CCNet, 38/2003 - 8 April 2003

"In public discussions of the President's in-space nuclear power and propulsion
system initiative, the issue of environmental safety can be expected to arise even
though extensive past experience has shown that such systems are extremely safe.
Nuclear safety is a matter of great public concern that we share. However, we would
also like to point out that the likely application of these kinds of technologies
to a future NEO deflection system will also mitigate against the possibility of a
much greater environmental hazard: that of a NEO impact itself. Thus, from an
environmental perspective, there may be much to be gained in the application of these systems to the NEO collision problem."
--Michael Belton and the Mitigation Workshop team, 4 April 2003

    Russian News Agency Novosti, 6 April 2003

    Cox News Service, 7 April 2003

    David Morrison <>

    Jacqueline Mitton <>

    Philippe Claeys <>

    Michael Paine <>

    Chicago Sun-Times, 7 April 2003


>From Russian News Agency Novosti, 6 April 2003

IRKUTSK, April 6 /Alexander Batalin, RIA Novosti Correspondent/ - Scientists from the Siberian city of Irkutsk went on an expedition Sunday to search for traces of a large meteorite that crashed into taiga, Siberia's wooded wilderness, in the north of the Irkutsk region last September.

Astronomer Sergei Yazev, the expedition's research chief, told RIA Novosti the prime objective for the effort was to find and collect samples of meteorite dust. But with the forest still under a thick blanket of snow, fragments of the meteor itself aren't likely to be discovered until warm weather sets in, he said.

The scientists today flew to Mama, a district center and the nearest airstrip to the site. They will travel the remainder of the way to the site on Buran snowmobiles and then by ski.

The search party consists of six men from three institutes of the Irkutsk Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Siberian Division, which pursue studies in geochemistry, the Earth's crust, and solar and earth physics. The researchers all have experience in working in the tough conditions of Siberian taiga, and are hopeful they will be able to accomplish the mission.

The expedition will last around 10 days, Yazev said.

© 2001 RIA Novosti

>From Cox News Service, 7 April 2003

By Michael Alicea

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Once upon a time, there was just the moon. One moon -- ours.

In 1610, Galileo complicated the whole scheme of the universe by spying four large dots orbiting the grand planet, Jupiter. Since then, scientists have been spotting moons all over the place. In fact, the official number has jumped to 118, and most scientists think this number may double -- even triple -- in just a few years.

Before the moon count gets outrageously long, here are the moons we have spotted so far (Mercury and Venus are moonless):

* Mars (2): Phobos and Deimos are considered by many astronomers to be captured asteroids. These unstable, heavily cratered, and odd-shaped rocks are actually falling towards Mars and will hit the planet thousands of years from now.

* Jupiter (52): Jupiter is the king of planets. It's no wonder it has the most moons so far. But this is mainly due to the lack of lunar size guidelines. Some of the latest discoveries are just over half a mile wide and orbit the planet every which way. On the other hand, Jupiter also hosts the largest moon in the solar system, Ganymede (3,270 miles in diameter, over twice as big as Pluto); the most geologically active, Io; and two moons, Europa and Callisto, which may be hiding deep salty oceans under their icy crusts.

* Saturn (30): Saturn is another gas giant with a wide influence. It has managed to aquire a spectacular system of rings, (which, unfortunately, are destined to spiral into the planet within a few hundred million years), and a whole slew of rocks. Like Jupiter, some rocks are less than a couple of miles wide and orbit erratically around the golden orb. Saturn's largest moon, Titan (3,200 miles in diameter), is the only moon discovered so far with a substantial atmosphere. It also may have oceans of organic materials rolling around its surface. Next year the Cassini mission will explore Saturn and catalog any new moons. Cassini isn't alone, however. A secondary probe, Huygens, will launch off the probe and plunge into the thick Titan atmosphere toward the surface to investigate the alien environment.

* Uranus (21): Uranus, named after a patriarch of Greek mythology, is the only planet to host moons whose names are taken from sources other than classical mythology. The Shakespeare and Pope-inspired moons, including oddball Miranda, tiny Ariel and dark Oberon, form three distinct classes: small and dark inner moons, normal "regular" moons, and small irregular moons orbiting at great distances from the planet.

* Neptune (11): Neptune's largest moon, Triton (1,680), is the coldest place in the solar system, with an average temperature of 391 degrees below zero. It is a moon covered in nitrogen and methane frost, appearing pinkish in some spots. Although it is a relatively large body, its retrograde orbit (an orbit in which a body moves in the direction opposite to its host planet), suggests to astronomers that it was captured by Neptune.

