CCNet 86/2002 - 22 July  2002

   "When that Hot Rock came to the Country
   The whole country started to roll
   Well it made a big blast as it flew right past
   And opened up a hundred foot hole
   But the really cool thing as we started to sing
   It shook us down to our soul
   And the music's never gonna sound the same again
   Since the Country's gone Rock 'n Roll."
       --Hot Rock came to the Country

   "For the survival of humanity, the Moon is critical to planetary
   defense, specifically looking out for city busting or larger, more
   destructive Near Earth Objects. It also gives NASA something to do.
   NASA is running on empty, devoid of any clearly delineated, focused
   goal, said William E. Burrows, professor of journalism at New York
   University. "Going to the Moon for purposes of planetary defense is an
   exceedingly worthwhile goal. There is no more important thing we can
   do with space than use it to protect Earth. The most compelling reason
   to be in space is to save the species," Burrows said."
       -- Leonard David, 18 July 2002



    John Michael <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Kem Luther <>

    The Toronto Star, 21 July 2002

    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Discover, Vol. 23 No. 8, August 2002

     CNN, 18 July 2002

     Brian G. Marsden <>

     Vincenzo Zappala' <>

     Benny Peiser <

     Jens Kieffer-Olsen <>

     Simon Mansfield <>


>From, 18 July 2002

Scientists, Dreamers Continue Refining Ideas for Future Lunar Bases
By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer

WASHINGTON, D.C. - More than thirty years after Apollo 11 astronauts
dropped into the history books by kicking up a little lunar dust, there
appears to be the makings of a Moon renaissance.

That's how experts around the globe see it as they turn their attention
to renovating wild lunar territory into a new continent for creativity.

A 21st century Moon can serve multiple purposes, from serving as a
natural science laboratory and a site for industrialization and mining,
to offering watchdog duties that help avoid getting slammed by ugly
"outsiders" - namely menacing asteroids and comets.

And hold onto your space helmets.

Even NASA may be jumping onto the fast-moving Moon exploration revival

Just last week, a prestigious U.S. National Research Council survey
group here advised NASA to put high on its robotic "to do" list
snatching select specimens from the Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin and
then rocket those tasty treats back to Earth.

Wealth of novel ideas

The growing international interest in the Moon is highlighted by a
workshop recently held at the European Space Agency's European Space
Research Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. The
workshop was organized by a consortium of groups that included LUNEX,
MoonFront, ESCAPEsp*HERE and Lunar Architecture.

This unique two-week gathering of architects, engineers, physicists and
other researchers brainstormed last month more than a dozen lunar base
designs. Some 14 groups are now culling together their findings into how
to live, work, and utilize the aged Moon.

There is a wealth of novel ideas, said Paul van Susante, who co-managed
the study and is a research assistant at the Colorado School of Mines in
Golden, Colo..

"We got rid of all the boundaries imposed from earlier studies to create
the first generation permanent base on the Moon. We can do it. We can
build it. We can design for it," Susante told

Taking the termite approach

Preliminary assessments make extensive use of inflatable structures,
fashioned into various topside and underground lunar base layouts.

"We got away from those old clunky metal shacks," Susante said.

One concept involves taking the termite approach. Multiple towers form
the Moon base, with outside columns casting a shadow throughout the day
on a central spire, protecting the inhabited site from the blazing Sun,
keeping it cool.

Another idea is to have a rolling ball as a movable lunar base. The
outer surface of the slow moving sphere offers inhabitants protection
from harsh blasts of deadly radiation and vicious vacuum.

Other thoughts centered on using the inside of select crater walls,
offering live-in lunarnauts spectacular views of not only breathtaking
moonscape, but the Earth too.

Inside job

Susante said that the working groups paid special attention to a little
studied phenomenon: How does a person move about inside an expansive

Data gleaned from Apollo's "dusty dozen" of moonwalkers is limited. They
were stuffed inside tight quarters of their respective lunar landing

Varied ways to live and labor in the Moon's one-sixth gravity -- inside
the large volume of a future lunar base - were suggested. Kangaroo
hopping is okay for large movement, but carrying a delicate experiment,
a test tube, or even a cup of coffee requires fancy footwork.

Architects took time in sketching out rippled floors for better
horizontal movement. Fire pole-like railing between habitat floors, with
small and larger squares to land upon depending on a person's vertical
transport needs were also judged.

Vision statement

Susante said that by year's end, the workshop findings are to be totally
wrapped up.

From there, follow-on phases will look at design guidelines. A special
computer model is to be generated, showing how individual lunar base
subsystems link together depending on the chores of a facility on the

"The momentum is gathering for the Moon again, albeit slowly," Susante

"Our study called for six people on the Moon, productively living and
working there by 2020. The problem is usually that people don't have
vision. We have 18 years to get there," he said.

Intellectual watering hole

Joining in on the emerging "back-to-the-Moon, this time to stay"
sentiment is the Space Frontier Foundation. They are hosting Return to
the Moon Symposium 4, being held this week, July 18-22, in Houston.

The yearly event has become an intellectual watering hole for those that
see joint government and commercial human settlements on the Moon.
Hotels, mining facilities, and a planetary training base for future Mars
explorers - are among ideas reviewed in the past.

This year's offerings include the viewpoints of veteran Gemini, Apollo,
and shuttle astronaut, John Young. He joins other talks on lunar
destiny, commercial exploitation of purported gobs of lunar ice, power
beaming, including a clever design for an interfaith lunar chapel for
future Moon dwellers.

NASA's Wendell Mendell is a co-chair of the event. As a senior thinker
of Moon thought, he manages the Office for Human Exploration Science at
the space agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Mendell said the Moon's private enterprise future looked promising when
technology stocks, dot com stocks, and satellite constellation plans
were in full bloom. However, persistent dark clouds appearing over the
financial sectors soon increased the challenge in finding angels to
sponsor lunar flights, he said.

