science that
will be undertaken during Rosetta's 11-year space odyssey.

More information at:



From James Perry <>

Dear Benny,

Regarding this post by Lembit Öpik:

"In desperation, we called the House of Commons Library. We
explained that the world was in mortal danger of an asteroid impact,
which could wipe out most of the human race, and most of the rest of life
on earth too. We described the heat flash, the blast, tidal waves and
Electro Magnetic Pulse that would fry anything that has a microchip in it.
Then we said: so who should we call? After a few moments silence, he
replied with the immortal phrase, "well, on the basis of what you've
told me, maybe you should be talking to the Archbishop of Canterbury.""

I am interested in the assertion that asteroid impacts generate
Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). I have never heard this before. I thought EMP
was generated only by man-made sources (e.g. nuclear explosions). Why would
asteroid impacts generate EMP? If someone could cite a source for this
phenomenon that I could look up offline, I'd appreciate it.


James Perry


From Leon Neihouse <

Dear Benny,
I am not a professional in the field but I have been following the asteroid
impact debate for the past four years. Below are three criticisms; members
of this forum might or might not find them relevant or of interest.
1. There is no comprehensive design. All descriptions of the problem cover
the Tunguska Impact and the Barringer Crater but none recommend a detection
program that would locate objects of a size that caused these events. Even
more to the point, the detection program recommended by Spaceguard is not
designed to find objects of the size that Arthur C. Clarke introduced in
"Rendevouz With Rama" - the very incident that gave Spaceguard its name! A
rebuttal that the process should start with the large and then work towards
the small is obvious; the criticism is that a method to identify the small
has yet to be defined. I find it hard to believe that we can detect planets
in other solar systems but do not have the technical ability to locate all
asteroids orbiting in near Earth spaces of a size that could destroy cities.
The network recommended by the NASA sponsored study entitled "SHIELD-A
Comprehensive Earth Protection System" (see
is a step in the right direction but it stops at a minimum size of 100
2. A reluctance to spend money to solve the problem. Vernon Dursley is more
interested in supporting Harry Potter than is NASA interested in supporting
a comprehensive detection program. For a yard stick, the Great Ape
Conservation Act of 2000 (H.R. 4320) assigns more money (five million
dollars) for the preservation of chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and
orangutans than NASA assigns for the preservation of the human race, i.e.,
for asteroid detection. NASA's expenditures approach criminal negligence
when compared to the billion dollar annual projection that risk management
dictates should be directed towards the problem, or, at least, one billion
was the figure mentioned in Steel's "Target Earth." Also, the billion dollar
neighborhood was the amount Freeman Dyson (see surmised would
be an appropriate sum to spend on a program that would detect asteroids at
the city-destroying size.
3. A misplaced emphasis on public financing. I believe that, unless and
until a significant number of people are killed by an impacting asteroid, no
government or group of governments will ever support a comprehensive
detection program. Private financing should be pursued as an alternate
funding mechanism. The recent House of Lords debate on Near Earth Objects
seemed to suggest a source when Lord Tanlaw observed that "... many ...
might be prepared to pay to name a harmless near earth object ... as a
memento for their grandchildren or in memory of someone they have loved..."
Before he goes too far down this blind alley, I hope someone alerts him to
the fact that the IAU is adamantly opposed to "names for dollars" schemes. A
possible source of private funding acceptable perhaps even to the IAU might
be through a nascent organization called the Eye of the Needle Foundation,
or EON (see Its symbol
is a camel going through a needle's eye, indicative of a somewhat humorous
purpose to create a loophole for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. The 100
"Do-Good" projects described in an EON catalog would have price tags ranging
from 100 million dollars to 50 billion dollars. I know for a fact that the
Alpha Space Foundation (see will be
proposing an asteroid detection project to EON's Founder - the science
fiction author David Brin.
Best regards,
Leon Neihouse


From Ananova, 21 March 2001

A TV auction is offering one lucky bidder the chance to send their
mother-in-law into the stratosphere.

The Star City Cosmonaut Training Camp, just outside Moscow, will send her up
in a converted aircraft to experience the effects of space travel.

G-forces on board the flight will double her weight on the way-up, but make
her weightless on the way down.

The lot is being offered at a reserve price of £4,500, but has an
estimated real price of £5,500.

Star City offers private trips in a specially modified, high-altitude
Ilyushin IL-70 aircraft used for training cosmonauts.

The bidding begins on Mother's Day - Sunday, March 25 - just before 8pm on
Channel 647 SkyDigital.

Glenn Matchett, head of marketing at bid.up-tv, said: "We felt that an
important part of our society was being neglected on March 25 -

"Here at bid.up-tv, we want to give everyone the chance to show exactly how
they feel about theirs."

Copyright 2001, Press Association

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