* Pluto (1): Pluto and Charon are just plain weird. To many scientists, Pluto isn't a planet and Charon isn't a moon. Charon is half the size of Pluto, making it the largest moon in relation to its parent planet we know so far. But that's not the weirdest part. Charon isn't really orbiting Pluto at all. They are, in essence, orbiting each other, around a center of gravity between both bodies, making this system a double planet -- if you want to call (them, it, whatever!) a planet at all.

* But wait! The "unofficial" moon count doesn't include only the major planets. The asteroid belt may be found to host many moons too. Ida, a 35-mile wide rock in the main belt between Jupiter and Mars, was the first asteroid discovered to possess a moon, Dactyl. Since this discovery in 1994, Earth-bound telescopes spotted moons circling asteroids Eugenia and Pulcova, among others.

Michael Alicea writes for the Palm Beach Post.

© Cox Newspapers


>From David Morrison <>

NEO News (04/07/03) Mitigation letter to NASA

>From Michael Belton and the Mitigation Workshop team

Mr. Gary L. Martin
NASA Space Architect
Room 9F44
NASA Headquarters
Washington, D.C., 20546-0001

April 4, 2003

Dear Mr. Martin,

The Columbia tragedy has triggered a public discussion of the future of the space station, space station science, and the utilization of humans in space. The outcome that we expect from this activity is an endorsement of a program of human space flight at NASA - perhaps returning to the goal enunciated by President Reagan in 1988: "To expand human presence and activity beyond Earth-orbit into the solar system" - accompanied by a prolonged and, possibly, divisive debate on the utility of the space station for science. As space scientists, we believe the latter can be avoided by adding a new, exciting, and affordable goal for human spaceflight and the use of the space station. This is the inclusion of  "mitigation" or "NEO deflection studies" (i.e., how to prepare for a comet or asteroid that is found on an Earth-threatening path), as one of NASA's primary goals. This goal, which we believe can combine the best of robotic and human space capabilities, can also be thought of as a precursor to another future endeavor  (e.g., see the discussion in Scientific Requirements for Human Exploration, Space Studies Board, 1993) - that of a manned mission to explore Mars. Also, such a goal can be thought of as logical extension of the congressionally mandated survey, currently being conducted in the Office of Space Science, to find any potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs) larger than one kilometer.

In a recent workshop for NASA's Office of Space Science, we developed a roadmap for attaining the "Scientific Requirements for Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids" ( This roadmap shows that to gain the basic knowledge needed for some future mitigation technology, a new NASA program is needed consisting of many novel robotic missions to acquire detailed geophysical information on the physical diversity, the subsurface, and the deep interiors of a variety of near-Earth objects. In addition, NASA and DoD will need to work together to "learn" how to apply deflection technologies including the application of low thrust devices, the application of novel in-space power sources, and/or the rapid application of large amounts of energy on small solar system bodies. We expect that a mix of both human and robotic missions to objects in near-Earth space and new uses for the space station will be required to test these technologies. The Space Science Board has already noted that there is a need for an optimal mix of human and robotic activities in such endeavors in their Scientific Opportunities in the Human Exploration of Space (Space Studies Board, 1993).

All of this leads us to propose a new goal for human and robotic space flight: Show how humans and robots can work together on small objects in near-Earth interplanetary space to: 1) accomplish new fundamental science on planetary objects; 2) aspire to previously unimaginable technical achievements on objects in interplanetary space; and, 3) protect the Earth from the future possibility of a catastrophic collision with a hazardous object from space. Since these activities would allow human spaceflight to cross the threshold into interplanetary space, they could also be thought of as a precursor activity to provide the essential technical and medical experience for that more distant, but even more challenging, goal - a human exploratory mission to Mars.

We also note that among the recent NRC Solar System Exploration "Decadal" Survey recommendations is one that exhorts NASA "to make significant new investments in advanced technology in order that future high priority flight missions can succeed." Particular stress was put on in-space power and propulsion systems such as advanced RTG's, in-space fission reactor power sources, nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) and advanced ion engines.In the President's 2004 budget proposal, NEP figures strongly in connection with a future mission to the icy satellites of Jupiter as part of the goal to understand the origins and extent of life in the solar system. "Mitigation," or even the gathering of the specific knowledge that will be needed as a prerequisite for such an activity, was not dealt with in the Survey, since it is a technical goal and not an exploration or scientific goal. But it is now clear, as a result of the mitigation workshop, that low thrust propulsion and the application of in-space power systems to collision avoidance may now be the best way to proceed. It is a small leap to imagine an experiment to deflect a small near-Earth asteroid though the application of thrust from a NEP system (or an advanced SEP) fueled by an advanced power source. Moreover it is an objective that resonates with your agency's newly stated objective of "...Protecting the Home Planet... As only NASA can!" In short, we see an important coupling between the requirements for the long-term future of solar system scientific exploration, as expressed by the Decadal survey, the needs of planetary protection, and a worthwhile program that utilizes humans, the space station, and robots in near-Earth interplanetary space.