"Nevertheless, the Space Frontier Foundation is in this for the long
haul and continues to sponsor the Return to the Moon symposium with the
firm belief that informed minds will solve the 30-year-old dilemma of
how to get there from here," Mendell said.

In defense of Earth

For the survival of humanity, the Moon is critical to planetary defense,
specifically looking out for city busting or larger, more destructive
Near Earth Objects. It also gives NASA something to do.

NASA is running on empty, devoid of any clearly delineated, focused
goal, said William E. Burrows, professor of journalism at New York
University. He is also founder and director of the university's Science
and Environmental Reporting Program.

"NASA is all over the place. The space station is a mess. The President
has downgraded it. The Russians can't afford to participate except with
our laundered money. The scientists hate it, and the station doesn't
have a clearly articulated mission," Burrows said.

"Going to the Moon for purposes of planetary defense is an exceedingly
worthwhile goal. There is no more important thing we can do with space
than use it to protect Earth," Burrows told

Lunar lifeboat

At this week's Houston gathering, Burrows is prepared to lay out details
for the Alliance to Rescue Civilization, or ARC for short.

Having humans colonizing the Moon, Burrows senses, puts humanity into a
permanent lifeboat. For one, lunar colonists would hold dear a backup
record of life and culture on Earth in the event of a major catastrophe
anywhere on terra firma here.

"The most compelling reason to be in space is to save the species,"
Burrows said.

"It's important to say that we are not talking about the sky falling.
Earth is an eminently seaworthy spaceship. On the other hand, no skipper
in his or her right mind goes to sea without insurance, and a lifeboat,"
Burrows said.

Copyright 2002,


>From, 19 JUly 2002

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer

HOUSTON, TEXAS - The American space program urgently needs a vision to
fuel a new generation of talent capable of returning humans to the Moon
and sending an expedition to Mars.

George Abbey, the former head of NASA's human space exploits, and John
Young, a veteran astronaut and moonwalker, both caution that the space
agency needs a recharging of technological muscle and a new mandate to
push the space frontier beyond low Earth orbit.

Dead-ended program

Speaking today at a Return to the Moon symposium here, sponsored by the
Space Frontier Foundation, Abbey, the former head of NASA's Johnson
Space Center (JSC) said the vision for human exploration in space is not
all that clear today.

"The space program of today is quite different than the program as we
knew it back in the 1960s," said Abbey, who ran JSC from January 1996
until February 2001. Abbey's overall tenure with NASA spans nearly 35
years. He is currently a senior assistant for international issues at
NASA Headquarters.

"For the first time that I can recollect in my history with NASA, we are
at the point in the program where we are reducing our work force and
there is no new program coming down the line," Abbey said.

Abbey said that each progression of human space capability led to a
follow-on project. Presently, NASA's reach into space by humans
dead-ends with the International Space Station.

"We have not sent humans out of Earth orbit for 30 years. That's not a
good situation," Abbey said, noting the last outbound mission of
astronauts to the Moon was Apollo 17 in December 1972. "Somehow we need
to focus on where we're going in space, particularly with humans," he

Workforce woes

A shrinking of capable aerospace companies, a retiring NASA and industry
workforce, and the need to outreach to today's students is a blend of
issues that hamstrings America's ability to set a new space agenda for
the 21st century, Abbey said.

The Moon "is a stepping stone to the future...a very important location,"
Abbey told the audience. There is need to learn more about how humans
live and work when exposed to long duration space stints. "We need that
understanding if are going to fly the missions to Mars and go back to
the Moon," he said.

"The Moon is really the crossroads. It's a transition point. To go
beyond Earth orbit, it's going to be the first step. Were going to learn
how to work and do things on the Moon that we have to do on Mars," Abbey
said. "But the work force is being reduced. There is no new program on
the books that we can put these people on to take advantage of their
experience," he said.

The former JSC director said that challenging young people is key. Doing
so is necessary to maintain our technological prowess in the world
community of nations.

"As we look to the future, we're going to do our programs differently
than we've done them in the past. In the future were going to do things
internationally. Going to the Moon and to Mars...those are going to be
international undertakings," Abbey said.

Long term survival of species

Veteran astronaut, John Young - a Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle
commander - joined Abbey in underscoring the need for finding a new
trajectory for NASA.

Young said that a human return to the Moon is a must-do objective. Prior
to a human Mars mission, placing humans back on the Moon is critical to
hone both human and technological skills prior to moving onward to the
Red Planet, he said.

"The long term survival of the species is what space exploration is all
about," Young said.

The prospect for asteroid impacts on Earth, as well as super-volcanoes
rattling our planet, are worrisome eventualities, Young said. "The
evidence is very clear the way the Earth and the Solar System evolves.
These critters are around and we have to look out for them," he said.

NASA: Jail time

Young said that NASA has not been allowed to move forward on a range of
high-tech space technologies. He said that the space agency's charter
calls for the organization to make progress in the field of aerospace

"I think it's damn lucky that we're not in jail given the kind of
progress we've made over the last five or ten years. We ought to be
working on the technologies to get us back to the Moon and Mars," Young

"Whether or not you actually go to the Moon or Mars, those technologies
have the ability to save us on planet Earth. Do we know when the next
asteroid is going to hit? We don't know if it's going to hit tomorrow.
We can't predict when a super-volcano will go off. The human race is at
risk and we better be working on the technologies to get us out of that
risk," Young said.

"Spreading the human race out on the Moon and Mars is what we ought to
be doing...providing for the survival of our species," Young said. The
technologies needed to spread people out into the solar system are the
very technologies that allow us to save our species," he said.

Copyright 2002,


>From John Michael <>

Dear Benny,
I thought CCNet readers might like to look at this report from ABC News
Online in Australia for July 19 2002.
"Volcanos a bigger threat than comets"
It's at:

John Michael


A volcanic super-eruption could pose twice as much of a threat to
civilisation as a collision with an asteroid or comet.

Every 100,000 years, a cosmic body with a diameter of more than one
kilometre slams into the Earth but Michael Rampino, of New York
University, warned that a massive volcanic eruption capable of causing
as much devastation occurs once every 50,000 years.

"Volcanoes in Yellowstone Park and Long Valley in California have
erupted three times in the past 1 million years, each time coating the
whole of the US with ash," New Scientist magazine said.

"But the biggest and most recent super-eruption happened at Toba, on the
island of Sumatra, 73,000 years ago."

According to Mr Rampino's research, Toba blasted a crater 100 kilometre
long and sent 3 billion tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere
and a dense volcanic cloud around the globe.

"He also suspects that Toba's super-eruption was responsible for the
population crash of 70,000 years ago, when the number of people fell to
no more than 10,000," the magazine added.

Ash and aerosols from super-eruptions block the sun and send global
temperatures plummeting.

Another Toba super-eruption could push temperatures down and cause
regional cooling, according to Mr Rampino.

"That's going to kill off most of the above-ground vegetation in
Africa," he said, adding global vegetation could be reduced by 25 per

© 2002 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

>From Andrew Yee <>

Public Relations
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah

Media Contacts:
Barbara Nash
Volcanologist and professor of geology and geophysics
office (801) 581-8587

Michael Perkins
Research assistant professor of geology and geophysics
(801) 581-6552

Lee Siegel
Science news specialist, University of Utah
office (801) 581-8993, cell (801) 244-5399

July 15, 2002

More Blasts from Yellowstone's Past

Hotspot Generated 142 Huge Eruptions, 40 Percent More Than
Previously Known

The Yellowstone hotspot, which powers Yellowstone National Park's
geysers and hot springs, produced 142 huge volcanic eruptions
during the last 16.5 million years -- far more than the 100
previously known blasts, University of Utah geologists found.

The cataclysmic explosions -- known as "caldera eruptions" --
typically generated 250 to 600 times as much volcanic ash as the
1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state, and some
were up to 2,500 times larger, covering as much as half the
continental United States with inches to feet of volcanic ash.

While geologists Michael Perkins and Barbara Nash identified
many more of these catastrophic eruptions than had been known
previously, they also showed the rate of such eruptions has
slowed: about 32 giant eruptions per million years before 15.2
million years ago, slowing to 10 to 20 huge eruptions per million
years between 15.2 million and 8.5 million years ago, and then
only 2.5 cataclysmic blasts per million years during the past
8.5 million years.

Caldera eruptions have that name because they create giant
craters known as calderas that measure tens of miles wide. They
are the most devastating but most rare type of eruption.

The Yellowstone hotspot -- which many scientists believe is a
plume-like zone of hot and molten rising from at least 125
miles beneath Earth's surface -- produced its three most recent
caldera eruptions at or near the present site of Yellowstone
National Park 2 million, 1.3 million and 642,000 years ago.
The other, earlier eruptions happened as western North America
drifted southwest over the hotspot during the past 16.5 million
years, creating a chain of volcanic fields or centers extending
from the Oregon-Nevada-Idaho border northeast across southern
Idaho toward Yellowstone's present location in Wyoming.

Researchers previously identified about 100 caldera eruptions,
including the three most recent ones at Yellowstone. But in a
study of distinct volcanic ash layers deposited by each
eruption, Perkins and Nash showed there were at least 142
catastrophic caldera eruptions during the past 16.5 million
years, and at least four more in the preceding 500,000 years.

"The most active source of volcanism in the continental United
States -- the Yellowstone hotspot -- was much more active and
produced much greater volumes of volcanic material in the last
16 million years than we had thought as it passed from Oregon
across Idaho to its present site at Yellowstone National Park,"
Nash says.

The study was published in the March 2002 issue of Geological
Society of America Bulletin.

Only the hotspot's three most recent caldera eruptions
originated from the hotspot's current location beneath
Yellowstone National Park. The 45-by-30-mile-wide Yellowstone
caldera, formed by the caldera explosion 642,000 years ago,
is the "new kid on the block," Nash says. To understand the
Yellowstone hotspot's long-term behavior, Perkins and Nash
looked for clues left by the older eruptions from now-inactive

Nash, a volcanologist, compares the hotspot phenomenon with
moving hand over a candle. "If you move your hand slowly over
the flame in one direction, the flame will leave a burn track
that extends in the opposite direction along your hand."

As the hotspot location moved, new calderas were born, matured,
and died. The 142 eruptions were clustered in six or seven
volcanic fields or "centers" extending from the Oregon-Idaho-
Nevada border northeast to Yellowstone. There were multiple
eruptions from one or more calderas at each field.

Detecting the locations of these ancient cataclysmic eruptions
is difficult because as Earth's crust drifted over the hotspot,
smaller "post-caldera" eruptions covered or destroyed the older
volcanic centers. However, each huge caldera eruption left
behind widespread ash deposits, which researchers have found
from the Pacific seafloor off the California coast to the high
plains of Nebraska and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Perkins and Nash spent a decade finding these ash fall tuffs --
rock beds formed as volcanic ash settled to the ground and
cooled -- studying their chemistry and determining a chronology
of the eruptions that produced them. The age and chemical
composition link each tuff to a specific eruption and to one
of the six or seven volcanic centers along the hotspot track.