In public discussions of the President's in-space nuclear power and propulsion system initiative, the issue of environmental safety can be expected to arise even though extensive past experience has shown that such systems are extremely safe. Nuclear safety is a matter of great public concern that we share. However, we would also like to point out that the likely application of these kinds of technologies to a future NEO deflection system will also mitigate against the possibility of a much greater environmental hazard: that of a NEO impact itself. Thus, from an environmental perspective, there may be much to be gained in the application of these systems to the NEO collision problem.

A cogent new goal is needed for human space flight and significant investments and experimentation are required to develop in-flight power and propulsion systems for future solar system exploration. In addition, a new program needs to be started at NASA to create an adequate scientific basis for a future mitigation system and, simultaneously, to learn how to apply future collision mitigation technologies.  There is a nexus between these goals and objectives that we believe should become the basis of a new thrust for NASA as it emerges from the analysis and public discussion surrounding the Columbia tragedy. We advocate, and strongly believe, that by adopting this goal the United States can go forward with human spaceflight utilizing the space station with productive, well-supported and meaningful objectives.

We are, sincerely yours,

Michael J. S. Belton, Ph.D.
Belton Space Exploration Initiatives, LLC, Tucson, AZ

Donald K. Yeomans, Ph.D.
JPL/Cal Tech, Pasadena, CA

Steven Ostro, Ph.D.
JPL/Cal Tech, Pasadena, CA

Piet Hut, Ph.D.
Inst. Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ

Clark Chapman, Ph.D.
Southwest Research Inst., Boulder, CO

Derek Sears, Ph.D.
Univ. of Arkansas, AR

Michael F. A'Hearn, Ph.D.
Univ. of Maryland, MD

Russell L. Schweickart
Apollo 9 Astronaut,
Chairman, B612 Foundation

Nalin Samarasinha, Ph.D.
National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, AZ

Daniel Scheeres, Ph.D.
Univ. of Michigan, MI

Michael Drake, Ph.D.
Univ. of Arizona, AZ

Keith Holsapple, Ph.D.
Univ. of Washington, WA

Erik Asphaug, Ph.D.
Univ. of California at Santa Cruz, CA

Mark Sykes, Ph.D.
University of Arizona, AZ

Alberto Cellino, Ph.D.
Astronomical Observatory of Torino,

Lucy McFadden, Ph.D.
Univ. of Maryland, MD

Donald R. Davis, Ph.D.
Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ

Timothy D. Swindle, Ph.D.
University of Arizona, AZ

Stephen M. Larson, Ph.D.
University of Arizona, AZ

Larry A. Lebofsky, Ph.D.
University of Arizona, AZ

Mark Trueblood
Winer Observatory, AZ

Beatrice E.A. Mueller, Ph.D.
National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, AZ

Joseph Spitale, Ph.D.
Lunar and Planetary Lab., Tucson, AZ

Tod R. Lauer, Ph.D.
National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, AZ

Robert Farquhar
Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Laboratory,
Laurel, MD

Daniel Britt, Ph.D.
Univ. of Central Florida, FL

Elisabetta Pierazzo
Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ

Kevin Housen
The Boeing Co., Seattle, WA

Thomas D. Jones, Ph.D
Planetary Scientist and Former Astronaut, Oakton, VA

Ronald Fevig
Univ. of Arizona, AZ

NEO News is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions of NASA, the International Astronomical Union, or any other organization. To subscribe (or unsubscribe) contact For additional information, please see the website If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.


>From Jacqueline Mitton <>


31 March 2003   Ref. PN 03/14 (NAM6)

Issued by: RAS Press Officers

Dr Jacqueline Mitton
Phone: +44 (0)1223-564914    Fax:    +44 (0)1223-572892
E-mail:  Mobile phone: +44 (0)7770-386133

Peter Bond
Phone: +44 (0)1483-268672      Fax:    +44 (0)1483-274047
E-mail:    Mobile phone: +44 (0)7711-213486

National Astronomy Meeting Press Room (Dublin, Ireland):
Phones: (+353) 1 6777608 and +353 1 6777683    FAX (+353) (1) 677 7566

RAS Web site:

UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting Web site:



Has an increasing trend in the Sun's brightness contributed to global warming over the last few decades? One study published recently says it has but Judith Lean will tell a joint session of the UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting and Solar Physics Meeting in Dublin that a different study has come to the opposite conclusion when she tackles the controversial topic of the relationship between our climate and the Sun on Tuesday 8 April.