Scientists date volcanic ashes using the radioactive decay of
potassium-40 to argon-40 in a potassium mineral called sanidine.
Because argon is a gas, researchers assume that no argon was
present in the mineral when it was erupted. Argon accumulates
in the mineral's crystal lattice as potassium decays. Thus the
amount of argon reveals the age of the ash and the date of the
eruption that produced it. The age of undated ashes can be
estimated from the ages of ash layers above and below them.

The hotspot's history is marked not only by a slowdown in how
often big eruptions occur, but by distinct changes in the
compositions and temperatures of the magma, or molten rock,
that erupted. Based on such changes, Perkins and Nash classify
the hotspot's activity into three stages of volcanic activity
or "magmatism" in the past 16.5 million years. Nash also
hypothesizes about an earlier period based on ash fall tuffs
from four big eruptions not included in the count of 142
because of their different chemical composition. She believes
there may have been even more eruptions from this earlier
stage some 17 million years ago.

Magma temperatures from millions of years ago can be deduced
using mineral geothermometers. Some minerals have chemical
compositions that vary depending on the temperature at which
they crystallize from molten to solid rock. So the chemical
composition of crystals in the ash indicates the temperature
of the magma when it erupted and started to cool.

Not only have caldera eruptions become less frequent over time,
the erupting magma has also become cooler, decreasing from more
than 1830 degrees Fahrenheit about 16 million years ago to as
little as 1470 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 7.5 million years.

Yellowstone hotspot caldera eruptions are believed to stem from
molten basalt rising from depth, and then melting and mixing
with the overlying granitic crust, which in turn erupts. Nash
believes the decrease in magma temperatures over time means
that less high-temperature basalt is incorporated in the
melting process.

The three eruptions at Yellowstone during the past 2 million
years were, respectively, 2,500, 280, and 1,000 times larger
than the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. Some researchers
speculate the earlier caldera eruptions were "a bunch of little
guys," but Nash says some of their ash deposits were just as
thick and widespread, "so we conclude they were large too."

Nash says there are a few possible explanations for why caldera
eruptions have become less frequent. First, the hotspot's heat
source within the Earth could be cooling down. Second, as North
America drifts over the hotspot, the crustal rock above the
hotspot may be thicker, cooler and harder to melt, although
Nash says there is no persuasive evidence of that.

A third possibility, which Nash believes is most likely, links
the hotspot's behavior to two kinds of motion of the overlying
rock: the southwest movement of the North American plate of
Earth's crust, and the east-west stretching apart of the crust
in the western United States during the past 17 million years.

Hotspot volcanism occurs when molten basalt rises from Earth's
mantle and melts granite in the crust, feeding caldera
eruptions. If the crust remained still instead of moving,
caldera eruptions would continue until the basalt ran out of
fresh material to melt. On the other hand, if North America
moved too quickly over the hotspot, then the hotspot wouldn't
have time to melt the overlying crust and there would be no
eruptions. Between these two extremes is an optimum plate
speed that allows the maximum amount of crustal melt to be
produced, resulting in more frequent and larger eruptions.

North America drifts southwest at a constant rate of almost
14 miles per million years. But the east-west stretching of
Earth's crust in the West has slowed in the past 8.5 million
years. The net effect, says Nash, is that crustal rock is
now moving over the hotspot more slowly than it did prior to
8 million years ago, so crustal rock melts less efficiently
and big eruptions are becoming less frequent.

"There is no reason to expect any sudden change" in the
current rate, which has produced three caldera eruptions in
the past 2 million years, she says. "I anticipate there will
be future large-scale eruptions at Yellowstone, but not in
my lifetime or not in the foreseeable future. That doesn't
mean there couldn't be smaller eruptions as there have been
during the last 600,000 years -- lava flows, small eruptions,
and steam events."

[Brooke Shiley, a science-writing intern for University of
Utah Public Relations, prepared this news release.]


>From Kem Luther <>

The Merna (Nebraska) Crater controversy makes national news:

Is it an impact crater or just a dent?
July 21, 2002 Posted: 6:47 PM EDT (2247 GMT)

MERNA, Nebraska (AP) -- A mysterious mile-wide dent in the earth has
generated a debate among scientists about whether the depression was the
catastrophic creation of a meteorite, or the patient work of Mother

Wakefield Dort Jr., a retired University of Kansas geology professor,
will make his case for the crater's unearthly origin at the annual
Meteoritical Society meeting in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Nebraska scientists have their doubts.

"It is not a crater. There is no evidence," said University of Nebraska
scientist Mark Kuzila, who has studied the site.

Dort, who has done his own research on the site, hopes his presentation
will generate funding for further tests to prove his theory.

"This is an intellectual chasm," he said. "If we had the money, we could
settle this in a matter of one summer."

According to Dort's theory, the depression was formed by the impact of a
large meteorite that packed an explosion with the force of several
hydrogen bombs between 3,000 and 500 years ago.

Dort began studying the site in 1991 after he and some colleagues
discovered the unusual dent on a topographic map -- a nearly perfectly
round formation smack dab in the middle of Nebraska.

Dort's team renamed the depression the Merna Crater after the nearby
village of 377 residents.

Because fewer than 60 impact craters have been confirmed in North
America, Dort's initial conclusions caused a media stir, with articles
appearing in magazines that included National Geographic, Earth and

The town embraced its newfound fame in 1992, adding the slogan "Merna
Rocks" to its annual Heritage Days celebration.

Dort has collected samples from the site and claims he found thousands
of minute black magnetic particles not native to Nebraska.

He notes that Pawnee Indian legend tells of a "thundering cloud" that
appeared over the area "leaving behind children of black stone."

Farmer Frank Bartak looks across the controversial indention in his

Dort's team also found a layer of crushed glass about three feet below
the surface with a pocket of gray soil underneath.

But University of Nebraska geologist Vern Souders speculates that what
Dort found is fulgurite, which is formed when lightning strikes sand.

The Nebraska research included drilling test holes inside and next to
the depression, going much deeper than the Kansas team did.

The Nebraskans said they found the crater had the same origin as
similar, though less impressive, depressions in the region carved out by
relentless winds during dry periods thousands of years ago.

Daniel Britt, a geology professor at the University of Tennessee, said
he would listen with interest to Dort's presentation.

"It's another piece of the scientific puzzle," Britt said. "But I don't
know if he'll find people with a big sack of money to spend to find

In the middle of the debate is 82-year-old Frank Bartak, born in a
homestead on the edge of the contentious depression, whose family still
farms the land in and around it about 10 miles west of Merna.

"I don't think anybody can prove it one way or the other," Bartak said.
"They've been up here poking around for years, and they don't know
anymore about it than I do. ...

"If it's absolutely proven to be a crater, there'll be a certain numbers
of tourists that will come around, I suppose," he said. "But it wouldn't
make any difference to me -- I'm not going to run a hamburger stand."

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press


>From The Toronto Star, 21 July 2002
Ever since scientists confirmed that an asteroid about 10 kilometres
across smashed into the Earth 65 million years ago and caused the
extinction of the dinosaurs, astronomers have been scanning the skies
for other rogue space rocks that could collide with our planet.

So far, the searches have identified all the 10-kilometre-class
asteroids, the so-called global-extinction objects, and none of them
will come close to the Earth for the next few hundred years at least.

"What we worry about are the smaller ones, one to two kilometres in
diameter, that we haven't identified yet," said asteroid expert Brian
Marsden of Harvard University. Marsden was speaking at a recent
conference on space objects that threaten the Earth held in Washington

He noted that about half of the estimated 1,200 one-kilometre-or-larger
asteroids that come near enough to Earth to be potentially dangerous
have been identified so far. He expects that 90 per cent of them will be
found and tracked by the end of the decade.

The explosion from the impact of an asteroid one kilometre wide would be
powerful enough to incinerate a city the size of Toronto and to do
severe damage over a much broader area. That's why astronomers want to
identify all of these objects as soon as possible.

And then there are the thousands of smaller asteroids out there. Just
last month, for instance, a "small" asteroid 100 metres across whizzed
midway between the Earth and the moon. It's the largest space boulder
ever recorded that close to Earth. The disturbing aspect of that
incident is that the asteroid, now designated 2002MN, was not discovered
until three days after it passed its closest point to Earth. This is
because it approached us from an astronomical blind spot in the same
general direction as the sun.

On a cosmic scale, the Earth is a very small target. But from time to
time renegade chunks from the asteroid belt do score a direct hit. It
happened on June 30, 1908, when a 30-metre asteroid (about the size of a
10-storey building) plunged into the atmosphere over central Siberia,
broke apart and exploded before reaching the ground. Known as the
Tunguska event, the explosion had the force of a 10-megaton nuclear
blast and levelled more than one million hectares of Siberian forest.

Statistically, a Tunguska-class object hits the Earth about once every
200 years. An asteroid one or two kilometres wide clobbers us every few
hundred thousand years. Nothing to lose sleep over. But for astronomers
it's an ongoing challenge to figure out how to close the net and learn
about these objects before they get here.

Terence Dickinson is editor of Skynews magazine and the author of
several books for backyard astronomers.

Copyright 2002, The Toronto Star


>From Andrew Yee <>

[ ]

Friday, July 19, 2002, 8:30 AM EDT

Deep impact basin on Moon lures scientists
By IRENE BROWN, UPI Science News

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (UPI) -- NASA scientists are resurrecting
plans for a Moon mission to return samples to Earth from a crater
that is believed to be the oldest impact basin in the solar

The South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return mission was proposed to
NASA several years ago, but failed to secure funding under the
agency's low-cost Discovery programs, which are capped at $350
million each. A key scientific advisory panel, however, recently
endorsed the proposal and NASA is expecting it to be included in
its New Frontiers program, which allots up to about $700 million
per mission.

"It seems unlikely that someone would not propose it," New
Frontiers program scientist Thomas Morgan said in an interview
with United Press International.

The mission, seen as a technology testbed for a Mars sample
return flight, would be built around the quest for ancient rocks
and soils that were expelled from deep inside the Moon by a
high-speed and massive collision with an ancient asteroid or

"There's a debate going on about the early cratering history of
the Moon," said Paul Spudis, a geologist and deputy directory
of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

"It is hypothesized that the Moon and Earth were barraged 3.9
billion to 4 billion years ago. If you look at the samples from
the lunar highlands, all the impact melts show that age. We
don't know why the planets would have formed 4.6 billion years
ago, be bombarded with impacts and then suddenly stop," he said.

If samples from the crater's depths turn out to be about the
same age as the highlands rocks, scientists would have an
important insight into what was happening to early Earth at
that time, too.

"The Earth and Moon have the same bombardment rate, but Earth
has no rocks preserved from that period," said Spudis. "We
think that that time is roughly when life emerged."

Copyright © 2002 United Press International. All rights reserved.


>From Andrew Yee <>

[ ]

Friday, July 19, 2002, 12:30 PM EDT

Apollo legacy thrives in rock samples
By IRENE BROWN, UPI Science News

The race that catapulted the Cold War into space is long over,
with former foes Russia and America now co-habitating in a jointly
owned orbital outpost, America's moonwalkers -- those who are
still alive -- are now senior citizens, and the moon has remained
without new earthly visitors for nearly 30 years.

Yet one legacy of the Apollo program is experiencing a renaissance
of sorts, as studies of moon rocks rewrite our understanding of
the solar system and our own evolution on Earth.