Earth's climate records feature many fluctuations apparently linked to solar activity but the physical processes at work connecting the Sun and climate are not yet properly understood. Satellites have measured how the Sun's brightness has changed in the past two decades, and these data can be compared with high precision records of Earth's temperatures over the same period to throw light on the problem. But it is difficult separating solar effects from other factors influencing our climate over different time-scales, such as major volcanic eruptions and the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities. For example, the most recent increase in the Sun's activity on its regular 11-year cycle corresponded with a rise of 0.1 degree C. By comparison, the eruptions of El Chichon and Pinatubo cooled Earth by 0.2 degree C for a short time.

A new study proposes that, on top of the change due to its 11-year cycle, the Sun has brightened steadily during the past two decades. If true, the suggested trend of 0.05% per decade would account for half or more of the 0.3  degrees warming currently attributed to greenhouse gas increases since 1980.

"This study is very controversial," says Judith Lean. "It relies on splicing together solar irradiance datasets made by different instruments flown on various spacecraft. Because the datasets do not have the same absolute scale, they must be cross-calibrated to construct the long-term record needed for studying climate change. Drifts in the instrument sensitivities
must be properly clarified as well, to avoid mistaking spurious trends for real solar brightness changes. For this purpose, the recent study used observations previously reported to suffer from known instrumental effects but did not take these effects into account."

Dr Lean then cites another study, which brought together the various solar brightness datasets in a different way and compensated for instrumental drifts. It concluded that there was no general brightening of the Sun over the past two decades. This result is consistent with what solar physicists would expect from their understanding of the Sun's magnetism. Sunspots and faculae, both magnetic features on the Sun's surface, respectively reduce and enhance the Sun's overall brightness and independent records of sunspots and faculae show no underlying upward trends during past decades. The same is true of numerous other indicators of the Sun's behaviour that have been closely monitored. This alternative study concluded that long-term solar brightness changes are not a significant cause of recent global warming.

"Other claims in recent years have also exaggerated the role of the Sun in climate change" warns Judith Lean. As an example, she quotes a study published in 1991 that reported a close tie between the actual length of the solar cycle (which averages 11 years but varies from 9 to 15 years) and surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere throughout the entire twentieth century. If true, it would mean that human influences, such as increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, have contributed little or nothing to the approximately 0.8 degree C warming of Earth¹s surface since 1885. But subsequent examination of additional data gathered over a longer period of time, including the pre-industrial era, have made the real connection between solar brightness and climate change clearer. "Temperature changes in concert with solar activity are indeed apparent during the past millennium," reports Dr Lean, "but are typically of order 0.2 to 0.5 degrees C on time scales of hundreds of years. Since 1885, global warming in response to changes in the Sun's brightness is now thought to have been less than 0.25 degrees C."

"To really resolve the controversies, we need longer and more precise monitoring of the solar brightness to determine whether or not there are long-term trends," she concludes. To that end, a new generation of solar radiometers was launched into space in January 2003 on board the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE).


Dr Judith Lean, E. O. Hulburt
Center for Space Research Naval Research Laboratory, Washington DC 20375
Phone: (+1) (202) 767-5116      Fax: (+1) (202) 404-7997

Dr Lean will be at the NAM in Dublin from 7 to 11 April

More information about the SORCE mission is available at



>From Philippe Claeys <>

When is Dallas Abbott going to stop finding impact craters all over the place, always speculations never a hint of any data.

Prof. Philippe Claeys
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Dept. of Geology, Building G, 6th floor, room 308
Tel: 32-2-6293394


>From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny

The following is from I presume that they are intending to talk about man-made explosions but it is interesting that bollide airburst explosions (and greater) would raise similar concerns.
Michael Paine

Forum on safeguarding Australia
Engineers Australia is still looking for people to present their research and/or case studies at its Safeguarding Australia forum on 15 April in Canberra. Current presentation topics include:
# technology road map for explosives security information technology
# NSW critical infrastructure risk assessments
# strengthening of masonry buildings against blast damage
# vulnerability assessment of transport networks
# an innovative risk assessment of the capability to safeguard
Australia's infrastructure
# vulnerability assessment of buildings.
Members who would like to make a presentation can download the presenter's registration form


>From Chicago Sun-Times, 7 April 2003

"The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Global Science Forum Workshop on Near Earth Objects estimates there is one chance in 5,000 of the Earth being hit during the 21st century by an asteroid large enough to cause "the destruction of an entire region (e.g., Europe)," which would seem to be one solution."

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