"We did not go to the moon for science," said Paul Spudis,
a geologist and deputy director of the Lunar and Planetary
Institute of Houston, "but the Apollo program actually
revolutionized science in a way that most people haven't
stopped to think about."

The precious Apollo lunar samples are the touchstones for
understanding the importance of impacts -- high-speed, massive
collisions between planetary bodies that wipe evolutionary
slates clean and set the stage for new historical timelines.

To the trained eye and the scientific mind, the moon rocks hold
these tales in part because of how Earth's lone satellite came
into existence. Current theories -- formed in the wake of
Apollo sample analysis -- are based on a hypothesis that a
planetary body about the size of Mars smashed into Earth when
it was just a baby, a few tens of millions of years old,
forming a Saturn-like ring of debris.

The material, along with the remains of the impactor, gradually
collected and formed the moon. Because Earth, which is roughly
4.5 billion years old, is geologically much more active than the
moon -- with volcanoes, erosion, continental plate motion and
other natural phenomena -- the early history of our planet has
been erased. The moon, however, inert and unchanging, is locked
in time.

"There's a lot of interest lately in the origin of the moon and
how it relates to Earth," said NASA's Gary Lofgren, the keeper
of the 842 pounds of lunar samples brought back to Earth during
the agency's six manned Apollo missions that included lunar
landings, the first of which took place on July 20, 1969 -- 33
years ago.

"The lunar collection is still being studied pretty extensively.
People are coming up with new and better equipment all the time,
so they're able to go back and analyze for things and study
problems that they couldn't study several years ago," Lofgren
said in an interview with United Press International.

One of the most compelling areas of study involves a period of
heavy meteorite bombardment, to which early Earth and its
fledgling moon were subjected and which is preserved in the
pocked and scarred face of the moon. Earth has no rocks
preserved from that early barrage. Later impacts, however,
included an asteroid or comet that hit about 65 million years
ago and is believed to have changed the planet's climate so
swiftly and severely that most life forms came to an end,
including the dinosaurs. The age of mammals -- and mankind --
was next to evolve.

"We understand why we're here because we went to the moon," said
Spudis. "In my opinion, it is the most profound scientific legacy
of Apollo."

Added Lofgren, "Ninety-eight percent of what we know about the
moon we wouldn't know if we didn't have the samples. Without
them, we would have very limited knowledge."

Copyright © 2002 United Press International. All rights reserved.


>From Discover, Vol. 23 No. 8, August 2002

In the Line of Fire
What happens when Earth collides with a piece of comet? See for yourself

By Bob Berman
Sometimes there are second acts in astronomy. Perhaps you missed last
November's dazzling Leonid meteor blizzard-or you watched it and got
hooked. Either way, you'll have another chance to see shooting stars
this month. For the first time since 1999, the Perseid meteor shower
will unfold under spectacularly dark, moonless skies. And if you're
under clouds the first peak night, August 11, you can catch a repeat
performance the following night. Like the Leonids, the Perseid meteors
are minuscule bits of comet crashing into our planet's atmosphere-petite
cousins of the giant impacts that may have wiped out entire species in
the past. "Just one comet in a million can hit Earth," says Kevin
Zahnle, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center. But each
time a comet passes close to the sun, it evaporates a little and leaves
behind a trail of debris. Those comet crumbs spread out over millions of
miles, greatly increasing the odds of contact. Each Perseid meteor still
follows the same basic orbit as its parent, comet Swift-Tuttle, which
raises a worrisome thought. If the Perseids can strike us, couldn't
Swift-Tuttle do so as well?

Swift-Tuttle's nucleus is about 15 miles wide, large enough to cause
global devastation if it hit. Fortunately, an impact can occur only if
the timing is perfectly wrong. A few years ago, Brian Marsden of the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics forecast a possible
collision with comet Swift-Tuttle in 2126. He refined his work and found
that the comet will actually miss by a wide margin in 2126 but will make
a closer approach in 3044, passing within 10 million miles of Earth.
That is much nearer than any planet ever approaches, but it is still far
enough that we can breathe easily-for now.

Each flash of the Perseids demonstrates the staggering power of an
extraterrestrial impact. The meteors slam into Earth's atmosphere at 37
miles per second. The most brilliant ones are no larger than a grape,
yet they arrive carrying more kinetic energy than an SUV barreling down
the highway. These micro-missiles superheat the air, vaporize, and then
excite the surrounding atoms in the atmosphere 60 miles up, creating a
brilliant light. This atmospheric glow generates the bright meteor
streak. Interactions of metal atoms from the meteor with energized
oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the air can prolong the effect, giving rise
to a luminous trail visible for a second or two.

Because of Earth's curvature, no meteor can be seen more than 700 miles
away, but researchers can calculate the total quantity of strikes by
extrapolating from the number observed at a single location. On a
typical day, the planet is hit by 25 million meteors whose glow would be
bright enough to be seen by the naked eye. During the peak of the
Perseids, the rate increases more than tenfold. In all, Earth
accumulates 100 tons of space debris every day-mostly in the form of
fine, harmless dust. No Perseid has ever been known to survive its
passage through the atmosphere.

Still, it's fun to watch them try. On August 11 the crescent moon sets
well before midnight, just as the show starts cranking up. A dark, rural
site with an open expanse of sky will deliver the maximum effect,
roughly 60 streaks an hour. A city rooftop view might provide only one
meteor every five or six minutes.

Don't worry about the supply running out. The Perseid reservoir,
replenished every 130 years when comet Swift-Tuttle swings past the sun,
is one of the most massive repositories of Earth-crossing material in
the solar system, about a hundred billion tons. In fact, the best is yet
to come, says meteor expert Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute: "The
Perseids are slowly migrating toward the sun, and we're still just
clipping the inner part of their swarm. Earth will run into increasingly
dense Perseid meteoroids in the decades and centuries to come-the show
is really just beginning."

Sky & Telescope magazine offers an observer's guide to meteors: observing/objects/meteors. Also look at a detailed
overview of the Perseid meteors compiled by Gary Kronk, a leading
amateur astronomer:

© Copyright 2002 The Walt Disney Company


>From CNN, 18 July 2002
MOSCOW (AP) -- The Russian military space forces on Thursday inaugurated
an optical tracking facility located in the ex-Soviet republic of
Tajikistan that is intended to monitor objects in space.

The Okno (Window) complex, near the town of Nurek in central Tajikistan,
is capable of tracking objects 40,000 kilometers (24,800 miles) from
Earth, the space forces said in a statement carried by the
Interfax-Military News Agency.

According to the space forces, the Okno, which was put on test duty
Thursday, offers a better range and precision than standard radar
facilities. The report did not elaborate on how the Okno works.

The facility involves telescope-like equipment housed in several large
spheres, according to images on the Federation of American Scientists'
web site.

The site describes it as similar to the U.S. GEODSS system, or
ground-based electro-optical deep space surveillance. Three such U.S.
facilities are operational.

Space forces chief Col.-Gen. Anatoly Perminov traveled to the site, 50
kilometers (30 miles) southeast of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, to
report on the facility's launch to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, the
report said.

Located in Tajikistan's mountains 2,200 meters (7,260 feet) above sea
level, the Okno takes advantage of the area's fine weather and high
transparency of the atmosphere, conditions not found elsewhere in the
former Soviet Union, the space forces said.

The construction of the facility started in 1979, but stopped after the
1991 Soviet collapse when Tajikistan slid into a five-year civil war
that left its economy in shambles and its population in deep poverty.

About 25,000 Russian troops and border guards are deployed in Tajikistan
to help protect its volatile southern border with Afghanistan and help
stem drug smuggling.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press


>From Brian G. Marsden <>

Dear Benny,

With regard to Kelly Beatty's story (in last Thursday's CCNet) about the
July 10 Space Roundtable in Washington, I want to clarify that I do not
necessarily think that there are altogether significantly more than 1200
km-sized NEAs. Colleen Hartman and I agreed that there are some 600
known km-sized NEAs. My remark about the total number referred to her
quotation of an estimate of 960 +/- 120. The fact that the rate of
discovery is still being consistently maintained at 100 or so per year
suggests rather strongly that the total is more than 960, rather than
less. I can certainly go for a figure of 1200 or 1300, consistent with
Scott Stuart's estimate. If there are as few as 1000, we shall presumably
reach NASA's 90-percent goal by 2008. If there are 1200 or more, we
shall probably not.



>From Vincenzo Zappala' <>

Dear Benny,

I am not surprised about Brian's concerns regarding the number of NEO
larger than 1 km. In a paper that appeared in Icarus two years ago
related to Mars Crossers (2000, 145,332-347) there is a very simple but
impressive figure (Fig. 13) where an extrapolation of the EV+EC
population (only a part of the total NEO) following the trend of the
Mars Crosser population (probably the main source of them) gives an
expected value of 1500. After that paper, the estimated population of
large asteroids decreased to ~800. Now we are again at ~1200, and I am
sure it will increase again to something of the order of ~1500.
Sometimes the use of brain and simple plots are much better and useful
than the use of computers, complex models, etc......

Vincenzo Zappala'


>From Benny Peiser <

I wish to correct a statement I made in a note (CCNet 17/07/2002) about
David Morrison's claim that Tunguska-sized objects hit the Earth's
atmosphere on average only once in 1000 years (see NEO News (07/15/02,
posted in CCNet 17/07/2002). In my note, I wrote that "these claims seem
untenable to me given that we are *frequently* bombarded by small
asteroids close in size to the Tunguska object. In fact, in the last 10
years alone, two asteroids between 30 and 40 metres across have been
detected after exploding in the Earth's atmopshere."

The two atmospheric impacts I was specifically referring to are listed
as "documented impacts on Earth in last decade" on page 40 of the "Report
of the Task Force on Potentially Hazardous Near Earth Objects"

While the diameter of one impactor (Nov. 1, 1994) is given as 39 meters,
the second impactor (Apr 27, 1997) is given as 27 meters.

A number of CCNet readers have questioned the accuracy of the diameter
sizes of these and most of the other impactors published in the Task
Force Report. I have checked the original research paper published on the
Pacific Ocean impact on Feb 1, 1994 [T.B. McCord, J. Morris, D. Persing,
E. Tagliaferri, C. Jacobs, R. Spalding, L. Grady, R. Schmidt: Detection
of a meteoroid entry into the Earth's atmosphere on February 1, 1994.
Journal of Geophysical Research (1995), vol. 100/2, pp. 3245-3249] and
can confirm that the data published by the UK Task Force appear to be

According to the authors, "the radiant energy released is ... equivalent
to 3.4 to 63 kilotons of TNT," while "the total kinetic energy of the
meteoroid is estimated to be ... equivalent to 34 to 630 kilotons of
TNT." From the estimated kinetic energy and "if we model thhe object as
composed of silicates with a density of 3.5g/ch^3, we derive .... a
diameter of 6 to 17 m."

This size estimate is much smaller than the 39 meters quoted by the Task
Force Report. It would appear that some calculation errors have gone into
the list of documented recent impacts. While checking the primary data of
the Feb 1, 1994 impact, I noticed just how uncertain current size and
energy estimates of meteoroids impacting in the Earth's atmosphere still

It is therefore important to point out that there are significant
shortcomings in the way both the energy release by atmospheric impacts
and the sizes of impactors are currently calculated. The authors
themselve emphasise that "these models are poorely determined for
meteoroids and more work is needed to improve them."

One of the most significant areas of uncertainty in this respect is the
efficiency for converting the estimated kinetic energy of the body of the
impactor into the visible radiated energy in the fireball. It is simply
assumed that this is similar to a nuclear detonation in the air for which
a conversion rate of ~30% is used, while McCord et al. used a speculative
conversion efficiency of 10% for the Feb 1 1994 impact event. However,
the authors point out that "it is suggested by some to be as low as 1%,
implying a much larger kinetic energy for the incoming object."

It is still unclear what possible errors may be responsible for the
errors of the diameters listed in Table B-2 of the Task Force Report. I
hope to be able to report more on this problem once more information
becomes available.

Benny Peiser


>From Jens Kieffer-Olsen <>

Dear Benny Peiser,

In CCNet 74/2002 - 26 June 2002 Jonathan Tate <>

> Having lunched with a prominent American politician in October
> 1999, who stated that, to receive the required funding for the
> Spaceguard programme a "Tunguska" type event, preferably in the
> US mid-West or Europe is required, and having forcibly made the
> point that shutting the stable door before rather than after would
> be a good plan, I am wondering whether he was right after all.

No, that prominent American politician was not right after all.

Even if the US mid-West is not as sensitive as the US East-coast,
a Tunguska-type event is easily capable of taking out one great
mid-Western city with the loss of half a million lives. Maybe you
could persuade Jay to reveal his name, such as to enable his voters
to pursue the issue with him in the lead-up to his re-election?

Another statement with which I feel uncomfortable is the answer
given by Grant Stokes to Newsweek (CCNet 72/2002 - 24 June
2002) in relation to 2002MN:

Q: How scared should we be?

A: It doesn't keep me up at night.

As I understand it a number of people ARE kept up at night in an
effort to map potentially hazardous asteroids.  A more palatable
answer would have been to add "but it probably ought to", even
if 2002MN itself was harmless. 

Referring to Andy Smith and his battle to prepare us for the
invitable ( should it happen too soon ), I wish to draw attention to
L. Douglas Keeney's book "The Doomsday Scenario".  Although
it deals with the aftermath following a nuclear exchange during
the Cold War, the procedures are just as applicable after an impact
from outer space.  Especially worrying is the anticipated shortage
of medicine in such a large-scale emergency, which will cause the
dispensation of even morphine to be restricted to those victims most
likely to survive.

Yours sincerely
Jens Kieffer-Olsen, M.Sc.(Elec.Eng.)
Slagelse, Denmark


>From Simon Mansfield <>


I checked the database and you were actually on holiday on July 23 2001
- so this might have got missed but click on the link and apparently
there was a hit country and western last year based on a rock slicing
through the heavens and waking everyone up.

This letter came from a reader wanting to know more.


>Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 13:39:15 -0700 (PDT)
>From: Trish Page <>
>Subject: METEOR HIT
>I was surfing and found this meteor song. I love it
>and just wanted to know if it's about a true event.
>Was there a real meteor hit in the eastern USA last
>July on the 23rd...?
>Thanks for your help.


On July 23, 2001, millions of Americans saw and heard the fiery 30-ton
meteor as it streaked across the daytime skies of the northeastern USA.
Within 72 hours this song was receiving heavy radio airplay. Introducing

the smash hit single that's making sure American Country Rocks! CD Somebody Tonight - Buy it!

Label USAgency - Entertainment & Records
Credits Words & Music © 2001 RWGathman. All rights reserved worldwide.
USAgency Songs - BMI.

Words & Music © 2001 RWGathman. All rights reserved worldwide. USAgency
Songs - BMI.

We were sittin' on the front porch Saturday night
Kickin' back, takin' a break (or was it Monday?)
Pickin' our guitars, layin' some licks
When the whole house started to shake
We looked straight up 'n saw an awesome sight
There sailin' over head
Streakin' through the sky like the 4th of July
Came the big ball of burnin' red

Well, it was movin' real fast and it flew right past
Our front porch - pickin' up steam
Scarin' all the chickens nearly half to death
And tearin' off the tops of the trees
When it came to rest just a little bit west
Of our big ol' barn in the field
We felt a hot shock - the whole place rocked
Knockin' us back on our heels

When that Hot Rock came to the Country
The whole country started to roll
Well it made a big blast as it flew right past
And opened up a hundred foot hole
But the really cool thing as we started to sing
It shook us down to our soul
And the music's never gonna sound the same again
Since the Country's gone Rock 'n Roll

Didn't take long for the sheriff to call
"You boys see anything strange?"
Was that a UFO? 'cause whatever it was
Man, it's lightin' up our radar range
So we told the truth we reported the news
And this is what the radio said
Just a meteor shower, at this late hour
Go home and tuck yourselves in bed

But just about then, climbing out of that hole
Crawled a funny little green-faced man
Staring at us he just smiled and said
"I've come to join a Rock & Roll band
Now Country's sweet and you got a great beat
But you got to play it down to your soul
Yeah, Country's fine but for a really hot time
I came to make it Rock & Roll!"

When that Hot Rock came to the Country
The whole country started to roll
Well it made a big blast as it flew right past
And opened up a hundred foot hole
But the really cool thing as we started to sing
It shook us down to our soul
And Country's never gonna sound the same again
Now Country's gonna Rock & Roll
Now Hot Rock's come to Country and
Country's gone Rock & Roll
Rock & Roll¦ (flew 5 trillion light years)
Rock & Roll¦ (just to Rock the country)
Rock & Roll¦
Country's gonna Rock and Roll... (rockin' U.S.A...)
Rock & Roll¦
Rock & Roll¦ (Country Rocks..

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